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New Invention First Steps

Mar 29, 2008
The day you decide to invent something will probably be one the most exciting days of your life. You will look back on it as the beginning of a long journey, one that may even change the course of your life. However, it is not always clear what the first steps down this new road should be. As a result, many inventors spin their wheels without any real sense of direction or purpose. In this article, we will walk beginning inventors through the first steps that will help them succeed.

1) Start an inventor's logbook

If you plan on getting a patent, or even if not, a logbook is an essential starting point. A logbook is essentially an inventor's journal. It is where the inventor keeps track of his progress and dates each step. A logbook proves that you came up with your idea at a certain date and displayed due diligence in pursuing it. However, there are some definite standards you should adhere to when keeping a logbook. This will help ensure that your documentation looks legitimate to patent examiners.

1) You should start your logbook as soon as you think of an idea. Write down detailed records of key concepts, test results, and anything else having to do with the creation of your idea. This is the type of material that belongs in a logbook.
2) While there are pre-made logbooks for sale, you can easily make your own. Be sure to use a bound notebook, however, and not a loose-leaf. The reason is that bound notebooks make it hard to conceal the fact that pages were added or taken out.
3) Number each page consecutively. This establishes that the progress you made on your idea took place in a sequential order that anyone with common sense can observe. When one notebook is full, begin a new one and specify that this notebook is a continuation of the last one. There should be no visible gaps in your record keeping.
4) Each entry you write should be signed and dated by you and anyone else who participated in that step of the invention process. If at all possible, get a notary public to sign as well.
5) Give each entry a header with information about what is contained in it. For example, the date, subject, number of participants, witnesses, etc.
6) Include records of everything you do. When in doubt, assume that it is best to include it. Do not just include successful test results, for example. If you exclude negative findings or tests, the patent examiner may decide that you "cherry-picked" only the good stuff and reject your application.
7) Any and all other participants in the invention process need to have their roles disclosed. The importance of this convention cannot be stressed enough. If you omit an inventor's name from an invention he helped create, it is considered fraud.
8) Any loose materials like drawings, photos, or sketches should be signed, dated, and cross-referenced to the notebook entry they pertain to. It is best to tape or staple this material to the notebook entries in question.
2) Create a prototype of your invention

With your logbook set and ready to go, the next step is to get to work on your prototype. A prototype transforms you from dreamer to doer by virtue of forcing you to actually create your invention. An eye-opening article on About.com called "The Basics on Prototype Making" offer some other compelling benefits for making one.

- Legally, a prototype proves what is called a "reduction to practice" and if the question ever comes up, a prototype can be proof that you were the first inventor. The United States uses the first to invent rule, granting a patent to the first inventor who conceives and reduces the technology or invention to practice, for example a working prototype or a well written description.
- You can include photos of your prototype in your inventor's logbook.
- A prototype helps you figure out any design flaws your invention has and if it really works.
- It can help you make sure your invention is the right size, shape, and form.
- A prototype helps you sell or license an invention.

About.com has an entire direction for tips, tricks, and strategies on how to whip up your prototype the right way.

SRC: http://inventors.about.com/od/prototypes/Prototypes_for_Inventions.htm

3) Apply for a provisional patent

Once you have your prototype and have documented each step of your progress, you can apply for a provisional patent. A provisional patent is what anyone who ever slapped a "Patent Pending" label on their product has. In essence, you fill out a provisional patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office. If approved, you have full patent protection for 12 months. During this time, smart inventors will try to gauge the demand for their product and see if it is worth forking over the money for a full patent.

Here is a link to the provisional patent application from the USPTO website.

SRC: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/provapp.htm

Structure your work days around getting these 3 steps accomplished and you will be head and shoulders above most beginning inventors in the field.
About the Author
Eric Corl is the President of Idea Buyer LLC, a marketplace for new technology and products that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com. You can visit the site by visiting this address; http://www.ideabuyer.com New Technology and Products, Patents for Sale.
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