So you have a great idea. You dream about it, you tell your spouse, family, and friends, time passes by, and you see your idea implemented. It happens to so many of us, mostly because we think, it isn’t possible to make it a reality.
This is what separates an inventor from a dreamer. It takes strong belief in yourself, mixed with passion, drive, and support. You have to be willing to sacrifice and have so much faith, whether you are a success, or not.
That was myself, so many times. In fact, I actually created and implemented an idea program for a company, and ran it in four US factories. It was a dream career for me, that I lost. While saying this, I was busy making the dreams and ideas of others happen, along with engineers. The thought of doing this myself, never crossed my mind, and if it did, it got shut down by those I would share with; leaving me a bit discouraged and hesitant. Sometimes, I also thought financially, it just isn’t possible.
What changed for me, was seeing a problem, we had in the hospital, with many I care about; sweet, newborn, babies. They suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and have many sensory issues. Soft material for NAS babies, feels like ants are crawling on them. They like to be held tightly, and like certain, soothing sounds. I saw all of the makeshift ways, nurses and doctors consoled these newborns, and felt there had to be something out there better. That was the problem, there wasn’t. I found myself in the position of having an idea, it needed to happen, and I was determined to do it.
Your first step in idea development, is identifying the problem. What are you trying to fix? Most successful ideas, are formulated because of solving a problem which affects so many.
The next step, why? Why is this a problem? Is it something you can control? If so how, and if not, what other ways can you improve the problem? You have to focus on the aspects you can control.
After this, your idea is put into place, by asking how? How are you going to fix this? You need to write a very detailed description on how your idea will work, create a drawing, etc. Just as a tip, date the drawing. It documents when it was created for legal purposes. There have been people who drew a design on even a napkin and dated it, which saved them later in legal battles.
Speaking of legal battles, the next thing you need to do, is find a patent attorney. Do your research and find the best you can, preferably, someone in close proximity, in the case you need to meet quite often (you most likely will).
Your attorney will then offer you the chance to do a patent search, to make sure your invention does not exist! This is a step you need to take. If you don’t, you can spend a lot of money filing, creating, and even selling, for nothing. If your idea already exist, you can run into infringement issues, that will cost you even more.
Make sure if you have any logos, trademarks, etc., that you file these at the same time. Your invention has a name, your company has a slogan, and a logo. You want to have this for your branding. Just like a patent, if you don’t do it first, it is not yours unless filed. Make sure your attorney writes it in the way that it cannot be duplicated in a different color by someone else. It happens.
Once you have everything finished, and submitted, you get a docket number and a filing date! You are officially an inventor, and patent pending. It can take well over a year to receive a patent, if granted, because remember, there are no guarantees. Know the differences between provisional and non-provisional patents. Also, make sure you know which type of patent best suits your invention; design, utility, etc.
So then, it’s prototype time. This is when things got interesting for me. I built my own prototype by myself. I actually had it, prior to even meeting my attorney, and brought it to him to look at. I felt great that he was impressed, and his secretary, who was a new mother. Still, I didn’t think it was good enough for what I needed to do, so I searched for a prototyping company. You may need to do this too, depending on the commodity.
I had textile products of course, and had such a hard time finding anyone, who could replicate something I made at home myself! Then finally, I thought I found the answer, a company said yes! Thousands of dollars later, they gave me a CAD drawing that looked like a teddy bear pattern, and nothing like my invention. They did not honor our contract and quote, by never giving me my material sourcing and manufacturing source. This happens to so many people like me, who trust that people will follow ethics, in business. After I got burned, I happened to check the company out on the web, and there were so many complaints, and many lost so much more money than myself, for not catching it early. Do your due diligence!
If you are good at marketing, so many opportunities will line up for you. Just make sure you are legally protected. Even the mistake I made, turned out to be a blessing, because I was forced to believe in myself. I had to be a guest speaker at a gala, and had no prototype. I also was invited to be one of thirty inventors in America to show at the biggest kids expo close to the same time. I had to build two prototypes myself, in a week. I sewed all night and day. I still can’t believe I did it. Everything turned out just fine. In fact, because of those prototypes, and faith, I had a meeting, late tonight, with my future branding partners, and will visit them in Georgia very shortly.
I leave saying this, believe in yourself! Be cautious with investors, and their motives! Know when to say, ” yes,” and know when to say, ” no,” to a deal. Go with your gut. If you need help, ask for support. Do not share your idea with anyone until you are legally protected. Remember why you created your invention and all of the hard work it took before making a decision. No deal, is better than a bad deal. Always do research and keep learning. Don’t deviate from your morals and ethics. Have faith! Do it, instead of dreaming it, because it is always up to you!
Shonjrell Ladner (Inventor)