Ask any experienced inventor, and they’ll tell you that the process of inventing a truly new product is an arduous one. Even if your product idea is thoroughly researched, well-planned out, and satisfies a demonstrated consumer demand, there are still often many obstacles that lie between the concept and the marketable product.
If this is true for experienced inventors – and it is – imagine how much harder the process can be for a first-timer.
The problem is simply that a first-time inventor will likely have little knowledge about the potential pitfalls awaiting them during the process of creating their product, so it stands to reason that they will make some mistakes based simply on that inexperience.
Here are some of the most common hurdles that novice inventors often make when trying to move forward with their inventions.
Missing the patent filing deadline after licensing a product
In the U.S., an inventor has 12 months after the invention was first sold – for example, if it was licensed to another company – to file an application for a patent, whether it’s a provisional or nonprovisional application. If that 12-month period expires and you have not filed the proper application, you no longer have the right to obtain a patent on what you created.
This opens up the possibility that the organization you sold the invention to could then file for the patent and own your idea.
If you do decide to sell your invention rather than manufacturing it yourself – and many inventors do ultimately take that route – it’s crucial that you begin the patent application process promptly, if you intend to patent the idea at all. Otherwise you could lose your idea to someone else. This is especially important now that U.S. patent law has changed from first-to-invent to first-to-file.
Incorrect or incomplete applications
This is a frustrating issue that befalls many first-time inventors, mainly because it’s a problem that’s relatively easy to avoid. While it’s true that getting a patent application completed as quickly as possible is of the utmost importance, that won’t do you much good if the application has mistakes or isn’t thoroughly completed.
By giving yourself a long enough timeline on which to complete the application, you’ll ensure that you only have to complete the process once. Otherwise, you’ll be back to square one with less time than you had before to make sure your idea is still securely yours.
Publicly using the invention prematurely
Many first-time inventors don’t know this, but if you use your new invention publicly at any point, you’re immediately on a timer. Once you’ve used the invention in any public setting , you have 12 months to file the proper patent paperwork – otherwise you won’t be able to procure one at all. It’s one of the lesser-known aspects of patent law.
Skimping on legal advice
In the beginning, it can be tempting to try to save money by not hiring a lawyer at all, or perhaps going with an economically priced group of attorneys rather than a highly regarded one. But that’s a decision that opens you, your product and your company up for future liability headaches that could end up costing a lot more than the few dollars you save at the beginning.
Skipping a patent search
Have you taken all the steps possible to make sure your product, or some version of it, doesn’t exist elsewhere? Have you combed the Internet and scoured all the pertinent publications relating to your product field to make sure that no one else has already discovered your idea?
It’s also a good idea to hire an attorney to complete an official patent search. There’s a huge range when it comes to the cost of a patent search – as low as $100 to $3,000. Your price will be based on your search requirements and how complex they are.
Paying for a professional patent search, just like hiring an intellectual property attorney, at the outset can protect against the possibility of paying thousands later on.
If you find that you need more guidance as you continue on your product development journey, consider partnering with a single-source product development firm. Firms like Pivot can help first-time inventors navigate everything from the product design to prototyping, manufacturing, and regulatory compliance.
For more on working with a product development firm, read our post “3 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Outsourcing
Your Product Development.”