1. Acquire knowledge You can save countless hours and money dollars by educating yourself about the invention process. Talk with other inventors or inventor associations, take a trip to the local library or perform a web search to gain insights into turning your new idea into a product. Establishing a network of contacts that may benefit you down the line is also a good idea.
2. Make a written record When you come up with an innovative idea, create a Record of Invention before going any further. Write your document in ink or type it up. Include a comprehensive description of your idea, the date, your signature and two signatures from witnesses you trust. Make sure they understand your idea before they sign. Don’t talk with any company or agency about your invention unless they sign a confidentiality agreement.
3. Be sure your idea is original It’s essential that you check for originality before investing time, money and effort into developing an invention. Search the Internet and visit stores that you feel might carry a product like yours. Finally, do a preliminary patent search at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
4. Be sure your idea will sell ... and sell well Don't do too much work until you can be sure of your invention’s commercial potential. To start, make sure your total sales will be at least twenty times the cost of researching, developing and patenting your invention. Calculate the costs of filing fees, hiring a lawyer to help with your patent filing and hiring an industrial designer who can prepare blueprints of your invention. These things will help you establish expense estimates.
5. Don't spend beyond your development budget Before you become too involved with your idea, put together a realistic budget that will allow you to develop your invention while meeting your day-to-day personal financial responsibilities. Write down the maximum amount of money you are prepared to spend at each stage of product development. You may wish to place those budgeted funds in a special banking account. Don’t rely on funds from grants or family and friends.
6. Make a prototype Prototypes allow you to evaluate the functionality of your product. Often, an idea works in your mind but needs to be revised, altered or modified when put into practice. If your idea is simple, you can build a prototype yourself. More complex ideas may require an industrial designer, engineer or machinist. Never attempt to market a product before all the glitches have been worked out.
7. A new idea needs a new name If your product is a new concept, then you should give it a name that's not like any other product on the market. By doing this, you can eliminate consumer confusion and make your product stand out. It is best to choose short, memorable names. A majority of top brand names are two syllables, some are three.
8. Keep quiet about it Don’t say anything to anybody about your idea, product or invention if you intend to apply for a patent. Patents are granted only to inventions that are new at the date of application. If the public is aware of the invention or can find out about it, then the invention cannot be new. All conversations must be done in confidence.
9. Don't file your own patent Invention experts agree: don't file your own patent! To properly secure a patent claim, wording needs to be precise and accurate. It needs to use the nomenclature of a patent authority. Should you attempt to file your own patent, do not expect it to be as specific and powerful as one that is prepared by an experienced patent agent or attorney. Without expert guidance, you may not be granted a patent.
10. Don't sign any contract without legal counsel This is an absolute must when marketing your idea. Never sign any agreement, royalty contract or document unless you fully understand what you’re committing to. An attorney can walk you through all the legal wording and answer your questions.
11. Action means dollars If your idea saves time and effort, solves a problem or meets a specific need or requirement, someone else has most likely thought of it – but didn’t take action. Don't let this happen to you! Many times, the only difference between a successful inventor and someone whose idea never sees the light of day is action.