John is a teacher with a background in engineering and product design. For the last couple of years he has been running his own company “The Big Consultant” and specialises in 3D CAD design.
John pointed out that when you’re developing a product you need to think about what you’ve got as a business idea rather than as an invention – you need to have something which people will want to buy. It needs to have a use, a purpose and preferably be relatively simple to manufacture and assemble. It’s important to think ahead to such things as cost of tooling. The more complex it is the more costly it will be. Manufacturers will also be interested in the possibility of versions 2 and 3 etc of a product. Obsolescence is often built in to a product so that people will buy the improvement.
It’s also important to plan your patenting strategy. His view is that you can patent something too early – you could spend a significant amount on filing a patent and then find that you need to change it. The other tactic would be to develop the idea and product further – using confidentiality agreements where necessary so that when you do come to patent the product you’re sure that it’s in a more final form and you know how it’s going to work. Potential partners – whether they be manufacturers, finance providers or any others - generally don’t like to take risks so if your product is more advanced and there’s less work for them to do on it it will be more attractive.
He also pointed out the importance of patent searching in the early stages of developing a new product so that you’re aware of any prior art which might cause you a problem. Using a patent attorney is advantageous in getting the terminology right when you draw up your patent specification as the wording is critical – and of course, not everything is patentable.
John advocates drawing up what he calls a strategic product plan (which he makes available on his blog). This is like a business plan which considers such things as finance and tries to anticipate the questions of potential manufacturers, accountants etc. It’s vital to plan ahead because, apart from anything else, any partners who are considering investing in your product will want to know how and when they can expect to get their money back, and how well-organised you are. Of course it’s also vital to be aware of the market you’re going in to – nobody will invest in you unless you’re aware of this.
Above all else, he said patience is vital. Getting a new product to market is a long road and is likely to take a considerable time.