Inventors: To Sell It, You Must Show It

Building a prototype of your product can take you a long way.

Why do I have to build (or have built) a prototype of my invention? This is one of the common questions people ask me.

They come to my office to tell me about their ideas; which, in some cases, really are unique and clever. They explain them in detail but without a working model I can’t really see what they are trying to say about how their product will work.

I tell those folks to go and make a model that will for all intents and purposes work exactly as they say it will.

It’s hard to imagine that a flat piece of paper will, when it’s a “real product,” sit up and become a three-dimensional board game. If it’s supposed to be three-dimensional, then make it so.

I often tell my MBA students to pick a very common household item and try to explain to someone how it works. It can be anything – a toaster, a toothbrush, a garbage can. You can see it in your head, but when the words come out, they don’t fully explain the details of the product. Try it yourself.

To get a buyer’s attention, you will have to show them how your product will work, what it will look like, what sets it apart from products already on the market, what it will be made of and if it will really do as you think it will. First you need to learn that information for yourself to draw up a patent application.

That is another benefit of a prototype. You get to know your product inside and out to describe it in the patent application in detail. This is important. This step-by-step documentation can make or break your patent application. Describe in detail the unique features of your product and what sets it apart from those currently on the market.

A flat drawing with an explanation of how a product is supposed to work will not sell your idea to licensees or manufacturers. You wouldn’t even get to set up a meeting.

There are too many variables – what material will you use to make your product?

You might think a tool will be plastic but when it is made of plastic it is too light in weight to function as it should… or it breaks easily since the plastic you used was not sturdy enough… or it melts from friction.

There are cost factors to be learned in the process as well. You need to know how much it will cost to produce your product. You will be surprised how many details are involved in costing a product. You need to know those details. A prospective licensor will want this information.

How to start your prototype? In most cases if there is a similar product on the market, get one and modify it to make your model. You can do most of the work yourself unless you need to start from scratch or there are circuits you need to have an electrician work on. You will have to have drawings made, too.

Show prospective buyers that you know what you are doing, and that your product will do as you say it will.

Article – Copyright 2002 Stanley I. Mason. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.

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