Every great invention begins first with an idea, an aha moment. Dealing with problems often points to unexpected opportunities. Not surprisingly, many invention ideas are solutions to annoying problems.
Now that you have your aha moment, your great idea, what should you do next?
- Sleep on it
- Quantify and qualify it
- If appropriate, file for a patent
Sleep on it
First make sure to document your idea somewhere in writing, noting any key details and features of your product. Then, set it aside for awhile: sleep on it. Don't do anything with it for a few days.
Why? Your conscious mind works in the here and now and focuses upon the known facts. It is very pragmatic, your conscious mind directs you when to go to bed and when to arise in the morning. It helps you keep track of all the important tasks for your day at home and at work. It is great at keeping you on track, but it is terrible at problem solving which involves mixing and matching the known and the unknown to find a solution; that is best left to the subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind operates behind the scenes when your apparent focus is somewhere else. The subconscious mind is the incubator of ideas and it is also great for shaping existing ideas further. But when you consciously try to force a solution to a vexing problem or challenge, it seems to have the opposite effect: it grinds the subconscious idea generator to a halt.
So, give you subconscious some time and some space and amazing things will happen!
Quantify and qualify the idea
Now it is time to re-engage the conscious mind into fact gathering, something it is very good at. Consider your idea in a critical way. Is it something that everyone or at least many consumers would want to have? Are the unique benefits obvious or do they require explaining? Can it be made economically and sold at a solid profit? A good template for further analysis is 7 criteria for success.
Do not be afraid to eliminate or disqualify your idea if, after critical analysis, it doesn't appear to be a winner. As Lori Greiner has said on Shark Tank “Is it a hero or a zero?”
If appropriate, file a patent
If your idea still seems to be a hero after critical analysis, consider filing a patent to protect your intellectual property.
First do your own patent search on www.uspto.gov for free.
There are many detailed tools at your disposal on the website. If you plan to be an inventor over the long haul, you need to learn how to do an effective patent search on your own. Initially do keyword searches and identify a group of existing patents with some similarities to your idea. Next, look at each relevant patent and look at the particular patents it was compared to – this will add to your list of relevant patents. Finally, note the most common class and subclass codes in relevant patents and do a more detailed search specifically on class and subclass. As a consultant, I can help inventors with conducting an effective patent search.
If, after much searching and due diligence looking at existing prior art, you feel your idea may still qualify for a strong patent, consider filing a patent on your idea. I highly recommend that you work with a patent agent or attorney. You may initially wish to file a provisional patent which will give you a 1 year period before you must file a utility patent. Your patent attorney can advise you as to the best course.