Once inventors conceive their invention, they ask “Do you need to build a prototype to patent your invention?”
You do not need to build a prototype to patent your invention. However, a prototype is beneficial for various reasons. Prototypes show investors and licensees proof of concept of your invention. Also, prototypes are useful for demonstrating the form, function and fit of the invention.
Benefits of building a prototype
Even if you do not need a prototype to file a patent application, prototypes are beneficial in many different ways.
First, a prototype is beneficial for showing how complex and intricate inventions work. A prototype is a good way to explain to the Patents Office how your invention works. During the examination of your patent application, a video of your prototype can be made and presented to the examiner.
Second, prototypes can be used to show proof of concept to investors and licensees before they invest in your invention or execute a license.
Third, prototypes are beneficial for testing form, fit, and function of your invention before investing your money on a website, manufacturing, and purchasing inventory. You can typically get a 3D model of your invention designed and printed inexpensively.
Fourth, prototypes reduce the need to rework your patent application. The description and plan you have for your invention on paper do not always translate well into reality. With the prototype, you will see problems with your invention and come up with solutions. They are less expensive to do at the prototyping stage than having your patent attorney re-write sections of your patent application.
Build the prototype before filing your patent application. Otherwise, you will need to file additional applications and go through more paperwork to introduce any changes.
When is building a prototype not necessary?
Despite the many advantages of building a prototype before filing a patent application, there are some cases in which we would suggest applying first and developing the prototype later.
The first scenario where you do not need a prototype is when you do not intend to manufacture the product. Also, if the product has a relatively simple design. In a scenario, building one will just cost you time and money with nothing to show for it.
The second scenario where you do not need a prototype is where the costs are costly. If you do not have access to unlimited funding, the cost of developing a prototype can be prohibitive. Suppose you believe that you may obtain funding from some specialized party after your patent. In that case, there is no sense in incurring these costs beforehand.
The third advantage of putting off the development of a prototype is that you get to file your patent application fast. As of 2013, there is a “first to file rule” in the U.S.A. This rule lays down the principle that getting your patent application to the Patents Office before anyone is important, especially in fast-moving technologies.
Even if you have a developed prototype before anyone else, if a competitor succeeds in applying first, they can get the patent’s rights before you. If you think there is a chance of this happening, submit the patent application first before building the prototype. Since making a prototype requires a detailed cost-benefit analysis and may delay getting to patent pending.
When do you need a build a prototype to get the patent?
A prototype must be built for inventions that are perpetual motion machines. A reasonable patent attorney should require a prototype from you. The examiner will require a demonstration of the device to prove that the concept works.