It is very important to express your idea in a tangible form so that it can be protected by intellectual property rights. With this article, we want to make sure you know how to give your idea a more specific intellectual property value, more precisely how to turn it into a patentable invention and how much you should budget for it.
How Much Does it Cost to Make A Prototype for a New Product Invention?
In order to create a physical prototype of a new product you need to follow some basic steps and for all of them you will need financial resources. We are going to talk about the required financial investments in the following lines.
Creating your prototype
You will need much fewer financial resources to create a prototype if your product design doesn’t need a patent. Sometimes you will only have to make a digital prototype, depending on the type of product or idea you have. Though, in this case, there is no physical object. Investors and companies will be able to tell whether your ideas are technically feasible and whether they have the manufacturing capabilities to mass-produce your products, with the help of a well-designed virtual image that is interactive and hyper-realistic. Usually, this process has three steps:
- Find a 3D CAD designer
You can easily find a reputable 3D CAD designer online by simply searching on Google. Though, do not pick the first one that appears on your search list. Take your time to visit their websites and read clients’ reviews.
The cost of building the digital product prototype will depend on the company you choose as there are no standard fees. In general, a higher price means better quality but this is not always the case. Again, read general information about every company’s terms regarding creating your designs/ideas, revisions, location, guarantees, and return policy.
- Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement
Once you have the hyper-realistic 3D rendering of your product, you should find a developer that can help you create your prototype. When we say “prototype developer” we are not necessarily referring to gigantic factories or large-scale business entities. Most probably you can get your prototype made by a machinist, handyman, CNC, carpenter, or artist, if it is pretty simple, and made of readily available materials.
On the other hand, complex products made of various materials like metal alloy, plastic, many mechanical/electrical components, and/or wood, can be made by a custom manufacturing company. Just like collaborating with a 3D CAD designer, you will also need a Non-Disclosure Agreement when working with a prototype developer.
In some situations, you will only need the digital prototype because the idea/design/product is very complex and too expensive to build a physical model. Some examples would include large-scale industrial equipment, a building, large machines or vehicles, an oil ring, or a bridge. On the other hand, small products like apparel, wristwatches, home appliances, digital camera, or furniture pieces are not that expensive because they can be manufactured pretty fast and don’t require many materials.
The price of building a 3D model depends on different factors such as the quality of service you’re striving for and the complexity of the design. But you may not even have to spend a penny for it if you have CAD skills or at least you are ready to learn. Though, the best alternative for most products is to have the images taken by a professional. The cost is similar to that of hiring a professional 3D modeler.
When paying a 3D modeler, there are three basic methods:
- full-time – it would be best to hire a full-time professional 3D modeler if you are a very productive inventor who has many ideas;
- per project – you will agree on the price before starting the project, and you have to establish a deadline;
- per hour – the modeler charges a fixed rate per hour and the total cost is based on the time needed to do the project.
It is impossible to set a standard cost because every product and design is different. Plan on spending a minimum of $1,100 for a pretty simple product. The costs will increase with the complexity of the project. You will not pay only for the modeling process, but also for the extra services, which include, but are not limited to, customer service, revision if needed, and communications.
This is a competitive industry with many freelancers and agencies that offer more or less similar services. This is why it can be extremely hard to decide which professional is better than another. In order to ease your decision, ask for a portfolio with their previous work and read the customers’ reviews.
It is crucial to get the right 3D model because the physical prototype is built based on these images. If there are mistakes, you will not get the product you desire. Even a small difference between the physical artifacts and the digital prototype design can result in inconsistencies that will affect your product’s performance and cause extra repair costs.
The costs of collaborating with an individual handyman are not necessarily lower than those of working with a prototype manufacturer. If you chose to work with a prototype manufacturer, the chances are better to find the right materials and get the best possible quality, especially if the company has experience in this field. In general, a custom manufacturer is more qualified and has the right tools (CNC machines, metal fabrication, laser cutting, injection molding, and others), while a handyman may not always have all the necessary equipment. Even though the costs tend to be higher, it is worth it if you’re striving for quality.
As we already mentioned, it is hard to offer an exact price as every project is unique. For instance, you may have to pay only $20 for a simple plastic prototype or $10,000 to more than $100,000 if an injection mold is required.
As we are talking about the invention of a new product, you will have to file a patent for it. The intellectual property is protected by non-disclosure agreements only for a limited period (during the manufacturing process, prototype, and design). As soon as the product hits the market, the protection is void.
It is not required to have a prototype in order to file a patent, but the probability to get one will increase.
Filing for patent
Once you determined that you have a unique business idea, you can file to patent it. Your intellectual property will be protected by this patent, which means that your idea can not be used by somebody else without your consent or without paying legal consequences. There are some costs for filling out a patent and here are some price estimates.
With a provisional patent, your intellectual property is protected for 12 months. The cost of this type of patent depends on the size of your business. For example, the provisional application filing fee for a large entity is around $300, while for a small entity is $150 and for a micro-entity is $80.
With a non-provisional patent, your intellectual property is protected as long as the patent is valid. The cost depends on the size of the business as well but is much higher. Expect to pay $250 for a micro-entity, $500 for a small business, and $980 for a large entity.
There is a clear difference between a Design Patent and a Plant Patent. The Plant Patent is for the people who invent or discover a plant, while a Design Patent protects intellectual property referring to the look of a product and are filled, in general, for fashion articles and the appearance and shapes of products. There are clear regulations for each type of patent that say if a specific discovery or invention can be patented.
It is recommended to hire a patent attorney to help with your application. In order to avoid any misinterpretation or ambiguity by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the large public, the attorney should make a clear and comprehensive product description.
It’s almost impossible for anybody, except a qualified lawyer, to file a legally binding, strong application accompanied by the technical details of a product because patent law is a specialized domain. If adding the expenses of hiring a patent attorney, the total cost can go up to anywhere between $5,200 and $17,000 or even more.
You may think that the provisional patent is free as it is offered for a limited period of time, which is false. Also, in this situation, it is recommended to hire a registered patent attorney to make this whole process much easier and avoid any legal problems in the future. Search for an agent or a patent attorney on the USPTO website to be safe. More consideration is required for a provisional patent regarding the type and complexity of the product. The cost of a complex computer program may be more than $17,000, while for a simple invention, you may have to pay around $8,000.
Please remember that the prices we presented above are estimative and can change at any moment.
To get the most out of the idea you have, you need to follow these steps. Also, keep in mind that you should only share your idea with people you trust even though it’s always tempting to share your ideas with others, but in this case, it’s not the best course of action at all.