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Inventor's Online Tool for Commercial Feasibility

This free online inventor's tool was created after reading Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the U.S. Patent Office, by David Pressman, Attorney at Law. If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you purchase your copy of the book. Please note, that this tool was created after receiving permission from NOLO publishing.

Most experts agree that you should address the commercial feasibility of any invention or product before investing too much money into it. Every invention has both positive and negative factors. To evaluate an invention objectively, in the book Patent It Yourself, David Pressman presents us a list of 63 factors to evaulate for any invention's commercial feasability. Below is that list of factors.

To evaluate your invention, weight each factor below on a scale from -100 to +100 with your best estimate. If a particular factor is irrelevant to your invention, leave it at zero "0".

For example, if your invention has a significant cost savings to its existing counterparts, you would rate it a +80. However, if it is time consuming to produce, you may weight it as a -40, and so on.

As you weight the factors in the list, your average score (or weight), will be shown in the upper right of the page. According to David Pressman, if your average weighted score when your finished is 50 or more, then you might want to continue pursuing your invention. However, if your score is less than 0, you may want to direct your efforts elsewhere. If you evaluation gives you a score between 0 and 50, you need to make a critical evaluation about your invention.

Keep in mind that there are many types of evaluations that need to be completed for any invention, this is only one - but a very important one. Please note that you may have to enter a score for several factors before your average weighted score begins to change. Also note that this is only a tool and by using this tool that you agree not to hold the owners of this website responsible or liable for any of your potential losses or loss of earnings from using this tool.

Commercial Feability Factor Weight / Score
1. Cost. Is your invention cheaper or more expensive to build or use than current counterparts? An example where making something more expensive to build would be an advantage is a credit or eligibility card; a more expensive card would be more difficult to counterfeit.
2. Weight. Is your invention lighter (or heavier) in weight than what is already known, and is such change in weight a benefit? For example, if you've invented a new automobile or airplane engine, a reduction in weight is a great benefit. But if you've invented a new ballast material, obviously an increase in weight (provided it doesn't come at too great a cost in money or bulk) is a benefit.
3. Size. Is your invention smaller or larger in size or capacity than what is already known, and is such change in size a benefit?
4. Safety/Health Factors. Is your invention safer or healthier to use than what is already known? Clearly there's a strong trend in government and industry to improve the safety and reduce the possible chances for injury, harm, and product liability suits in most products and processes, and this trend has given birth to many new inventions. Often a greater increase in cost and weight will be tolerated if certain safety and health benefits accrue. But beware, some safety devices cause more harm than they prevent: For example, antilock brakes have caused more skids and accidents than conventional brakes, because users tend to pump them, although they are supposed to be pressed continuously.
5. Speed. Is your invention able to do a job faster (or slower) than its previous counterpart, and is such change in speed a benefit? This advantage, like #6, is important in software inventions.
6. Ease of Use. Is your invention easier (or harder) to use (the current buzzword is "ergonomic") or learn to use than its previously known counterpart? An example of a product where an increase in difficulty of use would be a benefit is the child-proof drug container cap. This advantage is especially important if you have a software innovation: If it enables you to use the computer or any other machine more facilely, this counts a great deal.
7. Ease of Production. Is your invention easier or cheaper (or harder or more expensive) to manufacture than previously known counterparts? Or can it be mass-produced, whereas previously known counterparts had to be made by hand? An example of something that is more difficult to manufacture yet that is highly desirable are the new credit cards with holographic images: They're far more difficult to forge.
8. Durability. Does your invention last longer (or wear out sooner) than previously known counterparts? CDs, DVDs, transistors, and integrated circuits last far longer than the vinyl discs, tapes, film, and vacuum tubes that they replaced. But the other side of the coin can be valuable too: While built-in obsolescence is nothing to be admired, the stark economic reality is that many products, such as disposable razors, have earned their manufacturers millions by lasting for a shorter time than previously known counterparts.
9. Repairability. Is it easier to repair than previously known counterparts?
10. Novelty. Is your invention at all different from all previously known counterparts? Merely making an invention different may not appear to be an advantage per se, but its usually a great advantage: It provides an alternative method or device for doing the job in case the first method or device ever encounters difficulties (such as from government regulation), and in case the first device or method infringes a patent that you want to avoid infringing. It also provides something for ad people to crow about.
11. Convenience/Social Benefit/Mechanization. Does your invention make living easier or more convenient? Many inventions with a new function provide this advantage. Although you may question the ultimate wisdom and value of such gadgets as the electric knife, the remote-control TV, and the digital-readout clock, the reality remains that, in our relatively affluent society, millions of dollars have been and are being made from devices that save labor and time (even though the time required to earn the after-tax money to buy the gadget is often greater than the time saved by using it). Even if the invention has one or more serious drawbacks, if it mechanizes a manual operation, it may still fly. Consider the Epilady(r) leg-hair remover: Even though its rotating spring ripped out mlady's leg hairs in an extremely painful manner, it became a great success because it eliminated shaving and depilatories.
Then too, many new industries have been started by making an existing invention easier and convenient to use. Henry Ford didn't invent the automobile; he just produced it in volume and made it convenient for the masses to use. Ditto for George Eastman with his camera. And in modern times, the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) did much the same for the computer.
In the software field, especially nowadays, people seem willing to buy almost any program that will computerize a manual task, even if the time required to earn the money to buy the program, learn the program, and use it is much greater than the manual route. Many inventors with only one invention have taken the trouble and time to use the PTO's Electronic Filing System (EFS-Web) even though it requires considerable paperwork to get qualified and some learning to be able to use it.
12. Reliability. Is your invention apt to fail less or need repair less often than previously known devices?
13. Ecology. Does your invention make use of what previously were thought to be waste products? Does it reduce the use of limited natural resources? Does it produce fewer waste products, such as smoke and waste water? If so, you have an advantage that is very important nowadays and that should be emphasized strongly.
14. Salability. Is your invention easier to sell or market than existing counterparts?
15. Appearance. Does your invention provide a better-appearing design than existing counterparts?
16. Viewability. If your invention relates to eye use, does it present a brighter, clearer, or more viewable image? For example, a color TV with a brighter picture, or photochromic eyeglasses that automatically darken in sunlight were valuable inventions.
17. Precision. Does your invention operate or provide greater precision or more accuracy than existing counterparts?
18. Noise. Does your invention operate more quietly? Does it eliminate or turn unpleasant noise into a more acceptable sound? Noise-canceling headphones ft this bill. Or does it make noise in a desirable situation-for example, a device that produced a warning noise when a VCR cartridge was inserted in the wrong manner would be desirable.
19. Odor. Does your invention emanate fewer (or more) unpleasant fumes or odors? The public would benefit by adding an unpleasant odor to a poisonous or harmful substance. For example, public utilities add mercaptan sulphur to heating and cooking gas to warn users when leaks occur.
20. Taste. If your invention is edible or comes into contact with the taste buds (for example, a pill or a pipe stem), does it taste better? Like the foul odor above, a foul taste can also be an advantage, such as for poisons to prevent ingestion by children, and for telephone cables to deter chewing by rodents.
21. Market Size. Is there a larger market for your invention than for previously known devices? Because of climatic or legal restrictions, for example, certain inventions are only usable in small geographical areas. And because of economic factors, certain inventions may be limited to the relatively affluent. If your invention can obviate these restrictions, your potential market may be greatly increased, and this can be a significant advantage.
22. Trend of Demand. Is the trend of demand for your device increasing? Of course you should distinguish, if possible, between a trend and a fad. The first will provide a market for your invention while the second is likely to leave you high and dry unless you catch it in the beginning stages.
23. Seasonal Demand. Is your invention useful no matter what the season of the year? If so, it will usually have greater demand than a seasonal invention, such as a sailboat. But sometimes this will be a negative rather than a positive, if the invention is something like skis or a holiday decoration, which does have a seasonal demand, rather than an all-year-around one.
24. Difficulty of Market Penetration. Is your device an improvement of a previously accepted device? If so, it will have an easier time penetrating the market and obtaining a good market share than a device that provides a completely new function.
25. Potential Competition. Is your invention so simple, popular, or easy to manufacture that many imitators and copiers are likely to attempt to copy it or design around it, or try to break your patent as soon as its brought out? Or is it a relatively complex, less popular, hard-to-manufacture device, which others wouldn't be likely to produce because of such factors as the large capital outlay required for tooling and production? However, don't assume that something that's easy to copy is not worth patenting, since patents on simple devices are upheld and enforced successfully all the time.
26. Quality. Does your invention produce or provide a higher quality output or result than existing counterparts ? For example, compact discs provide a much better audio quality than do phonorecords or magnetic tape.
27. Excitement. (The Neophile and the Conspicuous Consumer/Status Seeker.) Almost all humans need some form of excitement in their lives: Some obtain it by watching or participating in sports, others by the purchase of a new car or travel, and still others by the purchase of new products, such as a so-inch Tv, a laser disk player, or a friendly robotic rug vacuum. Such purchasers can be called "neoplailes" (lovers of the new); their excitement comes from having and showing off their new "toy." Purchasers of expensive products, like the Mercedes-Benz or a Rolex watch, are commonly motivated by what Thorsten Veblen has called "conspicuous consumption," and what we now call "status seeking." They enjoy showing off an expensive or unique item which they've acquired.
Thus, if your invention can provide consumer excitement, either through sheer newness or through evidence of a costly purchase, it has a decided advantage.
28. Markup. If your invention is in an excitement category (that is, if its very different, novel, innovative, or luxurious), it can command a very high markup, a distinct selling advantage.
29. Inferior Performance. Yes, I'm serious! If your invention performs worse than comparable things that are already available, this can be a great advantage, if put to the proper use. Consider the 3M Company's fabulously successful Scotch(r) Post-It(r) note pads: Their novelty is simply that they have a strip of sfickum that is irtferior ta known adhesives, thus providing removable selfstick notes. Here the invention may not be so much the discovery of an inferior adhesive as the discovery of a new use for it.
30. "Sexy" Packaging. If your invention is or comes in a "sexy" package, or is adaptable to being sold in such a package, this can be a great advantage. Consider the Hanes rEggs(r) stocidngs where. the. package (shaped like an egg) made the product!
31. Miscellaneous/Obviation of Specific Disadvantages of Existing Devices. This is a catchall to cover anything I may have missed in the previous categories. Often the specific disadvantages that your invention overcomes will be quite obvious; they should be included here, nonetheless.
32. Long Life Cycle. If your invention has a potentially long life cycle, that is, it can be made and sold for many years before it becomes obsolete, this is an obvious strong advantage that will justify capital expenditures for tooling and conducting a big ad campaign.
33. Related Product Addability. If your invention will usher in a new product line, as did the computer, where many related products, such as disk drives, printers, and software can be added, this will be an important advantage with potentially enhanced profits.
34. Satisfies Existing Need. If your invention will satisfy an existing, recognized need, such as preventing drug abuse, avoiding auto collisions, combating terrorism or crime, or preventing airplanes from catching fire upon crashing, your marketing difficulties will be greatly reduced.
35. Legality. Does your invention comply with or will its use fail to comply with, existing laws, regulations, an product an manufacturing requirements? Or are administrative approvals required? If your invention carries legal difficulties with it, its acceptance will be problematic no matter how great its positive advantages are. And if ecological or safety approvals are required (for example, for drugs and automobiles), this will be viewed as a distinct disadvantage by prospective buyers. Also, if the legality of a product is questionable, its manufacturer, distributor, or retailer will have difficulty in obtaining product liability insurance.
36. Operability. Is it likely to work readily, or will significant additional design or technical development be required to make it practicable and workable? Usually problems of operability will become abundantly clear when you try to build a working model, which you should try to do as soon as possible, even if you've filed a PPA (Chapter 3, Section I-I). Many great-loolting inventions such as the turbine automobile engine turned out to be "techno-fizzle" when built and tested. (Don't forget to fill out another copy of Form 3-2 after you build and test it.)
37. Development. Is the product already designed. for the market, or will such things as additional engineering, material selection, and appearance work be required?
38. Profitability. Because of possible requirements for exotic materials, difficult machining steps, great size, and so on, is your invention likely to be difficult to sell at a profit, or at an acceptable price level?
39. Obsolescence. Is the field in which your invention is used likely to be around for a long time or die out soon? If the latter, most manufacturers won't be willing to invest money in production facilities.
40. Incompatibility. Is your invention likely to be compatible or incompatible with existing patterns of use, customs, and so on?
41. Product Liability Risk. Is your invention in a "safe" area, such as a ruler, or in a problem area, such as safety devices, drugs, firearms, contact sports, and automobiles? In the latter area, the risks of lawsuits against the manufacturer, clue to product malfunction or injury from use are likely to be greater than average. For example, a client of mine invented an ingenious, economical, and highly useful device for preventing a revolver from being accidentally fired. But alas, though he tried everywhere, he couldn't get any company to take it on because they were afraid of product liability lawsuits if the device ever failed.
42. Market Dependence. Is the sale of your invention dependent on a market for other goods, or is it useful in its own right? For example, an improved television timer depends on the sale of televisions for its success, so that if the television mark-et goes into a slump, the sales of your tuner certainly Tvvill fall also.
43. Difficulty of Distribution. Is your invention easy to distribute, or is it so large, fragile, or perishable that it will be difficult or costly to distribute?
44. Service Requirements. Is your invention free from service requirements or will it require frequent servicing and adjustment? If the latter, this is a distinct disadvantage. But consider the first commercial color TVs that by any reasonable standard, were a service nightmare, but made millions for their manufacturers.
45. Production Facilities. Almost all inventions require new production facilities, a distinct disadvantage. This is because the manufacture of anything new requires new tooling and production techniques. But some inventions require only a modest change. or no change, a tremendous advantage.
46. Inertia Need Not/Must Be. Overcome. An example of a great invention that so far has failed because of user inertia is the Dvorak typewriter keyboard, which, although much faster and easier to use, was unable to overcome the awkward but entrenched Qwerty keyboard. The same goes for the easier-to-use, less confusing, military-European time, or a decimal time system. There's a risk in introducing any new product, and when any invention is radically different, potential manufacturers, users, and sellers will manifest tremendous inertia, regardless of the invention's value.
47. Minor/Great Technical Advance. In the '60s, I got a client a very broad patent on a laser pumped by a chemical reaction explosion. We were very pleased with this patent. However, it was so advanced at the time that the technology behind it is just now being implemented in connection with the Star Wars defense effort. Unfortunately, the patent expired in the meantime. The same goes for the computer mouse patent, which expired in 1980, just before the concept became popular, and the roller-blade skates, the patent for which expired in 1985, just before the roller-blade craze started. An FRB-Dallas survey found that major innovations Ike the telephone, radio, dishwasher, color TV, microwave oven, VCR, computer, and cell phone took an average of 11.4 years to be owned by 25% of all U.S. households. The moral? Even if you have a great invention, make sure it can be commercially implemented within about 17 years.
48. Learning Required. If consumers will have to undergo substantial learning in order to use your invention, this is an obvious negative. An example: the early personal computers. On the other hand, some inventions, such as the automatically talking clock, make a task even easier to do and thus have an obvious strong advantage.
49. Difficult/Easy to Promote. If it will be difficult, expensive, or will require a long time to promote and market your invention, e.g., because its technically complex, has subtle advantages, or is very expensive, large, or awkward, you've got an obvious disadvantage. But if it solves an omnipresent problem and is cheap and easy to market, this is a clear advantage.
50. Lack/Presence of Market. If no market already exists for your invention, you'll have to convince the public that they need it -that is, that you have a "product in search of a market." While not a fatal flaw, and while this type of invention can be most profitable, you (or your licensee) will have to be prepared to expend substantial sums on promotion.
51. Crowded/Wide Open Field. if the field is already crowded, you'll have an uphill battle.
52. Commodities. If you've invented a new commodity-such as a better plastic, solvent, or grain-you'll face stiff price competition from the established, already streamlined standards.
53. Combination Products. If you've invented a "combination product"-that is, a product with two inventions that don't really groove together, like a stapler with a built-in beverage cup holder, people won't be beating a path to your door. On the other hand, the clock-radio was just the ticket.
54. Entrenched Competition. Despite its overwhelming advantages, Edison had a terrible time promoting his light bulb because the gas companies fought him bitterly.
55. Instant Anachronism. A clever inventor in Oakland, California, invented a wonderful dictionary indexing device that made it much faster to look up any word. However, he was unable to sell it to any dictionary publisher because the dictionary is being replaced by computerized devices. His clever invention was an "instant anachronism."
56. Prototype Availability. Although the presence or absence of a prototype should not affect the marketability or commercial success of your invention, in reality it will! If you have a prototype available, or can make one, you'll find that your invention will be far easier to market, since potential purchasers or licensees will be much more likely to buy something that is real and tangible rather than on paper only.
57. Broad Patent Coverage Available. You won't be able to determine whether or not broad patent coverage is likely to be available until you complete Chapters 5 and 6, but keep this factor in mind and come back to it after you evaluate patentability. Obviously, if you can obtain broad patent coverage on your invention, this will affect profitability, because if you're the only source for a device that performs a certain function you'll be able to charge more than you would in a competitive situation. A legal monopoly is a capitalict's dream!
58. High Sales Anticipated. If you can anticipate a high sales volume for your invention-for example, for a device like the Hula- Hoop that is relatively simple, cheap, and easy to market-this will be a very positive factor.
59. Visibility of Invention in Final Product. If your invention is highly visible in or essentially constitutes the entire final product-for example the sneakers with heels that light up when walling-this will be a distinct marketing advantage to entice buyers who love the new. On the other hand, if the invention is hidden in the final product, such as a stronger frame for an automobile, this factor will not be a plus in marketing.
60. Ease of Packaging. If your invention is easy to package-for example, a small gadget that can be put in a cheap blister package-this will be a great aid in marketing. However, if its difficult and expensive to package, such as a bicycle or hockey stick, this will obviously be a negative factor.
61. Youth Market. Young people have substantial discretionary income and tend to spend more in many product areas than the rest of the population. If your invention is something that will appeal to children or young adults, it may command more sales than something that is not attractive to this age group. In other words, a portable digital music player will sell better than an arthritis aid.
62. Part of a Current Fad. If your invention is part of a current fad, such as a low-carbohydrate product, a low-fat product, a spam filter, an identity-theft preventer, a bottled water, and so forth, it will be far easier to sell. For example, a few years ago when the lottery was legalized in California, a spate of lottery- number selection products appeared and sold brislay until the public's interest simmered down.
63. Will a Contingent Fee Litigator Take. Your Case? Before filing, consider whether, if your issued patent is infringed, will there likely be enough sales of the infringing device (Dr process) by a financially responsible manufacturer to get a litigator to represent you on a contingent-fee arrangement. If there aren't enough sales, or if the infringers are fly-by-night, irresponsible operators, most litigators won't take your infringement case on a contingent fee basis. This is true even if you have a strong patent that is clearly infringed. In other words, the law is far more accessible when substantial amounts are likely to be recovered.