Hi. Barb here with the second installment in the story of my InCool Comfort Vanity Mirror.
I have always been a problem solver. I was helping my friend make appetizers for a party once and needed a baking rack to make brown sugar encrusted bacon…yumm! All the racks were in use so I improvised a rack by pinching up rows in a sheet of heavy aluminum foil.
The first time I stuck that little fan in front of the books I knew I had just created something very useful. I thought there just had to be something like it already on the market. I did a thorough online search, but I found nothing like it. The more I searched for a makeup mirror/fan combo, the more I realized I had an original idea.
My first thoughts were whether I should protect my idea with a patent of some sort. (A little side story here, I was 16 when my dad took me to talk to a patent attorney about a cat box design. That was in the 70’s and the attorney told us it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to begin the patent process back then.) I remembered hearing that some significant changes had been made to the patent process in the mid 90’s. I decided to look at the USPTO website, United States Patent and Trademark Office, to see what had changed.
Thankfully, things are different now. The fees are now $260.00 or less for a provisional patent that gives you some protection and the right to label your invention ‘patent pending’. I was able to file for the provisional patent myself. The provisional patent gave me a year to do the research to see if my mirror was something that consumers would want.
After confirming for myself there is a market for my new idea I decided to spend the money to convert my provisional patent into a non-provisional patent. You must do the conversion within the year too. You don’t have to do a provisional patent and it does take a year off of the overall 20 year patent period, but it does provide the flexibility to identify if you do have a market while providing some protection and without a huge investment.
Let me caution you that the year goes fast because you must do extensive research to prove to yourself that there is a need for your invention and that the public will buy it. You must also be honest with yourself about what you find. There is no point in investing in something that doesn’t have a market.
If you do decide to go forward, it is at that point where it starts to get expensive…and scary!