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Friday, November 19, 2010

Have an Idea for the Next Great Invention?

 by ekirwin
We’ve all been disappointed at some time or another by products that didn’t live up to manufacturers’ claims. Just take a look around your home or office: How many items do you see that could use a bit of tweaking to make them more useful, make them work better – or make them work, period!

You’ve probably never considered following through on your simple ideas for besting design engineers at their own game. But chances are that once I explain how easy and affordable it is to test the waters, you’ll be canvassing your surroundings for items that could use your personal touch or be motivated to hatch the next blockbuster idea.

Many of my clients come to me with what they think are million-dollar ideas. They’ve polled a trusted group of family and friends on the merits and marketability of their invention and the consensus is that it’s a shoo-in. Lucky for them, these clients approached me at a critical juncture in the product development process– a crossroads where guidance in choosing the right path could help them avoid costly mistakes and wasting thousands of dollars.

Unlike firms that offer to shepherd your product idea to market in exchange for exorbitant up-front fees, my job is to act as your product development coach. In this role, I help clients on limited budgets to do it all themselves and to engage professionals on an as-needed basis along the way.

My overriding objective is to steer clients in the right direction – which means I might point you to China or back to the drawing board. I learned firsthand the ins and outs of the process when I brought my own new invention to market over 10 years ago – the Bowdabra. Since then, I’ve undertaken several personal projects on a limited budget and gained valuable experience in deciding when to proceed with a new idea and how to monetize it as efficiently as possible.

In my first session with a new client I discuss the viability of the product idea, as
welwelll as the do-it-yourself method of exploring whether an idea is patentable using the online services of the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If you’re on a tight budget and can devote several hours to this task, you’ll find the process user friendly enough. Otherwise, you can hire a lawyer to conduct a patent search for +/- $750. One way to locate a registered patent attorney or agent is through the USPTO’s directory (

If your search results reveal that your idea is indeed unique and patentable, you’ve got a green light to proceed to the provisional patent – a powerful option that is little-known outside the realm of experienced inventors. The provisional patent helps would-be inventors overcome one of the biggest obstacles they face: reluctance to reveal their idea to the very audience who is the bona fide market for the product.

It’s a common “catch 22”: Do I take the risk that someone will copy my idea or proceed with just the encouragement of family and friends. Clearly, it’s a valid concern among the uninitiated who do not understand the “patent pending” features that come with the provisional patent.

The provisional patent provides a low-cost way to protect your idea from potential competitors for 12 months while you do your market research. This is important because conducting demos and surveys among sizable target market segments is the only way to see if your idea has legs long enough for sustained profitability.

The provisional patent gives you the breathing room you need to assess whether it makes financial sense to go on to the next step of applying for a utility patent, which protects the way a product is used and works for a 20-year period, and/or an international patent.

Sandy Sandler is creator of the Bowdabra® bow-making tool. Her products are designed to help the “creatively-challenged” create beautiful crafts, accessories, and home décor. For craft ideas, visit Or email or


1 comment:

  1. i simply love the concept, each invention has its own advantages and disadvantages that makes it better. But beside this every new idea should be acceptable like yours.