Which Comes First, the Patent Attorney or the Designer?

Steve Pope Comments are off

product design steps

The “eureka” moment of invention has spawned many clichés: flash of genius, inspiration, light bulb effect, spark of innovation. Whatever you call it, the person who has the brilliant idea typically starts thinking, “Should I patent it? I need to go see a patent attorney and find out how to protect my property.” We at R2FACT are not patent attorneys but have plenty of experience with the product development process, enough to know that in most cases this is putting the cart before the horse.

Intellectual Property (IP) is critical when developing new ideas. IP protects inventions, allowing innovative individuals and companies to compete fairly in an open market. Competition spurs the innovator to learn, excel, and be persistent; IP rewards those efforts. Without both competition and IP, Edison and Tesla would not have been so successful. The Dodge brothers would not have severed their shareholder ties with the Ford Motor Company to found their rival firm. Nevertheless, there are many steps in product development that should come before establishing IP.

Writing a non-provisional patent application on the basis of initial patent illustrations  may be time-consuming, expensive and risky. When and if a non-provisional application is written and if a patent is granted three years or so later, it mayfail to protect the marketable version of the product when it is ready to launch.

After an ‘aha’ moment, other questions take precedence over “Can I protect my idea?” These include, “Are there similar products or services on the market? Will it generate consumer demand? Are there other products or services that attain the same result? If so, are the benefits of the new idea greater than those of the competitive products?” These days, an image search on Google, Bing, Yahoo or Ask simplifies research of potential competitors immensely. Nearly any product in the marketplace can be found on Google Images alone. Each image links to the sell site which has data about price, features and benefits, and other helpful information.

In addition, there are many other factors that must be addressed before filing a patent application: the technical feasibility of design and engineering as well as proven manufacturability and realistic costing. It simply makes sense to engineer at least a proof of concept (working model) of a product idea before visiting the patent attorney’s office. The advantages of this approach are lower cost, less time spent and a more streamlined product development process. The result is a product actually worth patenting.

Posted in: American Innovation, Product Development