Before you start manufacturing, you’ll need to create a prototype and then decide if you want to patent your invention or new product.So, as an inventor or designer, it’s important to learn about patenting and prototyping.Allow me to introduce to you Justin Aiello of Aiello Design.In my interview with Justin, we will explore how to do a patent search, the advantages of filing a patent and why you should watch out for invention companies.KI: Can you briefly go through the invention development process?JA:Step 1: US Patent SearchStep 2: Preliminary DesignStep 3: CAD EngineeringStep 4: PrototypeStep 5: Patent ProtectionStep 6: ProductionKI: Are you required to patent an idea? JA: No. But you have to make sure you are not infringing on an active patent or you can be liable for damages.KI: What are the advantages of patenting an idea?JA: It grants the patent holder exclusive rights to the technology for 20 years. A patent is also needed if you plan to license your product.KI: What is a patent search?JA: The process of searching and finding similar patents to help determine your chances of getting a patent.KI: Is it necessary to do a patent search? JA: Most of the time.KI: Where would you suggest starting the patent search process?JA: The United States Patent Office. There is lots of good information on the patent office web site. The site is extremely cluttered and difficult to navigate but good information is there. You just have to find it. The site can be found at http://www.uspto.gov.KI: What would you need in order to file a patent search? JA: A complete description of the proposed invention.KI: What are the advantages of hiring a professional to do a patent search? JA: A professional search should be more comprehensive as they are done by people physically at the patent office as opposed to an online, keyword search.KI: What is a provisional patent application? JA: A 12-month placeholder for a product that will eventually become patented.KI: What are the advantages of filing a provisional application? JA: It’s a low-cost way to start the patent process while inventors explore marketing, sales, production, etc.KI: On average, how much does filing a provision patent cost? JA: $130 assuming you have all the parts of the application.KI: Will a patent avoid infringements from companies, for example, in China and other countries? JA: No. Patents can only be enforced in the country in which it’s filed. If you have a US Patent, the rest of the world can’t sell in the US, but they can sell to the rest of the world.KI: What should one have prepared when starting the development process? JA: A great idea that you believe in and a clear goal of where you want to take it.KI: Is a drawing sufficient to get the prototyping process started? JA: Yes. Drawings and sketches are always great.KI: Do you think an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is sufficient when working with a development company? JA: Yes.KI: Do you suggest working with a U.S. company v.s. an overseas company when developing prototypes? JA: Overseas is great for manufacturing. The U.S. is still the best place for design, engineering and the overall front-end development.KI: Do you have to use the same factory where you got your prototype produced? What are the advantages if you do? JA: No. Getting low volume prototype parts are made by a different kind of company than one that makes high-volume, mass produced parts. It’s two completely different industries.KI: In your opinion, how viable are invention companies? JA: Invention promotion companies are a waste of money. Invention Development companies, like mine, provide the necessary development needed to take a product from an idea to reality.KI: Aside from patent research, what other type of market research, if any, do you think is necessary prior to developing a product? JA: Find comparable/similar products to help determine the retail price of your product. And run the idea by trusted family and friends.KI: How do you know if a product requires a testing certification? JA: It’s a case by case basis, but again, find comparable/similar products and see what certifications they have.KI: What’s the one thing (most important advice) you’d like to share with inventors as far as the invention development process? JA:- Use the internet and BBB to research invention related companies before working with them. You will find many companies have complaints and pending lawsuits.- Ideas do not have any value until they are patented and developed and Invention Development requires money to get there.Having been in the manufacturing business for many years and working with inventors, product developers and licensors, the answer to whether or not you should patent a product really depends on several factors – the type of product, your business plans and finances and your comfort level. New, novel and innovative products should more likely be patented. Also, as Justin noted earlier, if you plan to only develop a product and then sell or license it, it’s highly advisable that you file a patent for your invention. There are different kinds of patents – utility and design. And remember that ideas are NOT patentable – you can only patent the actual invention.There are many products in the market that do not have patents, but ultimately, you have to feel comfortable with this decision.More importantly is making sure you don’t infringe on an existing patent. Just because it’s not out in the market, that does not mean a patent has not been filed, so make sure you do your research.Working with an invention development company like Justin’s or hiring an attorney are great resources when making this decision.Here’s a link (http://www.wipo.int/patentscope/en/patents_faq.html#why_patents) to another great resource about filing patents from WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) that you may want to check out.I personally have not worked with invention promotion companies, but I tend to agree with Justin. I’ve heard that most of them require upfront fees, so as always, be smart, be very cautious and do your homework.