How do I proceed with a design of an electrical appliance that I have invented?
I have an electrical appliance product design that I believe will be very useful in every home and office. I have done my research and there is currently nothing like it in the market worldwide. I have documented my design with draft sketches as best as I can.
I need advice on what to do next? I have thought of applying for patents but the cost I have found online are just way more than I can afford.
I am located in Nigeria, West Africa.
While the site John offered provides useful information that is applicable in many jurisdictions, keep in mind that patent law differs in every country. Provisional applications are only available in a few countries. Many countries have different, lower cost means for obtaining initial protection, including filing for utility models and filing applications without requesting examination. The laws in South Africa likely differ from the laws in Nigeria.
I would suggest contacting M. I. Tsav & Co. or Toyosi Odunmbaku at Jackson, Etti & Edu and find out if they could spare 15-20 minutes to answer this question for you relative to patent law in Nigeria.
Beyond that, I would suggest you need some form of funding. To get funding, you need to sell someone on the value of the product. That could be an investor. That could be crowdfunding. That could be a manufacturer. It might be helpful to build a working prototype to demonstrate the value proposition. You need to keep your invention confidential as you proceed, to preserve the possibility of patent protection, but that can be done with confidentiality agreements with anyone to whom you need to disclose the invention to proceed (verify under Nigerian law).
I have a mechanical engineering degree from Rice University and and MBA, so I have some idea of what you are trying to do. I have worked in design engineering departments and have also read books on patenting and spoken with patent attorneys...the bottom line is a patent is nothing more than a right to sue.
So, you have to tally-up all of the expected costs (including litigation) and determine if your design is worth patenting. Unfortunately, almost anything can be imitated and reproduced in other legal jurisdictions, so the real key is your marketing plan.
Design your product around your early adopters. If you don't have any customers, your design doesn't matter. The early customers won't care if you have the patent, just if your design works. Once you have a few real-life users (and demand for more), then you can look into scaling manufacturing, licensing the technology, filing patents or just selling your start-up to a larger company.
I always start with the filing of a provisional patent due to its low cost. Then on to viability studies and product testing. This is the best time to invite friends and family to test your product and write some honest reviews.
Have you done a patent search? I didn't think that was too expensive. If you can afford to do it I would. Otherwise, you may waste a lot of time and effort only to discover that someone else already has patented your invention.
Fikayo, I note that nobody has asked you if you are a designer and qualified to conclude that your design would work.
If your research results in there being nothing like it then there can only be a few reasons a) your invention is truly innovative and it has never been done before b) it has been done before but didn't work or c) it has been done before but there was no market take-up and binned or d) it could be designed but not manufactured at an acceptable cost.
First stop for me; if you are not a suitably qualified designer is get your designs checked over by a professional designer in that sector. If they say it is innovative, can be produced etc etc etc then and only then, look to protect it with patents. There are millions of patents that have never ever been attached to a real product.
I have a client today who has a brilliant idea, it has never obviously been done before, may have a market but the biggest problem is that although he has a hand made prototype we cannot find anywhere to get it manufactured at an acceptable cost so there cannot be a market for it.
No market - no investment
No patent required
I am a management consultant based out of india and have helped some of my clients with similar challenges as yours. With a good network of investors and angel funders, they would be interested in sponsoring for a patent, provided if they visualize a commercial value out of your product.
You can reach out to me to take your plan to the next level.
Shoot any queries that you intend to ask.
Thanks and best
If you are unable or uninterested in applying for patents then the best way to avoid the risk of going to market are to be "Fast & Furious."
Although you can try to cash-in by just selling the idea, once the unique, marketable characteristics are presented (even under NDA) you can't easily stop the info-to-knockoff potential. In any case, unless you've invented a Cold Fusion Refrigerator, the cost of patents may not be worth it - your going to get knockedoff and, depending on the product, real "economic" protections are hard to come by.
If you have a product that will sell between $10-29 USD then there are some good ways to test viability and develop a market model here in the US. There are a number of firms that will partner with you to test market the product through networks of "convenience stores."
This process can prove out your turn rates providing enough data to pitch to Big Box companies like Walgreens et al.
Some of these firms will even help with product and packaging design.
Please contact my firm maybe able to assist. I know of a couple of patient lawyers that may be able to help and have overseas manufacturing that can help build prototypes in most cases. If the product is notable then investors will provide the capital.
Patenting is definitely the key to protecting your product IP. What I did for my mechanical hardware patent
(US Patent # http://www.google.com/patents/US20050279339) is listed here:
Also holder of 4 other patents (joint and co-authored)
a - Filed a provisional patent that is far less in costs and affordable
b - Used a Patent process Software to reduce attorney costs
c - Completed all engineering drawing to bring down draftsmen costs
The provisional patent also buys you a year after which you have to file the non-provisional patent to claim your IP.
Since your product is electrical in nature, there may be some additional testing for compliance to safety and performance.
In the meantime you can seek funding to support your startup idea at places such as indigogo.com and others.
Have you attempted any of these? If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask or contact me,
Here is my advice:Time to market, time to market, time to market and sell, sell ,sell.
- patents have also bunch of negative effects, like publicity, claims, etc., not to mention the cost
- so speed in getting things to the market is really crucial
- keep low profile, work on your idea and surprise the market
This is how I did it in my company although we consider patenting some of the stuff we invented, however we decided to go for speed and that was successfull!
I think applying for patents will be a waste of time if you can't determine if this actually has any footing in the market. Typically you want to make sure that you have a plan in place for how to market it. Do research on the right places to call and make connections with people in the industry to get yourself acquainted with how this can be established in the market. Once you have a plan in place and an idea of how much you can sell this for and to whom, you have to make sure it works within the realm of cost for the manufacturers. These guys are penny punchers in order to create the most revenue in each product. You have to ask yourself, what does my product replace? What does it do for the industry? Then you need to get all of this down on paper, do a pitch and get some funds. I can help facilitate some of that work for you if you need. Just reach out to me.
you need to build it!!
to find out a) cost of goods and figure how manufacturable it is.
b) if people actually will buy it
c) if it is actually useful.
then test it, if US is a market, then get UL safety approval.