Inventing With Hardware Store Parts?

Dale asks:

I have an invention idea that consists of a few pieces you can buy separately at most hardware stores. Is it worthwhile to pursue this idea or once people see it would they go out and get the materials and assemble it themselves? Thanks and have a great day!


Combining existing items for a new and useful purpose is a classic form of invention. The fact that people could easily make the same combination once they learn about it is not a reason to drop the idea. However, if the patent examiner thinks the idea is "obvious", your invention will be denied patent protection. One thing to consider is creating an entirely new product that integrates the pieces for the user. What would a perfected version of your invention look like?

Example: My invention is a combination flashlight/screwdriver. Anyone could make the invention by taping a small flashlight onto a screwdriver shaft. Nothing worth pursuing there. But if I come up with a cool way of integrating the flashlight into the screwdriver handle, or maybe make it so that a flishlight bulb could be plugged into the same 1/4" hex opening that screwdriver bits fit into... then maybe there's something worth pursuing.

Successful inventing comes when a good idea is brilliantly executed. How you make something work, the details of its design and how users interact with it, is every bit as important as the idea itself. Consider the i-Pod and the i-Phone. Apple didn't come out with the first. They came out with the best.


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For more than two decades Mike Marks has been active in creating and marketing new products and forming new businesses. As founder of Invention City and co-founder/partner of WorkTools, Inc., Endeavor Products Company, and Accentra Inc., he has managed the design, manufacturing, marketing, patenting and licensing of products such as the Gator-Grip® Universal Socket the Black & Decker PowerShot® staple gun, the Staples One Touch stapler. Over the past ten years products developed by WorkTools have generated over $350 million in retail sales and over $8 million in royalties. Mike has negotiated a wide range of contracts, established manufacturing operations in Taiwan and China, managed national and international sales, run public relations/advertising campaigns and written and produced television commercials and video news releases. Prior to founding WorkTools in 1986, Mike worked as a commercial photographer and photojournalist in New York for clients such as American Express, Nikon and Newsweek Magazine. Mike graduated from UCLA in 1978 with a degree in Economics.

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