The Invention Addict 12 Step Program to Invent—Going from Inspiration to Innovation.

This is a series of posts on the 12 steps how to invent a product. A DIY class for Inventors.

The fifth step is INVESTIGATION. This step is about doing an in depth search to determine if your idea is an invention worthy of intellectual property protection under the law.

So last time I alluded to the fact that a patent can be an effective barrier to entry that can be employed to block competitors and provide a competitive advantage. This would come under the differentiation variety. The competitive advantage cuts both ways. An existing patent could block you from entering the market.

At this stage, you want to determine if someone else has filed a patent for the same brilliant concept you just conceived. Just because there is not a similar product (that you could find) on the market, does not mean that there is not a patent filed. Less than 2% of patents issued are a commercial success so it stands to reason that you may find your exact idea. You want to find out if you idea is truly unique and you want to find out ASAP.

Ask an attorney and they will probably say filing a patent is the first thing you should do. Of course, it makes them money. Most inventions fail because lack of marketability. Attorneys are good at legal stuff, they are not experts at determining if you invention will sell.

Before you file, you want to be sure that you patent has the best chance of issuing. One of the key steps I do is a prior art search, specifically for issued patents and patent applications.

I find a great tool to use to search for existing patents and patent applications is Google Patent Search. It may be a month or two behind the USPTO but the user interface is so much easier to use. You can display the images and quickly find what you are after.

Like any tool, it’s in the way that you use it. To start, come up with some key words to search for your invention. Try different combinations of the keywords because you will get different results. You will also need to search the classifications.

Patents are grouped in categories. It’s kind of like the way your local library arranges books. Doing a classification search is more complicated but it will narrow down your results more than a generic keyword search.

I found tons of resources to instruct you on how to conduct your own search. At some point, you will need a professional search. Before I pay someone $250 or more for a professional search, I want to be sure that it can’t be found in a few minutes. Do your homework!

When you are ready to file a PPA, give PatentWizard a try.

Now that should keep you busy for a while. Bon Appetito, Ciao for now.

Here are the 12 steps to invent a product:
1. Realization
2. Frustration
3. Ideation
4. Exploration
5. Investigation
6. Simulation
7. Productization
8. Confirmation
9. Communication
10. Conversation
11. Negotiation
12. Celebration

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