Do I Need a Prototype of My Invention or New Product Idea Before Filing a Patent Application?

I received a question today from an independent inventor like yourself asking “I have an invention. What do I do first, do I make a prototype then patent it? If so I would have to have help with some parts. Are there companies out there to help with parts to make the prototype?”.

Well, my response is that you should file a patent application to lock-in “patent pending” first. You obviously do not want your idea stolen. Then use a confidentially/non-compete agreement (search Internet for one used for patents) with anyone you need to disclose your invention to, such as somebody making a prototype for you. Use the agreement and do NOT advertise your idea (such as on the Internet) at least until you discuss the ramifications of a “public disclosure” with an experienced patent attorney.

Regarding making a prototype, you do not need to make one in order to file a patent application unless you (or a person you get to evaluate your idea who is more experienced in the particular technology involved) are not sure the idea will work. Then, you might have an inexpensive prototype made to prove the concept. Still, I would not wait long before filing a patent application as there may be time limits on filing a patent application based on what previous marketing activities you have done.

Prototypes are mainly made to help sell your idea to potential investors, to get feedback from potential customers, and to assist you in selling any patent rights you may have in your idea to a person or company interested in buying you out.

I see a lot of people making expensive prototypes as the first thing they do. I am a advocate of the “scissors, cardboard, and tape” (or box knife, artist’s foam-cored cardboard, glue or rivets, and paint) approach to making prototypes. You would be surprised what you can make yourself (even without any experience). Advantages of doing at least the initial prototype yourself include: 1) it is MUCH CHEAPER than professionally made prototypes; 2) it helps you find problems and new approaches (even alternative or better designs) to your idea (you might have invested a lot of money in a less-preferred design); and 3) it can serve most or all of the purposes of a professionally made prototype.

Even if you are intent on getting a professionally made prototype made, consider having a prototype of the type described above initially professionally made for the reasons stated above. Once you have determined the best design and any improvements you want to make, you can have a “brick and mortar” (wooden, metal, or plastic) prototype (the expensive type) made of your preferred design with all of the improvements!

You can lock in “patent pending” at a reasonable price by filing a provisional (locks-in patent pending for one year – file a utility patent within the one year period that claims “priority” of the provisional patent application) or a utility patent application at:

Best regards,

Brian R. Rayve

P.S. I will be adding a list of prototype companies to my Ultimate Inventor Resources at:

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One thought on “Do I Need a Prototype of My Invention or New Product Idea Before Filing a Patent Application?
  1. Obtaining a patent for your invention is a crucial step towards gaining residual income from selling your concept to a big company. Because without a patent and idea is just an idea, and for the most part you can’t sell just an idea. Patents using an attorney are expensive… anywhere from $710 – to upwards of $8,000. I’ve heard you can file yourself for as little as $75. I understand the document should have professional schematics and be around 10-20 pages.

    Thanks for the tip of creating your first design with cardboard, paper and tape. This would work for more simple designs, and it will work for mine! I’m looking to create some designs with plastic.

    Have a prosperous day,

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