What Should I Do With my Idea?

Comments By John Robertson    jr@infosight.com


 Suppose you have a idea ( invention) and are asking “what should I do next?”


Step 1  - Document , Research and Plan


Document your idea with sketches and details. Write down exactly what is novel compared to the prior art. Sign and date all pages and also have them signed and dated by another witness. This is not strong protection but may be useful later if someone claims that it was not your idea. It also forces you to turn over rocks , look at issued  Patents and applications  ( try http://www.google.com/advanced_patent_search  )  and to also search for products already out there in the market.


Many Inventors feel they have something really new only to find out later that their idea is little different from something else already out there. This step will help reduce that risk. Don’t re-invent the wheel!


You will also need to create a preliminary business plan. This planning will force you to consider the many aspects  and challenges  you must deal with to make your project a success.  It may be helpful to look at the Briefs supplied by SCORE  at http://www.scoreworks.org/advform.htm




Step 2  - Patent Introduction


First Read  an introductory  Score Document which I have posted at


This document again stresses the need to document your work.  Although not mentioned there I believe :


(i)            that a “Design Patent” is generally worthless and

(ii)          firms that advertise that they “help” with patents and marketing and require up front money are often not honorable or helpful. 



Step 2a  - Provisional Patent


You can likely write your own Provisional application see http://voices.yahoo.com/write-file-provisional-patent-easy-way-non-5931124.html  . The filing fee is currently less than $150. But be very careful ; the  Provisional Patent application is destroyed ( and is not opened or published) after 1 year unless you make a full filing for a Utility patent.  During this year , you  can say “ Patent Applied For” .


The 1 year provisional protection will give you a little  time to create a business / financial plan. Unless you can make a economic case for the new product including its implementation , you likely will not want to proceed with expensive full patent protection.


This protected year will also provide time for you to begin discussions with others for financing and partnering.  See the “Startup or Partner” section of this Note.


Step 2b  - Patent

If you desire  to file a Patent which will stand up to Patent Office (USPTO ) scrutiny , and include strong claims which will protect you , you will likely need to employ a Patent Attorney or a Registered Patent Agent.  This will be expensive, typically more than $5000.  Patents can take along time to issue ( 4 years typical). Once you do obtain your patent , there are periodic additional fees to keep it in effect.  Foreign Patents are even more expensive. A US patent will only protect against manufacture or sale within the US



Step 3  - Startup or Partner?

If you are not able to self finance and manage all aspects of patenting ,prototyping , manufacturing , inventory , marketing , distribution ,selling , legal , etc. etc. etc. you will need to either create and finance a startup or partner with an existing firm which is active in a similar market.


To discuss any of these options , you will need to discuss your product with others. Before a full patent is in place , you will need a NDA  ( Non Disclosure Agreement).

Several examples of  free NDA agreements text can be found  if you Google  “Non Disclosure Agreement”


Many Inventors wish to shine their shoes and contact  a company which is in a related business arena to see if they can either sell their idea to them or partner with that company in its manufacture or distribution . But they often discover that that company has a lot of gatekeepers who are all instructed to not discuss or consider ideas from outside the company. This seems to conflict with the widely held idea that companies are always looking for new ideas.  Companies use their gatekeepers because their upper management / legal departments fear that the company will end up being sued by you claiming  “they stole my idea  . Even if the company could prove that they had been working on similar products  for years , the company would likely lose in a jury trial because the jury will empathize with you , the lone , struggling  inventor. Thus the gatekeepers remain and you should understand that the rejections are not because of you , your invention ,  or your approach.


Welcome to Entrepreneurship!

It  is Impossible to detail all of the steps you will need to make to get from concept to a successful product / company in a brief document such as this. This document may help you to understand that there is no standard process which will guarantee your success.