Russell Williams founded Invention
Home over 6 years ago to assist inventors with the marketing and
licensing of their ideas. He’s been asked nearly every
invention-related question in the book, and shares his wisdom with you
in this series, "The Inventor Q&A."
What is the value of basic market research with regards to inventions?
Market research is a critical part of the invention process. I recommend performing at least a basic level of research prior to investing any money in your invention. Granted, as the patent and marketing processes progress, you’ll likely perform additional, in-depth research (called “due diligence”), but there are some simple things you can do up-front to assess if your idea has any wings.
Before investing any hard-earned money (for example, in the services of a patent attorney, prototypes, marketing, consultants, etc.), I would recommend that you take the time to research your invention / idea on your own.
For example, visit your local retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, etc. Look for products that are similar to your idea. Is your “invention” already out there? I have had many inventors tell me after a quick shopping trip that they were surprised to see the exact product already on the market. Also, search the Internet for similar ideas. It’s also wise to look for differing products that offer the same solution as your invention. Finally, ask for opinions of some people that you trust (confidentially, of course). Careful, though, sometimes friends and family tell you want you want to hear…not necessarily their true opinion.
If you complete your basic market research and still believe that your invention is unique from other products that you’ve found, then that’s a good indicator and you might want to proceed with further invention development. Although the research can be discouraging if you find that a product just like yours already exists, it’s best to find out now before you’ve invested any money in the idea.
What if I find a similar product?
I can tell you from experience that just because you find a similar product on the market doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t succeed with your idea.
For starters, you should research whether the similar product is patented or not. Just because a product is on the market doesn’t mean that it has received patent protection or that a patent has been filed. However, you should be aware that a similar product could end up preventing you from receiving patent protection.
Next, you should look closely at the similar product to see how your invention differs from it, both in benefits and features. For example, if you had an idea for a new mousetrap, I guarantee that you would find numerous mousetraps already on the market designed to do the same thing – catch mice. You must ask yourself questions such as, is yours better, does it function more efficiently, is it designed differently to allow for lower cost production…etc., etc. When in doubt, I would recommend consulting with a registered patent attorney.
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