Category Archive for "Intellectual Property"

Early-stage hardware product development advice.

The Early-Stage of Hardware Product Development

Early-stage hardware product development advice.When it comes to hardware product development the road to success is often winding and full of bumps and roadblocks, rarely is it linear. Navigating these unforeseen challenges can be overwhelming for many first-time entrepreneurs. To share some guidance, we have compiled a few of our top blog posts related to the early stages of hardware product development.

Get Your Product Idea Off the Ground

Coming up with a hardware product idea is exhilarating—knowing that you have an idea that will help not only yourself, but an entire segment of the population, is the very definition of exciting. So now you have an idea, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do next.

When it Comes to Product Design, Let Creativity Shine

When it comes to product design, creativity can really make a difference in the success of a product. First time entrepreneurs can get caught up in the idea that their original idea is the best idea, however this is not always the case. There are many reasons that your product may shift during product design—it is not efficient for manufacturing, timing is off, it’s too difficult for customers to use, it doesn’t have a solid consumer base. There are numerous factors that can change a product, and that is okay. It is okay to end up with a product that is different than your original idea, because the goal is success.

Design Patents and Utility Patents for Startups

Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. For the purpose of this piece, patents — particularly design patents and utility patents — will be the focus of the conversation. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused products rely heavily on patents. Often times, proper patent protection can mean the difference between success and failure for a hardware startup.

Building A Hardware Startup Outside of a Major Tech Hub

In today’s connected world, these major tech hubs are becoming less and less appealing for entrepreneurs just setting out with their startup. It’s no secret that the cost of living in major tech hubs is astronomical and upfront costs to get your business going also come at a premium. So if you are an entrepreneur looking into hardware product development and starting a business, but have no desire to pick-up and move, below are a few ideas on how you can successfully launch your hardware startup from your home city.

Questions for Potential Product Development Partners

Product development partners are a great way to team up with knowledgeable experts that can help make your product idea a reality. A hardware product development partner can work with you from product idea through manufacturing and can assist in a wide variety of ways. Here we share a few suggestions on questions to ask potential product development firm partners.

Have additional hardware product development questions? Send us an email, info@3d-innovations.com

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Design patents and utility patents help protect a hardware startup.

Design Patents and Utility Patents for Startups

Design patents and utility patents help protect a hardware startup.Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. For the purpose of this piece, patents — particularly design patents and utility patents — will be the focus of the conversation. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused products rely heavily on patents. Often times, proper patent protection can mean the difference between success and failure for a hardware startup.

Patent Basics

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
Conducting a Patent Search

Once you have decided that you are interested in patenting your product, the next step is to conduct a patent search. A proper patent search will tell you if your invention, or its likeness, has been patented before or if your invention is indeed one-of-a-kind. There is nothing more time consuming, financially draining and demoralizing than filing for a patent, only to find that someone else already holds the patent to your invention.

The USPTO makes it possible to conduct a preliminary patent search on your own; however, it is highly recommended that you consult with a licensed patent search firm to assist with the bulk of the research. These firms have vast experience researching and are extremely knowledgeable in the classification systems.

Exploring Design Patents and Utility Patents

Design patents are often overlooked and underutilized compared to the more common utility patents. “Five percent of all patent applications (more than 30,000 per year) are design patents.” (Upcounsel) Design patents focus on the exterior design, features and overall aesthetics of the product. Utility patents focus on the functionality and features of your invention.

Design patents extend to what is exactly shown in the line drawings, nothing more. “Some products might need multiple design patents. Each would cover a specific physical feature of the proposed product. Cars, for instance, require many design patents.” (Upcounsel) Having high-quality professional line drawings by a CAD designer is extremely advantageous. With a design patent, you are able to use the coveted phrases, patent pending and patent issued on all marketing material, and have confidence that your invention is protected for the next fourteen years. Also. when it comes to cost, design patents are considerably cheaper to file than utility patents.

Utility patents focus solely on the inner workings of your invention, its unique functions and overall usefulness. “While a utility patent is harder to get, it offers better coverage. The utility patent has stronger protections built into the patent system.” (Upcounsel) An invention is deemed useful if it provides an identifiable benefit and is capable of use. People often refer to utility patents as “patents for invention”. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, ninety-percent of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents. With a utility patent your invention will be protected for the next twenty years.

A design patent coupled with a utility patent provides overlapping protection for both the inner workings and exterior design of your product, and is a powerful tool in your IP arsenal.

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This is what inventors need to know about licensing agreements.

Licensing Agreement Basics for Startups

This is what inventors need to know about licensing agreements.For many inventors a licensing agreement is often a great option since it lets them develop a product, but then puts the expenses associated with commercialization on a more experienced manufacturer.

What is a licensing agreement?

A licensing agreement is a deal between the owner of a patent, brand, or trademark and someone who wants to use the patented or trademarked goods and services. (Upcounsel)

With a licensing agreement, an inventor (the licensor) develops an invention and then protects that invention through a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret, and thus creates intellectual property (IP). The inventor—the owner of the intellectual property—then licenses the invention to a second party (the licensee) whose responsibility is to commercialize the invention. As compensation for allowing another party to use its intellectual property, the licensor will receive a royalty.

There are many types of licensing agreements: trademark licensing, copyright licensing, patent licensing, software licensing and merchandise licensing. Intellectual property licensors use three main types of licensing agreements: exclusive license, non-exclusive license and sole license. (Read about each type on Upcounsel)

The Main Benefits of a Licensing Agreement

Globalization has made licensing agreements a very popular option for businesses and inventors. Often, licensing is a strategic way of entering international markets. A foreign company will obtain rights to produce and/or sell another company’s product in its home country.

Below is a list of the top benefits of licensing your invention/IP.

  • The licensor (inventor) does not have to finance the commercialization process.
  • The licensor avoids the need to create and operate a company.
  • The invention will most likely get to market faster because a larger, more experienced company is handling the manufacturing and commercialization.
  • The invention may reach more markets if the licensee is a large, well-funded enterprise.
  • The licensor retains ownership of the intellectual property.
  • It creates passive income for the licensor.

Overall, licensing agreements minimize risk for both parties involved. The licensor doesn’t have to setup a business and incur those additional expenses and the licensee doesn’t have to spend time on product development and testing.

Suggestions for Securing a Licensing Agreement
  • Assess the complexity of your product. Is there a way to get a working version developed without extensive costs? 3D printing/additive manufacturing is a frequently used method to get a functional prototype ready because of its speed and the reduced costs associated with the technology.
  • Identify manufacturers. Find out which manufacturers currently sell product lines to large retailers where you can see that your product would be a good fit.
  • Create a functional prototype. Create a functional prototype of your product and pitch retail buyers. The goal is to get a commitment before you actually launch. You can possibly even offer them a few months of launch exclusivity. The mock-up of your packaging is also critically important. Your product must look as retail ready as possible.
  • Setup a meeting with an IP attorney. The attorney will be able to go over the legal aspects of the licensing agreement with you and help come up with a plan that best suits your needs.
  • Approach the identified manufacturers. If you want to get the attention of a manufacturer, before you even talk about your product, pitch the prospect your new customer, growing sales or the commitment from a major buyer. You’ll get an appointment, and your product has a better chance of moving to the front of the line in the new product development funnel.

Read our Case Study that details how our team worked on turning a consumer product idea into a manufacturable product for licensing to a large international retailer.

Have additional questions about licensing agreements for inventors? Please send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

Articles Referenced:

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Patent protection is critical for startup success.

Innovation and Patent Protection for Startups

Patent protection is critical for startup success.Patent protection is critical for startups today—technology and globalization have made it easier than ever to find, steal and patent invention ideas. Patents provide you with a way to protect your invention from other individuals that may want to commercialize it without your authorization. From the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO):

“A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.”

“The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or ‘importing’ the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.”

Make: Magazine recently published an article, “Patent Pandas: How One Maker Is Turning Her Horrible Experience Into a Force for Good”. It is a real and very telling story of how a person, actually a crowdfunding backer, stole an idea from a crowdfunding website and later tried to sell the invalid patent back to the original inventor. Unfortunately, stealing and patenting ideas that are not your own has become big business.

Patent law is complicated, and it is always best to consult with an attorney. However, we have compiled a list of resources below to get you started as you begin looking into the process of patent protection.

Crowdfunding Backer Patented My Project (Patent Panda)

I never thought about patents much. I just wanted to make stuff and share it with others. Then one day someone else patented my work.  So what happened?  And what did I learn?  Well, first off, don’t panic!

General Information Concerning Patents (USPTO)

Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.

Navigating IP on the Path to Commercialization

Patents are a critical factor for sustainable success. Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.

IP Watchdog

This website is managed by Gene Quinn, a patent attorney with decades of experience. The articles on the website touch on a number of patent issues and provide in-depth education opportunities.

How to Prepare for Your First Patent Attorney Meeting

Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.

Our team works closely with the Hawaii State Bar Association and understands the importance of patent protection for startups. If you have a question related to patent protection, we are happy to help. Please send us an email with your questions, info@3d-innovations.com.

Additional Intellectual Property Articles from 3D Innovations

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Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving, thank you, 3D InnovationsOur 3D Innovations team would like to wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

 “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” ― W.J. Cameron

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to send a big ‘thank you’ to our valued clients. Our clients are the driving motivation and the reason we do what we do. Each project we work on is unique, just like each client. Seeing the excitement build as we assist in the development of taking an idea and turning it into a real-world product fuels our desire to keep helping entrepreneurs launch their dreams.

We are incredibly grateful for our support network and know that our business would not be where it is today without you.

Thank you.

-The 3D Innovations Team

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Get Your Product Idea Off the Ground

product idea, hardware, entrepreneur, startups, product developmentComing up with a product idea is exhilarating—knowing that you have an idea that will help not only yourself, but an entire segment of the population, is the very definition of exciting. So now you have an idea, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do next. Below we have gathered helpful advice and insight into the next stages of your product development journey.

Developing a Product Idea Isn’t a “One-Size-Fits All” Process

It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, however in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success.

Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for any hiccups you encounter along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.

Consider and Research Intellectual Property Protection

Navigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?

With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.

Add Value Through Product Design

The Design Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point during the product development process. As an entrepreneur, you can look at your product, or product idea, through this lens and determine where your product excels, and which areas need a little more help before your product design is finalized.

Understand Common Startup Roadblocks—Then Avoid Them

We can all learn from failure, we can even learn from other startup’s failures. Making yourself aware of the challenges associated with building and launching a product, you are more likely to make educated decisions that allow you to avoid failure altogether.

Diving into the product development process is an exciting time for an entrepreneur. With the right knowledge and information, you are setting yourself and your startup for success.

We would also suggest you check out these additional blog posts:

Have additional questions about developing your product idea and want to talk to an expert? Send us an email with your questions to info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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FOG Safe Product Development Process – Pacific Business News

product development process, FOG Safe, FOG Safe Drain GuardsRecently Pacific Business News sat down with our client, Shawn Santos, inventor of FOG Safe Drain Guards to talk about the product development process and launching his idea. FOG Safe Drain Guards are a way to responsibly dispose of fats, oils and grease after cooking a meal, instead of rinsing these harmful contaminants down the kitchen sink. Once the fat, oil and grease has cooled in your cooking pan, you simply pour the contents into the FOG Safe Drain Guard and wait one minute while the drain guard absorbs the FOG, then you dispose of the entire drain guard into the trash. No drips, no mess.

We have had the pleasure of working with FOG Safe from the beginning. We have assisted with designs, prototyping, patents, manufacturing and distribution. Below are excerpts from the Pacific Business News article that discuss our product development assistance (read the full article here).

The Product Development Process

We had several stages of printing for prototyping. I worked with a local product development company, 3D Innovations, through the process. He had resources for using the [3D] printer, so after coming up with designs and going through the process, the finished product is very different than the original idea.

Deciding on a Manufacturer

3D Innovations assisted with sourcing and manufacturing. We looked at several locations, we tried the U.S., and eventually we went overseas. We looked at a lot of paper pulp manufacturers and settled on doing it in China. In order for the product to work and relieve the problem, its gotta be worth it for the consumer. People are not going to want to spend a lot, so we needed to keep the cost down as much as possible.

Then there was the whole tooling process, which is preparing the molds — it’s another upfront cost that comes right out of pocket. We have to provide the schematics for the tooling, and once we approve it it’s all on us, we pay that amount even if that mold doesn’t work, so it’s a bit of a gamble. So we have to be 100 percent, and that’s where the 3D printing comes in. We do the printing, and the manufacturer uses those to make the mold.

Patenting FOG Safe Drain Guards

I have five issued patents. It started with getting a patent attorney and doing a patent search. The hope is that whatever they find is different enough in design, and we felt it was worth the try and we were different.

For my first patent to get issued was well over 24 months, probably closer to 30 months. After that, there were deviations of the design. One of the challenges of an inventor is that you can’t come up with a single design, there needs to be variations, because someone can easily copy off of your original design work. And the patent office is very particular, you can’t be broad, you have to be very specific on a type of design. You can’t just think in one dimension, you have to think about how this can be manipulated and changed. It’s a collaboration between the engineer, myself and my attorney, everyone having input.

Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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New Partnership with the Hawaii State Bar Association

hawaii state bar association, hsba, 3d innovations, partnership, hawaii, product developmentWe are excited to announce a new partnership — 3D Innovations has partnered with the Hawaii State Bar Association. HSBA members have access to a range of discounted products and services throughout Hawaii with their “HSBA Member Benefits”.

3D Innovations (New Member Benefit)
Have a new product that you want to develop?  Let 3D Innovations help you develop your new idea.  3D Innovations provides Product Development Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. We provide 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping services to quickly validate designs and make improvements for production manufacturing. Experience the benefits of 3D Design and see how 3D Innovations can develop innovative solutions to engineer, design, and manufacture your product.

Members will receive a 15% discount when they present their bar card. Click here for more information.

View other business partners and service providers on the Hawaii State Bar Association website.

Have questions about our new partnership with HSBA? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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What to Expect from Your First Product Development Meeting

product development, hardware startupsComing up with a product idea is exciting, but making the decision to pursue and develop it, is truly exhilarating. Many first-time entrepreneurs want to jump right in and get to work building their product, only to realize that they may not have the exact skillset necessary to develop the product all the way. This is where a product development firm is brought in to aid in the process. It can be nerve-wracking sharing your idea with someone else, and we all like to have a general idea of what we can expect in initial meetings.

While each product development firm has their own template for initial meetings. You can expect a variance on the below.

Get to Know You

Just as you are eager to get to know the product designer, they are eager to know more about you. This goes beyond your product—they want to know the backstory of how your product idea came-to-be. They want to know what you are passionate about. They want to know your skillset, where do you excel (sales, marketing, accounting)? This information will allow them to get a better idea on where their services will be utilized the most efficiently.

Discuss Your Product Idea

In your first meeting you are going to want to get as detailed as possible when discussing your product idea. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.

Talk About the Product Development Timeline

While TV and the internet can make you believe that products are designed, manufactured and launched overnight, this isn’t how it works. Developing a product takes time. While the exact amount of time to develop your product depends on the idea and the intricacies of it—in general expect to be spending weeks to months on product development.

 Discuss Your Intellectual Property Strategy

Just like you, product development firms want to make sure your product is protected from copycats, so they will want to discuss IP and what your initial feelings on it are.

Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.

Have questions about developing a product idea? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

Additional Information about Product Development

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Intellectual Property Protection for Hardware Startups

intellectual propertyNavigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?

With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.

Below are links to help you get familiar with intellectual property terminology, resources, and strategies.

Intellectual Property Strategies for Hardware Startups

Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Here are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.

FAQ: The Basics of Intellectual Property and Manufacturing

No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.

On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.

The Benefits of a Provisional Patent Application for Your Hardware Startup

A provisional patent application early-on can be very beneficial for a hardware startup if your business goal is to either license your invention or proceed with a patent filing.

How to Prepare for Your First Patent Attorney Meeting

If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea.

Navigating IP on the Path to Commercialization

Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.

General Information Concerning Patents (USPTO)

Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.

Have additional questions regarding an intellectual property strategy for your startup? We are happy to help. Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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