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Prototype vs. Validation vs. Patent. What to do first?

Discussion in 'Product Creation, Inventing, Importing, Sourcing' started by NataliaO, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. NataliaO
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    NataliaO New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Please, help me out of this loop :)

    I've got an idea for a product. It's a physical product that does not exist. Would be useful for a specific profession (around 3M of them in US/Canada). The idea came based on my own experience. Functionally, it exists as a stationary installation, costs many thousands dollars, not many businesses use it. What I want to do is portable, owned by a professional, which makes them independent of the business decision to use it or not.

    So, here is the pickle: where to start?

    Prototype: It would be difficult for me to make a prototype myself, as I don't have enough knowledge for such design. The product would include a laser, custom (or may be standard, don't know) optics in a plastic or metal body. So, it would involve several hundreds investment, which I'm not thrilled about considering it is still unknown if there is a demand. I'm semi confident that it's possible to make for a reasonable price, but not 100%.

    Validation: Initially, I wanted to do it first, and I figured, I could find a bunch of forums, ask permission and post a link to a survey or just a question asking whether people like the idea and if they would buy such gadget. Made a simple survey in google forms and a 3 pager website in google sites, no frills, straight to the point. Boy, was I wrong! I found those forums alright, but while asking (nicely) if I could survey people on those forums, I got shot, ignored and then shot again. Felt like I was asking if I can post a penis enlargement ad in every thread in there. Apparently asking if my gadget would help people do their job is an super evil advertisement. So, validation by forums didn't workout. There are couple other ideas for validation, it's just they will take much more time and money.

    Patent: That same functionality is patented as a stationary device on a warehouse wall by a certain company that makes them. Strangely, there are 2 other companies, that do a very same thing in spite of the patent. Their patent is clearly stating that it's mounted on the building, not portable. So I figured, there is still a space for me without infringing their patent.

    Reading several threads on this forum regarding provisional patents and patents in general, I gathered that provisional patent should filed for before any information about the product is made public, otherwise it might not succeed.

    So, now, I'm not sure what to do.
    Find a way to do the validation? But nothing would stop competitors getting to the market ahead of me and/or filing a provisional patent, which would kill it all for me.
    Filing for a patent without a prototype is not realistic and prototyping is expensive without knowing if the product has demand.
    Full circle, full stop.

    Any advice?
    Am I looking at this wrong?
     
  2. ManlyMansNegator
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    Prototyping before patenting makes no sense..... if you dont know where to start search for manufacturers and explain your idea.They will design your product for several hundreds of dollars then ask them to manufacture it for a few thousand.After that gain the designs etc from the engineers and send a patent.Note that this takes very long if your american.

    Or you could learn the skills and send the designs to manufacturers , saving you a few hundred dollars.

    Validation isnt too hard just call people who are part of the market.Ask them if they need it and finito.
     
  3. iizu
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    iizu Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    You will get the benefit of first to file with the provisional patent. You should do that first.

    Then you should try to validate your idea and make connections. This will help you sell the idea.

    Then try to sell your idea to an engineering company.
     
  4. Kid
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    Hello @NataliaO

    Provisional patent costs you $70 (micro entitiy USPTO Fee Schedule).

    From what i know provisional patent has less requirements to be written so you might write it by yourself.

    Be sure to make that provisional patent, before validating.

    Validation:
    Do it without prototype.

    1) Get someone to make you a GRAPHICAL RENDERING of your device. (Be sure to sign NDA with him)
    2) Make a small website with rendering of your device, some description and "Add to cart" button.
    3) Make second page (fake cart page) with "Pay now" button.
    4) If someone clicks "Pay now" show them page with: "Sorry due to high demand we are out of stock. Leave your email and we will notify you when we have more"
    5) Assume that person who click on "Pay now" button is your validated client. (conversion)
    6) Advertise on FB/Google Ads/Niche forums.
    7) Check if you can advertise profitably your device.

    That's all.
     
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  5. Calvert79
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    Calvert79 Contributor

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    WELCOME TO MY WORLD!

    I don't have much by way of advice but please know I am EXACTLY where you are and it is a nightmare of confusion and going around in circles.

    For me, the first port of call is an illustration or 3D design that I can then validate.

    Having gone all around the houses with the patent thing I've decided to forego that and instead just get the damn thing validated and brought to market if proven.

    The downsides - I don't know how to get it manufactured or how to even start that entire process.

    And like you, I have ZERO (sorry, 30 instagram followers) to validate it.

    So my complete novice advice is to try and get it designed by way of fiverr and then you have something to at least send to manufacturers and find ways to validate that don't involve penis enlargement problems - TOTALLY pissed myself at this analogy :)

    Feel free to private message me and we can go through hell together :)
     
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  6. funkj25
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    funkj25 Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    @NataliaO - This looks like a matter of product/founder fit.

    We talk a lot about solving problems on the boards to grow your business which is product/market fit, but I don't know how often we talk about product/founder fit.

    For instance I can find problems within industries I have very little experience in and would be well beyond my personal capability to build a solution. Meaning I don't have an engineering background. The way around that of course is to hire engineers which costs money.

    You identified the problem - Great!
    Now - are you the right person to solve the problem?

    You admitted you can't prototype it yourself - so you know you have to hire. Shouldn't be too bad if you know who's going to manufacture it - they can typically help you accomplish your goal.

    Are you comfortable with the prospect of burning however much money it is going to take to prototype the product?

    If so, personally I would do something along the lines of
    1. Prototype Product
    2. File provisional patent
    3. Call companies to demo prototype and get pre-orders for production
    4. Manufacture and deliver product
    4.5 File full patent

    Rinse and repeat sales.

    I'm a big believer that $ is the only real validation. Words are worth very little to me - so I wouldn't trust surveys even if you could get them.

    I think Kid's validation method is probably okay if you're talking a smaller dollar item (under $500 as a guess). My impression is that you're up against a $3000+ machine as competition so it's probably going to be a demo in person kind of thing if you want quick validation and have in-roads in the industry. But you know your own price point better than we do.
     
  7. ManlyMansNegator
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    This is so true! but i reckon skills can be learnt as well.Thats why inventors , such as op, should get back the designs and learn from them.
     
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  8. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    I have a progress forum of your situation, so I will explain what I believe is to be the best way.

    Start with customer discovery. You don't need a prototype, your don't need a graphic, you don't need a fake website sales page.

    What you do need is the right questions.

    Example Product: You want to sell a new product that cures all pain through a audiothing that tricks your mind into believing you have no pain, BUT it will take 30 minutes out of your day for it to work.

    Example Questions:
    "Tell me the last time you had pain" --> " Why do you not take your prescription medication?
    "Tell me your thoughts on alternative medicine."


    The point of these questions is to JUST LISTEN. These questions are meant to get an insight into these peoples problems. If you start hearing people saying "Yea, I hate taking medication. It makes me feel like a zombie. I typically try different types of treatments like acupuncture as I feel it is less intrusive and a healthier option." Now what if you keep hearing that type of response to a certain type of person. Ding ding ding, you found your target market. Now, try and determine how many people are in this market. Is there even enough money involved in this market?

    After you do enough customer discovery, that is when you can get a MVP. The good thing is you can request to contact those previously interviewed people that are your target market and get another interview with them. This is when you would talk about your product idea.

    However, during your customer discovery you DO NOT talk about your idea/product/thoughts. This means you do not have to disclose any important information. This process will help you determine if there is a market for your product or not.

    Don't waste money on an idea that no one wants. Just go and start talking to people IN PERSON.
     
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  9. NataliaO
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    NataliaO New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thank you for so much advice and different angles!

    It helped me look at my question from outside of my head.

    A provisional application has to include description, diagrams, claims and all that. Which made me realize that I never checked if such product would be regulated. It turned out that in US such devices are FDA regulated. I presume that a lot of those FDA reports would be provided by the actual manufacturer of the device and it's doable, I'll worry about that later. Canada on the other hand, prohibits consumer devices with laser class 3b and up. So long my "semi confidence" that device could be made. I'm not sure if the idea will work with less powerful lasers.

    So, given I'm not comfortable paying big$ for professional prototype yet, I've decided to learn how to play with lasers and try to do that first crude prototype myself. Just as a proof of concept, not necessarily fully functional. That's number 1 on the list, because every other question is mute without that. Now that I think about it, I was just being lazy saying I can't build a prototype. I've never done this kind of work before, that's true, but it doesn't mean I can't, damn it - back to work! :) Thanks for reminding me, @ManlyMansNegator!

    Then for validation, over the years, I've spoken with many people in the target market (I was part of the target market :)) and they all agree that the resulting effect is making work easier, but will they pay $$ for it? I don't know. I will reach out to several people offline to get a feel for whether it's something they would buy. I didn't want to do it that way because, it's not statistically significant anyways, but even if not statistically significant, it will give me some indication. Will try to get different types of people to talk to, target >20. If no one bites, that's a serious problem. I agree though, that's not real validation, just a warm and fuzzy. It's not a viable product until people $$ behind it.

    So, if that warm and fuzzy is warm and fuzzy enough, I'll file a provisional application and validate it with @Kid method. The device should be around 100$ give or take, not competing with 3000$ versions for businesses, my product is for professionals, so they do not depend on business solving that problem for them.

    Then,... well, let's get there first :)

    @Mikkel, thank you for the customer discovery insight. At first it felt, it wouldn't apply to my situation, as I was part of the target market and know that people are wishing that issue would be solved. Then I read it again, you're right, this is what I should keep in mind when talking to people during that "warm and fuzzy" validation, it could make for a surprising discovery.

    @Calvert79, thank you.
    It doesn't matter how many stories of people who've done it I read, doing it for the first time gets you head spinning. Buy hey, I keep reminding myself it's not just the result, it's the journey. Will PM you later on today.
     
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  10. RazorCut
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    RazorCut Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Forums are a great way to gain validation. You just went about it the wrong way.

    In a nutshell people don't like disruption from strangers. Forums are normally where you find, and give value. They are communities. If you go in head first without the common etiquette associated with that forum you will be shot down in flames.

    It's like you sitting with your friends at a table in a bar having a good time and some stranger pulling up a chair, puts their drink down on your table and wades into your conversation. A sure fire way to get your back up.

    It is much better to spend at least a few days getting to know the community. Put up an intro, Post what you can to help people. Give your opinion as a layman. After all if this product is going to be your new business then you need to immerse yourself in this new environment. These people may be your clients in the future. You could probably learn a great deal from them.

    Now you compare your experience with @Vigilante.

    He asked for some info via a short online form yesterday evening. He has already had 55 people complete it. Why? Because he is well known, well liked and gives massive value to the community.

    We all like to move as fast as possible with our projects but sometimes "slowly slowly catchee monkey" is more appropriate.

    -
     
  11. RazorCut
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    RazorCut Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I don't know if you have a similar community in your city but Hackerspace is a great resource where you can meet people who have interests in the fields of computing, machining, technology, science, electronics etc. etc..

    They will have workshops with equipment you can use to make pretty much anything you want plus people who are happy to share their knowledge to help you learn. Great non-for-profit communities that cost very little per month to be a member of.

    -
     
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  12. NataliaO
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    Agree. Guilty as charged.
    I thought that asking admins and introducing myself to them was going to help, but it wasn't enough. So, for the attempt to ask if it's ok post a survey or ask a question, I guess, I got what I deserved.

    One of the forums though got on my nerves. After 4 or 5 posts I've put some information into my profile there. Nothing fancy, no links, just who I am and that I'm looking at this problem and thinking of the solution. Really benign, that profile info is 3 clicks away from any thread. There wan't a peep out of me about that on the forum. That's the biggest forum, so I though let's go slow here. Everything got deleted for advertising. I was speechless. Mentioning a problem and the fact that you want to solve it in your profile is advertising?
    Grrrrr....

    Admittedly, I have a LOT to learn in this department.
     
  13. NataliaO
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    NataliaO New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Oh, that's a great idea. Will search for something like that tomorrow.

    Thank you!
     
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  14. Kid
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    So ..(drum roll).. to the prototype! ;)

    Regulations suck but they are made for the reasons (at least in normal countries).

    Getting to know what can and cannot be done is a step forward too, since it eliminates
    wandering around, so i see it as a progress on your side.

    Anyway, if you'll build it, it would be nice to hear about the experience.


    P.S.One thought about the forum you visited:
    Do they allow online advertisement? (do they have some box next to threads for ads?)
    If they do, you might advertise for few days instead of posting.
     
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  15. NataliaO
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    NataliaO New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Oh, I can't even say I mind the regulations all that much, from a consumer perspective they they are good. As long as it is stable and well defined, it can be dealt with.

    It's weird, I went back and checked, that forum does not have any ads whatsoever, nor do they charge anyone for access. Hmmm.... when the time comes, I'll dig more into it. So far, I don't understand how they make money.

    Will definitely do an update when I figure out if it can be made.
     
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  16. Abood
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    Abood New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    I am currently reading the following book
    Sell Your Ideas With or Without A Patent

    I am sure it will help you in some way. Try giving it a quick read before you go further. It might help you make good decisions.
     
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  17. NataliaO
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    NataliaO New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thank you, @Abood !
    Very interesting, added to my reading list.
     
  18. NataliaO
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    NataliaO New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    It's time for update.

    TL.DR. Can't be done, idea is killed.

    In order to create a crude prototype to prove to myself that it can be done, I had to figure out the limits of laser power I'd have to fit it in, based on safety and regulation. After much digging, relearning all the physics I've forgotten over the years, it figures that to ensure safety of the operation and satisfy all regulation requirements, the device would have to be too complicated in design and in operation. Basically, do it right from safety perspective and it becomes too cumbersome and unreliable to use, which kills all benefits of using it. So, I have decided, the product has no merit. Of course, I might be wrong, but this is what it is for me.

    It is sad, but at the same time it's a relief. The idea has been bugging me for quite a while and at least I can move on to something else and not feel that I could've/would've.

    Thank you all, for your advice and ideas, even though this product won't see the light of day, I feel more confident in starting something else.
     
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    Provisional Patent is always the first step.
     
  20. Paladin
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    Sorry that your idea died, but at least you found out before investing more money into the project. Starting with research was the right move. As soon as I saw your post about FDA regulation, I got nervous. That can be a timely and expensive process.

    But this is JUST the beginning.

    I can't wait to see your next idea!

    - Jonathan
     
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  21. NataliaO
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    NataliaO New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thank you, Jonathan

    That's exactly how that feels :)

    ...back to research mode

    -Natalia
     
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    Sorry to hear that you're no longer moving forward with your idea. I was looking forward to following this thread because I'm actually going down a similar path with an idea I'm working on right now.

    Out of curiosity, are you in the profession your idea was targeting?

    I'm working on a hardware device for the public safety sector. I'm involved with the public safety sector, so my idea came from being exposed to the problem I'm trying to solve. There are no solutions that currently exist and I haven't seen any patents after doing a quick initial search. I've bounced the idea off of a few people within the organization I'm a part of and, they really like it.

    There is growing interest in this device, so my plan is to get a fully working prototype produced to really validate the idea. I'll present it to my organization and see if they would be interested in placing an initial order for several units. I'll do the same with other organizations in the area. If it gains traction and there is a real interest and orders begin rolling in, I'll file a patent to lock the idea down. Maybe I'll file a provisional patent before then as I get closer to finishing my prototype.

    I've already 3D printed some initial concepts to give people an idea of what the final product will look like. The 3D prints also validate all my measurements and how the product will interface with the equipment it's being used on. I'm currently working on validating the electronics portion using an Arduino and various sensors. If the electronics work the way I envision, I'll package everything together into a final prototype.

    I'm fortunate enough to come from an engineering background, so designing and manufacturing the prototype is fairly easy. I have access to CAD programs, 3D printers, and a machine shop (where I'm hoping to learn some new skills). I'm learning programming as I go. My co-worker develops PCBs and is very knowledgeable when it comes to electronics, so I can turn to him for advice. I'm also very lucky to be in the sector that my product is targeting, so I have access to the resources and people that I'll need to validate this product. If it doesn't work out, it will really only cost me my time and some money for materials and electronics.

    As I keep progressing, I'm beginning to see how difficult the barriers to entry can be when someone who is developing a hardware product doesn't have the resources, proper tools, or a relevant background. It's great that you attempted to work past some of these barriers and I'm sure you learned a bunch along the way!

    If you need help or input on any future ventures, you can always reach out to me. I would love to try and be of assistance!
     

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