To patent, or not to patent?

I was scanning a well-known business forum earlier. It’s interesting seeing the ideas that people have, and the questions they pose to the business community when they need help.


One recent poster asked about the importance of patenting a prototype product they’d designed, as it seems expensive to do.


No-one took the time to reply, which seemed a bit of a shame.


A bit of research suggests it costs about £4,000 to patent an invention. I’d say if you truly believe in an idea and want to protect it from theft, then maybe it’s worth the cost.


Going into production and having someone rip off your idea would cost you a lot more than £4,000 in the long run, I’m sure.


Rather than patenting the product first, perhaps it would be better to conduct some market research and see whether the public want what you’re selling.


If the demand is there, then that £4,000 might just pay for itself in future.


They went on to ask whether they need a special licence to manufacture the product. That’s more difficult to answer, they don’t specify what the idea is.


Probably a bit of a Catch 22 situation there, they don’t want to give away the details of their non-patented product so I don’t blame them.


However, the bottom line is that protecting your intellectual property is a must if your business is going to be dependent on it.


Learn how in Module 3 of the Made Not Born guide to starting your own business, which can be found here:



Brewing up a Business Plan

The other weekend I visited a micro-brewery not too far away from where I live.


I went down to the Steam Machine Brewing Company in Newton Aycliffe with a couple of friends, and had a great afternoon just hanging out in their brew room and trying their excellent craft beer.


Considering the brewery is located in the middle of a private industrial estate – and it was a freezing February day – the brew room was absolutely packed and doing better business than a lot of pubs in town.


Plus, they’ve recently had to move to larger premises in order to accommodate more customers.


It’s impressive really, considering less than two years ago they didn’t exist and seem to have become well known through word-of-mouth.


It sounds almost too good to be true, but for Steam Machine’s owners – Nick and Gulen, the business is a real labour of love and the product of hard work.


They didn’t come from another brewery or buy into an existing franchise, so all their brewing acumen comes self-taught or from doing intensive courses on the brewing process.


Nick also gave up a career in teaching in order to follow the dream, so it shows bravery too.


However, all of this didn’t come from nowhere.


By reading the local press, it sounds like Nick and Gulen had an excellent business plan in place. They saw a gap in the market, did their market research, and developed a unique selling point (USP).


They engaged with customers on social media to see what the market looked like and where their products would fit in. Through that, they saw that they had a lot of enquiries coming from further away.


Delivering beer to more remote locations proves expensive due to the cost of returning empty casks.


After some research, they came up with recyclable beer kegs to cut out the cost of those returns.


Clever stuff, and it ended up catching the eye of a high profile backer. The Steam Machine received £15,000 worth of funding from Virgin StartUp, and Nick personally introduced his beers to Sir Richard Branson.


The rest, it seems, is history.


But even with a good idea in mind, where do you start with a business plan?


Our guide to writing a business plan also comes with an example template to show exactly what’s needed.


Here it is: