One of the requirements for obtaining a patent is that your idea has to be novel. I have written about this before. What I often notice, is that inventors are unclear about what is meant by 'novel'. Does an invention have to be completely novel or is it also alright for it to be 'a bit' novel?
You get a patent on the Egg of Columbus
Most people understand that you can apply for a patent if you invent something like a steam engine, penicillin or particle accelerator. There is absolutely no question about the fact that these were novel.
Patent on improvement
What people are less aware of is that a patent can also give you exclusive rights to an improvement on an earlier invention. The term 'novel' is a bit more subtle in that case. As long as the improvement, together with the earlier invention, are not known and solve an existing problem in a non-obvious manner, you can get a patent on it. After all, a smart improvement can turn a mediocre product into the best invention ever.
Imagine you are a bicycle mechanic in a neighbourhood with lots of kids. You will no doubt be asked to repair a bicycle several times a week because it has fallen over. Extra attributes such as a child's seat on the steering wheel, a basket full of shopping on the luggage carrier and a holder for the buggy on the side, often make bikes top heavy.
I sometimes feel that it would be just as useful to have training stabilisers on parents’ bikes like this as it is to have them on kid's bikes. This is perhaps another invention, but that is not what this is all about.
Eureka, the solution!
While repairing the damage to yet another bike, you suddenly come up with an idea for a construction that makes it impossible for the bike to fall over, not even with a rosy-cheeked toddler on the front, a crate of beer under the luggage carrier straps and the buggy on board. You work this out and it appears to be effective. Eureka! The fathers and mothers in your neighbourhood are eternally grateful to you.
It is just handy
The crux is that you think, "I am not going to apply for a patent because what I have invented is probably not novel. It is just handy. The bicycle was invented ages ago and there is nothing novel about a good bicycle stand."
Egg of Columbus
Although around 227,000 patents have been filed on bicycles or bicycle parts so far, it could certainly be worthwhile to check, or have someone else check, whether you could add the next one. After all, even though a bicycle stand has already been patented, you might have developed one that is different and more effective, in which case you can most definitely patent it. This could prove to be the egg of Columbus in your sector!
And the market is huge: It is not just in your village that people shift all sorts of things on a bike. People do the same all over the country. After all, we Dutch love our bikes. So be aware that you might be closer to coming up with the ‘best invention’ than you think.