“I Have an Invention and I Need Your Help.”
The inspiration for an invention idea can come from anywhere. It could solve an everyday problem to make lives simpler, improve an existing device, or perhaps be a new invention completely. But once you have the idea, product development is an intense world to navigate. Here at MAKO we always get asked the same question by our home-inventors and startups at the beginning, and that is —-
“What do I do next about my invention idea?”
We have streamlined the process into steps, that all new inventors should take in order to achieve success with their invention ideas. As creatives ourselves, the MAKO team understands the risk of putting yourself (and your invention idea) out there with the possibility of failure. This is why we aim to be mentors in the practice of product development. We are here to educate and encourage our fellow inventors with the knowledge we have obtained over the years in order to prosper.
Stage 1: Decide on your invention
Every great idea needs structure in order to be successful. Thoughtful choices must be made about your idea first to begin the process of development. Ask yourself these key questions; will you manufacture and market your invention on your own? Will you license for royalties or a lump sum? These are factors you will need to think about to know what’s right for you and your lifestyle.
If manufacturing and marketing is the path you would like to take, be prepared to become an entrepreneur and build a business based off of your idea. This enables your invention to have a higher success rate with a higher payout, but also means a lengthy process is ahead. Hard work will eventually pay off if you do decide to go this route, so never rule this option out if you’re just looking for a quick paycheck.
The second option of licensing leaves you with two choices; receiving royalties from the company you end up selling your idea to or receiving a lump sum one-time amount. While royalties may sound enticing, you’re actually acquiring significantly less than if you were to market the invention yourself. The standard royalty rate is between 2-5% of the Gross Profit the company receives. The lump sum choice gives you a one-time payout from the company who is purchasing your idea. Essentially you are selling the rights to your idea. Whichever option you choose, make sure it is the best fit for you and your product.
Stage 2: Conceptualization
The conceptualization phase is where you’ll really understand your invention’s potential value. Does your invention solve a need or improve an existing product? Are there already existing products in the market; what’s the size of the said market? Do you understand how you can build/direct others to build your invention?
Mentally preparing yourself to execute the ideas you have decided on will be your next move. Your job is not over once you’ve come up with the idea, seeing the invention process through requires careful and strategic planning, self-motivation and good developers (being that yourself or a professional design firm like MAKO). Developing an invention doesn’t mean you should quit your day job and work on it full time, especially if you’re partnered with a developing firm that takes on most of the burden. Your invention will, however, require a long-term commitment.
Stage 3: Documentation
Document everything. Record all the progress throughout every stage for organizational purposes and legal protection. You will need to protect your ideas privacy and not disclose any specific information to the wrong parties. Ensure you have your concept written somewhere in ink, that way if anything should happen you are covered. Don’t hesitate to go the extra mile and create disclosure documents where you see fit.
Stage 4: Market Research
Now that you are mentally prepared, organized and have made important decisions for your invention, start doing some research. Market research will help you decide if you need to re-work your idea or if it’s original enough to succeed. More questions ahead if your product seems similar to one already on the market:
Does that product have a patent?
Does my invention have advantages over theirs?
Is my product design better?
Is my product design more efficient?
Is mine more environmentally friendly?
Does mine cost less to make?
Are there any other benefits to my product that theirs doesn’t have?
We want you to be excited and confident in your idea to be successful in achieving your product goals. For a fact, most inventions are modifications or combinations of existing products. Never give up!
Stage 5: Design your invention
Now for the fun part; designing the invention. MAKO suggests computer aided-designs (3D CAD) to bring your 2D concept to life. Visualization is key in understanding your true product design. Ways of achieving this can be either by yourself using an engineering software like Solidworks or hiring a company like MAKO to design this for you. Photographic renderings are next as you delve into the true design of your idea. Here at MAKO, we believe including mechanical and electrical design is key to truly understanding the way your product will function. Many firms do not design for manufacturing, and this can lead to a costly rework. MAKO brings together industrial design, mechanical engineering, and electrical design all in-house to ensure products look great but also function as they should.
Stage 6: Prototype
To cut-costs ensure you use good quality designs so you only have to make one prototype. It will help you begin your pitches to someone evaluating your idea. This stage helps you test the functionality as well locate any weaknesses/improvements to be made. Do not skip this stage, it will lead to more costly errors and potentially faulty products down the line, and no one wants that.
Stage 7: Patent your invention
You are ready to get serious now and apply for a patent. We do recommend acquiring a provisional patent so your idea is protected for a 12-month trial first. This way you have time for trial and error to market the product yourself before applying for a full patent. The trial period gives you time to build credibility for your brand as well and helps you get your name out there. That way, when you’re ready to sell the idea, your invention may be worth more to potential buyers.
Stage 8: Manufacturing
Seeking out your manufacturer’s is your next move. This is for entrepreneurs gearing up to open their own business, with a focus on their new invention. For those looking to license, this is not a requirement, however, it will increase value to potential buyers, as mentioned before.
Most products have more than one part to them, meaning you may need to seek out more than one manufacturer. You may need to seek different companies for each task as well, like one to make the parts, one to assemble the parts, package them and ship them to the buyer. Outsourcing on your own is a good idea as well in order to keep a competitive edge in the global manufacturing marketplace. MAKO generally does all of this for our clients, at the time that we produce the prototype. As we can utilize this collected information with our suppliers in Canada, the US, and China to finalize the production logistics for you.
Stage 9: Sell or License
The final phase of creating your product after sourcing out your manufacturers and parts is to either sell your units to a product buyer or license your invention. This is the exciting part! You can now say you are an inventor. You have your 3D CADs, your photographic renderings, your prototype, and the supply chain. We recommend; while still under the 12-month trial to promote your invention to as many buyers as possible. Find the decision makers within these potential buyers. Work out the kinks while you have the time to experiment.
Licensing deals can sometimes be more difficult to obtain. If you keep busy and market your product under the 12-month provision patent trial, you will earn your product more value in the eyes of potential buyers. Once you’ve obtained some sales under your belt, you can sell the product outright or license it at a much higher premium, because it’s worth more now. Know your buyer, do your research on them and know how to negotiate. Be realistic and don’t get greedy and blow a good deal.
To keep costs and timelines low, MAKO Design + Invent pools together the invention development processes into 2 major steps; Research and Design, & Prototype and Manufacturing Supply. We’ve developed hundreds of consumer products for inventors for over 12 years and are able to streamline and expedite every stage in the process. We cater to home inventors and small businesses, keeping the process cost effective, on time, and on scope. This is why we can say we are one of the only firms in North America that cater specifically to home inventors and product start-ups.
Becoming an entrepreneur and an inventor can be a daunting task to some, but it is all worth it, we promise. Everyone has the ability to think of a good idea or new product, the difference is the ones who succeed put in the work to see the invention through. With our streamlined process of what to do next, we hope MAKO can guide you in the right direction to becoming a successful entrepreneur or inventor.
If you have a great new invention and you’d like to learn more about this process, get in touch with MAKO here and visit our website to find out more. Feel free to give us a call at 416- 855-1137 and we can set you up on a call with our product analyst.
Article Author: MAKO Design + Invent
MAKO Design + Invent is a full-service consumer product development firm servicing both high-growth corporate manufacturers and invention startups. With a 25-person team across 3 offices (Austin, England, Toronto), MAKO has complete in-house industrial design, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering design and prototyping services. To assist our start-up inventor clients, we also have a subsidiary branch called Mako Invent that, in addition to above, helps start-ups with patenting, strategy, marketing, and sales/distribution for all consumer product categories. For our corporate clients, MAKO Design develops world-class consumer electronics designs through our industrial, mechanical, and electrical design teams.
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