Eureka! You were standing in the shower the other day, scrubbing your armpits, when suddenly, inspiration struck. You’ve got an amazing idea for a new product that you know would fly off the shelves at your favorite department store. What next? Following is an inventor’s legal guide to getting your product on the market.
An Inventor’s Legal Guide: Who wants to buy your product?
Before you start calling lawyers, manufacturers and the patent office, decide who your target market will be. It doesn’t matter how amazing your idea is if it won’t be purchased by anyone. Spend some time researching markets for the type of product you have envisioned.
An Inventor’s Legal Guide: No reservations yet.
You can’t reserve your patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office until your product has actually been developed. However, you can apply for patent-pending approval, which will protect your idea for up to one year, after which you’d better have a product ready.
An Inventor’s Legal Guide: Mum’s the word.
Be sure that you keep your idea a relative secret; even friends have been known to rip off great ideas. And if someone develops your product before you have the opportunity, then you’re out of luck. You can’t patent, trademark or copyright an idea; only something in fixed substance or form.
An Inventor’s Legal Guide: Don’t get ahead of yourself.
Just because you’ve developed a product and submitted a patent application doesn’t mean that you’re on the road to financial security just yet. According to recent statistics, fewer than half of the applications received by the USPTO are not approved, and fewer than 5% ever become commercialized products.
An Inventor’s Legal Guide: Perform a Search
Before you get too excited about your idea, make sure that no one else has had it first. You can search the patent and trademark records at www.uspto.gov/ for patents that have already been registered, or you can hire a patent searcher for a fee. Don’t waste money on an application for a patent that already exists, even if it hasn’t yet hit store shelves.
An Inventor’s Legal Guide: Is Your Product Worth It?
In order to make money off of your patented idea, manufacturers must be willing to create the product and market it to retailers. If the manufacturing costs are higher than the industry standard for similar products, then you won’t make a sale. Plain and simple.
An Inventor’s Legal Guide: Beware deductions.
Often, manufacturers were deduct from an inventor’s royalties for various production, marketing and advertising costs. Be sure to take such deductions into consideration when looking over a proposed contract.