Take responsibility. We’re entrepreneurs, after all. Risk is inherent. Stop giving in to your fear and follow the steps below to protect yourself instead.
1. Do a thorough prior art search.
You can hire an outside firm to do this, but you should also search for prior art yourself, because it’s you who must become an expert. Familiarize yourself with all of the relevant intellectual property that has come before you. Find your innovation’s uniqueness
2. Learn about manufacturing processes.
There are many ways of doing this, including watching YouTube videos and visiting manufacturing facilities. How will your product be made? What are all of the ways it can be made? You need to know. Designing a product that cannot be manufactured is a grave mistake. You may need to hire an engineer to work with you. Make sure to have anyone you discuss your invention with sign a non-disclosure agreement and a work-for-hire agreement.
3. Study up.
Read your industry’s trade magazines. What new materials are being used? Where is the industry headed? Consider attending a tradeshow and/or a seminar. You need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening.
4. Be selective about what companies you choose to work with.
Is the company inventor-friendly? Has it licensed an idea before? Are there any lawsuits or complaints that come up when you Google the company? Do your homework.
5. Maintain a paper trail.
Put everything in writing.
6. Don’t give anyone a reason to try to work around you.
If you ask for too much up front, the company will be less inclined to work with you. Be reasonable.
7. Think ahead.
When I write my own provisional patent applications, I try to steal my idea from myself. I think, if a company were to steal this from me, how would it? I think about manufacturing processes and materials.
Don’t let fear control your actions. Take responsibility. We’re entrepreneurs, after all. Risk is inherent.