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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.
Protecting intellectual property (IP) is important to any business, but especially so when you are launching a startup. Often your IP’s security can mean the difference between a viable business and a startup failure. That is why protecting your IP during the manufacturing phase of product development is critically important. Below we examine the IP security pros and cons of domestic v. international manufacturing for your hardware startup.
When it comes to manufacturing your product in the U.S. there are many benefits, such as: ease of access, clear communication, fast fulfillment, reduced shipping fees and IP security.
When you hold a patent in the United States and decide to also manufacture here, you are guaranteed a certain level of security that your startup’s IP won’t be stolen. However, if for some reason this security breaks down, you have legal recourse for the damages.
When it comes to manufacturing your product abroad there are certain advantages that can make monetary sense for your startup: reduced costs, high-volume capacity and increased manufacturer partner options. However, IP protection is not one of the benefits.
If your invention is protected in the U.S. with a patent, trademark or copyright, these protections are not guaranteed overseas. Patenting an invention in the U.S. is not necessarily quick and it can be costly—the same goes for international patents. Often startups don’t have the funds to allocate to international patent protection. However, there are other ways to protect your IP in a foreign market.
A well written and carefully constructed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can protect IP from the onset. Clauses covering IP security can be included to establish clear ownership.
Restricting the number of individuals that have access to your product’s IP and conducting background checks on key personnel can help keep your IP safeguarded. Encrypting all digital files and communication that contain IP is another measure you can take to protect it.
You can transfer some of your IP risk by acquiring insurance. Intellectual Property Insurance typically protects against the significant legal costs that will need to be paid if an organization pursues its IP claims through the court system. It can cover both enforcing and defending claims. (Source: Trade Ready)
As President Lincoln once remarked, the patent system adds “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” IP rights, which include patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights play an essential role in monetizing innovation. (Inc.)
Have additional IP and manufacturing related questions? 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.
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
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional Intellectual Property Articles from 3D Innovations
When you are ready to take your prototype and turn it into a real-world product, be sure that your 3D design files are also ready to go. A CAD file is either a digital 2D or 3D model of your product. When you start reaching out to manufacturers, most of the time they will ask to see your 3D design before moving forward with a manufacturing consultation and quote. “Without some idea of size, number of cavities, complexity, shape, and design, a manufacturer cannot accurately advise on the manufacturability of your product or help you choose the right materials and color.” (Extreme Molding)
Making sure that the manufacturer has the most detailed information possible about your product helps ensure that you are receiving an accurate quote and that there are fewer potential manufacturing issues down the road.
“Not only does a CAD file help save time when figuring out all the finer details of a part by looking at the 3D model, but it also allows a model to be magnified and even rotate on any axis to get a full three-dimensional concept of the part, which allows the manufacturer a greater sense of the product. It can even reveal internal features of a part if it cannot be seen clearly on a manufacturing drawing. Aside from these benefits, using CAD makes it possible to simulate the movement of a part through production processes.” (Vista Industrial)
“CAD files enables the manufacturer to check tool paths before any material is cut. The ability to run a simulation and so verify the complete machining process in a virtual environment is critical for keeping waste and scrap to a minimum. This may be crucial on some jobs, such as those using expensive alloys, large material-intensive components, or for those with complex geometry. Other verification advantages that result from less scrap include less energy consumption and reduced tool wear.
CAD simulations also enable you and the manufacturer to identify how long the production run time will take. Clearly this is useful for scheduling, as well as the planning of throughput, material supply and delivery. As the 3D model is the source of the manufacturing data, the design intent is preserved, and the dimensional accuracy is retained.” (Advice Manufacturing)
If your product design needs to be adjusted to meet design or manufacturing needs, this can easily be accomplished within a digital CAD file. Since the CAD files are transferred electronically, you are assured that both you, your product design team and the manufacturer all have the same information moving forward.
“CAD systems also facilitate communication among those involved in design, manufacturing, and other processes. This is of particular importance when one firm contracts another to either design or produce a component.” (Inc.)
In today’s manufacturing environment, CAD files are a necessity. A 3D design allows you to evaluate the form, fit, and functionality of your product. The design will also verify tolerance, loads, stresses and optimize manufacturability. If you plan on filing for IP rights or patent protection, a CAD file will help clearly communicate the design to your attorney and those reviewing your patent application.
Have additional product development questions? Please send them our way, email@example.com
Whether you are considering having your product manufactured in your home country or overseas, you need to take into account the benefits and disadvantages of each before reaching a final decision. Each item on your list should be weighed based on your startup’s goals, mission, customers and timeline. Below you will find a preliminary pros and cons list to help you get started.
Ultimately the decision to manufacture either domestically or internationally is based on your budget, timeline and customer preferences. With our heightened political climate and a shift in attitude, many people now prefer to buy products that are made in the U.S., and are willing to pay more for these products.
Do you have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
Recently 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).
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
We are sharing product case studies over on the 3D Innovations website. Within these case studies you will see the type of projects we have partnered on and how customers have leveraged our design and manufacturing expertise to reduce time to market. (Note: This is a small sample of our client projects, as many projects are required to stay confidential.)
The case studies on our website are from a range of industries. Below you can see some of the industries we support and have experience working with.
Developing ideas from concept to product is where our expertise shines. With a knowledgeable team, we help bring products from initial concept to store shelves.
3D Innovations provides product development services assisting companies with all stages of development. Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. Using our experience in Design for Manufacturing (DFM) processes, we develop custom solutions for clients that accelerate their commercialization activities.
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.
Interested in learning more about our product development process? Send us an email at email@example.com or give us a call 1.808.722.8667 so that we can schedule a meeting to talk about your project’s individual needs and requirements.
Finding the right product development firm is a big step when it comes to developing your product idea. If you’re trying to decide on whether to work with a product development company, let us help clear up three common misconceptions that many first-time entrepreneurs often have.
False. While some product development companies may focus on one or two areas of product development, there are others that can help you from idea to commercialization. Having a product development team in place through commercialization means that there won’t be any interruption in the product development process. A full-service product development firm is invested in the success of your product and wants to see it on store shelves just as much as you do.
False. Often a product development firm is exactly what you need when it comes to intellectual property. Line drawings are necessary for design and utility patents, and your product development partner can produce these for your patent application. Also, experienced development firms work with IP attorneys and will be able to help answer or questions or setup meetings with experienced attorneys.
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.
False. Successful product development companies have spent years honing their process. They have guidelines and clear steps in place to develop great products. With this knowledge and experience, they should be able to guide you around common pitfalls, in turn saving you both time and money.
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.