How To Make a Profit from an Invention

Next steps after you develop an invention idea

As most know, a good idea or invention remains the world's best-kept secret until it is unleashed out to the world for all to know, buy or use. The age-old question is how to turn your brilliant idea into a cash cow for your future?

For most, it not as simple as selling your idea to someone on a television show like "Shark Tank," and then you get handed wads of money to develop your invention. Outside of the world of reality T.V., there is a long process for most to follow.

The best way for you to develop your idea into a reality is to learn as much as you can about the invention and patenting process. Up front, you need to know that only a minority of ideas eventually make money. However, do not let that stop you from inventing after all even Thomas Edison had his failures.

Understand the Differences in Intellectual Property

Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are intellectual property, which refers to products that come from the creative mind. These are all protections that inventors and originators of ideas have to protect their work from being used.

Can You Qualify for an Invention Patent?

You have an invention, now what? You need to do some research to find out if you qualify for a patent. Does someone already own the patent on your idea? It is possible that you may not have been the first person to come up with the invention.

Apply for a Provisional Patent

If your idea is truly ready to go, the best thing to do is to file a provisional patent application.

Filing a provisional patent application that adequately describes the invention will establish priority. The U.S. is "first-to-file" country. A well prepared provisional patent application is your best friend in a first-to-file world. A provisional patent application allows you to say "patent pending." Of course, the first-to-file a non-provisional patent is the true winner in the race.

Do Your Due Diligence

In order to file a patent, you need to do a patent search for prior art. The prior art is any body of knowledge that relates to your invention. Prior art would include previous patents, trade journal articles, publications (including data books and catalogs), public discussions, trade shows or public use or sales anywhere in the world.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

There are several ways to lose the race to an issued patent, but you can learn what to avoid with some foreknowledge. Key pitfalls include not recording your process, not successfully making a working prototype, not doing your due diligence correctly and hiring professional help that swindles you or hijacks your idea.

Filing for an Actual Patent

Filing for the actual, non-provisional patent on your invention takes careful deliberation, including skilled writing and illustrative drawing of your product or device. If you are applying for your patent in the United States, it includes filing the patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and paying a fee. Because this step is so important, it is suggested that most beginners new to the process hire a patent agent or attorney to assist with this step. 

Proving You Were First

If you have done your due diligence then you may be covered, however, there are several places you can do a preliminary search and you can also check with the Patent and Trademark Depository Library to make sure you are the first to patent.

Make Money from Your Patent

Once you have your patent, there are three ways to make money off of your invention. Sell the patent, license the patent for use by others or go out and mass produce your invention and sell it on the market. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Make a Business Plan

If you should decide that you want to produce your invention and sell it, then you need a business plan to lay the groundwork on how you plan to accomplish your goals. 

Raising Funds to Sell Your Invention

Any good business plan that involves how you plan to sell your invention will include the costs to produce, package, store, ship and market your product. This requires money and usually a fair amount of it. You can find investors and business loans, but, know, it is another arduous process.

When to Hire a Professional

There are many steps along the way from hatching an idea to getting your invention to market.

If you truly have a good idea and you feel the process is too difficult for you to tackle alone, then seek professional help. You might not have the legal know-how to execute a patent search or fill out a patent application. However, knowing what a patent is and having the background on prior art, trademark and provisional patents will help you in your discussions when hiring a potential patent agent or lawyer.