Inventing to Solve Problems

By Gene Quinn
August 6, 2016

crazy-invention-1Sometimes inventors get so caught up in the creation aspect of inventing that they fail to stop and ask whether they should be investing the time, money and energy into the creation.

For example, take the extreme case to the left, which is a fictional illustration of a rather strage personal aircraft having a jet engine. The fact that such a device could be built is no doubt quite impressive, but is this the type of thing an inventor should be investing time, money and energy into creating?

The key to making money with innovation is to be able to solve a problem that will lead to a product or service that others will be willing to pay for. If consumers will not be willing to pay for what you invent then you probably want to move on to the next idea and let it mature into your next invention. After all, you will not only have to get consumers to pay for your product or service, but they will need to be willing to pay a premium to make it worthwhile given you will undoubtedly be investing some money into the creation of the invention, as well as into getting a patent to protect your rights.

I always encourage inventors to learn lessons from great inventors, and who better to learn from than Thomas Edison. Edison famously learned early in his career, inventing for the sake of inventing is not something that will lead to riches. After one of Edison’s first inventions was a flop he famously vowed to never again invent anything without first researching and determining that there would be a demand for the invention or innovation.

While science and innovation for the sake of obtaining knowledge is something that we as a society should to invest in, independent inventors simply cannot afford to engage in intellectual pursuits that have little or no likelihood of ever maturing into a commercialized product or service.  University laboratories is where where science for the sake of science should go on, not in the garages of inventors trying to create revenue.

The moral of the story is that the best innovation can lead to no financial reward, while sometimes modest improvements can lead to financial riches.  Inventing is a strange thing that way.  You never know what will actually make money until you enter the marketplace, but in order to preserve as much capital as possible and continue inventing you need to make sure you do not burn up all financial resources chasing an innovation that will not likely be a winner in the market even if successful.

Inventing is hard enough as it is.  Don’t make it more difficult by adding an unnecessary layer of buisness complications.  Do market research to satisfy yourself that there will be a demand for what you are inventing.  And remember, while you can start out asking friends and family, that cannot be your only research.  All to frequently friends and family will tell you what they think you want to hear rather than give you their honest opinions.  So when your spouse or best friend says they think it is a great innovation make sure they are not just trying to save your feelings.


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If you are serious about realistically estimating the size of the potential market for your invention I strongly recommend you read Plausibly estimating the market for your invention.

Good luck… and happy inventing!

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The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

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Discuss this

There are currently 1 Comment comments.

  1. Benny August 7, 2016 5:31 am

    Gene,
    Prophesy is given to fools (ancient biblical saying). During the term of a patent a technological innovation can go from lab gimmick to market leader due to improvements in parallel technology, or could be completely eclipsed by a different, better solution. In some cases, filing a patent application is akin to buying a lottery ticket – could be a waste of money, could be a big time winner.
    On the other hand, in a few cases I’ve seen fanciful, impractical patent applications from the past serve as prior art preventing commercial manufacturers from obtaining broad patent claims. Whether that is a positive or negative effect depends on your point of view.