What is the Difference Between an Idea and an Invention and How Do I Properly Document My Idea?
The dictionary defines an invention as “a device, contrivance or process originated after study and experiment.” An idea is defined as “a formulated thought or opinion.” With these definitions, you should ask yourself how much study and experiment have you really done on your idea. Is your idea a tangible solution or just the recognition of a problem that needs a solution?
How many times have you said to yourself “it would be great if there were a product that could solve this problem?” I have had that same thought many times before. Unfortunately, often times, I was not identifying a real solution but just the need for a solution. Additionally, I have seen many inventors make the same mistake confusing their “identification of a problem” for an actual solution, thus spending unnecessary time focusing on the problem and not the solution.
The real challenge with inventing is not just identifying a need, but also figuring out a solution. This may seem common sense; however, I can tell you that I have talked with hundreds inventors who thought they had an invention, when in fact they had an idea without a well-defined solution.
The inventor can document his invention in one of the following two ways:
1. Inventor’s Notebook or Form
Use a bound notebook or record of invention form to record your invention by clearly describing the idea and concept and signing and dating in ink. Also, have two other people sign and date the book or form as witness to your invention.
The description should include the following: consecutively numbered pages, the purpose of the invention, a detailed explanation of the invention, drawings or sketches and a list of features and advantages.
2. Disclosure Documents
The inventor can utilize the USPTO “Disclosure Document Program” and file disclosure documents; however, the method described above is as good or better than filing disclosure documents. The USPTO charges a nominal fee for filing these documents.
Note – documenting your invention is not a substitute for a provisional or non-provisional patent. The purpose is to establish a date of record for your invention and to provide you with the proper documentation in the event of a dispute.