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Tips For Inventors based on  Bill's experience

These tips are written from the British perspective. They are passed on as good will, to help fellow inventors. Anyone acting on them must takes full responsibility for their own actions.

  1. Suppress your desire to tell everyone about your great idea
    If you go public before filing a patent application, neither you, nor anyone else can file a valid retrospective patent application with the  Patent Office. (In the UK this is titled The Intellectual Property Office,)
  2. Check that your idea is original
    Before investing a lot of time, money and faith in your invention, check that it is original. You can make a good start to this research by doing a key word search using one of the search engines such as Google. You can also do a basic "current awareness" search of patents on the Patent Office databases. These can be accessed on-line at http://www.patent.gov.uk/search After you have filed a (UK) patent application, you will be required to pay for the Patent Office to carry out a preliminary check on the novelty of your invention (130 in the UK). Later, a more substantive examination will be carried out before your patent is granted. The bad news: The patenting process takes several years.
  3. Don't spend beyond your means
    Before you become too committed to your invention, draft out a prudent cash flow forecast. writing down the maximum funds that you are prepared to commit to your project at each stage in its development. Don't assume that you can rely on grants or that enthusiastic promises of help from friends will materialise. It doesn't take much courage to take up inventing, but it requires a lot of courage to know when to throw in the towel. Have a look at the
    Getting The Invention Game In Perspective page, for an idea of the magnitude of the task that you face.
  4. Be aware of the hazards of filing a patent application
    The patenting process is very expensive, but the first stage, filing the application is free. If you do all the work yourself, the minimum cost for a UK patent is about 220, with additional, annual renewal fees being required after four years. There is no such thing as "A World Patent", but there is a complex and expensive system for filing patents in other countries. Go to our Resource Page for web site addresses.
    The risks involved if you write your own patent application:

    The Patent Office provides very clear instructions on how to write your own application but you should be aware that writing and processing your own application is a high risk business. If your patent description reveals sufficient clues to allow someone else to make your invention but you leave loopholes in the all important Claims part of your application, it may be perfectly legal for someone to make and sell a product using your inventive idea, without infringing on your patent.
    Even if you are inventing to help humanity and are not interested in the royalties, a poorly written application is still dangerous because a far thinking manufacturer may be very reluctant to invest capital in developing your invention, if another company can then copy the design with having incurred any research and development costs.
    On the other hand
    , in addition to saving you money, the big plus of writing your own application is that it forces you to think very clearly about what you have invented. Bill Courtney writes his own applications and finds that this is a valuable part of the creative process. As an ex-Physics teacher he has written plenty of technical literature over the years, which is a considerable advantage.  To learn some Bill's know-how tricks read the story on this linked page.
  5. Consider exhibiting your invention
    An excellent way of testing potential customer reactions to your invention, is to display it at an inventions fair. Exhibiting inventions is not cheap and you are unlikely to come away from the fair with a contract which will guarantee you fame and fortune. But if you work hard at the market research during the fair and follow up the business contacts you make there, the cost of exhibiting will make good investment sense. Exhibiting will also sharpen up your communication skills.
    If nothing else, you might discover that your invention is likely to be a commercial flop, before you lavish too much time & money on it.
    Do an Advanced Google (regional) search to find out what is happening within travelling distance.
  6. Learn from others
    There's a wealth of information available from libraries, the web and Business Links on how to design leaflets, write business letters, draw up confidentiality agreements and generally put together the promotion tools you will need as an inventor. If you can get to an inventions fair, then use the opportunity to spot good ideas on leaflet design, display stand layout and lighting.
  7. Confidentiality Agreements
    Using examples downloaded from the internet draw up a personalised confidentiality agreement to suite your needs. This will be fine for dealing with small businesses, but for large businesses offer to use their standard agreement because their lawyers will have approved it.  A "Two Way Confidentiality Agreement " will be preferred by many companies because it also binds you into keeping secret what the company tells you.
  8. The refusal
    Don't be surprised if large businesses refuse to sign any form of confidentiality agreement. This is pragmatism, not shiftiness because they don't know what they are agreeing to keep confidential until after they have signed.
  9. Adopt an open ended communication strategy
    Writing unsolicited letters to companies, offering them your invention rarely leads to success. As your proposal works its way through the company it will probably arrive on the desk of someone whose power base will be threatened by your ingenuity. Its a short journey from their desk top to the dustbin.
    Instead, adopt an open ended communication strategy, which aims to reach a champion within the company who will directly benefit by supporting your proposal. Open strategies include exhibiting at innovation fairs and publishing your proposal on an inventors web site (do a Google search to find one.)  Your local library will have books on public relations, which offer good advice on how to attract media attention.
  10. Create the right image
    Sadly, in Britain at least, the word inventor is linked to the word mad It conjures up images of  slightly dotty men in garden sheds and has a low status. Be wary of using this title on your business cards and headed notepaper.  Use a "title" that introduces a story such as "A busy mum who solved ...."
  11. Check out the grant funding
    There are a range of grants available to help the small company and private inventor develop their ideas. Even if you don't win a grant, the act of applying for one, will help to focus your mind on the business end of your invention. Do an Advanced Google Search, keeping the variables down by clicking on your country in the region box.
  12. Have realistic expectations
    The inventing game is more Gothic Horror than Enlightenment Science. If your ambition is to get rich quick, then consider re-mortgaging your house, pawning all your worldly goods and selling your children into slavery. Then blow all your cash in one big splash on The National Lottery- It's a far safer bet than taking up inventing.