You do not need to build a prototype to get a patent. However, a prototype is beneficial for various reasons:
- Prototypes help demonstrate operation of your idea.
- Prototypes test the form, fit, and function of the invention.
- Prototypes help estimate product costs.
The downside to building prototyping is cost but in many instances, the benefits of building a prototype outweigh the cost.
What is a prototype?
A prototype is a scaled-down model of your idea or invention. It’s not the final product. Prototypes can take many forms, such as a physical model or a computer simulation.
How to build a prototype?
You can employ different methods of building a prototype depending on your situation.
A few typical methods include:
1. 3D modeling and printing: This is a fairly quick and low-cost method for building the prototype. It utilizes a CAD (computer aided design) software to illustrate a virtual model of the invention. Afterwards, you send the electronic file to a 3D printer to have the virtual model printed in plastic.
2. Short run manufacturing: You can have a manufacturer build a sample of your invention. Many inventors reach out to manufacturers in China that already manufacture a similar product and have them make minor modifications based on your idea. This allows the inventor to find a manufacturer who will ultimately manufacture the production run and also prototype their idea.
When should you build a prototype during the patent process?
You should build a prototype early on during the patent process. The prototype will help you complete the other steps in the pattern process. You’ll notice that when you build your prototype you’ll find ways to improve your idea. When you incorporate that improvement into your prototype, it will help your patent attorney draft the patent application.
How does a prototype help demonstrate operation of your idea?
They say that a picture is worth a 1000 words. For the patent process, a prototype helps your investor, licensee and patent attorney understand how your invention works. They can physically interact with the invention. Many times, while I handle a prototype, I uncover certain nuances that I couldn’t have realized by seeing it on a computer screen.
However, if building a physical model of your idea is cost prohibitive, a computer simulation is the next best thing. I can rotate enlarge and otherwise manipulate the computer simulation to gain a deeper understanding of your idea.
How does a prototype help test form, fit, and function of the invention?
The prototype will help test form, fit, and function of your idea regardless if it’s a physical model or a computer simulation.
By actually designing the parts of your idea, you will select the size, determine its shape and select materials for those parts. In doing so, you’ll find that some of your ideas don’t work or that there’s a better way to do the same thing. Through building the prototype, it will help you to improve the form, fit and function of your idea.
How does a prototype help estimate production costs?
First, building a prototype helps you to identify the materials, equipment, and labor required to produce the product. This information will help you to accurately estimate the production costs.
Second, prototyping will force you to create a parts list. You can price out each of the parts in your parts list to help you estimate production costs.
Third, by prototyping, you need to choose the size, shape, and material of each of the parts. Based on these factors, you can determine if the part needs to be machined, injection molded, or processed by other means. By going through this process, you can estimate the production costs. Additionally, if certain parts are cost prohibitive, you can decide to alter your design to reduce the cost of your product.
When is building a prototype not necessary?
Despite the many advantages of building a prototype, there are some cases in which we would suggest applying for a patent first and developing the prototype later.
You don’t need a prototype when you do not intend to manufacture the product. Also, if the product has a relatively simple design. In these situations, building one will just cost you time and money with nothing to show for it.
You don’t need a prototype when the costs to build the prototype are too high. The cost to build the prototype is prohibitive.
You don’t need to build a prototype if your goal is to secure patent pendency for your invention as soon as possible.
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.