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Prototyping for Software and Electronics?

Postby Scrupulous » Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:34 pm

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There seems to be a lot of confusion about prototyping, in the inventor world. I think part of that is because no single answer applies to all projects. No two projects have the same needs. Each one requires a unique approach, if it’s going to be optimized for the inventor.

For example, a cell-phone or PDA application should probably not be prototyped by the inventor (unless you're like a Java guru) because anyone could appreciate the value of the application by doing nothing more than reading a verbal description of its uses or benefits. To hack up a piece of electronics and reprogram it to include your new function would be a big waste of effort, because you can establish IP rights to it with a description alone.

Software and electronics projects usually do not lend themselves to relatively low-expense prototypes, either. (With the term “expense”, I would include concerns like time, effort, delay, money, etc.) Besides, the minute you go and hack up a cell phone, it has lost its cosmetic appeal, and by nature has tainted any feedback you might get about the convenience or aesthetic/ergonomic features of your project. First impressions last.

Also consider that, say, “artwork” for a Windows icon can be protected by a design patent for the icon image, as the icon is shown on a big computer screen. The screen itself is patented, but the icon is the thing that gets protected. The point being that you wouldn’t need to explain how the programming works to show the pixels of the icon image on the screen, because all of that is common knowledge.

The same thing, at some level, applies to software applications in general, electronic gizmos, and so on. They almost always rely on common knowledge, which doesn’t need to be explained, in order to appreciate the invention (nor included in a patent application explicitly, for that matter.) To some, this may sound like a big promo for intellectual property. But, really…isn’t the goal to work efficiently for a maximum net return?

Re: Prototyping for Software and Electronics?

Postby apapage » Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:52 am

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I worked for a company that developed software. New products would be first introduced in a design document, which included the interface screens to be used and a discussion of the functionality. This can readily be accomplished with a drawing and word processor program. There was never any need for prototyping beyond this level for the initial consideration of the product.