How can I know if I can patent my idea without spending any money? Lean Prototyping.
An inventor mistakenly believes that the key to his invention's success is for nothing to exist that is the same as or similar to his idea. The existence of prior art similar to your product or prototype does not mean that you're condemned to failure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather, the existence of prior art related to your CONCEPT (speaking in Lean Prototyping jargon) validates that your solution makes sense in the market.
Let's go to Step Nº 2 of Lean Prototyping – Prior art and technical feasibility.
Remember that we arrived at this point after a process of "trial and error," in which we assess the real needs of our clients and of validating whether it involves a problem that is not resolved or, at least, not in a way that we deem the most efficient.
In Step Nº 1 of Lean Prototyping, we defined a very basic product concept, with working requirements for the prototype that, in some way, make it very clear to us in which area we have room for improvement. Continuing with the example of Cuban cigars and their conservation tools, we define what the current state of the art is; i.e., what exists thus far to solve the problem. From there, we define the list of basic requirements for our future prototype.
In Step Nº 2, we will begin with a thorough search of patent registrations or legal protections that may somehow condition the development of our invention. To conduct this search, we can take two paths:
Path Nº 1 – Hire a professional patent and trademark agent to conduct a search and present us with the current records that may affect us.
Path Nº 2 – Investing time and effort, carry out ourselves the search for any prior art that could condition the development of our invention.
El proceso de búsqueda de antecedentes es muy laborioso, lo que llamamos en España, un trabajo de Chinos Pero, según nuestra experiencia en Prototécnica, nadie buscará tanto como el propio inventor.
Going a little more in depth, we trust that it makes a lot of sense for the inventor himself, taking as a reference the working requirements list that defines his concept (Step Nº 1 of the Lean Prototyping method), to do a preliminary search, even if he later entrusts an additional search to professionals, for greater peace of mind.
Currently, the information is very accessible; you will have access to the same resources as a professional agent. At Let’s Prototype, when we assist the inventor with this process, we conduct the search using three methods:
Method A - Semantic Study. You must define the most relevant keywords or phrases that define your invention. We recommend you define them in both Spanish and English. Once you have this list of words, combinations of words, and phrases, you can conduct searches in Google, Google Patents and the official search engines of the Patent and Trademark Office’s online portals.
Continuing with our example of cigars and their conservation tools, we can state that inputting the term "cigar humidors" in Google Patents gets 269 hits. The hard work is opening each link and analyzing what is being claimed in each utility model or patent application.
At Let’s Prototype, we open an Excel file and caption different columns as follows: patent owner, patent number, office where application filed, countries where protected, patent expiration date, innovation claims (the key to the patent), among other data of interest. This chart will be fundamental to setting the course of your invention.
Method B - International Patent Classification (searches using CPC codes). This is a coding system that allows us to place our invention in a specific area of innovation. It seems like a daunting task, but it really is quite simple. Knowing the working requirements of your concept and the area where innovation is being made, we will be able to identify the code(s) that best fit our invention. Below is a link where you can find these codes for Spain: https://www.oepm.es/export/sites/oepm/comun/documentos_relacionados/Memorias_de_Actividades_y_Estadisticas/estadisticas/Tabla_Concordancia_Sectores_Tecnicos_Con_CIP.pdf
Una vez que tienes los códigos, podrás buscar con el mismo en las propias páginas digitales de la Oficina de Patentes, además de poder introducirlos también en Google Patents. En Let’s Prototype, hacemos la búsqueda en ambos sitios.
Whereas there are common sites for comparing inventions and being very rigorous in searches, we recommend you include whatever patents you identify in the same Excel file in which you entered the results found using Method A.
Method C - Headline Study (following the trail based on competitor identification)
As if that were not enough ☺, as we already have a clear concept from Step Nº 1 of Lean Prototyping, with its list of working requirements for the prototype, it will be very easy to identify the main manufacturers of solutions that affect our market, competitors, possible substitute products, etc. Thus, we can search patent office webpages as well as Google Patents by entering their names. This way, we can follow the trail and identify if they have any invention similar to ours; we can even determine what their next steps will be in the market and the innovation trends in the sector where we want to innovate.
Yes, it is true that it is a very, very painstaking task, but it provides a wealth of very detailed information for subsequent steps. If you want to do it with this level of detail, we will be happy to support you and lend you a hand. Just contact us or schedule your appointment: https://calendly.com/erick-remedios-letsprototype/llamada-inicial
You must already be wondering about the second part of this step: Can my invention be manufactured? In this regard, I can assure you that out of all the inventors with whom we work at Prototécnica every year, 95% receive an answer about the technical feasibility of their concept in less than 24 hours. This should not be your main concern.
At this point, the good news is that you already have enough information and training to embark on the working prototype design and manufacturing stage. With a guaranteed success rate that’s much higher than the 80% rate posted by inventors who start this journey lacking sufficient information. So, all the time you're devoting to the Lean Prototyping study substantially reduces the risk faced by most inventors.
Does it pay off for you?
With these first two Lean Prototyping steps, we should be able to conclude the following:
- Whether or not our invention solves a real problem in the market.
- If our invention has already been patented by another person or company.
- If our invention is really innovative, or if we must go back to the drawing board to strengthen our concept. Armed now with very valuable information and a very clear guide to being more competitive with our invention or future prototype.
- If we can really move forward with the development of our invention.
- In addition, we should already be convinced that Let’s Prototype is the right partner to move forward on this path.