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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.
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.
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.
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.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
When it comes to hardware product development you are sure to have a lot of questions. The path to success is not linear with any business, and hardware products are no exception. For first-time entrepreneurs, we have gathered some of our most popular hardware product development posts that give insight into the first stages of development along with tips and suggestions.
We recommend starting slow, so that you aren’t overwhelmed, and building a support system to help encourage you and keep you focused. If you plan on developing a hardware product, below are actionable items to keep you on track so that you are successful.
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.
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.
The key to a successful product launch and sustainable business success, is knowing the market segment you are launching your product into. An understanding of the market will provide insight into the competition, best distribution methods, customer acquisition and manufacturing methodology.
When it comes to marketing your new hardware product, our best piece of advice is to start early. If you wait until your product is being manufactured, you are late to the game. Starting early, means that marketing and product testing often go hand-in-hand. You will simultaneously be able to gather feedback during your hardware product development stages, while also making your target market aware that it will be available to them soon.
A product development firm should be your partner in this startup journey. Having a great product idea is exciting — executing that idea though can be a bit tricky since the road to product commercialization to fraught with obstacles. Often, startup founders turn to a product development firm to help make their idea a reality.
Don’t let the notion that hardware is hard stop you from pursuing your dream of building a product and launching your startup. With the right information and secure partnerships, successful hardware product development is possible and the time to start is now.
Have any additional questions about hardware product development? We can help. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Save the date for the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire on June 22nd. The event will take place at the ‘Iolani School from 12pm to 5pm. This is a great family event and a chance to see what the local maker community is working on.
Our President, Collin Kobayashi, will be at our 3D Innovations booth answering your 3D printing, prototyping and product commercialization questions. This is a great chance to talk with Collin about the product development process and learn more about what it takes to bring a product to life.
A Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these “makers” to show hobbies, experiments, projects.
We call it the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness.
Tickets to the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire are FREE, however it is recommended that you go online and reserve your tickets beforehand. Your reserved tickets will speed up the registration process and help the event estimate attendance. (Reserve your ticket here.)
WHAT I DO: I help companies in all industries bring new products to market, reduce prototyping costs, ensure requirements and quality are achieved, and develop manufacturing and go-to-market strategies.
WHY IT WORKS: I’ve spent almost 20 years in Design/Manufacturing sectors and understand the challenges and needs of companies doing R&D. Using our expertise in prototyping and manufacturing along with industry standard software and equipment, we will accelerate your development process and bring products to market faster.
HOW IT WORKS: The first step in the process is to schedule a consultation to discuss your project goals, objectives and challenges. Through this initial session, we will be able to outline a high-level strategy and plan for bringing your product to market. I’ll also make a professional recommendation for the next steps that should be taken to ensure you can take your product to market!
To learn more about the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire, head on over to the official website.
We look forward to seeing you there!
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
The startup mindset is a powerful thing. Being at the helm of a business is exhilarating—there are ups and downs but the uncertainty of it all can be quite exciting. For people with a startup mindset they find the unknown to be an exciting challenge. Often the conversation around the startup mindset is focused on how it pertains to entrepreneurs, however, this mindset can be applied to students, individuals starting a new job or those looking for a new perspective in their daily lives.
Does uncertainty motivate you? Do you like to find creative solutions to a problem? Entrepreneurs look at uncertainty as though they have control of their future. They understand the problem they are facing and take control of solving it on their terms. Often this trait can come across as unshakable confidence. Solving a tough problem to them means they are in control of their future.
Children and students are great at asking ‘why?’, but as adults our constant curiosity can slowly diminish. The fear of the unknown can cause us to look for certainty in all situations. With a startup mindset our curiosity is reinvigorated. This mindset allows us to constantly ask questions and ultimately shake up entire industries by developing revolutionary ideas and businesses.
“That is just the way things are done” does not work with a startup mindset. Established wisdom does not mean that is how it must be done going forward. “Disruptive success comes from thinking in a different way than others have done, not just from following in their footsteps.” (Brainscape)
Starting a business is a risk—it is both a financial and time commitment risk. People with a startup mindset look at risk as an opportunity to create something bigger than themselves. No business is guaranteed success, and in many cases, failure is more likely. However, the challenge of launching and scaling a business is a risk worth taking for those with the right mindset.
Mistakes are part of being human, it is how we learn from them that sets us apart. Roadblocks during product development, manufacturing and product launches are all normal. How we decide to tackle these roadblocks is what matters. As we have all heard time and again, often we can learn more from failure than we can from success.
These are five elements of a startup mindset that you can take with you into any school, career or startup. The flexible, fast-moving and curiosity-driven mindset of the startup world can transform your approach to every aspect of your daily life.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
A product development firm should be your partner in this startup journey. Having a great product idea is exciting—executing that idea though can be a bit tricky since the road to product commercialization to fraught with obstacles. Often, startup founders turn to a product development firm to help make their idea a reality. Here we look at ways that a product development partner can help you beyond the design and prototyping phases.
A product development firm should be by your side from idea to store shelves. Having a single team in place throughout the entire product development process means that there is less room for error and that you can count on consistency. A full-service product development firm is invested in the success of your product and wants to see it on in the hands of your customers just as much as you do.
Intellectual property is no longer a “should have”, in today’s globalized world it is a “must have”. A product development firm will be able to help you navigate the world of patents, trademarks and copyrights along with your IP attorney.
Line drawings are necessary for design and utility patents, and your product development partner can produce these for your patent application. Since product development firms work with a range of IP attorneys, they will also be able to help you connect with one that fits your specific product needs.
When it comes to licensing, your product development partner will be able to provide the technical aspects of the design to interested partners as well as their manufacturers. Licensing a product requires strategy and know-how, and this is exactly what a firm will be able to provide.
Manufacturing your hardware product is no small task. Whether you decide to manufacture at home or abroad, there are certain unavoidable challenges. A product development partner will help you navigate the manufacturing process and connect you with potential manufacturing partners.
With the assistance of a product development firm, you will be guided by knowledgeable experts throughout the entire development process. You can ask questions, share ideas and collaborate on all aspects of the product development process. A skilled product development firm will be able to guide you from design to manufacturing and beyond.
Now it’s time to get out there and meet potential product development partners. In this blog post we discuss what you can expect during your first product development meeting.
Have additional questions about product development? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Engineer Day (April 3rd) was celebrated this past week—engineers from across the globe shared projects they have worked on and gave insight into the lives of professional engineers. This upcoming week it is “Hawaii World of Work Week”, our President & Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, will be talking to students (Grades 6-12) about what it means to be a Product Development professional. These two events have us thinking about the engineering profession, the current skills gap and how we can help motivate students to get excited about the engineering field. We have been looking at past blog posts and thought that it would be a good idea to compile a list of some of our most popular STEM education posts for you.
While the focus is on educating students around the four subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—the true value of these subject areas goes far beyond an engineering career or science major. STEM education provides a solid foundation for entrepreneurship.
Where once lectures and standardized tests were the main ways to teach and test STEM knowledge, today’s teachers understand that there are better, more hands-on methods, of educating students around STEM subjects.
The way STEM education is being taught has fundamentally shifted and this change will no doubt have a major impact on our future generation of STEM professionals and business leaders.
As the cost of 3D printers has dropped significantly in recent years, more schools are able to adopt and incorporate the technology into the curriculum. 3D printing technology promotes active learning and has the power to open a world of career possibilities to students. 3D printing inspires creativity and can help encourage students to explore a career in engineering or science.
It turns out that summer is a perfect time to introduce your child to the fun side of STEM subjects. In the summer months, students have more time to focus on what really interests them. They can dig deeper into subject matter, which helps them not only grasp concepts better, but gives them a better understanding of the world around them.
Developing a curriculum that gets students fired up about engineering can be a challenge. Our 3D Academy is your STEM education partner. We specialize in developing and integrating industry technologies with STEM education and can build custom programs for your classroom or school. We understand that closing the STEM education skills gap takes effort from both academia and professionals in the field, and we are happy to work with schools to bring hands-on and project-based opportunities to students.
When it comes to marketing your new hardware product, our best piece of advice is to start early. If you wait until your product is being manufactured, you are late to the game. Starting early, means that marketing and product testing often go hand-in-hand. You will simultaneously be able to gather feedback on your new hardware product, while also making your target market aware that it will be available to them soon.
While a minimum viable product (MVP) will allow you to talk about features and show aesthetics, a functional prototype will clearly convey what your product is all about. Once you have a prototype, you then want to get it to the hands of your target market.
A focus group will let you gauge reactions and gather feedback about your hardware product. You can ask this group questions, they can share their initial reactions and then you can go back and apply any changes.
It can be hard hearing that your product isn’t perfect, but that is the beauty of feedback. With feedback early on, you can modify your design so that it better suits the needs of your target demographic. Ultimately, you want to build a product that is going to sell.
Provide your product to a small test market to have them try your product in their daily lives. Follow this up with questions/interviews to gather feedback on how your product fares.
Crowdfunding has made this very popular, but you don’t need to have a crowdfunding campaign to start taking pre-order sales. Setup an area on your website for pre-orders to see how the market is reacting to your new hardware product.
As you can see, marketing and product testing are closely related early-on in product development. While marketing looks different when you start early, it is effective at building a group of loyal followers. The people that you have testing your product, providing feedback and taking pre-order sales—are going to not only be your first customers, but they are going to want to share your product with their network.
Have additional questions about product development? We are happy to help. Please send us an email at email@example.com
The key to a successful product launch and sustainable business success, is knowing the market segment you are launching your product into. An understanding of the market will provide insight into the competition, best distribution methods, customer acquisition and manufacturing methodology. According to the popular book, “The Startup Owner’s Manual” there are three types of markets.
Entering an established market means that the competition is strong. Often the best way for a hardware startup to make a splash in this market segment is by offering a premium product. “Companies succeed by building premium brands, having sustainably better technology, or being close to their costs of production. The headphone market is a great example here: Think Beats (premium brand) vs. Bose (better tech) vs AmazonBasics (closest to costs of production).” (Bolt)
Some of the most creative products of today started in a completely new market—think Apple iPod & iPhone. While competition is low, failure rate is high. When you are the first in a new market segment you have to pioneer new distribution channels, find your customer base, work hard to establish product/market fit and educate the market. According to “The Startup Owner’s Manual”, startups in this market won’t spend heavily on marketing and sales since you are not yet sure that a customer base exists yet.
You hear the term “pivot” quite a bit regarding startups, and that is what many startups find themselves doing when entering a completely new market. Your product is very likely to change to meet consumer demands.
This is the most common market segment for startups to launch a product into. Your product will either re-segment via low cost or re-segment via niche. If you are aiming for low-cost you have a product that has less frills yet still adequately meets customer demands but at a lower price point. “In other hardware markets, startups work in product categories that users already understand, but focus on a niche that really appeals to a small subset of users.” (Bolt) With a niche product, you are aiming to launch a product that is intriguing enough for brand loyalists to switch over to your product.
When it comes to the re-segmented market, you do not have to completely educate the market since your competition has spent time doing that. However, you do have to adequately educate them as to why your product is not only different, but why they need it.
Startups that have a clear idea on the type of market segment they are entering will be in a better position when it comes time to launch their product.
Market validation is the process of determining whether your product idea is of interest to a given target market. Before you invest the time and money into developing your product, it is recommended that you validate with your target audience that this is a product that they not only like, but will buy.
Below are three ways to quickly complete the first phases of market validation to test your new product idea:
Successful competitors offer proof that demand exists. While it can often be daunting to first-time entrepreneurs, competitors validate that there is a market for your product.
When you are the first to market, you are faced with the challenge of not only selling your product, but educating your target market about the major problem as well. Established competitors have already educated the market and conducted market validation, now you get to come in and offer a new solution.
You can offer the product in a new location, market it to a new group of people, or differentiate based on features or price to carve out market share. (Entrepreneurs Handbook).
While your friends and family might find your idea cool, are they your target market? Will they be making a purchasing decision for your product? If the answer is “no” you need to reach out to your actual target market—the people you want to buy your product.
If your product is challenging to explain in a clear and concise manner, a visual prototype can really help you convey your idea. Depending on the size of your product, 3D printing technology allows you to design and print a visual prototype quickly.
The feedback from your target market is going to help you build the product customers will buy, so the design of your product will most likely change a bit to accommodate customer needs.
Google is a powerful tool and can give you a glimpse into the collective mindset of your target audience. See how frequently people are searching for the product solution you want to launch.
It will be up to you to interpret the data, but this market validation strategy is a way to see what people are looking for and the words they use to describe it.
Due diligence is crucial in entrepreneurship because it helps you avoid losing time, money, relationship capital, and confidence on a bad idea. (Entrepreneurs Handbook). These three tests are a quick way to start the market validation process, test your idea and ultimately help your startup succeed quickly.
Do you have additional product development questions? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org