Busy clinicians often find themselves identifying a clinical need that a new product or new technology would fill. If you think you have a marketable idea, you need to know there is a long and winding road to bringing an invention to market.

At the end of that long road, there is the market, the ultimate test of any product. Before you spend your precious time, blood, sweat and tears to develop your invention you need to know if at the end of the road somebody will want to buy it. To determine that, you need to take off the inventor’s hat and put on your business hat and answer these 5 questions:

1) Have you documented your idea?
It seems like an obvious step, but many inventors carry an idea around in their head for years before they actually take the step of writing it down, draw sketches and dating them. Describe the idea and its function and the problems it will solve. The same meticulous record-keeping that is needed for patent protection should be applied to the earliest phase of the development process.

2) Do you own the idea?
Inventors often assume that because they thought of it, they own the idea, and finding out they don’t after several years of work on the idea can be a crushing blow. There are actually two parts to finding out whether you actually own the idea. The first can only be answered with extensive competitive research, including patent searches. It often surprises people to find out that someone else is already pitching the same or very similar idea. While it might seem the idea is unique, the reality is that if you thought of it, chances are someone else has too.

The other part of who owns your idea is found in your contract with your practice partners, or employer. It is not uncommon to find a clause in the contract that attaches ownership of any inventions developed while practicing or working for an organization to that organization.

3) Is your idea protected?
If you have answered the question above in the affirmative, meaning that you haven’t found proof of someone else coming up with your idea before you do, then seeking protection (i.e. trade secret or patent) is a logical next step. The process is long and can be expensive, especially if you plan to seek patent protection in many countries. However, the potential benefits may far outweigh the costs to protect.
The first step to take is a cursory patent review in order to generate a good picture of the patent landscape around your idea. Kapstone’s in-house Patent Agent can do this for you (at a fraction of the cost of a patent attorney). Armed with a patent landscape search, the next step is to take this information and apply for a design patent, utility patent, or both.

4) Do you need a partner?
Often inventors make the mistake of protecting their ideas by keeping their ideas all to themselves. The reality is you need to think about your invention as a business that will take the talents and expertise of others to bring it to market. It will take expertise in engineering, quality, manufacturing, market research, and marketing to develop the idea into a viable and marketable product. Seldom does the inventor have all the skills and expertise needed to build the idea into a sustainable company. Consequently, picking the right partner or partners is critical to commercializing your idea.

5) Is your idea presentable?
Who you present your idea to and how you present it will often be the key to getting the backing and support you’ll need. You can see the idea as a reality as clearly as you can see your hand, but unless you are able to present the idea with the same clarity that allows others who have no idea what you are trying to do or have no experience with the problem it solves, you will have a difficult time selling the idea. Whether you use detailed CAD drawings, or an elaborate PowerPoint slide deck, you need to be sure you can present the idea and how it meets a significant need with the same clarity you have about your idea.

Kapstone Medical is dedicated to helping medical device innovators develop and safeguard their ideas. If you have an idea for an invention, download the Kapstone Medical free eBook, “A roadmap to success for surgeon inventors: from concept to commercialization.” For more information contact us today at (704) 843-7852 – or by email at info@kapstonemedical.com.


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