Does Your Idea Have a Chance?

Many inventors often hesitate entering into the expensive invention market because they are worried that their product is already out on the market or that there may be obstacles that they will run into. With a little effort on your part, you can investigate on a preliminary basis whether or not your product will succeed, and while it is not a one night project you should be able to complete the project in 30 days. I think every inventor should do this to ascertain whether or not the product has a chance at success before spending a lot of money.

Start with a search at Google Patents

Goggle Patents has a feature called prior art searching. Typically, patents are granted only if the invention is new and not obvious, which means in patent language, that there isn’t prior art, which simply means the product hasn’t been publicly disclosed previously either in a patent, by being sold, or in some other fashion. The Prior Art Finder makes it easy to search multiple sources simultaneously for prior art. You can experiment with it by clicking on the “Find Prior Art” button from a patent’s main page, or on the “Related” link in patent search results.

The Prior Art Finder identifies key phrases from EPO (European Patent Office) and post-1976 US patent documents, combines them into a search query, and displays the results from Google Patents, Google Scholar, Google Books, and the rest of the web.

The key to being successful with a preliminary prior art search is to use multiple search terms that are broader than your idea. For example, let’s say you have plastic bag with a zipper to keep your shirts from getting wrinkled on an airplane. You might search for wrinkle free clothes bag, plastic enclosures for traveling, vacuum sealed bag for traveling, and bags for enclosure in travel suitcases or carriers.


You want to list competition and its sales price. Competition doesn’t have to be just like your product, but it has to achieve the same goal. For example if your product minces garlic, competition would be any type of product that minces garlic. You want competition so you can show your product along with competitive products to at least a few potential users so you can get their feedback on whether or not you have a saleable product.

The best way to get competitive information is from product directories that are published in industry trade magazines or industry trade shows. You might find these with a Google search, for example housewares trade magazine. But they can sometimes be hard to find. Larger libraries will have a reference source called Gales’ Source of Publications and Broadcast Media. That reference has a section called trade magazines where you can typically find the trade magazines for any industry. Once you have the name you should be able to find the source with Google and see if the magazine publishes an annual product directory. new invention ideas

Product Complexity

You should do a preliminary evaluation regarding whether or not your product will be difficult to design and manufacture. Inventors have a difficult time funding the four to 10 and maybe more prototypes they will need if the product has a complex design. Inventor’s should stay away from these types of products as the cost is just too high. This is a key question to ask any mechanical engineers or industrial designers that you might know. If you don’t know any I’ve found a good source for retired engineers or designers in SCORE, Service Corps of Retired Executives. Their services are free and you can find a local branch at their web site.

Design – Does it Communicate the Product’s Benefit

Products that sell themselves are ideal for inventors because they don’t have to worry about perfect packaging or promotional campaigns. A product like the junk drawer organizer is a perfect example. The package just had decals in each compartment of what went in it. The product was easy to understand and it was an immediate success. The key point that inventors need to evaluate once they have a great idea is will the product be easy to sell. If it is too hard, inventors might fail. A product immediately communicating the product’s benefit is a key consideration before you start spending too much money. new invention ideas

Price / Value Relationship

One of the reasons you research competition is that you can show people your idea and competitive products (along with the competition’s prices) and then ask them how much your product is worth to them. If you have four or five competitive products usually they will place your product in between a couple of the products which gives you an idea of what your product might be worth in the marketplace. That is the value. For you to make money, your price needs to be four to five times your cost to manufacture. That is a hard number to find, but I’ve found that SCORE once again typically has some manufacturing people who can help you get a rough estimate of your manufacturing cost. Your ideal situation is where the number that is four to five times more than manufacturing cost is less than the value people have placed on your idea.



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