Tips For Inventors based on Bill's experience
These tips are written from the British perspective. They are passed on as good will, to help fellow inventors. Anyone acting on them must takes full responsibility for their own actions.
If you go public before filing a patent application, neither you, nor anyone else can file a valid retrospective patent application with the Patent Office. (In the UK this is titled The Intellectual Property Office,)
Before investing a lot of time, money and faith in your invention, check that it is original. You can make a good start to this research by doing a key word search using one of the search engines such as Google. You can also do a basic "current awareness" search of patents on the Patent Office databases. These can be accessed on-line at http://www.patent.gov.uk/search. After you have filed a (UK) patent application, you will be required to pay for the Patent Office to carry out a preliminary check on the novelty of your invention (£130 in the UK). Later, a more substantive examination will be carried out before your patent is granted. The bad news: The patenting process takes several years.
Before you become too committed to your invention, draft out a prudent cash flow forecast. writing down the maximum funds that you are prepared to commit to your project at each stage in its development. Don't assume that you can rely on grants or that enthusiastic promises of help from friends will materialise. It doesn't take much courage to take up inventing, but it requires a lot of courage to know when to throw in the towel. Have a look at the
The risks involved if you write your own patent application:
The Patent Office provides very clear instructions on how to write your own application but you should be aware that writing and processing your own application is a high risk business. If your patent description reveals sufficient clues to allow someone else to make your invention but you leave loopholes in the all important Claims part of your application, it may be perfectly legal for someone to make and sell a product using your inventive idea, without infringing on your patent.
Even if you are inventing to help humanity and are not interested in the royalties, a poorly written application is still dangerous because a far thinking manufacturer may be very reluctant to invest capital in developing your invention, if another company can then copy the design with having incurred any research and development costs.
On the other hand, in addition to saving you money, the big plus of writing your own application is that it forces you to think very clearly about what you have invented. Bill Courtney writes his own applications and finds that this is a valuable part of the creative process. As an ex-Physics teacher he has written plenty of technical literature over the years, which is a considerable advantage. To learn some Bill's know-how tricks read the story on this linked page.
An excellent way of testing potential customer reactions to your invention, is to display it at an inventions fair. Exhibiting inventions is not cheap and you are unlikely to come away from the fair with a contract which will guarantee you fame and fortune. But if you work hard at the market research during the fair and follow up the business contacts you make there, the cost of exhibiting will make good investment sense. Exhibiting will also sharpen up your communication skills.
If nothing else, you might discover that your invention is likely to be a commercial flop, before you lavish too much time & money on it.
Do an Advanced Google (regional) search to find out what is happening within travelling distance.
Using examples downloaded from the internet draw up a personalised confidentiality agreement to suite your needs. This will be fine for dealing with small businesses, but for large businesses offer to use their standard agreement because their lawyers will have approved it. A "Two Way Confidentiality Agreement " will be preferred by many companies because it also binds you into keeping secret what the company tells you.
Don't be surprised if large businesses refuse to sign any form of confidentiality agreement. This is pragmatism, not shiftiness because they don't know what they are agreeing to keep confidential until after they have signed.
Writing unsolicited letters to companies, offering them your invention rarely leads to success. As your proposal works its way through the company it will probably arrive on the desk of someone whose power base will be threatened by your ingenuity. Its a short journey from their desk top to the dustbin.
Instead, adopt an open ended communication strategy, which aims to reach a champion within the company who will directly benefit by supporting your proposal. Open strategies include exhibiting at innovation fairs and publishing your proposal on an inventors web site (do a Google search to find one.) Your local library will have books on public relations, which offer good advice on how to attract media attention.
Sadly, in Britain at least, the word inventor is linked to the word mad It conjures up images of slightly dotty men in garden sheds and has a low status. Be wary of using this title on your business cards and headed notepaper. Use a "title" that introduces a story such as "A busy mum who solved ...."
The inventing game is more Gothic Horror than Enlightenment Science. If your ambition is to get rich quick, then consider re-mortgaging your house, pawning all your worldly goods and selling your children into slavery. Then blow all your cash in one big splash on The National Lottery- It's a far safer bet than taking up inventing.