An idea shared is not an idea diminished.
It's an idea multiplied.
I'm asked this question a lot. I have a great idea. I should patent it, right? After all, it's the first thing we've been conditioned to do when we stumble upon something special - cherish and protect it.
Before you decide to invest the money and the heartache (in that order) consider these key questions. The answer is not as obvious as it seems.
Do your own patent search first.
Surprisingly simple, yet often overlooked—ask yourself “has anyone already thought of this?” Even if it’s not exactly the same as your idea, it may squelch your fervor if you find there is already something that solves the same problem on the market. Your ideas are great. Keep them coming. But also know that others have great ideas too, a little bit of Googling can save you a lot of heartache...and money.
Establish your goals.
Invested time and resources can prove the workings of your idea. Market research can tell you if people might buy it. If you think there are people who would want the benefits your idea provides and you've cleared a patent search, then you might be in a good position to move forward with a patent.
If you simply want notoriety for your idea, apply for a patent and one day you might be able to hang a shiny plaque on your wall as a conversation piece. If you want your idea to become something that creates commerce, ask yourself: Should I invest in making the idea into a product that gets manufactured, patent protection be damned?
Do an ROI analysis.
You already know getting a patent is expensive. Do some back of the envelope math to determine how many widgets you’ll need to sell before the patent costs are paid. Can you sell that many? How long will it take?
Now, determine if your idea would easily or quickly be replicated. If so, the value of obtaining a patent gets murky because you can only protect intellectual property by applying legal pressure to do so. The cost of that pressure would be directly related to the severity of patent infringement. The more it gets copied, the more it will cost you to fight the copies.
In our crowd-sourced, rapid-prototyped world, you can have an idea and quickly move it through the stages of development and into low-volume manufacturing before you could even finish writing the patent claims meant to protect it. And, if it begins to sell, then no one else can patent it either.
The lesson here: hurry up and slow down, we better think this through.
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We help some clients create new products. For others we provide marketing strategies. And for some we do both. We're creative in a methodical-statistical-analysis-and-planning sort of way. With mad sketching skills.