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1) Innovation indicators: great ideas, caution points, warnings, concern areas
2) Could you get a patent?
3) Is your idea new?
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Assessing whether your idea is worth the effort.

Here is our non-exhaustive compilation of warning signs. Be tough and play
Devil's Advocate.

Warning sign 1 Gadgets which are the result of a rewarding mental
Some problems are really fun to solve. An example is the
combustion engine where there are so many ways to put the parts together that
you get caught up in improving it. Unfortunately so have a very large number of
people - and it is very unlikely that you have thought of a permutation that offers
a much better result with no disadvantages.

Warning sign 2 Gadgets to solve a problem you have personally
Many people you talk to will agree that a solution to the problem
would be a great thing - but how many have actually recognised this problem by
themselves and gone to the shops or Internet to look for a solution? How many
people seeing your product would instantly recognise the need they have for it?
On the other hand -  if you really have identified a need that no-one else has
recognised, but which lots of people will recognise when you tell them - then you
could be about to make a lot of money.        

Warning sign 3 Wide sweeping concepts for electronics. There are
usually two main routes forward - sidestepping the big players or via the big
players. There are very few success stories for the first route (Such as Napster
and Skype) - how are you going to get sufficient initial interest
before you get
big? If you do get big, how is your infrastructure going to cope? The two
examples above did so by offering a free product via peer-to-peer infrastructure
which has enormous scalability. The second route is perhaps easier but is often
met with disinterest from the big players (E.g. Dyson who had to fight to be
recognised). Are you going to be able to convince people who don't need you
and who already have plenty of ideas to choose from?

Warning sign 4 A solution for many problems. Multi-gadget devices need to
be sufficiently valuable in a defined setting, not just quite useful in lots of random
situations. An example is multi-tools which tend to be purchased for their
cool-value, or with a particular situation in mind.

Warning sign 5 Hi-tech solutions which are only a bit better than
low-tech ones.
The extra cost of your solution is likely to deter most buyers.
This is a particular problem in markets where consumers are used to their
preferred products.

Warning sign 6 "I had an idea, but I found something similar on but then I thought of another way of doing it which
hasn't been patented."
It's important to distinguish between A) a strategy of
initially setting out to identify what hasn't been patented in a whole field of
technology (and claiming it), & B) choosing a new route because the one you
wanted was taken. Admittedly some people have succeeded with the latter - but
the route has a way of pushing you towards ideas that will never be commercial

Warning area 1 Software algorithms. Watch out for the 'just software' trap. If
you have invented a computer algorithm, then it is possible it may be considered
"software per se" by the European or UK patent office. For the vast majority of
software this is side-stepped by describing it as "software for controlling a
computer to provide information to a user/activate a device/etc". The distinction
is important because of some legal precedents, and legislative restrictions on
"software per se".

Warning area 2 New advertising services. Perhaps you have thought of a
way to get advertising content to an audience. There will be an authority to get
past/convince, and they usually aren't interested because they are there to
further the interests of that very audience. If it is private companies that you
need to enthuse, expect that they will still want to keep their customers happy
and they will recognise that advertising is by definition intrusive.

Warning area 3 Safety products. Be aware that customers are often making a
purchase to comply with health and safety rules and want the cheapest solution
which matches their criteria. Very few people are willing to spend money to attain
a higher safety level than is common. Also - private consumers are very image
conscious and will be strongly deterred if there is an effect on their self-image.
On the other hand there is lots of money to be made if you do have a
commercially viable product which deals with a company's safety needs. This is a
difficult area in which to judge products.

Warning area 4 USB / Bluetooth / passive RFID tags / Mobile phone
Plenty of people have thought hard about what could be done with
these technologies and general ideas are likely to have been explored. Be
careful of assuming that your idea is new.
However really novel ideas might yet
be winners because these technologies are still growing and are set to become
completely ubiquitous.

Warning area 5 A mentally challenging / intellectually stimulating new
game or toy.
Remember that these are mainly bought as presents and
consumers don't look much further than the photo on the box. The contents of
your box may be better than what is on the market but purchases are based on
the cover. Manufacturers know that dumb games with dinosaurs and tanks sell.

Warning area 6 An idea for a new additive for a cosmetic/health/hygiene
One problem here is that additives such as Aloe Vera, can be selected
from a large list of additives. The more gimmicky ones quickly go in and out of
fashion. The decision to include them is usually on the basis of market research
or a committee. Manufacturers are unlikely to be interested in an external
individual's opinion.

Well done for getting through all that, before you are finished check out our list
concern areas.

Warning: Nothing in this document constitutes legal advice. Talk to a business
advisor and an intellectual property advisor in your country before taking any
action or making any decisions.

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