More on Patents


More on Patents

Did you go out to a bookstore and buy even one book of the three I suggested last week? No? Well, time will soon tell if you are going to be a serious inventor or not. Meanwhile I will try to write this column as interestingly and entertainingly as possible without sacrificing substance.


Step II: On September 23rd, I drew a diagram of 10 steps in the patent application process. In the course of your life you’ll encounter many problems, real and imaginary. Some problems have no solutions. Some problems seem to have a solution. I have written here many times that you shouldn’t invent a solution first and then look for the problem. That is called “a solution looking for a problem”, and is funny to hear but sad to witness when that’s someone else’s hard work.


So let’s analyze what a problem is: That is the new scientific discipline called Inventics – a methodology for successful invention.


Back 3.4 million years ago, a man or a woman felt frustrated that his wooden cutting tool was ineffective. The inventor then developed a sharp wedge made out of stone, and this was a resounding success as an arrowhead or spear. Whether he was a single person or group makes no difference, this is probably the first significant invention in human history. Within a few hundred thousand years this technology spread, and we all benefitted from it. Too bad he or she didn’t acquire a patent then. The inventor would’ve become quite wealthy.


Before we go into Step II “Describe Your Idea in Your Notebook”, I would like to discuss whether that idea is truly valuable. In order to conclude that an idea has value as a solution to a problem, we need to establish a scale with which to measure the value. That’s where an amateur inventor often falters. I have encountered many amateur inventors whose “brilliant” idea turned into a money-guzzling venture with little or no demand. If the inventor had known this before he spent so much effort and money, he would have saved himself trouble big time.


Now, let’s start evaluating this idea. The number one question is to clearly define the problem you are trying to solve.

  • Who is suffering from this problem? Have you verified that the problem does exist? What is the source?
  • If the sufferer is human, it is easy to find the answer. You ask and you will probably get a straight answer. You should ask as many people as possible to take your idea from a hunch to a fact.
  • If the sufferers are inanimate objects or animals, this is much more difficult. A good example is the pet or farm animal. They cannot speak, so you often end up guessing, which can go terribly wrong.
  • If the existence of the potential market (people willing to pay) is more or less proven, try to determine the size of the potential market for this solution. This will be difficult if the target market is animals who do not speak up.
  • After checking the above list of questions, you may find that the market just doesn’t exist, or it is vague and unquantifiable.
  • Now you have to face a decision if it is worthwhile to go ahead and spend some money and effort, or stop right there.


When you have decided that your idea truly has value, you have to draw it up in the notebook accurately. Make sure there are as many drawings or diagrams as you can create to explain your idea and add your name and time/date.


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