Inventing for Money - Step 3

Prototype: Build a model or mock-up

In order to profit from your invention, you need to make others understand and, if possible, use the completed product. Remember, the value of your invention is proportional to the number of people who benefit from it. It must make the transition from “It looks good on paper” to “Wow! It really works!”

Sadly, this is the step in the process where many inventors get derailed.
In the early days, you could not get a patent without providing a physical sample or model of the invention. But in 1880 the USPTO changed the rules and no longer required a physical model of the device. Today, the patent application must contain sufficient disclosure to enable one of ordinary skill in the industry to make or practice the invention without undue experimentation. Thus, the invention must have enough specificity of design that an enabling disclosure can be prepared.

For Licensing, You Need A Working Model

While you do not need a physical prototype to secure a utility patent, you must have one if you hope to license or manufacture your device. The prototype is essential for several reasons.

  • It provides a three-dimensional physical representation of your two-dimensional drawings and/or photos.
  • It proves that your invention can be built and can work.
  • It gives a licensee the opportunity to envision manufacturing, packaging, and shipping your invention.

The key is that a prototype is worth a thousand dreams. Here’s what you need to do.

1. Make the prototype
If you are unable to do so yourself, you should hire a model maker to make a couple of prototypes of your invention. If at all possible, make at least three copies of the model, or if the invention is inexpensive make a dozen or so in different versions, as appropriate.

A quick online search will connect you with a variety of companies that specialize in helping inventors to create working models of their inventions. If you decide to partner with an inventors’ resource company, make sure that your invention is legally protected with a provisional patent and a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and make sure that you get a guaranteed quote with no hidden costs. 

2. Protect your prototype
Once the prototype(s) are ready, you should make or buy cases for them to facilitate travel and display. Ideally, these should be hard plastic cases filled with foam rubber, cut so as to securely hold the prototypes in place. These will prove useful when you find yourself travelling to business meetings to pitch and demonstrate your invention to investors.

3. Photographs
Take high-resolution color photographs of the prototype. Take photos from every angle, and if there is a lid or other removable part, remove that part and show the revealed interior. You will use these as part of the presentation packet that you send out to buyers.


Previous step | Next step