Commercialising your idea
It can be tough knowing where and how to start with commercialisation of a new idea or product.
After solving a problem or identifying a particular need in an industry, how you can gain financially from your idea or solution is an important driver for most entrepreneurs. Knowing what to do or where to go is a question that easily comes to mind but can be very difficult to answer because as well as being complicated, long winded and expensive, the market is constantly changing at an ever increasing speed.
As a general guideline, the process of commercialisation may involve the following steps or milestones:
- identification of a problem and creating a solution;
- investigation of the market and official databases to see if the idea or solution is new;
- developing the idea into a product;
- refinement and solidification of the product to make it work;
- initiation of formal protection of the idea or product by filing for one or more patents, designs and/or trade marks;
- manufacturing a prototype;
- publicising or marketing the product;
- seeking potention investors or customers or partners;
- finalising the development of the product and manufacturing processes and needs;
- completing or continuing with IP protection processes.
Identifying the problem
It is interesting to note that at the beginning of any commercialisation process, an idea frequently comes from attempting to solve a problem or overcoming an obstacle. So identifying a problem may seem easy but you have to be careful that the problem is a real one relating to the real world and not something that applies only to you.
What will the product look like?
Once you have identified a real problem, the next step should be to create a solution to the problem and then develop that solution into a saleable product. In doing this, some typical questions might be, what features does the invention need to work? And how might these features be combined into a commercially marketable and saleable product? Forming the idea into something saleable can typically be done theoretically without needing to actually build a prototype, which can save money. However it is much easier to sell a product to others by being able to demonstrate the look and feel of the product.
Can I go public with my product?
It is important that you keep you idea or product completely confidential until you have protected the idea or product by filing for appropriate intellectual property rights. Remember to guard against disclosure by third parties either deliberately or accidentally. This is very important in relation to minimizing or preventing theft of your idea and allowing you to be able to seek valid intellectual property protection. Any disclosure made before filing a patent or design application should only be in circumstances of strict confidentiality, and confidentiality agreements should be signed. Furthermore no attempt should be made to offer your product for sale or to take commercial advantage of your product before it is protected, as this could invalidate any subsequent patent or design applications.
Investigative work – market research
Sometime during the conception and solidification of the product or idea is a good time to carry out investigations to determine if the idea or product is in fact novel. The sooner you do this, the better, as if you do find as a result of your investigatations that the idea or product is not in fact new, it can save you from investing time and money into something that is not very worthwhile. On the other hand, investigative work with a positive outcome may give you and/or your investors or partners renewed confidence to carry on. Market research can be carried out by visiting various retail outlets, checking various publications and searching official patent and design databases. Adequate time and money needs to be allocated to this part of the process, and a formal intellectual property search should be carried out by a professional.
Intellectual Property Protection
After conducting the investigative and market research work, if the results are favourable, you will need to consider whether it is possible and worthwhile applying for formal protection of your idea by filing one or more patent applications, design applications and/or trade mark applications. All of these types of intellectual property protection involve filing documents with the patent office and going through a formal examination process in order to gain a registered right which can then be enforced. Even having pending rights in place can provide an advantage in terms of deterring potential competitors from copying your idea or product. Protecting your intellectual property does involve time and costs which should be budgeted for. It is wise to speak to a professional to gain some advice on what the best type or types of protection are for your idea or product and what strategies should be followed for best protecting your idea or product. Pipers can help you with this, and can provide cost estimates, including likely future costs that will be incurred.
Do I need to make a prototype?
Though not mandatory a prototype can be a powerful marketing tool for potential customers, investors and partners. One advantage of making a prototype is that it allows you to see whether your invention actually works, and also forces you to see if there are any problems or issues that need to be solved before the invention will work properly. In addition, it may make you aware of some things that could be changed to make the invention more commercially acceptable, for example, size, weight and appearance aspects.
If your prototyping works, then it might be a good time to go public with your invention by marketing it to potential customers and/or by seeking interest from investors and partners. However if the prototyping process raises several problems, you may need to re-think your strategy or go back to refining the product to make it work.