There are nearly 3 million granted patents in the United States Patent Office, and about 2.1 million of those are active patents. Of these numerous unique ideas, only about 5 percent have become products for sale. Google and the U.S. Patent Office both host databases of all the active patents. Spend some time with these successful patent applications and note how many you have never heard about, despite their sometimes-obvious usefulness.

Each person who invented these ideas felt confident that they would have commercial success. Why is this so?

First, let’s look at some of the ideas in our industry that were patented:

  1. Window operators:  google.com/search?tbm=pts&hl=en&q=window+operators&=
  2. Door closers: google.com/search?tbm=pts&hl=en&q=window+operators&=#hl=en&tbm=pts&q=door+closer
  3. Insulating glazing: google.com/search?tbm=pts&hl=en&q=window+operators&=#hl=en&tbm=pts&q=insulating+double+glazing

A quick count of these three types of patents reveals hundreds that have not been commercialized. These ideas seemed to have good potential but they may have lacked two things — economic analysis and perseverance. Many patents are not thoroughly researched for commercialization. Although the inventor may have a gut feel and even a business plan, the hard economic truth is not usually applied. Many times the first investments in a new patent go to the patent attorney instead of the commercial analysis. A strong psychological tendency exists to love your own ideas, just like your children. So you must bring in strong-willed outsiders to be hard on your ideas. It is difficult but necessary.

Secondly, perseverance plays a strong role in the success of many ideas. After your harsh economic review reveals the possibility of commercial success, you must take this project to the finish. Receiving the patent on the idea is a third of the work. The other two-thirds is handling all the setbacks you will surely see. Financing will be difficult, prototypes will fail, confidence will be lost, but you must not quit. The recent movie Joy, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as entrepreneur Joy Mangano, aptly demonstrate the concept “I will not quit on my idea!”

But let’s also talk about how to protect your ideas. A simple and effective method is to keep a journal with thoughts and sketches of your ideas. After each entry, add the date and time. Periodically have a witness confirm and sign the pages. This document will be critical if you decide you have a patentable product. Legal advice is always best on how to proceed from this point.

We need more patents and more commercialization of these patents in North America. Take the time now to help yourself, your company and our industry with some exiting and patentable ideas.

Keep innovating!

 

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