Inventors: Take Your Invention from the Garage to the World
Successful Garage Inventions Abound...
The list of businesses and products with their beginnings in a garage or even a bedroom is pretty impressive. From Barbie dolls to trampolines, the Walt Disney company, Hewlett Packard, Apple and Google to name a few, garage inventors have had a major impact on the way we live our lives.
What Innovations and Inventions are Cooking in Your Garage?
Actually, you don't necessarily have to be working on your ideas in the garage but it's a good "umbrella" term for inventions that aren't being developed by big companies with lots of resources. My father was something of an amateur engineer and would never buy anything that he could make. His anti-burglar steering lock, while not a thing of beauty, defied even the most committed crook to steal his car. My brother is currently working on an eco-friendly tap/faucet. Another friend has created a medium size business based on the invention of a toolbox for tradespeople. They say that everyone has a book inside them somewhere. Why not an invention? Whatever you have in mind, whether it's a computer application or a nifty gadget, someone somewhere needs it - possibly even millions of someones!
Patents and Other Considerations
Before you take your idea out into the world, you're going to need to patent it. While there are numerous organisations and attorneys available to assist inventors with patents, trademarks and the commercialisation of inventions, unless you familiarise yourself with the intellectual property world, you can face problems that can be avoided by doing some research. For instance, you will need to check whether anyone else has patented an idea similar to yours.
Government sites are a good place to start. The following sites offer advice, assistance and resources for inventors: United States, Australia Intellectual Property, Australia Help for Inventors, Canada and many countries offer government help to encourage local innovations.
The following sites also offer information and resources:
InventorSpot has news, forums and information on new inventions, delivered with a humorous touch and covering some fun and quirky ideas.
Inventors Digest offers news, webinars and topical articles for inventors.
Google Patents offers a search facility for 8 million patents
Inventor Fraud has some useful information on the steps to take to protect your invention.
Crazy Patents - a fun look at some of the more unusual ideas that have been patented.
Which Way From Here?
Maybe your invention is something your can manufacture and market yourself. Maybe you need some seed funds to get started. Maybe you just want to get a patent and have someone else do the rest of the development give you a percentage. Maybe your network already includes plenty of people and organisations who can help get your invention on the road. If not, you can try entering competitions. A great way to get exposure to possible investors or business partners, obtain valuable feedback on your invention, cash prizes and specific grants to further develop your idea.
IdeaConnection has a good list of competitions run by various companies and organizations in areas ranging from health to computer security.
Challenge.gov while not solely about inventions, is an invitation from the US Government to come up with solutions for...well...lots of things. From making a video on fruits and vegetables to designing iPhone apps, there are lots of opportunities to utilize your ideas and win prizes.
Whatever your area of interest, there will be a competition to enter. Check out your local government agencies, companies, not for profit organisations and universities. Set up a Google alert for "invention competitions" and "innovation competitions" to keep you up to date with the latest ones.
Taking the Next Step
This journal article on independent inventors, while quite lengthy, has some great information. Of particular interest is a survey undertaken to measure the results of inventors who have taken different paths from managing their invention through production and sales to those who have licensed their ideas instead.
“The march of invention has clothed mankind with powers of which a century ago the boldest imagination could not have dreamt” - Henry George
Maybe it will be your imagination and invention that will make the next great contribution to our world. So get inspired and get ready to call yourself "inventor" (or garage genius..)