information for inventors
The following information is intended to answer commonly asked questions and clarify commonly misunderstood facts.
Idea vs. Invention
First let's clear up a common misconception, ideas and inventions or
two different things. Ideas do not have any value. Many people contact
us with good ideas but do not have inventions. They've identified a
problem, but did not come up with a solution. It's the solution to the
problem that's the invention, not the problem/idea itself.
For example, if I had an idea to build an electric generator that ran on air, that's
an idea only. It's not an invention until I, the inventor, figure out
how it will work. That is what the patent would protect. Don't get me
wrong, we help our client figure out the details, like materials, dimensions,
mechanisms, etc., but the basic solution needs to come from the client.
We often get a call from inventors who ask, "what does it cost
to make a prototype?" We are sometimes asked before we even know
what the product is, or what services are needed. In order to provide
you with an accurate estimate, we need to know what the product is,
and what services you would like from us. Our estimates are based on
how much time it will take to complete the services that are requested.
Simple products take less time and, therefore, cost less money. Even
the simplest of inventions will require thousands of dollars to get
a working prototype and patent protection.
What is a prototype anyway?
The word prototype is used in many ways these days. There are virtual
prototypes. These are the lowest cost type of prototype and are computer
models that you can look at only. (not a physical model) There is also
demonstration prototypes. These are prototypes that are physical working
models that are used to demonstrate the concept. These are less costly
than other types and useful when making a presentation in the hopes
of getting a license agreement. The last type is a Pre-production prototype.
This is also a physical working model, but one that has been engineered
from scratch and can be mass-produced. This is the most expensive type
of prototype, but necessary if you want to produce and sell your product.
The most important thing you can do as an inventor is to document everything
You cannot overdo it when it comes to keeping well organized notes and
drawings. From the first moment you have the idea, begin a book. Buy
yourself some type of permanently bound book, number the pages and record
everything. This will be one of your most valuable assets should the
need arise to establish a Date of Conception.
You do not
need a patent to develop a product. There are many
products for sale in the market place that do not have patent protection.
Not all products are patented and not all patents are produced.
So why get one? Patents are good for two reasons. One: Should you put your
invention into production and another company comes along and starts
to manufacture and sell the same thing, your patent will be used in
court to prove you have the sole right to profit from the product for
a period of 20 years. In this scenario your patent is only useful if
you are willing to back it up in court.
Two: Many large companies (i.e.. GE, Ford, Sony) will not look at any invention
without a patent for fear it will compromise an in-house development.
Smaller, independently owned companies typically do not have the same
Do I Need a Patent Search?
No. You do not need a patent search. However, you should get one. It
would be much better to learn that someone else has laid a claim to
your invention before
you spend thousands to develop it. Only
a fraction of the over 7 million patents on file at the US Patent Office
are ever brought to market. There's always a chance someone has already
patented your invention idea.
What is a Patent Search?
A Patent Search is a thorough search of all patents on file at the U.S.
Patent office for a particular idea, product, or invention. At Aiello
Designs, a copy of each "similar" patent is sent to you for
review to see if your idea is, in fact, new or novel enough as not to
infringe on an existing patent. These searches are limited to non-provisional
patents only. This means anything with a Patent Pending status cannot
legally be searched.
Note: I've run into inventors that told me they had a Patent Search conducted by
another company who gave them the green light. However, they never saw
the results. If a company stands to make money based on the project
going forward, don't you think all "searches" get the green
light? Until you have seen the search results with your own eyes, don't
believe you're in the clear.
The United States Patent Office
There is lots of good information on the patent office web site. The
site is extremely cluttered and difficult to navigate but good information
is there. You just have to find it. The site can be found at www.uspto.gov
Prototype vs. Breadboard
Many people contact us and say, "I have a prototype." But
in actuality they do not. When you have a model that is made with rubber
bands, cardboard and glue, (or any substitute materials) it's called
a breadboard. Breadboards are used to work out and prove the key features
of an invention. A true prototype is much more. A prototype looks-like
and works-like the real manufactured product. It should be impossible
to tell you are looking at a prototype if it's done well.
Occasionally we are asked, "What is your success rate?" Success
rate is defined by how much money an inventor spends versus how much
he/she makes back. This definition only applies to companies who claim
to handle the licensing, sales and/or marketing. Aiello Designs does
not. We do not get involved on the marketing, sales or licensing of
the products we develop. Therefore, success rate does not apply. Our
success is simply defined by developing the invention to meet or exceed
our client's expectations. Whether or not the invention makes money
is not in our hands.
As a practice, we sign a Confidentiality Agreement with each new client.
This binds our company to secrecy and allows us to openly discuss the
details of the invention so that we can put together a Invention Development
Estimate. To get a Confidentiality Agreement, please send us an email
using the email link on our Contact
receive this information, an electronically signed agreement will be
emailed back to you for your records. At that point, we will be able
to discuss your invention details and give you and estimate for our
Too Good to be True
Be wary of any companies that claim to handle every imaginable part
of bringing a product to market, including market analysis and product
promotion. If they claim to be able to provide a "Free Market
Analysis" I would be very suspicious. I have reviewed one of
these "Market Analyses" and was shocked to see the company
supplied one generic form designed to take anybody's idea and make
it look like it was the greatest idea since the wheel.
If you want a market analysis, go to a company that specializes in market
research. If you want help promoting your product, hire experts in
that area. Likewise if you want Invention Development, go to a company
that specializes in Invention Development, such as Aiello Designs.
Would you want your butcher to throw in an eye exam with a purchase
of 2lbs. of beef?
Stay away from the invention companies that claim to submit/promote
your invention on your behalf. I have talked with many individuals
who have spent a good deal of money working with these companies and
have nothing of value to show for it. Companies that won't discuss
fees over the phone are trying to force you to go in for the face-to-face
hard pitch. This process begins to have the same appeal as a cult.
These are the same companies that advertise at 3 am on latenight TV for
a free inventor kit. If a company makes you uncomfortable or gives
you any reason to be suspicious, STAY AWAY!
The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, has stepped in to help bring some order
to the invention development industry. In doing so, they created "Project
Mousetrap" to identify and shutdown fraudulent invention companies.
You can learn more about this law enforcement program at www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/07/mouse.shtm
Before conducting business with any invention company I recommend using the
FTC web site to find out more information first. Go to www.ftc.gov/index.scfm
and type in the name of the company and principal into the search
box to see if they have been cited, and/or, fined for fraudulent activity.
Be careful, be smart and be educated. You can call or email us any
time and we'd be happy to answer your questions. We can be reached
at 207 467-9145 or email Justin Aiello at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aiello Designs, LLC does not make any guarantees to the accuracy of the information
provided here,and will not be held liable for any errors. We do however
make every effort to ensure accuracy. If you find any mistakes please
contact us so that we can correct them as quickly as possible.
PHONE: 207-467-9145 M-F, 9-5, EST