As kids, we’re really good at coming up with new ideas. We have really big imaginations and we’re always using them, sometimes even when we’re supposed to be doing other things, like taking out the trash or cleaning our rooms.
But did you know that you have to protect that idea if it’s about a business? I didn’t!
When I first had the idea for a breathable shoe with a toe bar to keep it on your foot (so you could be comfortable while you were active) I thought I could just make it real.
Turns out, there’s something called intellectual property. When you own something you can touch, like a car, then you own it. But my dad said that when you come up with something you can’t touch, like an idea for a supercool shoe, you have to prove that you own it as your property — your intellectual property.
Have you seen those tiny signs “©” and “™”? They stand for copyright and trademark, and they are two ways of showing that you own the idea of something. For example, our names Critts and Flip Critts, along with our logo, are trademarked and have copyrights. But to own the idea for my shoe, I had to get something called a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A patent says you were the one who came up with the idea and it also protects it from other people stealing or copying your idea and getting the credit (and making the money!)
Getting a patent isn’t easy, but these are the steps I took (with my dad’s help!) to protect my idea (my intellectual property).
1. Keep a record of your new idea.
You have to be able to show how you came up with your idea. For me, that was easy. I was playing in the Caribbean and thought about how much better it would be if I had shoes that would stay on my feet – Like flip-flops! I thought. But I also wanted there to be an outside covering for your feet without being too hot. And of course, they had to be cool-looking!
Sometimes, it’s good to build one too. It’s called a prototype. So my dad and I found Amy, a graduate from the London School of Design, who helped us design the shoe and Kim, our manufacturing consultant whose making a real-life version!
2. See if your idea needs a patent.
For this step, you have to show how your idea works and how it’s new. Either totally brand new, or different in a really important way.
3. See if it’s already patented.
Just because you came up with the idea doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already thought of it before. Lucky for me, I was the first to think up something like Flip-Critts.
4. File an application.
Then you have to fill out an application with all the information. How you came up with the idea, how it works, how it’s new, and all other kinds of information. Definitely ask for help on this part! After you send in your application, they’ll give you the patent.
With the patent, you can show everyone it’s yours! Your intellectual property. Then you can make an awesome shoe (or whatever your invention is!) and make a bunch for other people to have.
What about you? Do you have an awesome idea?