In celebration of National Athletic Training Month I want to recognize all those athletic trainers that have invented products for the athletic training market. Athletic Trainers are the best product inventors, which was sure true for me. In 1983 as a student athletic trainer I had a product idea that could revolutionize the ankle brace market, (which later became known as the Active Ankle, the first hinged ankle brace) except I had one problem: I had no idea how to make my invention a reality. 31 years, 16 patents, and 2 successful companies later I’d like to share 6 tips I’ve learned along the way in hopes that they can help other Athletic Trainer inventors/entrepeneurs begin to take the steps necessary to turn their inventions into a succesful venture.
Make a Prototype: In order to prove your product has merit you need to make and test a working prototype. Now days there are plenty of small design firms that specialize in developing a digital product design and 3D printed part from that design. Developing a working prototype from that design is the next phase.
Protect Your Idea: Before you share your idea with too many people you may want to file a Provisional Patent which is a lot less expensive than a Utility Patent. The Provisional Patent application secures a date for your invention with the US Patent Office for 12 months and grants legal "patent pending" status.
Test Your Product: As Athletic Trainers we typically work with sports teams that can provide a field testing environment for your design. This access to athletes is especially useful in testing and refining your invention. Video interview the athletes product feedback, you will learn vital information that will help you perfect the design.
Effort Equals Results: You succeed because of you or you fail because of you. It’s up to you to make your invention a success. You can never count on anyone else making your idea into a reality. You must constantly and relentlessly advance your product idea every day to achieve a positive outcome.
Passion: If you don’t have extreme passion for your idea, no one else will. You must believe more than anyone that your idea will achieve greatness which will motivate those around you to help you achieve your goals. And you will need help from others to achieve your goals.
Make Money from Your Design: Your product invention has been refined, tested and protected with a Provision Patent. Now it’s time to show the world what you have created. You can license or sell your product invention outright to a company that will manufacture and sell it to the appropriate target market. Collecting a sales based royalty is a typical arrangement, or you can manufacture and sell the product yourself which is typically done by starting a company and securing investors. Either way, it’s up to you to make it happen.
Sounds easy enough, right? Not really, but speaking from experience I can tell you that it's worth it. If you've ever been working with an athlete and had an idea for a product that should be available in the sports medicine market, start by following the steps above and begin turning your idea into a reality. If you have any other questions about how to get started, send me an email and I may be able to help.
Written by Rick Peters
Rick Peters is a Certified Athletic Trainer who has been advancing ankle bracing technology for three decades. Peters patented his first ankle brace in 1985, revolutionizing the industry by adding a hinge to traditional stirrup braces for greater mobility. In 1989 he was a founder and became President of Active Ankle Systems. In 1998 he co-founded Ultra Athlete LLC to develop the next generation of ankle bracing technology. Peters has 18 ankle brace patents and is considered an authority on ankle bracing technology worldwide.