How to bring an idea to fruition?
June 13, 2005 6:27 AM   Subscribe

I've got a great idea for a new product. But I am not a professional designer/inventor, and I have no connections to the industry that would produce it. And although I can articulate the design concept, I'm not able to create a technically accurate mock-up or diagram. Am I SOL, or is there a way to make my fame/fortune/revolutionary impact on the breakfast cereal industry?

OK, without being too specific, the product is a new type of cereal-delivery system. No, really.
posted by ericbop to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
you can hire someone to draw it for you, if that's important. The first important step is to patent the idea. Then you can look into ways to produce it.

sites like this are probably more help than metafilter for specifics.
posted by mdn at 6:41 AM on June 13, 2005

I'm not an expert here, but from what I understand, you'll need a good drawing of the thing to apply for a patent. Once you have a patent, you sell the idea to someone else. It can take a long time to apply for and get a patent, and only the holder of the patent will be getting royalties. So, you'll either need to wait until the patent has been approved and then start collecting your cash, or sell the idea to a company for a flat fee, let them apply for the patent, and then they get all future royalties. That is, if they don't screw you over.

I'd strongly advise getting a legal document written up, a nondisclosure form or some such, to have your artist sign before describing the idea and getting blueprints drawn up. If you don't do this, nothing legally stops this person from taking your idea and selling it him/herself after drawing it up. If it really is a good idea, protect it until you have some proof that it's your good idea.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:07 AM on June 13, 2005

I hope it's not a monster that dissolves into a sort of colorful gruel when milk is poured over it, because that's already been done.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:20 AM on June 13, 2005

The ridiculous thing is that, just last month, I spent about a half hour rethinking the cereal box. I've got a few ideas for superior cereal delivery systems, and I'm also wholly incapable of articulating it in any meaningful way other than to describe it. Unlike you, though, I don't have the good sense to pursue this.
posted by waldo at 7:54 AM on June 13, 2005

I'm in a (high-school) class filled with CAD wizards (seriously) who need final projects. None of us are going to steal your idea, and it wouldn't cost you anything. I'm certainly curious.

Email me... [username] AT [username].org

IANAPL but...
(I am not a patent lawyer)

After you get drawings, get them notarized, preferably with multiple witnesses for whom there is no conflict of interest, because this gives you proof of when you had the idea. Mail a copy of this to yourself via registered mail and once it is returned to you, put in in your safe deposit box. As you develop the idea, keep a notebook of your ideas, and have it notarized regularly.
posted by phrontist at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2005

Mailing a copy to yourself is an urban legend that carries no weight with the patent office. What you want is a 'provisional patent application'. There are numerous resources available on the web and in print to help you with these. They are a relatively inexpensive way to protect your idea without going into the $10K+ world of an actual patent application. They give you a means of discussing your ideas with companies that may be able to assist in the creation or purchase the idea from you, while still providing you a measure of protection.

Before incurring even that minimal cost, though, I would suggest looking for prior patents online.
posted by felix at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2005

The mail-yourself-a-copy thing is known as the "poor man's copyright," not patent. Won't do a thing for prior art on objects (and is completely unnecessary regarding copyright.)
posted by me3dia at 2:10 PM on June 13, 2005

If you want to establish prior art, you could look into posting details to, as part of its purpose is to undermine spurious/obvious patent claims by providing a timestamp for people to detail stuff that they consider obvious, but suspect some opportunist might try to patent anyway. As to how legally successful the site is at that, I wouldn't know, but the details you posted would have to be sufficient to constitute prior art - a quick description probably isn't enough.

If you want to profit from it yourself, I don't advise taking this route unless you've studied your options - you're effectively publishing the idea without patent protection.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2005

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