If you’re an inventor, you know the rush of developing a unique product or service. Coming up with a concept that’s completely new is exhilarating, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. The very same reason you’re thrilled and excited, is the same reason why others will try and steal the ideas behind your invention.
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For the most part, inventors often have a great idea or prototype, but they lack resources to effectively market and distribute their invention. As you bring in more and more people, you need to focus more and more on protection. A good idea is one that’s quickly stolen. Since you will be exposing your unique ideas, this leaves you vulnerable.
Although you may have a creative mind and are able to invent one concept after another, you need to take caution and ensure that you proceed with care. One small slip up and you could find that all your hard work was for nothing. If someone with money gets wind of what you’ve invented and runs with it, they may beat you to the market through your own unique invention.
It’s important to be vigilant and smart, protecting your invention and sanity for that matter. Don’t allow someone to ride in and steal what you have worked so hard to achieve. For many inventors, their creations are their baby and they have something specific in mind when introducing them to the world. Not only could your invention be stolen, but your vision could be crushed. To protect what you’ve invented, here are some practical tips.
1. Apply for a Patent
As an inventor, you could potentially patent your invention. This allows for significant advantages regarding stiff competition. By seeking and acquiring a patent, you gain rights so that others cannot make, use, or sell what you’ve invented. This is not only a bonus in terms of competition, but it also takes some of the pressure off. You don’t feel rushed to hit the market if you’re not quite ready.
As you go through the process of establishing your invention, write everything down in a private location. Within the United States at least, only the original inventors can patent an invention. To avoid someone else coming in and claiming your invention is theirs, write down your ideas, from start to finish.
The more details, the better. By writing down everything involved, it will make the application process that much easier. Technical drawings are great to include in your application, as well as detailed notes on how the invention works and what it will be used for. Before you submit an application, do a patent search. This will help you avoid spending your time and money on something that’s already been patented or invented.
If you’re serious about applying for a patent, then you should discuss your options with a patent attorney. They will help you understand the application process and the costs associated with applying. It’s best to hire someone that has at least some experience in the area you’re tackling.
There are three major types of patents which you can apply for:
- Utility patents: These are the most common, however, they’re also the most complex. If your invention is focused on a process in terms of function, this will be the patent type you’ll be most interested in.
- Design patents: If you are more focused on a unique design, then you’ll want to seek out a design patent to protect the appearance of your invention.
- Plant patents: These are the least common, but can have a major impact. If you discover a unique way to reproduce based on asexual methods. Algae and macro fungi are identified as plants, but bacteria are not included in this category.
If your patent is currently pending, make sure you describe your invention as a patent pending product or idea. This will reduce risk, as companies are less likely to invest their money into something that may be approved at any time. This also looks good within sales pitches, as you try to gain investors.
2. Create a Fool Proof Plan
Maintaining a patent is recommended, however, it does not automatically provide all the solutions. Many ideas or products aren’t even patentable and not all patents are created equal. In order to better protect yourself, you’ll need a solid business plan.
Who will you be targeting? Is the market large enough to make a profit? How will you attract your customers? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself. When you have a solid business plan, this will help you obtain investors and continually reach your goals. Depending on where you’re currently at, in terms of your invention, it’s important to include the following steps in your business plan:
- Complete all research as you develop your invention
- Build your first prototype
- Test your prototype
- Create a version that is market-ready
At each step, provide a detailed timeline and the approximate cost. You’ve already overcome a great achievement inventing your product or service, but the work does not end there. You need to continually focus on your business plan and make appropriate adjustments along the way. Also, think ahead. How will you market the product? It’s important to stay invested in the present, but always think ahead to what the future holds so that you can take action.
3. Maintain Privacy
It’s important not to openly discuss your invention. Unfortunately, many people are far too trusting which can hurt them in the long run. Not only do you need to be selective regarding who you tell, but also where. You may be excited to discuss the progress of your invention with your partner, but openly discussing details in your local pub probably isn’t the best idea.
It’s exciting to have a potentially million-dollar idea, but just remember that the more people you tell, the more vulnerable you’ll be. This is why it’s a good idea to research potential investors or people you plan to have on board. You do not want to bring in an investor who has a track record of screwing the companies they invest in. Just because someone is offering you money doesn’t mean they’re the best person to take your invention to the next level. You need to be open, but also fairly guarded.
In order to continually maintain privacy, create non-disclosure agreements for that extra level of protection. This will help you protect all confidential information just in case your patent isn’t approved. Don’t feel bad about asking experts who appear to be trustworthy; you need to cover yourself. Before you tell any outside individuals anything about your invention, have them sign the agreement. Don’t rely on verbal agreements, get it in writing.
Stay sharp and make smart decisions once you’ve created a unique invention. Half the battle is who you tell. Generally, you cannot make it to the market alone, so you will need to trust some individuals to help you through the process.
The fewer people that know, the better. Be selective when choosing who you let in. Although past experience is important, trust your gut when hiring outside assistance. Anyone you do tell, take the extra steps needed to protect yourself. Have them sign NDAs and only release information you feel is necessary. If you do become concerned along the way, speak with your lawyer immediately. If you carefully do the tips above, you will definitely prevent others from stealing your unique and amazing invention.
Has anyone stolen your invention before? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments section below.