You never know where the next great product idea or innovation is going to come from — some of our best new ideas originate with the customers who use our current products. At Simpson Strong-Tie, we welcome any inspiration that can help us serve our customers’ needs even better. With so much competition, however, and because so much research and testing are entailed in developing each new product, the criteria that an idea must meet to gain eventual acceptance are necessarily quite rigorous. In this post, Steve Rotzin, Manager of Intellectual Property and Legal Services at Simpson Strong-Tie, outlines some of these criteria for your consideration.
All of us, at one time or another, dream up a product idea of some sort. My wife was once sanding the tongue-and-groove boards of our living room ceiling and she thought of a very cool idea of gloves that had Velcro on them and users could interchange sandpaper of various grit on any finger of the glove. If you’ve ever sanded anything, this actually made a lot of sense especially for complex shapes and tough to reach spots. I researched it and found out that someone had already thought of it and “patented it.”
We are no different here at Simpson Strong-Tie Company. We are constantly thinking of ways to make the very best products, incorporating innovative features to make the installation as easy and cost effective as possible. We also strive to exceed the performance requirements of the application in order to help build the strongest, safest possible structures. While these ideas are something we think about day in and day out, we also know you think about solutions as well. It’s you who encounter circumstances where our parts may not work as needed or fail to meet a specific need or application. These are the times we receive ideas from customers hoping we might adopt or develop an idea to meet their needs.
Annually, we receive a number of ideas from outside the company, even though they’re not something we actively solicit. The truth is that product ideas from consumers, especially ideas that come from consumers who work in the construction industry, are often relevant and timely. To make it easier for you to share feedback and ideas, we’ve set up a process whereby anyone who has an idea they’d like to share, can submit it to us for evaluation.
Here are some tips to help your product idea receive our fullest consideration, :
- Do Your Research — Has someone invented this before? You might be surprised by how many ideas have come and gone. Ideas that we think are novel and have never been attempted by anyone else have often been manufactured, sold and put out to pasture years before we thought of them. So do some research. Also, just because you don’t see the exact same thing doesn’t mean the elements which could be patented, or protected, in your device haven’t been claimed before in someone else’s patent.
- Protect Yourself — Make sure you’ve taken steps to ensure you are protected. Did someone else help you? Could someone else claim ownership? Have you filed for a provisional application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office? We cannot offer legal advice, but seeking legal advice from a patent professional is always a good idea.
- Cost Considerations — When we receive ideas, often those ideas overlook cost. Yes, they serve a need, but they’d probably never be manufactured or purchased because they would cost several times more than the market will bear. You can build a better mousetrap, but that doesn’t mean anyone will buy it. Be sure you’ve considered how much steel or material your product is using. Also, consider that things like “door hinges” and secondary manufacturing processes are steps that add cost and most likely will make the product too expensive to the end user. A product that significantly increases a structure’s overall volume or thickness isn’t advisable, either. Those are just a few factors you may want to consider.
- Approvals — Please consider what approvals your product might require. Products that arrive at Simpson Strong-Tie with ICC code reports, UL listing, IAPMO or other approvals or that are already patented receive the highest attention.
- How to Submit — if you’re still interested in submitting to Simpson, please visit strongtie.com/ideas. Print the documents, fill them out and return them to the name at the bottom of the form. Please be sure you’ve included pictures or drawings of your product or application.
- Timing — It may take some time for us to review your idea. Simpson does review most ideas, and those ideas that have all the elements discussed above usually receive the quickest response. If you have any questions, you are welcome to reach out to us.
Thank you for considering Simpson for your ideas.