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HOT TOPIC How should I do the design process?

Will-v-the-World

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I recently came up with an idea for a product that fills a need.

However, I’m confused about how I should actually design the product, since I’m not sure how it will be made (yet); I only know the problem it will be solving.

So, how do I design the product? Also, how do I know if the product’s design will work when it is used if I only have a drawing?
 

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Late Bloomer

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There are design engineers who have years of training and experience, that make them able to answer these questions. Some of them are used to building prototypes, and then transferring the design into production. Some of them are available to consult. If you have no idea at all where to start, you could be their client. You should be able to get a free short conversation that will help you understand steps, timeline, and pricing. Repeat this with a few different design consultants if you want to get a feel for the going rate.
 
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Will-v-the-World

Will-v-the-World

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There are design engineers who have years of training and experience, that make them able to answer these questions. Some of them are used to building prototypes, and then transferring the design into production. Some of them are available to consult. If you have no idea at all where to start, you could be their client. You should be able to get a free short conversation that will help you understand steps, timeline, and pricing. Repeat this with a few different design consultants if you want to get a feel for the going rate.
Where do I find them? Upwork? So they will be able to get the whole thing ready to be manufactured?
 

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I'm in an area that has a lot of light manufacturing and custom design engineering, because of a history of high tech medical entrepreneurship in the area.

Last year, I had a client who had an idea for a product that he wanted to mass product. The client hand built his prototype. He then found a design engineer who has a day job at a company that builds complex small medical devices, and who does some moonlighting. The engineer took the design, put it into the CAD/CAM system, and ran simulations showing how it could be successfully manufactured.

The key component is a plastic piece a few millimeters across. The engineer figured how it could be injection molded flat, then folded to snap together.

The delicate part was the hinge design. The software simulation is very precise. It shows how the hot molten plastic cools and shrinks over the milliseconds it takes to spread the plastic across the mold. This is the kind of thing an experienced manufacturing engineer will know needs to be accounted for in the design, but you and I don't know to even ask the question.

The engineer's bill was a few thousand dollars. Through his connections at work, he could get the molds made and some small batches of parts manufactured for another few thousand dollars. He also had connections for how to offshore the production to China so that for a few tens of thousands of dollars up front, the cost per unit would drop way down. He recommended doing the small batch locally for quick turnaround, same language and time zone, and expertise. Once the design was proven, then outsource it.

The client was working on a Kickstarter campaign to get funds for the next steps. At that point he flaked out on paying me or even talking about tasks and budget for my part of the project, so I gave up on him and don't know what happened next.

I hope this provides some useful context for you. I don't see where you're located?
 

Late Bloomer

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Yes NDA's and there was a provisional patent in place, too. The Kickstarter would have raised enough to convert that to a regular full patent.

I believe the client found the engineer through local referrals, but this is the kind of town where that can happen.
 
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Will-v-the-World

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I'm in an area that has a lot of light manufacturing and custom design engineering, because of a history of high tech medical entrepreneurship in the area.

Last year, I had a client who had an idea for a product that he wanted to mass product. The client hand built his prototype. He then found a design engineer who has a day job at a company that builds complex small medical devices, and who does some moonlighting. The engineer took the design, put it into the CAD/CAM system, and ran simulations showing how it could be successfully manufactured.

The key component is a plastic piece a few millimeters across. The engineer figured how it could be injection molded flat, then folded to snap together.

The delicate part was the hinge design. The software simulation is very precise. It shows how the hot molten plastic cools and shrinks over the milliseconds it takes to spread the plastic across the mold. This is the kind of thing an experienced manufacturing engineer will know needs to be accounted for in the design, but you and I don't know to even ask the question.

The engineer's bill was a few thousand dollars. Through his connections at work, he could get the molds made and some small batches of parts manufactured for another few thousand dollars. He also had connections for how to offshore the production to China so that for a few tens of thousands of dollars up front, the cost per unit would drop way down. He recommended doing the small batch locally for quick turnaround, same language and time zone, and expertise. Once the design was proven, then outsource it.

The client was working on a Kickstarter campaign to get funds for the next steps. At that point he flaked out on paying me or even talking about tasks and budget for my part of the project, so I gave up on him and don't know what happened next.

I hope this provides some useful context for you. I don't see where you're located?
Thank you, so should design it myself first and then get the engineer to check the design? I’m completely new to all of this, sorry if these are bad questions.

I live in a town in northeast Alabama. It’s a very small town with very little fastlane opportunity. I plan to move out if I can execute well on this product.
Not sure if LB mentioned this, but be sure to have anyone you consult with sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to protect your idea.
Thanks for mentioning that, I was just wondering about how I would protect my idea from freelancers.
 
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Thank you, so should design it myself first and then get the engineer to check the design? I’m completely new to all of this, sorry if these are bad questions.

I’m from Fort Payne, Alabama. It’s a very small town with very little fastlane opportunity. I plan to move out if I can execute well on this product.

Thanks for mentioning that, I was just wondering about how I would protect my idea from freelancers.
No protection is 100% guaranteed. For example, there are people out there who would ignore NDAs and do it anyway, assuming you wouldn't follow through legally. So ultimately, bringing in outside expertise early on is never risk-free. But you have to evaluate if the risk of outside help is offset by the efficiency gained from their help. I get the sense in your case that it is, but certainly not my place to make that assessment. Could be useful to network with people who have done similar product launches as you're planning and ask them for reputable design engineer support.
 

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Thank you, so should design it myself first and then get the engineer to check the design? I’m completely new to all of this, sorry if these are bad questions.
That's what a free conversation would be for. A freelancer should be willing to talk with you briefly and let you know if it's worth your while to even do a sketch, or just to leave it up to the engineer. The situation was different with the client I had, because he had previously made inventions. He knew how to do a lot of custom math and trial and error engineering to build his prototype design. For the new product, the patent is actually about a new application of math to manufacturing engineering. That's why I really wanted to work with him, despite some flakiness about how he does business.

Are you at all close to Huntsville? I would bet that with all the NASA work there, they would have some people or companies with the same skill set I described of the engineer here.

Check if there is a local Small Business Administration office that includes the Service Corps of Retired Executives. A SCORE consultation is totally free, the retired executives are volunteers scheduled by the SBA. That should give you some good advice on how to figure out what's next.

The other thing I'd do is to check with the closest university that has a business or manufacturing department, to find out if they have any kind of free workshops or classes about how to start a business and work with product designs. If they don't, the business librarian at the university could still probably find out if there's some kind of state program out of Huntsville to help new businesses with manufacturing setup.

If there are potential military or science applications, ask the SCORE adviser about Small Business Innovation Research grant funding.

My suggestions might not be the right people. But they'll get you closer to the right people you should talk to.
 
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That's what a free conversation would be for. A freelancer should be willing to talk with you briefly and let you know if it's worth your while to even do a sketch, or just to leave it up to the engineer. The situation was different with the client I had, because he had previously made inventions. He knew how to do a lot of custom math and trial and error engineering to build his prototype design. For the new product, the patent is actually about a new application of math to manufacturing engineering. That's why I really wanted to work with him, despite some flakiness about how he does business.

Are you at all close to Huntsville? I would bet that with all the NASA work there, they would have some people or companies with the same skill set I described of the engineer here.

Check if there is a local Small Business Administration office that includes the Service Corps of Retired Executives. A SCORE consultation is totally free, the retired executives are volunteers scheduled by the SBA. That should give you some good advice on how to figure out what's next.

The other thing I'd do is to check with the closest university that has a business or manufacturing department, to find out if they have any kind of free workshops or classes about how to start a business and work with product designs. If they don't, the business librarian at the university could still probably find out if there's some kind of state program out of Huntsville to help new businesses with manufacturing setup.

If there are potential military or science applications, ask the SCORE adviser about Small Business Innovation Research grant funding.

My suggestions might not be the right people. But they'll get you closer to the right people you should talk to.
Oh okay, that makes since. Ill try and contact some engineers asap. First I’ll do what @404profound said and make sure I only work with trustable people.

Huntsville is about and hour and a half away. Do you recommend looking for an engineer online or in the real world?

The SCORE thing sounds interesting, I’ll check and see if there are any near me.

Thank you guys for all of the advice, trying to sort it all out into actionable steps.
 

Arun Siva

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You will not find a useful Design Engineer on upwork; if this is truly an idea that you are backing and believe in strongly, its best to do all design work and prototyping communication face-to-face with an engineer or else you will waste time and money going back and forth if done online.
best to go out and network with engineers around your area. Huntsville is a manufacturing hub and there are a lot of engineers there. You can try SCORE chapter and see if they know of anyone; Feel free to PM me as I am a manufacturing and production quality consultant and specialize in dealing with various engineering professions.
 

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Thank you guys for all of the advice, trying to sort it all out into actionable steps.
I think you get to remove the "dumb question?" tag now :smile2:

You recognized that there's something you don't know about. You found a place where people are likely to know about it. You asked concisely. You followed up with relevant information. You participated in an intelligent dialogue. You're building a realistic plan before you commit a lot of time and money. That ain't dumb at all!
 

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Maybe the most important part I haven't mentioned yet is that working with a designer, you need to be specify WHAT needs to happen but not exactly HOW it should be done. The WHAT is your job to provide as client. The HOW is their job to provide as the expert.

To make up an example, suppose we need to remove two inches of water every hour, the material has to be made of plastic for light weight, and the project might get cold enough to freeze water but not hot enough to boil water. Don't assume this has to mean gutters, or a pump, or an umbrella... let the designer guide you to get specific one step at a time.

There may be a whole other way to handle water that you don't even know about. Maybe bamboo is just as lightweight, and recyclable. Maybe they'll put in a heater that boils the water away. Maybe they'll add a turbine so the water actually powers the site instead of having to get rid of it. Let them add their knowledge and creativity!

its best to do all design work and prototyping communication face-to-face with an engineer or else you will waste time and money going back and forth if done online.
Or at least a video chat. If you can't gesture and point, it's hard to communicate a design idea when there aren't full drawings yet.

Thanks a lot for joining the discussion, Arun. Is there anything important to add to the overview I provided? I think this thread might turn into a useful reference for other forum members who need to work with a design engineer.
 
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Will-v-the-World

Will-v-the-World

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Maybe the most important part I haven't mentioned yet is that working with a designer, you need to be specify WHAT needs to happen but not exactly HOW it should be done. The WHAT is your job to provide as client. The HOW is their job to provide as the expert.

To make up an example, suppose we need to remove two inches of water every hour, the material has to be made of plastic for light weight, and the project might get cold enough to freeze water but not hot enough to boil water. Don't assume this has to mean gutters, or a pump, or an umbrella... let the designer guide you to get specific one step at a time.

There may be a whole other way to handle water that you don't even know about. Maybe bamboo is just as lightweight, and recyclable. Maybe they'll put in a heater that boils the water away. Maybe they'll add a turbine so the water actually powers the site instead of having to get rid of it. Let them add their knowledge and creativity!
This is very helpful advice. However, I still have a few questions.

Do you think I should just tell the engineer what my end product will be and let him figure out how to do it (For example, “cover for a paint brush”)? Or will this cost me way too much since he has to basically do the whole design process? If it does cost a ton, would this be a situation in which I should offer the engineer ownership of the company?
I think you get to remove the "dumb question?" tag now :smile2:

You recognized that there's something you don't know about. You found a place where people are likely to know about it. You asked concisely. You followed up with relevant information. You participated in an intelligent dialogue. You're building a realistic plan before you commit a lot of time and money. That ain't dumb at all!
Haha, thank you. I didn’t know if I was asking something that was common knowledge or whatever.
You will not find a useful Design Engineer on upwork; if this is truly an idea that you are backing and believe in strongly, its best to do all design work and prototyping communication face-to-face with an engineer or else you will waste time and money going back and forth if done online.
best to go out and network with engineers around your area. Huntsville is a manufacturing hub and there are a lot of engineers there. You can try SCORE chapter and see if they know of anyone; Feel free to PM me as I am a manufacturing and production quality consultant and specialize in dealing with various engineering professions.
My dad told me that he knows a mechanical engineer that I might be able to work with. He said he’ll get me a meeting with him soon, do you think I should give him ownership or see how much he charges?
 
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Do you think I should just tell the engineer what my end product will be and let him figure out how to do it (For example, “cover for a paint brush”)? Or will this cost me way too much since he has to basically do the whole design process?
That's what the meeting is to find out, so you don't have to guess.

This is very helpful advice. However, I still have a few questions.

If it does cost a ton, would this be a situation in which I should offer the engineer ownership of the company?
Just like a house or a car, you should find out the paid-in-full cash price first, before you talk about financing at all.

"Suppose I was able to write you one big check. This would be work for hire, I get all rights. I can patent the design, I can use the design however I like, there are no royalties involved. Is that the typical kind of freelance deal for you? What would that price be? .... Oh I see, now what if we did some kind of installment payments, what kind of deposit would you need to get started and what kind of payment plan would be comfortable for you? .... And if you get royalties instead of as much money up front, is that a way you'd be open to work with me? .... Would you like to see the business plan once I'm done it, and consider some kind of equity deal? Or would you rather know up front how much this is worth?"

The meeting your Dad can set up sounds great. Your purpose should be to learn about the process and about how much it would cost. Go home and think about it, even if you know right then you'd like the person as your business partner. Follow up a few days later. Give the other person a chance to think it over too.
 
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Will-v-the-World

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That's what the meeting is to find out, so you don't have to guess.



Just like a house or a car, you should find out the paid-in-full cash price first, before you talk about financing at all.

"Suppose I was able to write you one big check. This would be work for hire, I get all rights. I can patent the design, I can use the design however I like, there are no royalties involved. Is that the typical kind of freelance deal for you? What would that price be? .... Oh I see, now what if we did some kind of installment payments, what kind of deposit would you need to get started and what kind of payment plan would be comfortable for you? .... And if you get royalties instead of as much money up front, is that a way you'd be open to work with me? .... Would you like to see the business plan once I'm done it, and consider some kind of equity deal? Or would you rather know up front how much this is worth?"

The meeting your Dad can set up sounds great. Your purpose should be to learn about the process and about how much it would cost. Go home and think about it, even if you know right then you'd like the person as your business partner. Follow up a few days later. Give the other person a chance to think it over too.
Ok, I’ll go into the meeting with the goal of learning the process and figuring out the price. Is there anything I should have prepared before I meet him?
try to build a prototype yourself?
That was originally my plan, but I think it would cost a ridiculous amount of time and possibly money to make it myself. It’s gonna be big and made of plastic, with a lot of different little pieces. Also, I will need an engineer for help with the design whether I make a prototype myself or not.
 

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get some broke college/uni student to help u for a few bucks then
 

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Ok, I’ll go into the meeting with the goal of learning the process and figuring out the price. Is there anything I should have prepared before I meet him?
No, the expert should be able to guide you through their process and to let you know if something else is needed from you.
 
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Will-v-the-World

Will-v-the-World

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get some broke college/uni student to help u for a few bucks then
You mean get them to help with the prototype or the design? If the engineer isn’t involved with making the prototype, I’ll try this. However, If the engineer makes a 3d model with physics will I even need a physical prototype?
 

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just for the prototype, so at least you have something to work with when you get a legitimate design going.

if you are just getting an engineer from the get go and spending lots of cash upfront then sure skip the first part

check out Lori Greniers book (shark tank investor)
 
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just for the prototype, so at least you have something to work with when you get a legitimate design going.

if you are just getting an engineer from the get go and spending lots of cash upfront then sure skip the first part

check out Lori Greniers book (shark tank investor)
Will do, hopefully that book combined with conversations with engineers will help me understand how things are efficiently taken from idea to market.
 

Arun Siva

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Thank you @Late Bloomer for addressing this on the other user's question of what to do with new inventions; I will reiterate what i wrote to that user as well below;

You need to have a comprehensive plan to get a reputable manufacturer to take your product seriously. It is just pure economics. You need to be able to sell a good/ well sourced, well supplied factory with a set of detailed drawings and markups, CAD images (may or may not be mandated depending on the type of your product), and maybe you want to have an effective sales pitch if you want it to be manufactured in the USA. (if overseas then a different ballgame) there are a few similarities between getting products made initially domestically or internationally, however after these initial discussions have occurred it takes a big turn in different directions from there. Again this is all just broad generic stuff I am stating.

Do you have models, prototype(s) and a stable (revisions already addressed and kinked out design issues) print of your idea? Do you have that patented? Do you know what components it entails and whether or not you will be able to change if necessary? Do you have the necessary niche market identified? Before these are fully addressed then you can consider the costing aspect of it, and what a manufacturer or supplier will need in terms of quantification to take your product seriously into consideration for their planning and scheduling. Also your print or model markup needs to be as fully detailed as possible this way a potential supplier can tell you UPFRONT whether or not tier 2 or sub-suppliers need to be utilized for certain acquisition of raw material components or processes (for exmaple, machining, welding, heat treatment, brazing, soldering, plastic injection molding, packaging even, etc etc) there are a myriad of factors that need to be taken into consideration before you embark on this journey.

Feel free to pm if needed.
 
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You need to have a comprehensive plan to get a reputable manufacturer to take your product seriously. It is just pure economics. You need to be able to sell a good/ well sourced, well supplied factory with a set of detailed drawings and markups, CAD images (may or may not be mandated depending on the type of your product), and maybe you want to have an effective sales pitch if you want it to be manufactured in the USA. (if overseas then a different ballgame) there are a few similarities between getting products made initially domestically or internationally, however after these initial discussions have occurred it takes a big turn in different directions from there. Again this is all just broad generic stuff I am stating.

Do you have models, prototype(s) and a stable (revisions already addressed and kinked out design issues) print of your idea? Do you have that patented? Do you know what components it entails and whether or not you will be able to change if necessary? Do you have the necessary niche market identified? Before these are fully addressed then you can consider the costing aspect of it, and what a manufacturer or supplier will need in terms of quantification to take your product seriously into consideration for their planning and scheduling. Also your print or model markup needs to be as fully detailed as possible this way a potential supplier can tell you UPFRONT whether or not tier 2 or sub-suppliers need to be utilized for certain acquisition of raw material components or processes (for exmaple, machining, welding, heat treatment, brazing, soldering, plastic injection molding, packaging even, etc etc) there are a myriad of factors that need to be taken into consideration before you embark on this journey.

Feel free to pm if needed.
I was planning to have it made overseas because it's kind of a simple product, it's just made of plastic and a little metal. It is sort of large though.

When you say I need a comprehensive plan, do you mean a "business plan", like an official one?

I don't have any prototypes, patents, or anything like that yet. I do have the niche market identified. My meeting with the design engineer was delayed until Monday/Tuesday, so still looking forward to that.
I'll let you guys know how it goes.
 

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When you say I need a comprehensive plan, do you mean a "business plan", like an official one?
I mean a manufacturing plan; I am assuming that you have something that will need to be easily transferable and easily comprehensible at the hands of say a chinese supplier for instance. Manufacturing plan will consist of what needs to be done from start to finish; In other words a D P A R (design process analyzation/assembly review)
 
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OH YEAH, forgot to tell you guys how it went.

So I met up with the engineer and talked to him about what he could do, what he has done, blah blah. In the end, he said that he would design the product be done in about a week.

We still haven't really talked about payment, but I'm pretty sure we both know he'll be getting a percentage of the first sales' profit.

Overall, I think it went really well. So now, what are the next steps? I'll have an in-depth design. Do I go to a patent lawyer?
 

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We still haven't really talked about payment, but I'm pretty sure we both know he'll be getting a percentage of the first sales' profit.
Why? Usually an engineer will charge by the hour; why are you assuming giving equity do you not have funds to pay him hourly??? This is not a good start. IN the future, always discuss labour rates/costs upfront or else things can get ugly. DO NOT ever give up equity unless you have no other means of payment.


So now, what are the next steps? I'll have an in-depth design. Do I go to a patent lawyer?
Before you invest another dollar or minute of your time, use this search engine to make sure your idea hasn't already been patented
File Online

Fees vary depending on the type of patent application you submit. Fees may also vary according to the way you "claim" your invention. More information on filing fees and the number and type of claims.

There are three basic fees for utility patents:

  • The filing fee, which is non-refundable whether or not a patent is granted. (This is the cost to have your invention "examined" by the US Patent and Trademark Office - remember, you may or may not get a patent!)
  • The issue fee (you pay this only if your application is allowed)
  • Maintenance fees (paid at 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 years after your patent is granted - these fees "maintain" your legal protection).
  • Additional fees may be required.
USPTO Fee Schedule

There are three kinds of patents available through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO):

1. Utility patent: protects a new or useful invention

By law, inventors can only obtain utility patents on specific kinds of inventions. In general, inventors cannot patent unmodified natural products, abstract ideas or algorithms unconnected to real world applications.

2. Provisional patent: secures a temporary, one-year patent-pending status

The inventor must file a utility patent application before the end of the year to maintain patent pending as of the provisional filing date.

3. Design patent: protects an ornamental design

Design patent applications are only for ornamental design. Design patents cannot protect any functional benefit that the design may confer.

The USPTO charges fees based on the size of the applicant. Large companies need to pay more.

Step 2. Document, Document, Document

Inventing happens in two steps: 1) conceiving the invention, and 2) reducing it to practice. Be sure to document both steps. For example, if your invention is a new machine made from combining two existing machines, then you must document when you had the idea to combine the machines to show conception.

Reduction to practice means taking that idea and making it work. For the combination of the two machines, you must document how to successfully combine them. Include proof the invention works and some alternative approaches. Include a schematic, drawing or photo of the combined machine and possible alternative ways of combination.

Step 3. Keep Your Idea Confidential

Patents require absolute novelty, meaning that any public disclosure will compromise any future patent filing. Your disclosure of the invention is just as problematic as another inventor or scientist publishing similar results.

In the United States, an inventor has one year to file a patent application after making a public disclosure. But no other country gives a similar grace period—the minute you breach secrecy most worldwide patent rights are gone. Once your patent application is filed then the patent is pending and you are safe to discuss your invention publicly.

Only you can decide whether or not you have enough to hire a patent lawyer. Costs for patent lawyers are anywhere from 3500-15000 for startups.

As a result, you may have a harder time enforcing your patent against competitors because your description did not take the time to expand on your invention. A competitor may find an easy work-around. Patents are filled with tiny details and getting any one of them wrong may compromise your patent.

You can still do a lot. Provisional applications, for example, lack many of the formalities of utility patent applications. You can draft and file the provisional application yourself using the USPTO’s online web portal. If you file patent yourself, ask a lawyer to gently review it before your file it. It is less expensive than paying for hours of a lawyer’s time to write the application, but still gets the benefit of the lawyer’s experience.

Some choose to draft and file their own utility patent application. To do so, you could find a related patent and use it as a template to draft your application. Make your own draft drawings by tracing photographs of your prototype. Include all the relevant references you found in your prior art search. Write your own claims to differentiate your invention from the prior art you found. Even if a lawyer ends up filing your application for you, you will have gone along way to ensuring your patent application accurately reflects your invention.

here is just a basic timeframe chart;

upload_2018-8-7_3-48-4.png
 
OP
OP
Will-v-the-World

Will-v-the-World

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
May 10, 2018
84
154
147
US
How's this going?
Not great.

To start... engineer silently backed out/disappeared over time, which means I'm on my own again.

I also realized that I'm gonna need some funding for this project (over $20,000), and I don't think I can convince anyone to invest that much in me at this age... maybe 16, not 15.

Because of these things, I've doubled down on my income stream that has proven itself; an Amazon affiliate site. Right now it's only doing $300 per month, but since I upped my KW research process with my Fastlane knowledge, me and my partner invested in about 20 high-quality articles that add Relative Value to Google searchers.

I expect all of these articles to rank in about 1-3 months, and when they do, the site should be generating about 2k-4k per month (passive income).

My plan is to use that money to get the OP project going.

(At the moment, I'm also starting a dropshipping business. It's very mainstream, which I hate, but it seems like a logical way to make money--get people to impulse buy from your listing instead of buying it directly from Aliexpress's. Ends justify the means...)

Thanks for asking.
 
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