My prototype will be ready in two weeks… what should I do next? Create a website and start selling? File for patent, and then wait a year for the patent to be granted? Look for investors? Look for someone who has contacts in the retail sporting goods industry and license the product?
by Naomi Kokubo, Cofounder of Founders Space
A lot depends on how much money you have. First off, filing patents is expensive, and they take much longer than a year to be granted. Do you have $20k or more to spend on each patent? Most early-stage startups don’t.
If you want to protect yourself and buy some time, go for a provisional patent. You can file one for around $200 if you don’t use a lawyer and $1000 (or more) if you do use a lawyer. It’s not as easy as filing a trademark, but many entrepreneurs file provisional patents themselves to save money. Check out the US Patent & Trademark Office. Keep in mind, you have one year from the date of filing a provisional patent to get the actual patent filed.
That said, I’ve seen more entrepreneurs waste their limited time & money on patents when what they should have been focusing on is building their business. That’s not to say patents aren’t important, but they can suck up huge amounts of time and money. You really need to seek professional advice to see if your invention is truly worth patenting. In the end, patents are nice to have, but even with a good patent, you still don’t have a business.
Here’s how I’d prioritize things:
1) File a provisional patent if your legal counsel recommends it.
2) Take your prototype and test it out on real customers. See if they even want to buy it. You need to know as early as possible if there’s even a market for it.
3) Write up your marketing and business plan. Get your strategies in place.
4) Simultaneously, go and talk to all of your contacts in the retail sports industry and get their feedback. This is critical.
5) Use your prototype to secure distribution commitments.
6) If you can get distribution commitments and your customers like the product, then go after angel investors. Or if you’re flush with cash, go ahead and manufacture a limited number of products and see how it performs in the marketplace.
That should do it. I hope this helps!