Whether you’ve conceived ideas that have actually come to market or still have a few good ones in your noggin, you might want to know how much it actually costs to invent something before you do it. The problem is that you didn’t act on your idea — you might never reap the benefits of inventing that product.
How Much Does It Cost to Invent Something?
There’s not a single set price to bring an idea to life. Numbers for the cost of inventions will vary by industry, as well as what it is you are trying to invent. The adage goes “you must spend money to make money,” which many iconic inventors themselves agree with.
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Preliminary Market Research
Estimated cost: $500 to $1,000
First things first, ask yourself if there is there a real need for what you’re proposing. Before you engage a lawyer and other costly professionals in the invention process, you’ll want to know if there is a market for your invention.
Of course, you don’t want to reveal your idea before receiving your patent, but you can create focus groups or informally survey friends and family. Another part of market research means seeing what competitors are doing and how your product might fill a gap they are missing.
You could hire someone to do this or you could attempt this step yourself. Either way, the cost of time — yours or someone else’s — should be factored into your invention budget for the required market research.
Estimated Cost: $1,200
There’s no use getting excited about creating an idea if someone already beat you to the punch. You don’t want to infringe upon someone else’s patent and risk the legal trouble that could come along with it.
A patent search — conducted by a professional such as a patent attorney — will save you time, money and heartache by identifying existing patents that are the same or very similar.
You might also need help coming up with drawings and text descriptions so that the patent search is effective. Plan to spend anywhere from $100 to $200 per hour on this help in each step.
Provisional Patent Filing
Estimated Cost: $1,600
Once your search proves that your idea is indeed patentable, it’s time to file for a provisional patent. This is a temporary measure that protects your idea until you’ve concluded the entire patent filing process.
Though the filing fees for your provisional patent are nominal — from $65 up to $260 — the real costs kick in when you engage legal help. Though engaging legal counsel such as a patent attorney for this step is more expensive, it’s still recommended for the best outcomes so that your provisional patent filing is done correctly.
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Estimated Cost: $8,000
This is potentially the most expensive step in the process since it comes downs to paying for the legal help you’ll need to file the application.
“I spent roughly $8,000 on my patent,” recalls Michelle Schoeder, inventor of the Easy Greasy kitchen gadget. This will mainly cover the hourly cost for your lawyer to do the work pertaining to the patent application.
Technical Design and Engineering
Estimated Cost: $2,000
Technical design and engineering come in when you’ve got to create your prototype.
In order for your prototype to be produced correctly and according to your specifications, you might need someone with an engineering background or experience in 3D modeling to draft designs for your prototyper.
You might also need help to determine the best materials that make sense for use, durability and costs. At this stage, you’ll be working with engineers, either individual consultants or part of an engineering firm, so that your 3D renderings and other specifications are exactly what your prototype creator needs.
Do note: You could work with engineering students at local universities who might be willing to take on this work at a discount.
Estimated Cost: $5,000 to $100,000
Though the costs of prototyping have come down due to the advent of inexpensive 3D printers, there are some inventions that cannot be produced on a 3D printer — even the large commercial ones.
You might have to engage a tool and die outfit to create your prototype. Depending on the complexity of your invention, you might need custom molds or tools for your prototype, which could drive up the cost of your prototype. You can ask for rapid prototyping methods to save money, but in the end, you’ll ultimately shell out a good amount of money for this service.
Legal and Accounting Help
Estimated Cost: $2,500
If you plan on marketing your device — whether through direct sales or licensing — you’ll need a legal entity through which to conduct business. You should consult with a lawyer and CPA to find out which entity will work best for your invention, business and related distribution plans.
You should keep good records as pertains to both the money you’ll spend and the money you’ll make with your invention. For one, you want to recoup any monetary loss you could incur during the first phases of development. A good tax strategy can help with this.
Secondly, you don’t want any legal or accounting negligence to cancel out the hard work of getting your invention patented and into production. You want to put in the necessary safeguards around your legal structure, related contracts and accounting systems for the business that will own your invention.
Estimated Cost: $4,500
Marketing covers the costs you’ll pay to get either individual customers, business customers, investors or all of the above. Your marketing budget might include things like digital advertising or attending trade shows, conferences, networking events and related travel.
Inventing something can turn out to be a costly endeavor, but it can be worthwhile for the prospects of earning hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. If you plan to invest something, first count the cost, then proceed with caution until you have a viable idea you can fund, market and hopefully turn into an invention success story.
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About the Author
Aja McClanahan is a personal finance and entrepreneurship writer, and influencer among the millennial crowd when it comes to creating palatable, actionable content in the realm of finances. She writes on my own website, www.principlesofincrease.com, as well as for a number of other web publications, including Huffington Post, Quicken Loans and other web properties.