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Ten Tips For Inventors

1. When brilliance strikes and you come up with a great idea, create a record of invention before going any further with it. The record of invention should be written in ink and should include:

  • a clear description of the idea,
  • the date,
  • your signature, and
  • the signatures of two people you trust who have witnessed and understood your invention and the dates they sign.

2. Build a prototype as soon as you can to transform the idea into a physical object. It is important to do this early - once you patent your invention you will not be able to add new features or fixes that a prototype might reveal. You may want to use virtual prototyping, or a professional firm to assist you, depending on your invention.

3. Be discreet. Do not talk about your invention with people who are not bound by a signed confidentiality agreement.

4. Keep complete and accurate written records, including-

  • A written lab book or log, kept up-to-date as you work on your invention, which documents each day you did something, describes the efforts you have made in taking your invention from idea to reality (including test results, experiments, and modifications).
  • Note: Remember to write in ink when applicable. Have two witnesses sign and date your record book stating that they have witnessed and understood the work you have performed to build and test your invention.
  • Copies of all correspondence (including e-mails) and any receipts relating to your invention.

5. Don't do too much work on your invention until you get a good idea of whether it will sell well. Remember that only around 5% of patents actually result in financial gain for the inventor.

  • A suggested rule of thumb to determine whether your invention will sell well is that the total sales will be at least twenty times the cost of inventing and patenting it.
  • Include in your cost calculation the cost of filing fees, hiring a lawyer to help with your patent filing, and the professional who prepares the drawings of your creation.

6. Assess whether you will be able to get a patent on your invention. You should do some initial research yourself; to determine whether to invest the time and money to employ a professional to perform a more detailed analysis. Answer the following questions:

  • Is your invention novel?
  • What is the prior art? Before conducting a full patent search (see below) - research whether your invention has already been referred to or published in a magazine or journal.
  • If you are improving on something that has already been patented, is your invention a new physical feature, a combination of prior separate features, or a new use of a prior feature?
  • If you are improving something that has already been patented, is your invention obvious? If it is - you will not be able to patent it.
  • Does your invention produce a new and unexpected result?
  • Does your invention fall into one of the five classes of items that may be patentable? That is, is it a process, machine, an "article of manufacture," "compositions of matter," or a new use of any of those items? You cannot patent just the idea for something.

7. Do a patent search - or employ a professional search firm/patent attorney to assist you with this.

8. Keep a file for your invention that contains items and information you and your lawyer will need while you prepare your patent application.

9. Start exploring and thinking about how you will price and market your invention.

10. Work with an experienced lawyer who is a licensed patent attorney to confirm your research.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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