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Inventor's Handbook

Chapter 5:
Is My Invention Worth Patenting?

"Anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent." - Thomas Edison

Before spending a small fortune on patenting an ingenious idea, consider several market issues. Does your invention offer a unique and better solution to a real problem? Can it be easily manufactured or integrated into an existing product? Is there a market for the product? How big is the market? Will it grow? What is the competition? Will the product be obsolete by the time the patent is issued? How much will it cost and how long will it take to bring the invention to market? How will it be sold?

The answers to these questions rely on market research. Professional firms provide this service for a fee, or to get low-cost help in this arena, consider contacting business faculty or entrepreneurial groups at local colleges. They are often willing to have their students take on entrepreneurial projects. Retired business executives also may provide business and marketing perspectives for little or no money. Call your Small Business Administration or local government agencies for contacts in the business and academic communities. National and local inventors clubs are also a rich source of information and advice, as are local distributors of products similar to your invention.

If, after thorough investigation, the answers to critical marketing questions lead to the conclusion that your invention has no commercial potential, you may want to forego patenting. If your goal, however, is not profit, but to make a contribution to society's body of technical knowledge, consider filing a Statutory Invention Registration (SIR) application with the USPTO, which costs much less than a patent. A SIR puts a patent into the public domain, preventing others from patenting it in the future.


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