I’m frequently asked how to identify inventions during product development or after a new product is finished. Here are three things to consider when looking for inventions.
1. What are the key features or benefits of your new product that distinguish it from other products in the market? For example, does your new product automate processes or provide other benefits to the user that are difficult to obtain with other products (from competitors). What features do your customers “love” or get rave reviews? These distinguishing features do not have to be revolutionary ideas – most inventions are incremental improvements. For example, I recently worked with a company that automates many of the steps for printing custom documents with specialized bindings. The individual steps have been done by other companies (manually), but my client was able to automate the process which eliminates many printing errors, saves money (fewer human hours), and speeds up the process (by eliminating human delays). This automation of document printing systems can be patented.
2. What obstacles/problems have you encountered when developing your new product? Often, the solutions to those obstacles/problems are inventions. If there was a simple solution, it would likely have been easy to find. If there isn’t an off-the-shelf solution, then you may have an invention that can be protected with a patent.
3. What new services or activities are made possible by your new product (that were not previously available or not possible)? Does your system create new types of activities that were never offered before? For example, if you automate several processes, what new activities or categories of services are now available? In the printing example I mentioned above, the company is using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to optimize the layout, organization and binding of each print project. The AI algorithms allow the system to learn from previous print projects and continually improve. This type of detailed analysis and data tracking was not feasible for humans to handle (too much data to analyze manually), so AI is creating a new category of printing service. These types of inventions should be evaluated for patent protection.
Keep these three topics in mind as you develop new projects and set aside time after a project is finished to identify critical inventions in that project. These inventions are valuable and may give you a competitive advantage with your new product.
Do you have questions about how to protect your inventions? I can help.
Apply for a complimentary Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy Session where we will review your current IP situation and identify actions you can take to build or strengthen your IP protection.