Posts Tagged "IP"

Hardware Entrepreneurs: A Big Picture Mentality

hardware, startups, product design, technology, small business, hawaiiWhen it comes to developing a hardware product, it is easy to get bogged down in the design details during product development. While the details certainly do matter, if you focus solely on them from the start it could spell trouble for your startup later on. Having a big picture mentality allows you to get a complete grasp on product development as well as other major decision milestones, such as: manufacturing, sales, partnerships and marketing.

Developing a Preliminary Design Plan

Planning ahead is always a good idea when it comes to building a hardware product and launching a startup. A preliminary design plan is a good first step to help you get a firm grasp on the “big picture”. With a preliminary design you clarify budgets and timelines—which leads to better decision making as you head towards commercialization.

“A preliminary design (pre-design) focuses solely on the decisions that impact the big picture for your product. This includes your product’s cost, profit margin, performance, features, development feasibility and manufacturability. A pre-design ignores any details that don’t impact the big picture for your product. You can worry about those later. After you complete the pre-design you need to accurately estimate all of the costs required to launch your product. This includes the cost to develop, prototype, certify, scale, and most importantly the cost to manufacture your product. Knowing these costs ahead of time will allow you to plan the best strategy forward” (Predictable Designs).

The Benefits of Planning Ahead for Your Hardware Startup

By starting with a preliminary design, you will be able to focus on the big picture and the overarching goals you have established for your startup, as well as:

  • Make informed financial decisions;
  • Talk knowledgably with potential investors;
  • Have a clear idea on your development and product launch timeline;
  • Develop a product that is manufacturable;
  • Understand your break-even point and at what point your startup begins to make a profit;
  • Build a realistic business plan.

Take the time now to plan ahead—your startup will thank you in the end.

Have questions about your preliminary design plan? We are happy to help. Please 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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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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The Secret to Hardware Startup Success (Isn’t Such a Secret)

hardware startup, product designWe don’t often like to disappoint our hardware startup friends, in fact our entire business is built around making our clients happy by exceeding expectations. When it comes to the secret of hardware startup success, however, we don’t have some profound hidden away piece knowledge to impart upon you, in fact, we bet this secret is something that you have heard at least a hundred times. Maybe you jotted down a quick reference note for it or maybe it went in one ear and out the other. This secret gets thrown around in conversations and presentations, but it is not always given the respect it deserves or the attention it needs. The secret we are referring to is “find a solution to a common problem experienced by many”.

We bet you just read that sentence and thought to yourself, “Yes, I have definitely heard that before”. The thing about the secret to startup success, is that it is not a secret at all. We work with countless hardware entrepreneurs that have an abundance of product ideas, and often one of our first pieces of advice comes in the form of two questions, “What problem are you solving?” and “What segment of the population faces this problem regularly?” The answers to these questions can help determine if your product idea is poised for success.

If you are currently mulling a product idea around in your head and deciding if it is worthy to pursue, ask yourself the following three questions.

Do you personally experience this issue?

If you are personally experiencing this issue, there is a good chance that others are as well. Casually ask friends and family if they notice this problem and if they have ever thought of a solution to it. You might be surprised at how many people experience this issue, but have probably just decided that “this is the way it is” and haven’t given any real thought to a solution.

Can you act quickly?

The thing with startups, is that they can, on average, act quickly and pivot just as fast. Large corporations undoubtedly have the funds, but moving fast is not something they can do. So are you in a position in which you can quickly and efficiently design a solution and launch it into the marketplace? Moving fast gives you a head start, and often, it is before the big industry players even notice the problem.

Do you have the right skills to succeed?

Do you have the skillset necessary to act quickly? Think about your network, do you know others that can help or offer advice as you get going? Keep in mind that no one has all the skills necessary to succeed. This is what teams and product development partnerships are for. Understanding your skills and limitations will help you know where you need assistance and where you can take on a majority of the responsibilities.

Have additional questions about developing and launching a product into the marketplace? 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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Intellectual Property Strategies for Hardware Startups

intellectual propertyIntellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Technology and globalization have made it even easier for companies to copy a product or steal an idea altogether.

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. Having a strong intellectual property strategy or having the patent process started, is a great way to attract or solidify partnerships and funding.

Below are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.

File Early-On

Patent rules are strict and adhere to a tight timeline, so it is best to file for patent protection early-on in the development cycle. A provisional patent application is a good “first step” for hardware startups. A provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a later filed nonprovisional patent application. It also allows the term “Patent Pending” to be applied in connection with the description of the invention.

It is important to note that a “provisional application for patent has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed. The 12-month pendency period cannot be extended. Therefore, an applicant who files a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application for patent (nonprovisional application) during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application (United States Patent and Trademark Office -USPTO).” Once you file a provisional application the countdown clock starts ticking and your next move must be decided within the 12-month period.

In this early period, it is also best to keep quiet about your invention. You want to avoid publicizing your invention. This does not mean that you cannot meet with potential partners or product development firms, but instead that you don’t want to share your idea online or start a crowdfunding campaign just yet.

File as the Invention Evolves

Many times the invention that you first envisioned, completely transforms during the product development process. This means that your initial patent or patent application may not cover new features that have been added on. This will leave your final product under-protected or not protected at all.

If the product is evolving quickly, consider filing a provisional patent application or a series of provisional patent applications within a year before filing a utility patent application.

Consider a Design Patent

While utility patents make up 90% of patents issued, design patents have been steadily on the rise because inventors are realizing that the exterior design and overall aesthetics of the invention can easily be replicated as well. Protecting both the design and functionality of an invention is necessary for long-term success.

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture”. In short, this means that design patents cover exactly what is shown in the drawings, nothing more.

Like a utility patent, a design patent also lets you use the phrases patent pending and patent issued on all business-related material. Once you have been granted a design patent, you are then able to secure rights for the next fourteen years. Another important thing to keep in mind is that design patents are relatively cheap to file and maintain, as compared to a utility patent.

A design patent, coupled with a utility patent, offers a range of IP protection on both the inner workings and exterior design of your product.

Consider Other Brand Protections

Patent protection is only one part of your IP strategy. A registered trademark will help protect your brand as well. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from another—think along the lines of logo and tagline. A recognizable trademark can be extremely valuable for distinguishing your business from the competition.

Depending on the exact nature of your startup, a licensing agreement, copyright and/or trade secret protection could also be considered during your intellectual property planning and overall strategy. Speaking to a Patent Attorney early-on will let you discuss your options, weigh the benefits and build a custom strategy for your startup.

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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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Product Design: Custom Electronic Sensor [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Develop and prototype a custom circuit sensor application.

3D Innovations was contacted to assist in the product design and development of a custom circuit board sensor device prototype. The exact application was to measure specific amounts of units through an on board sensor that would store and transmit the data to a cloud storage system.

custom circuit board design

Using the client’s requirements, the 3D Innovations team was able to produce a schematic design to develop the circuit layout and determine Bill of Materials (BOM) requirements and the associated cost. Gerber files were generated and used for the manufacturing process. While the option of 3D printing the circuits was available, the conventional method for fabrication and assembly was utilized.

Integrating best practices for PCB design, development cost was reduced by 230% and prototypes were built in several weeks, saving 3-4 weeks in lead time. UL and FCC certifications were conducted to ensure testing compliance and approval. A production ready design was then delivered for manufacturing.

Results: A product ready design was delivered for manufacturing, while development costs were reduced by 230%, saving 3-4 weeks in lead time.

“Working with 3D Innovations, our sensor device was able to come to life and allowed for a quicker market introduction.”

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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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Product Design: FOG Safe [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Design and development of a prototype mold for final product testing and market integration.

The FOG Safe is an environmentally conscious product designed to keep fat, oil and grease from drains and ultimately our environment. By reducing fat, oil and grease waste material from our drains, we not only greatly reduce our carbon footprint, but protect our landfills, gardens, water sources, streams and oceans from harmful chemicals. With this waste reduction goal in mind, the FOG Safe was created.

FOG_Safe grease catchment_product design

Using our product design and 3D Printing process, prototype molds were created to produce a low volume quantity for final testing and marketing integration. The data obtained during this testing phase has allowed FOG Safe to receive several patents and other IP protections for the product. Utilizing 3D printed molds, as compared to traditional molding materials, saved our client more than $8,000 in tooling expenses and reduced the product development time from months to weeks.

Results: By creating less expensive tooling we were able to save our client over $8,000 in tooling expenses. The functional prototype has been effective in conducting testing and developing use cases. The overall product development cycle was reduced by months using 3D Printing technology over aluminum or steel molds during the prototyping phase.

With the assistance from 3D Innovations, a prototype part and tooling was able to be developed in a much shorter time period than traditional manufacturing and mold making methods. The assistance they provided helped to produce a design that was used for manufacturing, patent applications, and packaging design.”

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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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Product Design: Making Dental Care Fun [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Develop a product that makes dental care fun for children.

When SmileyRides™ approached our 3D Innovations team, the startup had an overarching goal: Make dental care fun and interactive for children, while promoting life long healthy oral hygiene habits. With an idea and rough sketch in hand, we were able to take our client’s vision and turn it into a functional prototype for product testing, manufacturing and patenting.

smileyrides dental product designAfter assessing this project we knew that 3D Design and 3D Printing technology would be the most flexible method for producing this product. 3D Printing is significantly cheaper than traditional manufacturing methods and with this savings, we were able to product multiple prototype concepts for consumer testing. Having these prototypes to validate the design and hand out to their target market for testing proved to be invaluable.

With our digital design process, we were able quickly produce mock-ups and validate the design, which helped reduce the product development timeline by two months. The detailed design we provided was manufacture ready and provided a seamless transition into the production manufacturing stage. Utilizing 3D Printing technology resulted in a cost savings of over $10,000 in machining and mold expenses.

Results: A functional prototype was developed using digital design and 3D printing technology, which resulted in a cost savings of over $10,000.

“3D Innovations is nothing short of amazing. From my initial consultation of an idea I had in my head and a novice drawing, they were able to bring my idea to reality better than I could have ever hoped for. 3D Innovations was detailed in every aspect, produced everything in a prompt, professional manner, and was extremely knowledgeable about the processes and the products. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have been able to get my business to where it is today without them. 3D Innovations is invaluable to me. They answered all my questions no matter how small or how big. 3D Innovations produces top of the line quality and is a pleasure to work with.

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Product Design: GoPro Mount Accessory [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Develop a hands-free GoPro mount accessory.

Our 3D Innovations team worked closely with a group of young entrepreneurs during Startup Weekend Honolulu 2015 in the product design and development of a hands-free GoPro mount accessory. With only 54 hours to develop and prototype the idea, time was of the essence.

go pro accessoryThe initial concept was to develop a clip that would attach a Go Pro camera to the front of your hat for hands free video action shots. Using our 3D Design process, we were able to take the initial idea and develop a functional design. Numerous factors needed to be accounted for throughout the product design phasesize, weight and materials. 3D Printing technology was utilized to accommodate the rapid product development cycle. Several versions of the prototype were produced in a short period of time, which allowed the team to test and conduct customer validation studies.

With the final design, this accessory can now replace over a dozen mounts for GoPros, iPhones, audio recorders and lights. The easy to use and compact hands-free mount design makes it easy to take along on your next adventure.

Using our 3D Design and 3D Printing process, we were able to save over $4,000 in prototyping costs while reducing the development time from weeks or months to just days. The utilization of 3D printing technology led to significant cost savings, which allowed the team to develop several versions that were validated through the customer discovery process and led to the final production-ready design.

Results: Designed and developed a functional prototype in 54 hours.

“Working with 3D Innovations allowed us to turn our concept into a prototype and help win the 2015 Startup Weekend Honolulu event. With the assistance from 3D Innovations, we have a concept that can be brought to life through crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. This will help us raise the necessary funds to mass produce this product.”

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Hardware Startups: Can I Patent My Invention?

August 29, 2016
3D Innovations

IP_patentA patent for your invention is useful, in that it gives you exclusive rights to the idea/product (for twenty years), allows you to license the invention and provides a strong market position. However, to obtain a patent your invention must meet certain criteria. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself in determining whether your invention is patentable.

  1. Did you invent it? A patent can only be applied for by the actual inventor or co-inventor. If you were not the inventor, but contributed financially, you will not be able to patent the product on your own. If the inventor was employed by another person or company to develop the invention, the patent will still be issued under the inventor’s name. However, ownership of the patent will be with the employer.
  2. Is your invention useful? Under U.S. law the invention must be “useful” to be eligible for protection. To meet this requirement the product must provide some benefit and is capable of use. It is important to note that most inventions meet this criteria.
  3. Is your invention “non-obvious”? If your product is already common knowledge in its field, then it would not meet this requirement. This determination is made by deciding whether the invention sought to be patented would have been obvious “to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains”. Determination of whether a particular change or improvement is “obvious” is one of the most difficult determinations in patent law.
  4. Does it fall under a patentable category? Patents are available for processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and improvements to any of those classes. If your idea is in regards to laws of nature, physical phenomena, abstract ideas or non-useful objects, it will not be eligible for a patent.
  5. Has your invention been disclosed to the public? If so, your invention will not be patentable. This requirement states that your idea must be “new” and not discussed publicly prior to the date of the filing. If you invention has been made available for public use or disclosed in a prior patent application it will not be eligible for a patent.

Have additional questions regarding the patent process? We highly recommend a visit to the USPTO website. We are also able to help answer any questions you may have, please e-mail them 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.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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