I’m a senior in college graduating in May with this “recession.” I’m currently working on a project for my senior show and I think its something possibly valuable. I’ve done the research and cannot find a product out there that exists or is similar to my idea. I’ve been told that I should be careful and keep this to myself and possibly start up a company with it. I do think that its a very good idea, however I know nothing about how to get a patent, get money to start this, should I sell it off? I have no idea about pursuing an idea with starting it up on your own. What the should I do? I also have to show this project in my senior show so I need to act quickly.
Patents are expensive, and frankly unless you have the money to hire lawyers to do the intial patent search and disclosure, and then fight incase someone violates it, it’s probably not as relevant as a first step.
I know when I was in school the school had a patent office that would file patents on behalf of the students. The catch was they got 50% of anything earned related to the patent, but it wasn’t a bad deal since they would pay to file it.
You have a year from your date of public disclosure to file for a patent. What you would need to do is write up a business plan and understand how your “idea” can become a product, how you would build it, how you would go to market, how much money it will all take, and even where you could go after it to further build your business.
As far as selling ideas, my experience is no one wants to buy an “idea”. Large companies will not take unsolicited ideas, and someone potentially may be working on something very similar to you already, it just hasn’t hit the market or you haven’t seen it.
There are lots of great ideas - but being able to turn that into a successful product and business will take a lot of time and dedication. But there are definitely investors out there who are still looking for something to invest in.
Not to dissuade you, but back during my experience as an ID senior in college, this was a very very common idea. Every senior thought they had the best project, that could make on their own and sell on their own, have manufactured and sell on their own, that could be patented, that could essentially make a business out of the success of this one product. It was iPod covers with one guy, and a modular sneaker for another. Zero percent of the entire senior class ever made a business based off of their one project. You’re still young, you have many (hopefully!) great ideas ahead of you. This isn’t the end all be all. Depending on the product you’ve made, it can be very hard (and frankly useless) to patent it. You’re really patenting an aspect, or feature, rather than the whole item. And if someone were to steal this design feature, you’d need a lot of expensive lawyers to beat the lawyers of the already existing multimillion dollar brand in question. All that being said, maybe this is the kind of thing you need to hear if your product is really strong. If it is the new bees knees, make it happen. Find a way, and if there isn’t a way, make one. There is no how-to to start a business like you’re talking about. Read Yvon Chouinard’s book ‘Let my people go surfing’, he talks about starting a business by accident. Making products that answered a need, at first he gave his little products to his friends for material cost, then more people kept asking for them, so he made more, and then he did it again (with rugby shirts I believe), more demand, more demand, forced him into supply, then he had to hire someone to maintain his factory, and hire someone to answer phones, etc. There is no real right or wrong way to do it, but if its truly groundbreaking and profitable, the rest should take care of itself on its own.
Since I’ve done the exact same thing, I feel I can chime in here, but for more detail, please IM me.
I had a project that I did while I was a junior (so, over 10 years ago) that was a bit ahead of the existing technology available to the consumer market. It was for an IDSA student design competition.
At that point, Cerevellum was created. Look it up online. I continued developing the project after graduation while I worked in Chicago, Kansas, Carolina’s…it was always a side project. It never felt “complete” to me and I thought there was so much potential for it. So, about 3 years ago, I decided that since nobody had brought out a product like it (and I had a patent-pending,) I figured I might as well try bringing it to market myself.
This is where things get challenging. A patent costs an insane amount of money, especially if done correctly. Just hire a local law-firm and not some internet patent place. They suck and just waste your money. First off, you’ll need to have a thorough patent search performed. All in all, to have a formal application created, you’re looking at $8-10K.
I don’t make much money (hey, I’m a designer!) but I sunk over $23K into Cerevellum last year alone. Straight cash. And then remember ALL the time spent on actually developing the product on your own. It becomes your life.
Last fall, I finally acquired a grant and found my first investors, so things are proceeding. I’ve had to leave a very good job in order to focus entirely on this endeavor. With a mortgage and car-payment, I’m taking a huge risk, but I believe in my product.
You’re young and still in school. You don’t have much to lose. My suggestion to you is to get a job out of school and focus on your project on the side. You need industry experience to make yourself credible to investors and also aid in getting the product developed as far as you can without outside assistance.
Dealing with manufacturing, manufacturers, distributors, patents, and especially fundings to make it happen, I’d be scared to do it full time right away after college. I’m in 4th year also. There’s so many things we can’t learn in school (the real business side) that we still have to learn.
I think the thing you never think of is that in anything 1% is the idea and 99% of the implementation… do you really want to spend 99% of your time coordinating development, shipping, distribution, sales, retail, taxes, business plans, and customer service for a single idea you have as a fresh graduate? Maybe it was just me, but looking 12 years back I don’t think I had many awesome ideas at that point in my career! Any good ideas I did have are just being able to be technically accomplished with the resources and technology available now as in 6ix’s story.
The Autmoblox story is great, all using very close to market manufacturing technologies, no rocket science, for a market that is all about disposable income, toys… it is a one in a million. I know this is sounding a bit like a heavy cautionary tale, but really consider if you want to devote that much time away from design and where it will put your career. It could be awesome, it might be better left for later in life.
Maybe instead of planning on what happens if you don’t get a job, put all that energy into refining your abilities so you do get a job!
Do you happen to watch The Office? Remember last season when Michael was starting his own business, he pulled Oscar aside and asked him for advice… Oscar talks about several things including, "Don’t plan on having a paycheck for at least 3 years. "
Patents are for rich people and are a recipe for copy-cats.
Get some business-experience. I would say 5 years at least on several jobs.
Then maybe if you still believe in the idea get some investors (you can trust).
And prepare yourself because you will become a manager. And miss the rush of having new ideas and creating things Unless somebody else will run the business.
BTW tomorrow you’ll have a great new idea. And the day after another one. And then another one…and then
I would have to agree with the 5 years of experience on several jobs. I graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree, then spent the next 6 years working for a couple fortune 500 pharm companies. I thought engineering was the most important part of the company. Then I went to work for a small start-up company and found out just how important all the other departments were. Marketing, accounting, manufacturing, finance, customer service, etc. All critical components of a successful company. In a company of 5,ooo employees, I never new what the others were doing. In a company of 30, the accounting manager sat to my left and the marketing manager sat to my left. That experience led me to my MBA, not a Master’s in Engineering. Not to say you need an MBA, but I would pay close attention to the goings on of the entire company…not just ID.
Step A: Before your show, take copies of all your documents, and write (C) copyright, your name and date. Go to your Post Office, and ask them to mail the package back to your home in a stamped and sealed package. Tuck this away, and don’t open it. This is known as “prior art”. Make sure everything at your review says copyright, name and date. DON’T post your good idea online until you protect it, and cover your review drawings with shiny acrylic sheets, to mess up photos. Stand next to your work, and ask people to not take photos. With all this crowd-sourcing nonsense, lots of big businesses are now expecting idiots to just give away their good ideas for free.
Step B: Provisional Patent. A provisional patent is a temporary and inexpensive patent, designed just for your purpose. Until a patent # is issued, nobody will be able to see your patent (so they can’t attack it yet). Do the best you can, and file quick.
If anybody at all asks you if you have a patent (this question means they’re an idea thief), just say “Patent Pending”! A fearful scowl makes it more believable.
#1. 2 types of people may apply for a patent: attorneys or inventors. Applying yourself is possible, and not expensive. #2. A pat-pending is required for most companies to sign any Non-Disclosure agreement (NDA) and move forward. #3. While most people trying to start a company fail, we should not assume that you won’t be the exception. #4. Stick to what you know and love - so that if the money is not made, you enjoyed the process anyway. #5. Eradicate any “rich quick” sentiment - I won’t start again, unless i’m willing to dedicate 7 years to the idea.
I have tried and failed to help start a business, but i have learned very much from the process and plan to keep trying as long as i keep living. Only this attitude gives me any chance at success.
One last rule - never take advice from anyone who hasn’t tried.
I tried this approach while in school and, although I have yet to open the envelope, it’s probably of little value in court.
As for filing a patent, I’d really suggest hiring a proper patent attorney. They understand how to write the correct legal-ese and create a solid application. It’s worth it in the end. I started out by paying a guy about $5K to do my first patent application, and am in the process of paying another $8K just to have that patent ammended!! Then you have to consider the fees involved in filing in other markets such as European Union.
Perhaps you could secure a grant from your university?
Patents are such a small portion of things that it’s almost irrelevant in the big picture. Especially because a comprehensive patent search may reveal something you had no idea existed, simply because the patent used different language than you are.
If you have a good idea you can sell it, and prove to the market why it is valuable long before someone rips off and markets your idea.
If you have an idea that your close circle of professors and friends say is a great idea, but haven’t done a truly thorough search, you may find out that someone has beaten you to the punch but just was never able to gain enough traction for it. I had a classmate that was convinced he had come up with an incredibly simple and novel solution for a housewares product, and then 3 months later another student stumbled upon an identical product on the market that was only being sold in the Australian market which used a different term for the product.
A point about patents that most here miss, is that a patent is often a requirement to getting money. If a patent were a waste of time, attorneys would not get $375 an hour.
9 out of 10 people will tell you a “design patent” ( vs. Utility) is worthless, because they are easy to simply design around - but they haven’t read the Swedish patent that protected milk cartons all those years. If you’re in a battle, prior art can tip the scales. Everything is “useless”, until it works.
No patent filing= Very few investors willing to throw cash at an unprotected idea. Large firms require a patent filing #, before they’ll sign NDA’s to even speak with you.
I have 4 patents to my name, and have written 2. This work is about deterrence and reciprocity, not about actually preventing someone from copying you. Prior to infringement, it helps deter anyone from picking a fight. Afterwards, you can request product to stopped in port authority