Key steps in developing a “concept” to a “marketable product”
1. Build a working prototype and test it to verify your idea does what you claim. A product development firm or prototype shop can assist in the prototype and testing. If successful, move to the next step or try a different approach.
2. Obtain a patent search to make sure that your idea does not infringe a current patent. If a similar patent is found check the claims for specific design elements, you may be able to make minor changes and not infringe the patent. Suggest that this be done through a qualified patent attorney. If your design is clear move to the next step.
3. You may now elect to complete a Disclosure Document form and/or file for a Provisional Patent Application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These documents provide evidence of the date of conception of the invention and establishes an early filing date in a subsequent non-provisional patent application. This process is relatively inexpensive and can be completed by the inventor. It is important to understand the limitations of these inventions aids by going to the USPTO web site and reading the exact nature of these two documents. You may also elect to proceed with a non-provisional patent application through a qualified attorney.
4. Verify that your prototype can be made commercially at a reasonable cost. This may require some redesign to make it feasible to manufacture the parts at an economical cost. Suggest you use a qualified designer or product developer to create drawings that can be used for vendors to quote.
5. Determine the cost to produce your design including packaging, assembly and tooling- again a qualified product developer will be able to contact manufacturers and vendors that can provide cost.
6. Calculate the profitability of your product based on the cost and the selling price. The selling price can be estimated from products that are sold in the same distribution channels as yours and are similar in size and complexity. If there is little or no profit then you may elect to redesign to reduce cost or abandon the project. If the product is profitable move to the next step.
7. Seek patent protection on your idea if it is patentable (step#2 would have determined this). Use a qualified patent attorney. Note: some product developers can recommend patent attorneys and help with the technical aspects of the invention.
8. Build a final prototype of your product that represents as close as possible the final production design. This may include a separate visual model along with a working prototype for complex assemblies. A product development firm generally has prototype capabilities and can be contracted to build these models. The drawings created prior to this step will be valuable to the prototype builder.
9. Prepare a presentation package of your product offering for the purpose of convincing potential licensees and/or investors that you have a great idea that can be manufactured and sold for a profit. The package should include at minimum, final prototypes (or good quality photos of prototypes), product drawings, packaging concepts, profit analysis, distribution channels, forecast of quantities and investment needed to start production. Again a product development firm can assist in this process, however the inventor should provide sales and marketing information based on some practical research of the industry (via web site, retail visits etc).
10. Contact potential licensees. The inventor is in the best position to identify companies that make and distribute products within the field of invention i.e. sporting goods, medical products etc. Either mail or present in person your product offering. The inventor should feel confident in presenting the product, if all the above steps were followed with diligence. The presentation package has all the information needed for a potential licensee or investor to make an informed decision on your product. Make certain that Confidentiality Agreements are signed before disclosing any proprietary information.
11. Negotiate either a royalty or purchase agreement-terms and conditions are all negotiable- a business partner or attorney may be helpful in this process
12. If you decide to proceed to market the product yourself along with investors then the journey continues-this will require a much greater effort and funding but may result in significantly more profit for the inventor and investors. Some product development firms with experience in manufacturing and the launching of new products can assist in working with vendors on tooling, providing offshore sourcing, manufacturing planning, web site development, packaging etc.“There is no end to a journey that never begins”