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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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
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.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a technology that has expanded product design possibilities and manufacturing capabilities. While 3D printing can certainly help as you work your way through the product development process, it also has its limitations. Below are a few factors to help you determine if 3D printing is a good fit for your next project.
3D printing is an excellent option for initial prototypes. You can get a physical prototype in hours, refine the design and print again. It will take a few iterations to get it just how you are imagining it. Startups all over the globe are now turning towards additive manufacturing technology at various stages of product development—low cost and quick turnaround times make it ideal for budget conscious hardware startups.
Eventually you will want to build a functional prototype for design validation and testing, and additive manufacturing can help with this as well.
One of the primary advantages of 3D printing is that you can break traditional manufacturing barriers with your product design. With 3D printing technology, complex geometries, internal features and built-in interlocking objects with no assembly required are all possible. With these additional design capabilities, additive manufacturing creates new product design opportunities.
Gathering customer feedback during the product development process is always a good idea. Show potential customers your product design, let them hold it, test it and then incorporate their feedback. Remember that the feedback is going to help you build the product customers want, so the design will most likely change a bit to accommodate customer needs. Additive manufacturing allows you to quickly print a visual prototype that you can show to your target market for feedback. You can quickly incorporate their feedback and print another prototype.
3D printing isn’t quite at the mass manufacturing scale yet, but it can certainly help with small batch manufacturing. If you need just a few parts or pieces for a project, 3D printing can certainly be of assistance.
Customization is the “sweet spot” for additive manufacturing. The automobile, aerospace and dental industries have been utilizing 3D printing’s customization ability for years now. If you need a one-off customized part, 3D printing will most likely provide you with the quickest turnaround and best cost efficiency—depending on size of course.
Additive manufacturing is constantly evolving and so are its capabilities. As design software advances and material selection increases, 3D printing will continue to shift the manufacturing landscape and prove that it is a very useful tool for professionals and makers alike.
Are you still not sure if 3D printing is right for your project? Go ahead and send us an email, email@example.com so we can talk further about your design and manufacturing needs.
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
The month of December is often a quiet time for businesses, and yes, even hardware startups. Right now, businesses everywhere are working to close out 2018, finalizing budgets and forecasts for 2019 as well as taking time off to enjoy the holidays. Your emails are going to receive a higher than average, “Out of Office” reply and your voicemail messages will take a bit longer to be responded to—it’s the December lull. The next two weeks tend to be quiet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make this time useful. Below are four ways hardware startups can use holiday “downtime” to their advantage.
If you are just getting off the ground, you are going to need to start this. However, if your hardware startup is up and going, you will want to refine this. Either way, a Product Requirements Document (PRD), is good for business. According to Bolt VC, a PRD adds a tons of value in a few strategic areas: aligning your team, seeing around corners and constraining the design.
Professional Tip: Don’t let your PRD become too cumbersome, the documents that are short and direct are often the most beneficial.
Products don’t sell themselves. Maybe you had some buzz around your crowdfunding campaign, you beat your funding goal and now you believe that your product will be flying off shelves—wrong. You need a marketing strategy. Whether you are a one-man operation or there are a handful of people working on your startup—your hardware startup needs a go-to market strategy. Top hardware startups have a solid marketing strategy that is easily communicated.
Professional Tip: This Forbes Marketing Plan template is an oldie but goodie. It has amassed almost four million views since 2013. It’s a clear marketing roadmap that helps you sculpt a true vision of where you see your business going.
Product development, manufacturing, distributors, retail, channel partners—all of these need to be thoroughly researched and vetted. Take these next two weeks of December to look into potential partnerships and ideal partners. Learn all you can about them, write questions down, research their past and current clients, try to schedule a meeting—all of this research and face-time will payoff.
Here are a few good business articles to consider:
Millions of people now are actively making their goals for the New Year—your hardware startup should be doing the same. Top hardware startups take time to define measurable goals. Take time to critically assess your 2018 goals—what went right, where did you misstep, where did you excel, how can you do better in 2019 and beyond? After you have gone through those goals, set new ones and make sure you have a system in place to keep you on track.
Professional Tip: Setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) goals can help you evaluate the goals you wish to set. Think about whether they are realistic. You should write down your goals in your business plan to help keep you on track to achieve them. (Australian Government—Business)
Take time now to plan ahead and align your startup up for success in the New Year.
It’s no secret that additive manufacturing, commonly referred to as 3D printing, is transforming the business landscape. Within the last decade we have witnessed this technology grow into what it is today, a way to disrupt supply chains and completely innovate the manufacturing landscape—from prototyping to production.
3D printing has been a favorite tool of makers and product design professionals alike because of its quick turnaround time and the fact that it is relatively cheap compared to all other manufacturing methods. 3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review within hours, instead of weeks. While prototyping is where additive manufacturing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find its way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.
Our design team regularly uses additive manufacturing technology during the product development cycle when we are working with entrepreneurs and startups on prototyping and finalizing a product design. 3D printing technology is still growing and maturing, it seems that every week new filaments are being developed and new uses for the technology are being discussed. However, as the technology stands today, its strength, its competitive advantage and its usefulness remain in the realm of prototyping. Visual and functional prototyping are imperative when designing a product and this is where 3D printing excels.
When it comes to manufacturing, 3D printing technology has an advantage on short-runs, however, at this time, it is not able to compete with other traditional forms on a mass-manufacturing scale.
Due to the speed, quality and cost of additive manufacturing, “the technology is best suited for the production of specialty parts in smaller batches, rather than mass-manufactured goods. However, there is an industry shift towards expanding 3D printing technology to take a more prominent role in mass manufacturing. This technology brings some important qualities to the world of manufacturing that make it ideal for certain jobs. For instance, parts can have complex geometries impossible with traditional manufacturing processes. It is also possible to 3D print goods on demand, allowing for easy creation of custom parts” (Engineering.com).
The 3D printing metal segment is making great strides towards high volume manufacturing and McKinsey forecasts the industry to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030 to 2035. Read more about developments in the metal 3D printing segment on our blog.
At 3D Innovations, we offer 3D printing services to a range of startups, businesses and makers. If you have a design ready to be printed, and would like a quote, please visit our 3D Printing Quote Request page. We have made the quote process quick and easy. Whether you need a prototype or a short manufacturing run, we can help.
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