Any Inventors Here?
Has anyone here ever successfully invented anything new? Especially violin-related?
We all know it's easy to come up with an idea, but the factor that separates the successful invention from the others is that you actually MADE it and refined it to a level that could be produced and used.
I have had ideas for years (I've been inventing things since I was a child) but am currently the closest that I've ever been to actually MAKING a good thing that could sell. But I'm finding that the closer I get to producing it - to making it into a product people could actually buy - the less encouraged I am to finishing. I think maybe I'm just afraid of finishing and no one actually wanting it, but the only way to figure that out is to *finish*. (I actually do this in all parts of my life - I'm really good at getting something 90% finished and leaving it there).
If you ever invented anything: how did you get past this phase? How did you have faith that people would actually want your product? Did it take you years to actually take it from an idea to a product or was the process fairly quick?
Envision the final "product." Refine that "vision" as you learn more.
I re-invent myself as a violinist every evening.
As far as I know, there is no patent that was incorporated to the violin in the last 400 years (oh, ok, patents are much newer than that!). There were many, none is being used now.
Well Jeewon, I wouldn't want to go into too much detail before I have a completed product, but the reason I have faith in this particular invention is because it's something people already use, but a better version of it.
You need to understand patent law before you do any public disclosure of the product. They are expensive, especially if you are trying to cover more than the US. And you have a limited time with respect to the date of first public disclosure of the device.
Erik, you don't have to reveal anything while you do market research.
Jeewon, great points. I, too, have been thinking about the power of branding and that if you're the FIRST to do a specific design, people will tend to have brand loyalty just because you were the first brand to do that design, even if there are copy cats afterwards and you don't have a patent.
To be first in the market is a great advantage, but useless without being first in the
Hi, Erik. Do your “testers” or “reviewers” need to be advanced or intermediate violinists? Or can a beginner help you out as well?
Inventing is part of my job and there are a few patents out there with my name on it. They are typically small parts of bigger industrial machines in a competitive market, so my experience will not map completely to your circumstances.
Aika, unfortunately it probably wouldn't do much good for a beginner to review my product because they wouldn't necessarily have the perspective and experience with other similar products to be able to tell how good or bad it was. I suppose it might be equivalent to giving a beginner a very good violin when they haven't had a chance to gain perspective on lower level violins yet for comparison. I will probably do any "beginner testing" with my own students to see how it works with a broad range of different body types. But, in terms of reviews, the more advanced the testers are, the better. I think it also helps that the opinions of more advanced players are respected much more in general, and that the wood version of my product would be expensive and geared towards advanced players anyways (beginners definitely would NOT purchase it until I made the plastic version, and even that would probably be more money than beginners would typically pay).
I don't know if this counts in the context, but I own a couple of patents (and several trademarks) myself. The difference is that I never tried to profit from them directly, but rather to incorporate the patented items into the products I make to make the latter better.
My main point re. patents is that it's kinda low priority right now, at this stage, when you've done no market research. As a business of one, your main job is finding your market, not design, prototyping, manufacturing, intellectual property protection, accounting, etc. Of course those are all essential things you will have to learn to run your business, but also all things you can outsource. Finding your market
Jeewon, if you really have something innovative and present it with a business plan to a big company, you run the real risk of them stealing (or underpaying) the whole thing and then saying "sue us".
Good point Dimitri. Same problem with patents in general. I guess licensing probably only works in certain sectors (
Charles, one trick is to describe the object itself as vaguely as possible in the patent filing, in fact the vaguest you can get away with. No CAD design; pencil drawings with smudges, that sort of stuff. I'm not kidding.
As you noted, the idea is the easy part. Slightly less easy is building a functioning prototype. Next is building a
...and never forget the Golden Rule: your enthusiasm will ALWAYS bring you to underestimate the costs and overestimate the revenue!
I invented an electric version of the historical clavichord featuring solid soundboard, steel strings and humbucking pickups; I also invented a kind of electric guitar based on violin design where the bass side had a hollow resonator cavity centred under the bass bridge foot and the treble side was solid. Neither idea was patentable.
Regarding costs: you'll need to plan the market research, first disclosure of the idea (to potential customers and manufacturers), and the provisional filing such that you postpone the higher patent fees further down the road as long as possible. Over the first five years (starting from the provisional filing), the fees add up to about USD 700. If you hire a pattent attorney rather than DIY, they will bill you for another USD 6000 or so on top of that.
I thought the law was changed so you can no longer do the patent search DIY and have to hire an attorney.
Han: Yeah, I think I would limit my patent (if I ended up getting one) to the USA only. I'm assuming that's where most of my sales would be, anyways.
You might consider protection via trademark. Get a catchy trademark and work to associate it with the high quality version of your product via advertising. Then competitors will be able to copy your product, but not your name.
Eric, we live in a day and age that makes doing what you want to do so much easier than in years past. Creating prototypes, production, selling, shipping, exposure, and getting paid can be accomplished mostly with your own efforts and abilities.
I was a British patent attorney for the greater part of my working life, retired 20 years ago and have had no contact with the profession since. Because of the many changes in law and practice that have doubtless taken place in that 20 year period I cannot give specific advice except to comment generally on two fundamental points which I would always draw to the attention of a new client at a first meeting.
My father patented one of the early stackable music stands/desks. The only other inventions of his I can remember weren't patented, e.g., the rucksack-type harness with a foam-rubber sheet to protect my back, which I wore when cycling with the violin to school and the baskets on the sides of his bicycle that he used for transporting instruments from and to schools (before he passed his driving test).
I actually invented a totally new kind of semi hollow body guitar, but I was told it was unpatentable because previous patents had covered any variation of hollow body design, even ones that had never been thought of or tried before, like mine.
Now of course they may have been lying to me and going to patent it themselves, I have seen similar designs since on the market.
Good to know, Trevor! But I can't get over how arbitrary the criteria for a valid patent sounds. In a sense, I feel like my invention is super "obvious" so I'm pretty baffled why no one has done it yet. And yet, no one has! It serves the same PURPOSE as other things, but does so in a way that is novel. So, I don't know.
The concept of "obviousness" is vague. However, if you have identified a long-existing problem that basically all advanced violinists have had to work around and your invention solves it in a way that is, in hindsight, "oh, of course" (with substantial advantages above the preexisting solutions), that would probably qualify as unobvious. Moreover, it seems that the bar for unobviousness at the USPTO is not very high, these days.
Cary, unfortunately trademarking doesn't work either. I routinely receive orders for Musilia cases; there is even a Musacia Levitas out there (we make the Musafia Lievissima). Riboni has been "translated" to Rebons.
But despite knockoffs I would guess Musafia has the corner on the high-end case market, wouldn't you say Dimitri? Quality. Safety. Luxury. Standard. Hence the knockoffs. And I would also guess Musafia gained mind-share after the end of Gordge, a disruption in the market.
Jeewon, I just try to do my job as best I can, and whatever happens, will.
Well whether it was by design, or an impeccable sense of timing, Musafia is a great example of the power of branding. Some company could make an exact knockoff but without the exact name no customer would mistake the two brands. No amount of explanation would convince me the knockoff was as good as the original. And that's not because Dmitri has convinced me of the superiority of his products. It's simply that there is one "slot" in my brain for best violin case, and somehow, Musafia has filled it (and I'm guessing the same is true for the majority of the market.) And for whatever reason no company is going to copy the brand name verbatim, nor would they be allowed to keep it for long if they tried.
Craig First, "... your patent application WILL BE REJECTED after you file it".
I think a lot of this discussion is premature until you have a working prototype, have done some testing with potential users, and come to an expected initial steady-state with regard to the time, materials, and cost needed to manufacture a production model in your garage. That will tell you whether or not you have something that can be profitably pursued.
Lydia, the testing with potential users before filing a provisional patent application is a problem because a public disclosure before filing will prevent you from ever getting a patent.
Ditto the prototype.
Erik - Re: success of my shoulder rest
I actually think Dimitri is my ideal example of what a business should be.
Solid advice, george! Still encouraging to hear that people at least bought them for a while. Like I mentioned before, if I end up selling *one* I'll feel like a success.
Erik, since there seems to be a significant learning component to your product, why not develop a course to go along with it.
Those are all great ideas, Jeewon. Now if only I wasn't so damn lazy....
Yesterday, I came across this link on the Gizmo website, https://www.instructables.com/