The Ultimate Guide for Private Inventors

You’ve had a good idea and want to turn it into a profitable business. But what do you do next?

4D Products has been designing innovative new products for a wide range of businesses and individuals since 2008. Using our years of industry insight, we created this article to provide you with The Ultimate Guide for Private Inventors.

If you have any further questions, email us at and we will do our best to answer them for you.

We are going to cover the following topics:

  • Is my idea worth developing?
  • Protecting your intellectual property
  • The cost
  • Funding options
  • Marketing and sales
  • What to do next?

Is My Idea Worth Developing?

Many first time inventors ask us whether we think they’ve had a ‘good idea’. Just because something doesn’t exist yet or it hasn’t been patented doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. A good idea (commercially) is one that has the potential to offer a good return on investment. Are there enough potential customers out there who would pay money for your new product? Why would they choose your product over whatever solution they are currently using? Remember humans are creatures of habit; they tend to stick to what they know unless there is a very good reason to change their behaviour.

Successful businesses understand exactly who their target market is, and what the target market wants or needs. This knowledge is very important. If you have any doubts about this, we would advise you to focus on gaining an in-depth knowledge of your target market, what drives their decision-making processes when choosing new products?

Author and marketing guru Seth Godin recommends identifying a niche in an existing market first, and developing your product idea second.

Presenting a high quality visual or prototype to a sample group of your target market is one way of evaluating the potential of your new idea. We can help you to get to this milestone quickly and cost effectively. Don’t rely on friends and relatives telling you that you have a good idea. Until you are asking a stranger to part with money for your new product, you don’t truly know what the market will think.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

In the commercial world, intellectual property (IP) can be a valuable commodity. If you are investing time and money in new product development, you need to protect anything that is unique, as it adds value to your business. Understand your position on intellectual property before starting on the product development journey, as you can’t retrospectively apply some of the protection methods discussed below.

IP protection is an industry in its own right, but we have provided a summary of the basics you need to know when considering product development.

Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) – A document that two or more parties sign to declare that they will not disclose any confidential or sensitive information disclosed by the other party. It is good practice to get an NDA with everyone involved in your development project.

You don’t need to pay a lawyer to create an NDA, you can download one here for free from the Intellectual Property Office

Patent – Used to protect how a product works, not how it looks (in the UK).

Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) – An international patent law treaty, concluded in 1970. It provides a unified procedure for filing patent applications to protect inventions in each of its contracting states. A patent application filed under the PCT is called an international application, or PCT application.

Design Registration – Applied-for rights that protect how your product looks, a more official approach than relying on automatic design rights.

Design Rights – Automatic rights that protect how your product looks.

Copyright – Automatically assigned, used to protect written work and images.

Trademarking – Used to protect brand names and logos.

Patent Attorney – A qualified expert who specialises in the field of intellectual property.

For more detailed information, visit the Intellectual Property section of the UK Government website.

Create a Strong Brand

If you have a great product with a well-crafted brand, that is protection in itself, as consumers will seek out your specific brand, not your competitors. Example – ‘I’m off to by a new Dyson’.

When Should an idea Be Protected?

Sometimes we are approached by clients that already have a patent. This is fine if the patent protects ideas that can be used to create a great product. It can be a problem if the design team envisages a better product or solution that isn’t covered by the existing patent.

With that in mind, we would advise inventors to undertake some initial design work (under NDA) to explore their idea with a professional designer. The best design features can then be protected in the most appropriate way.

Cost to Develop a New Product

Getting a new product from initial idea through to manufactured unit for sale on a retailer’s shelf requires a variety of skills and an appropriate level of investment. Product design is one part (an important one!) of the whole process. The cost is usually linked to how complex a product is, as more complexity = more time to complete.

As every design project we work on is unique, we can only give you a written proposal with costs and timescales once we have discussed your requirements at our initial consultation. The following costs need to be considered before a product is sales-ready:

  • Design costs – development of the idea, into manufacture ready data.
  • Prototype costs – testing and optimising of the design at key stages. This will also help you decide how many you need.
  • Regulatory approval and testing costs – making sure your product is safe and legal.
  • Manufacturing costs – investing in tooling and an initial production run.
  • Marketing & sales costs – creating a brand and sales material. Advertising costs.
  • Intellectual property costs – protecting your unique ideas in the most appropriate ways.

With any new product, a ‘fixed cost’ doesn’t actually exist. If you were to approach three design companies, it is likely you would get three different costs. The higher the budget, the more opportunities exist to refine the design through prototyping and testing.

Funding Options

Start-up businesses and private inventors may not have funding in place, so here are a few options to consider:

Do It in Stages – Work with a company that will deliver the design process one stage at a time. Seek investment when you have high quality design work to present to investors.

UK Government – The UK Government offers grant funding to certain industries that it sees as important to the growth of the UK economy. Latest information can be found at Innovate UK’s website: Innovate UK

Crowdfunding – There has been an explosion of interest in crowdfunding in recent years. The essence of the idea is that you create a marketing pitch to your potential customers, and ask them to pre order your product before it has been manufactured. Usually at a discounted price to encourage people to buy. There are now a variety of crowdfunding websites operating, so it’s worth doing some research to find out which is the best fit for you. Some of the big names include KickstarterIndiegogo, and Seeders.

It’s worth noting that many successful campaigns spend considerable amounts of money in digital marketing to achieve their goals, so you need to think through how you will drive traffic to your campaign. A whole industry of crowdfunding agencies has sprung up that specialise in campaign planning, marketing, and support.

Local Grants – There are often smaller grants available at local, regional level. It is worth visiting your local authorities website to see if anything is available. Criteria and type of grant are always changing, so you need to check what is current in the area that you or your business is based.

R&D Tax Credits – The UK Government also offers a range of options when it comes to tax credits. Companies that are focusing on R&D (research and development) can apply for tax cuts or tax credits. The UK Government sees research and development as a fundamentally important aspect of the economy, which can drive wider growth and development in the country. The criteria for qualification is generally fairly loose, and most businesses that can justify that they operate in a research and development capacity will be granted R&D Tax Credits.

Marketing & Sales

To build a successful business, your new product needs to sell. Before you can sell it, you need to work out how and where you will market it.

There are a multitude of different methods that can be employed to successfully market new products to the general public. The first step is defining who your new product is aimed at, and from there, undertaking market research to ascertain if your product is going to fill a gap in the market and provide something that people are willing to purchase.

Different marketing and sales techniques will appeal to a different consumer base. It’s incredibly important to evaluate both your business set-up and sales goals to ensure you are picking the correct model.

Here are some of the most effective marketing and sales methods:

B2C Products – A common form of sales is B2C. This stands for business to consumers, and is defined as a company selling its products directly to consumers. Commonly, B2C refers to companies that are mostly based online and have the ability to reach out directly to a consumer base through the internet. It can also refer to more traditional retail outlets in shopping centres or on the high street. B2C product sales involve marketing aimed at the consumer you are trying to reach. In many cases, companies need to have a more personal and empathetic approach to reach those consumers and persuade them to buy.

B2B products – Conversely, B2B products, or business to business, involves companies selling products directly to other companies. This can involve entirely different business structures, as the company selling the product is likely to be selling in bulk, and the need to appeal to an individual is in many ways unnecessary. For instance, you might be producing the product you have designed, and your target market is not the public but retail outlets that purchase your product to then sell to the consumer. In this capacity, your company would be selling B2B products.

Social Media – With the advent of the internet age, one of the most effective forms of marketing new products can be found through social media. This can be an incredibly powerful way to reach a new customer base, but equally companies have to be careful in the manner that they reach out. Social media can be used to create viral marketing campaigns, using video or photos to get a product or idea across. However, these campaigns don’t always work, particularly if they are seen as spammy. A company has to offer real value when reaching out through social media.

Online Advertising – Many effective methods of advertising can be found through the internet. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook provide companies with the option to create advertisement campaigns, reaching audiences based on their demographic, location or interests. Again, companies need to ensure they aren’t promoting spam advertisements, and need to tailor their online campaigns to provide a solution for those searching for answers.

What Next?

Well, if you’re still a little unsure about where you want to go then you can come and spend some time with our expert product designers to get the feedback you need. That’s why we have created 4D ideas time, where you can come in and sit with our experts to get advice on where to start. Book in a date today to get started.