At Trunki, we get hundreds of enquiries from budding inventors so we wanted to reach out to all you lovely creative people and share our tips to help you on your innovation journey!
Having an idea is the easy bit, developing this idea into something that is wanted by real consumers (not just friends and family) and has a large enough market to justify all the hard work and cash to bring into reality is the hard bit. Here are some steps to take to understand if your idea is commercially viable.
1. Talk to your target market
Just because you think it’s a great idea, does not mean anyone else will (apart from close friends and family who often are biased and wont give you hard honest feedback). Get in front of your target market and ask them –
What do they think? Does it really solve the problem you intend it to?
What would they pay for it, and if so roughly how much?
Where would they expect to purchase it?
What do they see as the real advantage you have invented over other solutions?
Where and when would they use it?
Why do they think its better than anything else on the market?
How would they improve it?
Continually return to the market and repeat this at key development stages, such as when you have visual artist impressions of what it could look like, prototypes and samples.
The more research you do, the better you’ll understand what your target market wants from a product and develop something they want (which will sell) rather than what you think they want (which most likely wont sell).
2. Prototype, prototype, prototype
This is the most important part of product development; building something that can demonstrate you idea. This can start really early on with a Blue Peter style sellotape and cardboard, very rough mock up. You can gauge size, some usability understanding and even some function of the idea. It helps bring your idea to life so you can learn about its interaction with the real world. Then learn from it and build another and another, revisit stage one, build another. Each time you lean something new it will help improve on the last design.
When we developed ToddlePak, we built over 300 prototypes from early card mock ups to fabric harnesses and rapid prototyped buckle designs, each time learning something new about how to improve the design. Whether it was how well it fitted different size children to how easy and quick it was to adjust and how intuitive it was to use, it also identified some miss use of some features which we dropped from the product.
3. Quality, not Quantity!
You’ve heard the phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none”, well, the same applies to ideas! Rather than have a product that’s all singing all dancing, it’s much better to have a product that does a one or two things really, really well. Making it do too much not only compromises its ability to do anything well but becomes very difficult to market and easily looses customer attention. Think about the product’s function and usability. Make it accessible and effective. Again, keep going back to step 1.
4. Protect as you go
You can never underestimate the power of protecting your ideas; this is called Intellectual Property. There are 4 main types:
Patents protect a novel technical solution. You can’t patent the idea of a ride on suitcase but you can protect the element of technical challenges you’ve solved in a novel way, for example the new catch design on our Trunki is patented.
Design rights protect the shape of a product. There are 2 kinds, unregistered and registered.
Unregistered is naturally occurring but required proof of the date it was created. (People used to send themselves their designs by registered post as proof, it’s a good idea to date your drawings and you can now upload them to databases like ACID
Unregistered rights only protect your design in the UK and are only valid for 15 years.
Registered designs can be registered in the UK but there is a simple and cost effective way to register a design across European using OHIM. This provides much stronger protection, has a official registration date and is enforceable across the EU, and lasts up to 25 years, requiring renewal every 5 years.
Copyright prevents anybody from displaying your work – images, designs, photographs, graphics etc – without your prior permission and lasts anything from 25 years to a lifetime depending on the type of creation it covers.
Trademarks protect brand names, creating a brand for your product is a good way of adding value and helping people identify your idea. You can protect words and graphic symbols and trademark protection lasts 10 years.
A European Trademark is also easy and cost effective to register, giving you protection across the whole EU in one application.
You can only apply for Intellectual property if it has not been published in the public domain i.e. put on a website or published in the media. However, this can be a Catch 22: many inventors become so secretive of their ideas they wont discuss them with anyone, often applying for expensive patents for product people would never want to buy. Talking to your target market helps refine your design, making it better, more commercial and consequently more valuable IP. Joe Public is never going to nick your idea as they have no means of commercialising it, it’s a risk worth taking. When talking to trade or businesses, you should be a little more cautious and ask then to sign an NDA (None Disclosure Agreement) to help protect your exposure.
This one-stop guide for inventing will help you through the design process in more detail.
Got a product idea you think we’ll love?
If you’ve got a children’s travel product idea you want to share with us, please fill out our ‘What’s the big Idea?’ inventors’ questions and tell us as much as you can! You can download the questions here. Email your completed questionnaires to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember – Trunki is laser focused on pioneering children travel gear, so only send in your ideas if they’re for kids on the go Good luck!