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Introduction

The purpose of this Inventors' Handbook is to provide you with basic guidance on all the key stages of turning an invention into a commercial product. Or perhaps we should say the key stages of turning an idea into an enterprise, if we are to widen our definition of 'invention' to include novel processes, business methods, social interactions etc. Though invention has traditionally been associated with manufactured products, it is now better understood that new wealth has always been created primarily from new knowledge, or novel uses of existing knowledge.

Although this guide is published by the European Patent Office, its content goes well beyond issues of intellectual property (IP). While IP is undoubtedly essential to the successful exploitation of new ideas, it is only one of several important aspects of innovation.

Inventions often fail for reasons that have nothing to do with IP. For example: there may be little advantage in applying for a patent if market demand for your invention is likely to be low, or if its design is impractical, or if it cannot be produced at a realistic price. This guide is intended to help you avoid many of the common mistakes associated with invention, and not just the mistakes associated with IP.

Reduce risk and control costs

If there is one single, simple lesson that inventors need to learn in order to maximise their chances of success, it is this: you must reduce risk and control costs at all times.

Any new business venture involves risk, but invention carries extra risk because it is impossible to predict how well an unknown, untried product will perform in the market-place. No matter how thoroughly the market is researched, no one can guarantee success. Most companies and investors know this, and it is the main reason why they are reluctant to gamble on inventions. There are always safer ways to invest money!

Most risk is financial, so controlling costs is vital. It is easy to overspend on an invention because optimism tends to overrule caution. Many invention projects fail not because there is anything wrong with the invention, but because too much money has been spent too soon, or on the wrong things.

As an inventor you must be able to demonstrate that you have done everything you possibly can to eliminate risk from your project. This means not just the risk to you, but also the risk to potential investors, licensees and business associates. If you can show a positive attitude to risk reduction, you are much more likely to attract investment and support.

You should therefore regard reducing risk as essential to improving the chances for your invention - perhaps even more essential than acquiring strong IP rights!

Feedback

We welcome your comments on the usefulness and accuracy of the information in the Inventors' Handbook. This will help us to improve future editions. Please send us your views at academy@epo.org.

Finally, we hope you will find this guide useful, and we wish you and your invention every success.

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