Recently I was asked what advice I would give to young inventors for the upcoming October 2017 edition of Inventors Digest, which will feature a number of stories relating to youth innovation and young inventors.
Truthfully, my advice for young inventors isn’t really any different than it would be for new inventors regardless of age. Inventing is a great equalizer, it knows no age boundaries, creative inspiration can happen to anyone at any age and any time. Best practices are the same regardless of age. The patent process doesn’t change at all, except for the need to have a legal guardian be involved to make the patent application on behalf of the minor inventor.
In fact, aside from a legal guardian needing to be available to make the patent application on behalf of the minor inventor, nothing changes and no advice is different. The only thing that changes, really, is the expectation that the advice will be followed. In my experience motivated young inventors are far more likely to follow the advice and guidance they are given than their older, more experienced inventor colleagues.
With this in mind, here two tips for young (and new) inventors. If you follow these tips you will create a framework for inventing success.
Find something you are passionate about
If you are a serious inventor and do not plan on giving up the first time an obstacle is placed in front of you, then you absolutely need to focus on something for which you have a true passion. Perhaps you are a computer whiz and your parents never seem to be able to pull you away from your computer or device of choice at the moment. If that is you, then become inspired about how the machine works, how software works, consider learning to write an App, or something computer oriented. If on the other hand you love getting your hands dirty with grease and gears, go out into the garage and start imagining.
The point here is simple: The act of inventing takes a lot of time so you need to love it to make it work. There will inevitably be both successes and setbacks, and any inventor who is honest will tell you the setbacks outnumber the successes. What makes inventing rewarding is the pursuit of success and the challenge. If you are not passionate about your invention and the field of endeavor the likelihood you will succeed is very low.
Inventing success for young inventors comes when they are passionate, inspired and dedicated, which is not unlike success in all areas of life.
Become an expert on the field of your invention
The biggest mistake I see all inventors make is they rush into a field of endeavor without really understanding what they are getting into, or to solve a problem in an industry they don’t know. For example, every new parent suddenly becomes an inventor in the baby products space, but how many have any idea about the onerous government safety regulations imposed on baby products?
While passion is required, knowledge is also absolutely necessary. A true inventor will learn everything they can about each aspect of the field, from the technology, to the business, to the competition. What is the market size? What are the channels of distribution? Who would want to purchase the invention and for how much? You must become an expert on your invention and on the field you’ve chosen to pursue.
In a lot of ways young inventors find this easier because they make no assumptions and they treat this exercise with the same energy as working on the invention itself. If you really picked an area you are passionate about doing all this work to become an expert shouldn’t really be “work” anyway. And the more you know, the more likely you are to succeed, it really is that simple.
And kids, don’t listen to any adult that says a child can’t be an expert on a topic. If you want to learn how to play a video game do you ask an adult? If an adult wants to learn to use the latest functionality available in a smartphone do they ask another adult? When I was a kid I collected baseball cards and I knew more about player statistics, history, and baseball card value than any adult I knew because it was my passion and I spent endless hours collecting, reading, going to shows, and in card shops. If you have a passion and you have the desire you can become an expert, period.
Next steps for young inventors
For children entering kindergarten through 6th grade, Camp Invention is a great way to get started. Camp Invention was founded in cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990. For children in 6th to 9th grades there is Invention Project. Many members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame participate in Camp Invention and Invention Project, working with and inspiring children. The National Inventors Hall of Fame also supports various pre-school through 12th grade STEM programs as well.
Next steps for parents
As your young inventor embarks upon this path it will be useful for you to learn as much as you can both about the inventing process and the patent process. While it is also useful for your young inventor to read as much about this as possible, some of the particulars can at times become a bit overwhelming. We literally have hundreds of articles on IPWatchdog.com that discuss both the basics of inventing and patenting. I’ve attempted to arrange some of the more important articles by topic and complexity here – Invention to Patent 101 — Everything you need to know to get started. There are 9 separate “reading assignments” that start off with basic information and progressively get more in depth. Each article will have links to other articles as well.