Your first steps
Join your local inventors association.
Do not discuss your idea or invention openly, this may jeopardise you chances of patenting it later. If you have to disclose any details, be sure it is done under a non-disclosure agreement.
Ask your inventors association for a confidential assessment of your idea or invention. The panel can suggest avenues for protection and commercialisation of your invention.
Do a prior art search – has it been done before? If so, is your idea or invention better? If it is not presently on the market, find out why. The market may have been too small or was it too expensive.
Evaluate the economic potential of your invention, this involves looking at the potential costs of manufacture and marketing it versus the price your customers will be prepared to pay for it. You may need to a cost-benefit analysis of any variations in design, manufacture and marketing alternatives. In this you should think laterally, your device may have an appeal or use outside your original scope.
Record keeping: Keep a diary, document all your work, this may become an on-going process. Record all expenditure – this may be tax deductable later.
Decide on your next step – to stop or proceed. The economic evaluation will guide you. The potential for making money should not be your only criterion; there may be social or environmental benefits that cannot be expressed in dollars.
Follow your planned procedure with determination, but keep an eye out for changes in your market and competitors. Abort if your invention is superseded or becomes unprofitable.
Join your local inventors association
Join your local Inventors Association and regularly attend meetings. Speak to people who have "been there and done that" before. Learn directly from their mistakes and listen for the opportunities they may describe.
The Guest Speakers at our meetings are invited to talk to us because they are experts in their fields or have experience from whom we could learn something worthwhile. The speakers are selected to cover the broad range of topics that are important to inventors. Regularly attending meetings makes sure you get the most out of your membership and the broad range of topics.
Be prepared to learn as much as you can about the whole of the invention development process. It is often not easy to develop a new product and inventors who are unaware of the process, make mistakes. Some mistakes can be costly.
What kind of an inventor are you?
There is a place for every kind of inventor in the Inventors Association. Many of our members are happy to be creative thinkers and hobbyists and the Inventors Association offers many social benefits but most would like it just as much (if not a little more) if they were paid for their talents. The information below assumes that you would, one day, like your invention to be developed as a viable business concern.
If you are a career inventor, or, if your invention relates to the industry of your employer, then please be aware that your employer may own your creations, even if you have developed them outside of business hours. Before you can develop your invention as a separate business concern, you may need to get permission from your employer. We recommend that you get this in writing.
Note: The Association does not give financial assistance to members, but it can usually point out the options and make inventors aware of what will be expected of them in order to attract finance.
Do not discuss your idea or invention openly
This may jeopardise you chances of patenting it later. Do not discuss your idea or invention openly until you have developed a protection strategy. Ideas can easily be taken up by others and used without your consent or knowledge.
If you have to disclose any details, be sure it is done under a non-disclosure agreement.
It is important to develop a protection strategy even before you look at getting a patent because a patent can be costly and you should seek advice before you get to that stage. You will want to protect your idea while you are getting the advice that you need.
It is important to not be too secretive when seeking advice otherwise you will not get accurate advice. A well-developed protection strategy should give you the confidence to talk to the experts you need to talk to. A protection strategy may involve you getting the advice you need from people you can trust, it may involve the use of agreements of confidentiality or it may involve you holding back certain critical information. If in doubt, you should talk to an expert about developing a protection strategy.
Ask your inventors association for a confidential assessment
Get your invention assessed. It is important to get an independent opinion about the quality of your idea and about its commercial viability. Do not rely on friends or family to give you an opinion as they may be biased.
Your own enthusiasm for the invention may obscure your judgement. You also should be wary about getting an assessment of your idea from promotion; marketing or licensing companies who offer a range of services and charge for them. Some such operators may tell you that you have a great idea (even when you don't), hoping to entice you into paying for further services such as testing the market for your idea.
Your Inventors Association can give you a confidential assessment of your idea or invention. Where necessary they will tell you about some of the challenges you will face. The panel can sometimes suggest productive ways forward.
An assessment can save you a lot of time and money.
The Association does not give financial assistance to members, but it can usually point out the options and make inventors aware of what will be expected of them in order to attract finance.
Fact check all of the information that you get from experts and others and consider it only in the context it was given to you. The information that you have been given may be more relevant to one person in one situation than it would be to you in your situation.
Network and get to know people. An inventor who lives in isolation is lost. The more you network, the more you will learn of the development options that are available to you.
As you move through the different stages of development, come back to the Inventors Association for more assessments or guidance. Do this about every 3 to 4 months or as is practical. Doing this will keep you connected to those who can offer you advice and encourage you to progress. Remember to book your assessment with the Inventors Association committee so that you can be fitted into the schedule.
Check to see if your idea is new. Has it been done before? If it is not presently on the market, don't be lulled into thinking that your idea has not been done before. There could be many reasons for it not being on the market now. It may have been tried before but failed because the market may have been too small or the item was it too expensive to make and deliver, to name but two.
An Internet search is a good place to start your prior art search. Think of all the descriptions of your idea or invention and do an Internet search on them using different search engines.
You could do a patent search yourself; IP Australia (the patents office) can assist you. Go to www.ipaustralia.gov.au. Google Patents may also help you find out whether or not your idea is novel.
If you don't find anything like your invention, it does not mean it has not been done before, it may just that you may not found it (or it has not been patented).
If you find that your idea or invention is not new, then this does not mean you need to stop, but it does mean that your development strategy may need to change.
If you find anything similar in your Internet search or patent search, record all the available details (including the source of your information) in a notebook or your invention diary. This information may prove valuable in the prior art survey in your patent application or later in your promotional literature.
Be prepared to encounter a few invention myths. Rumours and myths are common so you need to check your facts. Also the invention development environment is a constantly changing one and so you need to keep up to date.
Examine the economic potential of your invention
Examine the economic potential of your invention. To be successful you must be able to deliver a product to people who will want to pay money for it. Your customers must be prepared to pay enough to allow you to make a profit on each item.
You must have enough customers to pay for the cost of running a business. Some experts are skilled at being able to predict the commercial success of an invention but none can guarantee it. It is important to do some market research before you start to invest large amounts of money and time into your invention.
Remember that businesses make money, not inventions. If you want your invention to be a commercial success, you will have to create it as a saleable item. There are many ways to do this.
In this you should think laterally, your device may have an appeal or uses that are outside your original scope.
Document your work, this may become an on-going process.
The potential for making money should not be your only criterion; there may be social or environmental benefits that cannot be expressed in dollars. The social benefits may include human relations, safety and health issues.