Look around your desk — right now, do it! What do you see that is a patented product? No need to write them all down; there are probably more than you care to count.
You likely have an iPhone, some office supply knickknacks, and a fitness tracker that fits your wrist oh-so-perfectly. There are tons of other patented products surrounding you every day that you use without stopping to think about their functionality over other similar products.
These are all fantastic concepts that some lucky, and industrious, entrepreneur and a skilled team have toiled over to make a reality. Taking them from a rough idea to production – and ultimately profit – entails a lot of hard work and dedication. Protecting your intellectual property is certainly very necessary – you want to ensure that your competitor doesn’t end up launching your great idea, but you also shouldn’t stop talking to people about your product or service and getting feedback from potential customers to know what will actually work. The intellectual property you’d want to protect involves key design elements, devices, formulas or processes that are unique and key to your product.
We find that fairly often, student entrepreneurs get stuck in this phase and are afraid to fully flesh out their concept for fear that someone might steal it. In other words, creative thinkers sometimes hold off on seeking out advice for fear of someone else taking their idea and running with it.
We’ve offered workshops and office hours for the past several months with patent attorneys, officials from the US Patent & Trade Office, and other business attorneys who consult on product development. We’ve had some fantastic ideas pitched to these folks and a lot of great work has been done to help our students make their goals a reality. Why don’t more take advantage? Schedules, exams, part-time jobs and balancing a personal life are almost certainly a big part of it.
There is no need to wait – take advantage of the resources provided and give yourself the opportunity to interact with other problem solvers here and now because each of these opportunities will give you the ability to bring yourself one step closer to that brilliant idea and successful business.
Be sure that you are doing your homework to make sure your sauce is actually that good. It won’t start out as the perfect recipe, but you can hone this over time and truly make sure it’s a standout product. You need to know that you have a superior product in addition to adequately protecting yourself and your business. There are attorneys you can work with to file a proper patent and many community partners who would love to help you with your idea. At the end of the day, there are a million great ideas. The real key is the action to mold them and allow them to take shape.
Lastly, put yourself out there and talk about your ideas. You may end up with a patentable product, but you want to be sure you’re taking advantage of the knowledge and wisdom around you that you’ll need to carve out a place for your company in the startup ecosystem.
And, hey, if your secret sauce is actually your Nonna’s bolognese you’re hoping to sell — I’m free for tastings!
Haley Huie is the Texas Pete loving Program Specialist at the EI. In her free time, Haley can be found spending time with her chef husband and her dog, Texas Pete – yes, like the hot sauce, travelling, listening to jazz, and watching old movies. Follow her on Twitter at @haleyhuie!