“If you’re at the stage of looking at ideas to patent, consider inventing a better “rudder” before taking on the “ship,” it might save you a lot time, money and heartache.”
There is this false belief that as soon as an inventor comes up with their killer idea they must get it patented before it’s ripped off by a mega corporate company. And, although I can’t say that having ideas copied won’t ever happen if patent protection isn’t secured early in the process, I would simply urge anyone setting out with a goal to making a career out of inventing to (1) weigh up what might be realistic to patent and (2) when to actually apply for the patent, here’s a story that I hope will make you think about it from another perspective…
The penalty of patenting your idea too early
I once met a retired teacher at a University I was giving a talk at, he proudly told me during a coffee break that he had invented a ship and it took him all of 20 minutes to try and explain how it worked, he’d lost me after around 50 seconds, I couldn’t grasp the concept, his idea was too big. It transpired that this rather charming gentleman had desperately applied for his patent some 3 years earlier and was still working on his ship, I hasten to add that he lost most of his protection rights, not to mention thousands of pounds of his own money, and no one so far, has copied anything he came up with.
The power of patenting your idea later
Let’s assume this inventor needed 4 years to complete his proto-type or working model, kept it secret, and then applied for his patent – he’d have had 12 months to focus his time on finding out how he might profit from his idea, whether trying to licence it to ship builders, seek out manufacturer’s to produce it for him or whatever he felt was an appropriate step to take..
If you’re at the stage of looking at ideas to patent, my first piece of advice is, consider inventing a better “rudder” before taking on the “ship,” it might save you a lot of time, money and heartache.
I have lost count of the array of complicated inventions I have witnessed, most of which end up eating up money and heading towards the scrap heap with the “ship.”
Pick your pain point and adopt a business mindset
I picked on the biggest pain point in my own industry and then decided to develop a simple solution that would only take me 6 months to develop, my motive was to change my life in the fastest time possible. My plan was to apply for a patent once I had a working model in my hands, and manufacturer’s waiting in the wings to produce it, I simply didn’t want to be tinkering for years and run up costs.
The day I produced my first 2 proto-type Tri-Creaser’s I applied for my patent and installed both at my first customer site the day after I received my patent pending status and I spent the next 12 months selling around 200 more so I could pay for my international patent protection.
My Tri-Creaser uses an o-ring style component as the key to achieving the results my customers desire to stop printed card materials from cracking on the spine when folded, it is a small item they need for their machine, my “rudder” that fit’s their “ship.”
My customers pain point (red cross) and solved (green tick) by attaching my Tri-Creaser to their machine
Whether you feel you have entrepreneurial qualities lurking somewhere inside you or not, I would strongly advise you to set up a company or at least adopt a very strict business mindset when it comes to bringing your idea to life, and keep it all secret, this is crucial as you can’t afford any of your ideas to be leaked.
Business owners don’t sell ideas, why should you? Remember, the idea itself is only 10%, getting your idea into an evolved product and sold to the masses is the hard part!
To reiterate my point, I can’t advise on whether you patent early or wait until your product is ready to go, but I can urge you to keep your first idea simple so that you do it sooner rather than later. The retired teacher didn’t think his idea would take several years to develop, no one ever does!
Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that I have also invented a few “ships” that have taken me several years to perfect, but I had the financial resources in place due to my first simple idea selling well, and the customers in place to buy them, I hope you take this advice on board (no pun intended)