You’ve got a great idea ... now what?


CarolinaFireJournal - By Eddie Paul
By Eddie Paul
10/22/2013 -

I have an idea ... Now what do I do?

Who has not had an idea in their life on how to do something better, faster or simpler? It may have been a small spark of an idea or a bright bolt of lightning that could change the world. We all get them, the question is, what do you do with it now that you have it? Was it really such a brilliant idea that you would now need to spend your life working on it, or such a small idea that it is one not worth doing anything with, now that you have thought it over.

And what qualifies your flash of brilliance as an invention anyway? Or even an invention worth investing in, let alone one that can be protected by a patent. By the way ... what can or cannot be patented? I will try and answer some of the many questions that may be flying through your head now that you have this new idea.

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This will be an overview of inventing including how to bring your invention to the market. It is a very condensed overview and not an in-depth step-by-step, as that could fill a few volumes.

The process of inventing and marketing is massive with do’s and don’ts that are ever changing and never ending and that is not the intent of this series. But if all goes well, this will at least get you on the track and allow you to safely move to the next step and help you protect your idea as you move forward with it. By splitting this into about 20 short articles it will also allow you to send in any questions that I may be able to answer in some of the following articles.

Patents

But let’s start with the word “Patent” and what it is and is not.

To start with there are Design Patents and Utility Patents. Design patents are for the new ornamental design of an article of manufacture. An example is the look of a product such as a body design of a car or an art object. This may not be what you are looking at getting and the Utility patent is more than likely what you are after.

Utility patents protect inventions that are a novel, non-obvious and useful, such as a process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter or an improvement of or to any of the above items. In most cases a patent just covers small incremental improvements (of about 10 percent) in an already known technology. So in a way this invention is more of an evolution than innovation.

Meaning of Novel, Non-Obvious, and Useful

New and Novel: For a United States patent the invention must never have been made public in any way, anywhere in the world, a year before the date on which an application for a patent is filed. In other countries, you have a one year grace period and require absolute novelty.

Original and Non-obvious: An invention involves an inventive step if, when compared with what is already known, it would not be obvious to someone with a good knowledge and experience of the subject. For example, if you just make cosmetic changes that is obvious.

Useful: This means that the invention must take the practical form of an apparatus or device, it has to do something.

As an inventor I have learned and trained myself to invent almost anything mechanical. I can pretty much invent on the spot and very quickly. I have noticed that there are a lot of conditions that lead up to my inventing a device and I try to mentally note the conditions so that I can replicate or recreate them at will if I need to invent something on demand. I have found a few conditions that lead to my inventive environment.

Now this is different from one inventor to the next but generally we all have an environment that makes it easier of more conducive to thinking creatively or inventively. Some of these conditions are broken down to a few basics such as:

Where do ideas come from? Are you trying to solve a problem that exists, build a device that helps do something else easier, faster or better? Are they solutions to problems given to you by someone else or a problem you have identified and feel can be done better with your invention?

Is it something you are doing? Or is it a process that you do that can be greatly simplified or done safer or even faster with your invention?

Where do you get ideas? I can go to sleep thinking about a problem and in the morning awake with a solution, many cannot but there may be places that inspire you to think or times of day that you are more inspired than another. I once heard about an Asian inventor that gets his idea while swimming underwater and has a pool installed in his back yard just so he can use it to come up with ideas. I often wonder if that was just a way to justify his getting a swimming pool, or if that really works. I have also heard of people getting ideas while in the bathroom, and at first I thought it a bit funny, but realized that it could well be true, as it is a room with little to distract you such as phones, TV, people or anything else that we have all learned to tolerate. I have been inspired on a flight for a lot of the same reasons — nothing to distract me.

If you want to invent something, the first thing to do is finding and identify a problem. Many times the ideas come simply from a problem being introduced to you, or finding it yourself and just “thinking on it” until you have a solution.

But don’t stop there. Keep thinking about it, most ideas that come quick are just as fast to be discredited. So the next step is to find the problem with your solution and keep trying to come up with a fault in your solution. If after some time you find that you cannot find any problems, then you may just be on to something.

Sir Issac Newton was a fastidious, obsessed, brilliant character who seemed able to hold a problem in his mind, neither sleeping nor eating, but “thinking on it continually,” he said, until he’d solved it. While this is a bit extreme it worked for him, but then this was his job. You may need to use a toned down version of Newton’s process and “think in it as time allows and the job permits.”

Invent what you are familiar with and in your field. Try to stay with what you know the most about and or your field. If you are fireman, invent a fire related product. An example; I am basically known as a “car guy” because I have worked in the movie industry and on and around movie cars most of my life. So when I invented my CEM CAFs unit for better firefighting I had a big hill to climb, because I was trying to sell a fire pump in an industry that I was not directly involved. Where as if it were a car related product it would have been much easier to market and was with many of my automotive related inventions.

In the upcoming articles I will try to give some pointers on subjects such as:

  • Do not rush out and get an attorney, not just yet ... you may be able to do a lot of the patent work yourself.
  • Do your own patent search first so you do not reinvent the wheel — start with an internet search. And do not get disappointed if you find a similar invention, you may still improve on that.
  • Draw it up yourself or get someone to draw it for you.
  • Think about it and revisit your art from time to time don’t rush at this point.
  • Build a crude prototype, then improve on it. You can draw an optical illusion but cannot build one. See if it really works.
  • Inventor clubs are mostly scams. Stay way clear of them.
  • Never take on an investor, unless you want to have real problems.
  • Do it all yourself or at least as much as you can.
  • Get a provisional patent first. That gives you a year of protection and a chance to improve the invention.
  • Test the heck out of your invention and try to break it.
  • Try to go around you own invention. If you do not do this someone else will.
  • Simplify it to death, keep removing parts until it no long works then add that last part back to it.
  • A few questions ... Is it easy to manufacture? Is it cost effective? Is it simple to build and use?
  • Now you have to name the silly thing! A name is very important, so protect the name as well.
  • Get it to market — and you thought that inventing, and building was hard?
  • Manufacture it yourself, if at all possible.
  • Don’t quit your day job just yet, you are just starting on your new career.
  • My history as an inventor.

Eddie Paul is owner and President of E.P. Industries, Inc. located in Southern California for over 35 years. E.P. Industries specializes in the conceptualizing, design, prototyping and manufacture of many technologies for the government, fire fighting, U.S. Military, and aerospace industries. E.P. Industries operates out of a high-tech 25,000 sq. ft. facility that includes an automotive customizing and painting department, 15 CNC work stations, 2 CNC routers, CNC plasma-cutting, 3-D digitizing, metal fabrication and welding shop, plastics and woodworking, vacuum-forming, and state-of-the-art digital animation, digital photography, video production and editing. Eddie Paul owns his own Production Company. He can be reached at 310-322-8035 or email [email protected].
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