The hard fact is that only an estimated one out of 5,000 inventions make it to product launch. With the glut of new ideas developed every year, it takes an abundant amount of planning, investing and patience to see an invention really succeed. Before you throw a single cent into taking your light bulb moment from brainstorm to windfall, check out these expert tips! (To learn more, see Patents Are Assets, So Learn How To Value Them.) IN PICTURES: Retire A Millionaire In 10 Steps
Step 1: Research and Develop the Idea
Waking up in the middle of the night with an "a-ha" moment is just the tip of the iceberg for putting a great idea into action. In order to be sure that your idea is well-developed and protected, experts recommend keeping a detailed record of your idea and the date.
"Document the evolution of your idea and the work you put into the project," says Attorney William Gregory O. "This could serve as important evidence should issues arise concerning the originality of the idea."
In addition to being sure you jot down your developments, you must also determine whether the idea has real commercial value. Mr. O goes on to state that you should "consider whether the idea has the potential to become a profitable product and research whether similar ideas exist."
Step 2: Make it Legal
While some experts recommend getting a lawyer for product or service ideas that may involve some legal oversight down the road, you do not need a lawyer to get your initial trademark or patent. According to Barbara Crowley, Founder of Snabbo.com, everything you need is available as a "do it yourself" on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. Just visit The United States Patent and Trademark Office to get started!
Filing for a provisional patent application is solid advice, regardless of whether you decide to go through with an intellectual property attorney. This filing isn't an actual patent, but gives the filer a 12-month window to officially file for a patent from the date that the idea was presented to the market.
Brent Thomas, Founder of BikeWrappers, explains why you need one: "It is important to file for this provisional patent before you show your product at a trade show or offer it for sale. This window gives you a chance to see if you think your product is unique or marketable enough for you to go down the patent road." (For a related reading, see 6 Drug Companies With Expiring Patents In 2011.)
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Step 3: Prepare for Launch
Kwame Kuadey, the founder/CEO of GiftCardRescue.com, gives this sound advice, "One of the biggest mistakes startups make is to delay the launch of their product or service until they get everything right. Get your product or service to the market as fast as possible and let the customers shape the direction of what the final product or service looks like." This requires a bit of risk, but allows for inventors to allow customer feedback to tweak your design into perfection. Another major benefit of this wait-and-see approach is the resources saved by not dumping too much money into a premature initial design or vision.
Step 4: Marketing
Getting the word out about your product can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on campaigns that may or may not hit your target market, consider more modest traditional marketing methods mixed with some "free" tactics that won't cost a dime. Sign up for Peter Shankman's HelpAReporter.com email list, to find journalists and other media professionals who regularly features small businesses, experts and products in their editorial features and news pieces. While the requests are anonymous, past outlets that have connected with up-and-coming inventors include major print magazines and national television talk shows. Be sure to respond only to those promotional requests that truly fit your offering, and be polite and professional in your reply. (Looking for an exit strategy? Check Out 7 Steps To Selling Your Small Business.)
The Bottom Line
The process of thinking to creating to selling can be a long one: 10 years or more for some inventors. Be certain that, before you invest anything in your brilliant idea, you are committed to seeing it through. Likewise, it's also a good idea to know the signs of a failed invention. The ability to cut your losses is a noble trait for any professional inventor. (For more, check out 5 Traits Of A Successful Small Business.)
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