How to protect your and your child’s product design ideas

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OK! After reading my recent posts where I laid out the idea that you and your family can use your children’s creativity to prototype product designs, you now need to know how you can protect your ideas so that you can potentially gain royalties for your children’s college funds. Here are five key ways.

Doing some homework

  1. Pick the right manufacturing company. My last post discussed industries that practice the concept of Open Innovation, where firms are willing to share profits with you provided you can help them design a better product. Are there companies that will try to steal from you? Of course! But that doesn’t mean you can’t find reputable ones either. Tap into a social media network, such as LinkedIn, that can shed light on how the company does business. At the least, find out if they’ve been sued. As there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of companies for each industry, there is no reason to tie yourself to any one of them unless you can trust them. Remember, it should be a win-win scenario for both sides.
  2. Understand how manufacturing works. The more you know how manufacturers in a particular industry produce and make money, the easier it will be to talk with them. Although you are not officially part of their R&D team, thinking and speaking as they do, especially in their own jargon, will give you a great advantage over other product designers who didn’t take the trouble to learn this. Remember that all manufacturers need to know how much your idea is going to cost them. If your idea doesn’t improve their bottom line, they have less of a reason to sign you up no matter how good your relationship is. Knowledge really is power and here, and knowing how manufacturing works will allow you to understand how your idea fits into the company’s overall strategy, thereby offering you a solid ground to stand on and hence a real form of protection.

  1. Create a paper trail. From the day you and your child come up with your product idea, take written notes on all improvements or modifications, all meetings with all relevant parties, and store them in a safe place. If a dispute or even a misunderstanding arrives, especially related to idea ownership, your written notes can provide an additional layer of protection. Consider it your “creativity diary” which you can write with your children, which I’m sure they will enjoy creating.
  2. Share your idea on a need-to-know basis. Until you apply for a provisional patent (see below), your idea is up for grabs. However, unless your idea is absolutely ground breaking in every field imaginable, I think most people are unlikely to take your specific idea to market given how this is not a sprint but a marathon. Nonetheless, you can protect yourself by just sharing your idea with those who can help you take it to the next stage.

  1. Apply for a Provisional Patent. This is a big topic that can fill a book because it also extends to full patents, not just a provisional one. For now, just be aware that anyone can file a Provisional Patent on-line in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a very cost effective USD65 to protect yourself for 12 months. This means if your product is made and sold, it can have “Patent Pending” stamped on it. This also means you could be getting a royalty fee for you and your child’s design work. I’ll discuss more on this topic in the future but you can start with this USPTO link targeted to families!

 

The Not Yet So Obvious Benefits of 3D Modeling for 3D Printing

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3D printing technology makes progress every day. It reaches more and more areas in our lives. In the years to come, it will be a common thing to get something through a 3D printing service. Today I would like to spark a new idea in your mind and the mind of your children.

3D printing just a few years from now

Imagine for a minute your kids have grown up a little bit. You are about to build a new house in the countryside, on the seaside or in the mountain (or anywhere else you would like to have your new house). You are having a meeting with your architect to decide how to design your house. He tells you all the requirements for energy efficiency, comfort and safety. Suddenly, he looks at your child and asks him:

“Do you know how to create 3D model for 3D printing?”

You are surprised. The architect goes on:

“As you probably know, building technology has improved greatly these last years. I was wondering if your child could design his own living area, so we can 3D print his model for him. You too could model some parts of your house to make it unique.”

Two scenarios

Now, dear parents, you have two possible situations:

Situation 1: Your child and/or yourself have never created anything in 3D. Needless to say, something specifically for 3D printing.

Situation 2: Your child and you have already practiced several times 3D modelling for 3D printing. You had lots of fun and have already several Family Made 3D printed objects at home.

In which situation would you like to be? 1 or 2? I would personally prefer the second situation.

Maybe you are telling yourself:

“Patrick is a nice guy, but it will be long before we can do this kind of thing, like modeling all or parts of our living area.”

Really? Think about it. Building constraints have considerably changed. New concrete allows funny shapes as strong and durable as reinforced concrete without iron rods. 3D printing technologies specifically for the building industry are popping all around the world. They progress quickly. Sooner than you think, you will be able to 3D print the house of your dream.

My advice for today

Begin as soon as possible to think about your new house in the shape of a concert grand piano or the shape of a delicious mango.

What is Open Innovation and how does it work?

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If our children can prototype a product idea or innovation to manufacturing companies, how would these corporate Open Innovation programs work? As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, we can work with our children to license an idea to a company who would pay us a royalty to help with the children’s college fund. But critical to this process is to understand what Open Innovation is and how it works.

Defining Open Innovation

First, you should know that the person who popularized the term was Dr. Henry Chesbrough, who currently teaches at the Haas Business School, UC Berkeley, in his 2003 book, “Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology.” In a more recent Forbes magazine article, he provided a (rather academic) definition: Open innovation is “the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”

The catalyst

 

Personally, I prefer Wikipedia’s explanation: The central idea behind open innovation is that, in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or inventions (i.e. patents) from other companies.

 

Pluses and minuses

Of course, there are advantages as well as disadvantages for companies that engage in Open Innovation. Here is a partial list, also from the Wiki article:

Advantages

  • Reduced cost of conducting research and development
  • Potential for improvement in development productivity
  • Incorporation of customers early in the development process

Disadvantages

  • Possibility of revealing information not intended for sharing
  • Potential for the hosting organization to lose their competitive advantage as a consequence of revealing intellectual property
  • Increased complexity of controlling innovation and regulating how contributors affect a project

 

A key corporate trend

 

How it works

So how does Open Innovation work? While there are different methods, such as those sponsored by governments or competition based, the one we are most interested in is the “Collaborative product design and development” model. Here, a company still controls and maintains the production of the final product, but it is sharing the sales revenue with external co-designers (that’s you!) because you have found a way to make the product more usable and thereby more acceptable in the market. By using an outside co-designer, but maintaining production control, companies can get their new products to the market faster than just relying on their internal R&D departments. You will need to find ways to protect your own ideas, which I will discuss in the next blog.

 

Who’s practicing Open Innovation?

We want to look for inventor friendly companies or companies that are in industries that are constantly looking for new ideas to stay ahead. Here is a list of “15 Examples of Open Innovation between Big Companies & Startups.” And here is a very long list of “Inventor Friendly Companies.”

Looking at these two lists, which include even massive companies like GE, it should be very clear that Open Innovation is a key trend for many industries. This is because corporations understand that that we are living in information and technological boom times and they need to be part of that or risk falling behind.

For us parents with kids, with the cost of prototyping MUCH lower than just 5-10 years go, thanks to 3D printing technology, I think our children’s creativity need not be restricted to homework assignments, when they can be applied in the real world! The children provide the creative spark and we provide the discipline to make a very natural alliance that will hopefully and eventually help the children in their future education pursuits. What do you think?!

The Modifiers Bracelet, a nice model created for 3D printers

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Want to learn how to make this “modifier” bracelet?

The video below will teach you how to create this and other similar bracelets using the Modifier tools in Blender, which you can then 3D print!

 

Key steps to working with your children to prototype products, earn money for college!

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Following my earlier blog, where I listed “Five ways to find quality time with your children” where the central focus was time management, we now turn to prototyping products, yes to help your children build their college fund! If you think this idea is far fetched, please have a look at my reasoning in my other blog here. My main point is we can create a triple win scenario where 1) children can apply their creativity in the real world through new product design or improvement, thereby attracting the attention of any college, 2) companies can tap into a new source of creativity, and 3) parents have an alternative funding source for their children’s college fund.

Here are the key steps:

  1. Read One Simple Idea. Stephen Key’s book is based on his 35-year’s experience as a product designer who struck over 20 licensing deals with manufacturers in different industries to earn substantial amounts in royalties. He also has a YouTube channel where he  explains his 10-step plan in further detail. While the process does take time, I think it’s quite achievable for anyone who puts his or her mind to it. Even Key admits, he has neither engineering nor any specialized background to improving products. But he does have a passion for creating new things to make everyone’s lives just a little better. Big helpful hint: you don’t need a full patent to get a licensing deal; just a preliminary patent via the US Patent Office will suffice. (Please note, I currently have no connection with Stephen Key beyond reading his book and watching his YouTube channel.)

  1. Find an industry that interests you and your children that practices Open Innovation. As product cycles become shorter and shorter, companies just don’t have the resources to creating new products on a regular basis. Some industries, like kitchen appliances and pet products, are willing to share their profits with outside designers. These Open Innovation companies even have a link on their website that explains where outside designers can submit their ideas.
  2. Learn about the buyers and sellers in the market. Once you find the industry that interests you and your children, try to learn about it as much as possible. This is one of Key’s most important steps. It’s the only way to speak to the manufacturers at their level and keep you in the licensing game.

Start of a licensing deal?

  1. Prototype with 3D printing. Key says in his book that even a 2D drawing is enough to result in a licensing deal. But he nevertheless supports using 3D printing in his YouTube channel. I think creating your own 3D printed prototype is a good way to establish and protect yourself, as it will add to your documentation that the idea is your own.
  2. Have fun! Key says licensing is a numbers game; you might not get a deal until you’ve submitted many designs to many companies. But I think this is part of the fun! How many famous inventors, entrepreneurs and leaders have not seen failure in their life before they began to succeed? We all want to know what DOESN’T work as early as possible because it will help us get to the things that DO work sooner. This in itself is a great life lesson for our children.

More to come on this topic!

Do you have sculptors in your family?

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Hi families! Do you have artists in your family? Any sculptor among your ancestors? I love sculptors for one main reason. They take a piece of something, like a piece of wood, a rock, you name it, or they start with a pile of clay, and they will find a way to create a piece of art by adding or subtracting material. They are magicians.

A few weeks ago, David (one of the great dads within 3D Roundhouse) talked to me about sculpting. I found the subject quite strange at that time. Did he found some stone to play with in his garden? Had he put a big trunk in his living room and started to smash it, cut it and scratch it to create a funny wood statue inspired from his daughter? Not at all. He was talking about sculpting in 3D on his computer.

Blender can sculpt!

Long time ago, I have done it using Blender. I found it interesting but it didn’t become a passion for me. As David has aroused my curiosity, I decided to check the evolution of the sculpting tools in Blender. That’s the beauty with this opensource software. You feel very much at home once you know it a little bit. But you have many other choices available if you want to quit your comfort zone and challenge yourself. And developers take an immense pleasure to continuously improve Blender. Great guys! To know more about the new possibilities with the Blender Sculpt Tools bundle, I decided to meet the daunting Dyntopo.

But who is Dyntopo?

Is he a nice guy or a monster? Is he Italian or Colombian? To see him, they told me to check my Symmetry, if I have Accumulated enough and got the “Ctrl” key to subtract material. I arrived on time in front of a huge grey door. “Radius of the brush” was the password. The Snake Hook lets me in. I was finally in the Sculpt Mode room ready to meet Dyntopo…

Will your host survive the test and see his son again? Could it be possible to learn some incredible and frightening secrets? Will Dyntopo be magnanimous or dreadful?

To know the end (or maybe the beginning of something), stay tuned in the days to come. I will do my best to keep you up to date (maybe a video or two). If something terrible happen, never forget to do great for you and others. Life is sometimes shorter than expected.

See you soon, maybe…

Are children really more creative than their parents? Sure! But now what?

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If you search the first question on-line, you will see hundreds of sites concluding with a resounding, “Yes!” There will also be countless sites telling you how to encourage creativity in your children. (Here, one answer seems to be less schooling!) My questions then become: Why aren’t we taking more advantage of this creativity? Why aren’t there more child inventors? If a key characteristic in certain creative industries, like product design and IT, is to maintain a child-like imagination, then why can’t we just ask actual children?

Chester Greenwood (Age 15) – Earmuffs

Before you hit back with child labor laws, etc., here’s a story showing “10 Great Inventions Dreamt Up by Children.” Here’s another story with the title, “Crazy Kids’ Inventions Turned Into Real Products” with the video version here.

Cassidy Goldstein (Age 12) – Crayon Holders

WHY children are more creative

Out of all the research explaining WHY children are more creative than adults, the one I found the most compelling was by Alison Gopnik, psychology professor at Berkeley in this TED talk. She refers to the work of evolutionary biologists. Humans have an exceptionally long childhood to resolve the “intrinsic tension” between the need to finding the simplest, quickest solutions (adults) versus the need to explore to find alternative solutions (kids). (Any parent trying to get socks on their children will know what Gopnik means.) In short, evolution has designed humans to give them a chance to explore as children before maturing into efficient, problem solving machines as adults.

The next step

But getting back to my earlier questions, why aren’t we working more with children in the creative industries? (Wikipedia notes these nine but there are more.) In my view, one answer is likely the cost of innovation. R&D budgets can be a real drag on profitability for companies. They fund research staff as well the proto-typing. But I think you know what I will say next: 3D printing technology is lowering proto-typing costs. Now, anyone, including children, can also explore new design ideas.

Parents! It’s time to bond with our kids to see where their creativity can take us in the creative industries! Your child might be on a list of inventors in the near future.

More to come in upcoming blogs.

 

 

What if your child could become even more creative?

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Hi parents!

Has your child ever given you some jewelry made by himself? What a great moment, do you remember? How was this piece of jewelry? Did you like it? I am quite confident the answer is yes. Was it a necklace or a bracelet or a ring? Did you ever wear it at work or when you were outside for some activities of yours? Probably not. It was maybe too fragile or not very convenient to wear.

Have you ever researched on the internet about the subject “kids creating jewels?” If you do it, you will find many things. From noodles necklaces to Lego-like plastic parts to assemble the way kids want. In addition, some websites have services to create a copy of your little loved ones’ drawings in different kinds of metals.

It’s all very nice but now, you have a new and much more “brainy” way of creativity. He will be able to create exactly what he has in mind. In order to do that, he will have to learn some new tools. And he will have to think in a new way: the 3D thinking way.

 

Thanks to the 3D printing technology, it is now possible to give your kids the tool they were craving for. They will be able to 3D print their own jewels creations for you. It will be at the right size for you. It will be beautiful and easy to wear. You will enjoy it much more than before because, this time, you will be able to wear it and show it at work or when you participate to your leisure activities.

First, your kids have to break one more creativity limit. 3D modelling software are here to help toward this progress. And we, at 3D Roundhouse, are here to teach your children and you how to use these new and fun creativity tools. We can do it online or in real life during our workshops.

Now is the time to have brainy fun. Email us (workshop@3droundhouse.com) to register to our brand new 3D Printing Jewelry Creation Workshop. As you already know, places are limited. Reserve your seats now to enjoy a family brainy fun.

See you in our next workshop!

3D printing + licensing deal = ticket into a top university?

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OK this topic about licensing will likely result in quite a few blogs, so I’ll start with a series of questions to set the stage.

  1. Are children really more creative than their parents?
  2. Can we parents work with them to invent a new product using 3D printing to prototype?
  3. Would a manufacturer really accept our idea and how do we protect it?
  4. Can my child really earn his own college fund?
  5. Would a licensing deal help if and when our child applies to university?

Out of this list, I think most of you will agree that the final question is the easiest to answer. Of course a university admissions board would welcome a child who played a leading role in a product idea that has been successfully sold to a manufacturer. They might even offer the child a scholarship based on ingenuity and leadership. Universities are centers of cutting edge research and advance thinking. If your child can demonstrate creativity that’s also proven commercially viable, universities would certainly embrace him or her with open arms. It’s a natural fit.

The other questions, however, will need more time to answer. I’ll explore the world of licensing in the coming blogs and report back to you. (What I’ve seen so far seems promising!)

Before I end this blog, let me say this: 3D printing can play a big role in this process because you can design as many prototypes as you want using freely available 3D modeling software. (We just added the very powerful Fusion 360 into our Starter Kit.) If you want your design 3D printed but don’t have a printer, just search on line for the nearest 3D printing service bureau. You can send them the file and they can send you your prototype in a few days or even sooner. This is the WHOLE POINT of 3D printing; the power of creating new products is now in the hands of the people, not necessarily controlled by big corporations. More to come!