One of the most critical steps in the inventing process is establishing market viability. Sometimes people think they have a great idea, but the consumer doesn’t agree. And, after all, if no one will pay for it, why bother, unless, of course, you have lots of money to burn.
Establishing market viability includes obtaining favorable answers to two basic questions: Can you make it at a price someone will pay for it; and has it already been done (yes, in the first case, no, in the second). I hear people say all the time “I’ve never seen this.” Well, that’s a start…but only a start. It’s good idea to learn how to search beyond Google, and a good place to start is the USPTO website. However, even this won’t give you a complete search result or a basis for going to the next step. It’s easy to fall into the trap of not wanting to find anything disappointing, so inventors often tend to look “with blinders on”.
However, it’s always in your best interest to get an objective point of view. Most inventors don’t realize that if a product has been patented at anytime in history anywhere in the world, it cannot be done again. It’s nearly impossible for an individual, acting on his or her own, to do an exhaustive search, both from a historical as well as an international perspective. This is why you need help. My recommendation is to consider using a reputable company that specializes exclusively in conducting product and patent searches, and not writing patents. And, believe me, if you follow this approach, it’ll be worth every penny. The good news is that unless you have a very complicated product, it shouldn’t cost more than $1,000.00.
Once you have the product search done, it’s time to determine if you can make your product at a price someone will pay for it. The world is full of expensive patents on products that should never have been produced because they’re not cost-competitive. Don’t forget: price is an issue for consumers. If you’re capable of making a good prototype, then make one; otherwise, you’ll need help. There are companies that specialize in this type of work. Be careful, some are reputable and some are not. And, as always, ask what it’s going to cost you. Also, it’s critical to begin establishing what the cost per unit will be, based on mass production.
Once you have an idea of cost, you have to face the hardest question: will anyone buy it? I know, you say, “well, my family and friends love it!” Unfortunately, they don’t count! You need to know from objective consumers if anyone will put cash on the table. Try to find a focus group so that you have a good cross section of consumers who might be interested in you product to give you honest feedback.