So in the past couple years or so, I have been putting some work into an invention of mine. The product I’m printing would be something completely different than what’s officially patented and out there so I’m not necessarily concerned about infringing on something else, I’m curious as to how printing a prototype can further a patent application. Having a 3D printer is such a luxury when it comes to research and development of an idea, but I intend on taking this to the next step. My question is how can my finalized prototype aide me in obtaining a patent or how can I use to prototype to establish ownership of the idea/establish a day 1 for the product. Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated, thanks!

I think the real role of the 3d printing is in the process of iterating in design due to a final design to include in the patent.

Also can be a nice oportunity to have some version or variants of your design, so you can patent or register later.
I dont know the Patent office works on your country, but most receive schematics and “blueprints”, as i saw researching for electronics and phisical objects.

So, the real value of the 3d printing here is iteration over design, and of course, a phisical objecto to atrack investors or pass to the fabrication part.

I worked as hub last year, and receive a model to print from a Design company. They where designing packages for a company. They iterate with the client 3 times with the printed model, so after that, they send the final 3d printed model to a chinese company to fabricate.

I hope you have success with your invention

Though i think an actual model or drawing can maybe support your patent application, I believe a patent is largely text based and relies on very detailed wording to protect your idea. This is why specialised patent/trademark lawyers are a good idea for this type of thing.

3D printing a prototype won’t forward your patent application. You need to speak with a patent attorney to get the steps that you will need for your specific idea. Most will do an initial consultation for free.

By the time you have a 3D printed prototype, you have developed the idea far beyond what is usually needed for a patent. You have developed 3D models and performed calculations, etc.

The process I usually suggest to my customers is:

1. Document the idea on paper with as much detail as possible, in ink, and have it witnessed. This establishes your ownership of the idea. Periodically update the documentation in the same manner. This is when you should be starting the patent process, to get at least a provisional patent to protect the idea as soon as possible.

2. Develop a CAD model. This is required to 3D print. If you are not able to develop one yourself, ensure that you have an non-disclosure agreement in place with the person/company who develops the product.

3. 3D print the prototype for further development.

4. Refine the design.

Be careful, because as soon as you speak about the idea publicly, you have one year to get it on the market or have a patent pending to protect your exclusive rights.

You still need to do a patent search. There may be a patent on your idea already but you aren’t aware of it if it has never gone into production or brought to market.

I think a patent is a waste of time and monew unless you think your idea is going to make millions. I can’t tell you how many people sped 10k -30k on a patent and their idea never goes to market. or if it does and doesn’t score million 's of dollars the the patent is a waste of money. I believe whoever invests the thousands and thousands of dollars in marketing is the one who wins , not someone with a patent who does not market their product and gets no sales. you have to remember, if someone wants to steal your idea and invest thousands of dollars to market it… it’s unlikely unless the idea is truly worth millions. aging to make millions you have to risk big big money on marketing. whoever is willing to take this risk is the one who can cash in.

I agree with the comments below, except that as I understand it, US patent law has changed since 2013 so that it is now “first inventor to file”, not “first to invent”. Even if you documented your invention before another inventor but the other inventor filed his/her patent application before you, s/he gets the patent if allowed. So my approach has been (1) do patent search as much as possible; (2) file provisional patent application as soon as possible with as much information as possible. I am not a patent attorney so make sure to check with one :slight_smile: Good luck!

There are a number of ways

1. The printed part would serve as a supplemental form of proof that this idea was in fact yours. Of course 3D CAD files would be just as good if not better. With these, you could imbed a start date.

2. You could actually put this part into practice. Many parts I print for custom cars are mounting to curved or awkward surfaces. So printing prior to machining is a must in some circumstances.

3. You may find, depending on the invention, that manufacturing is easier with 3d printing because of the application. There are many different manufacturing methods out there. Some favor quality, and others quantity. It’s all a series of compromises, price for supply, price for target consumer, demand for speed, etc.

I manage a machine shop, and I’ve been around manufacturing for some 7 years now. If you would like I can send you my info. I really enjoy working on " out of the box " ideas!

The only benefit from a patent perspective would be helping the patent attorney understand the idea you are parenting. We are on a first to file basis now in the US so you don’t have to prove your idea works for it to be patented.

A prototype is what is called a “reduction to practice”. In general an invention is separate from reducing it to practice and the claims you make do not require that it work or be shown to work.

A design patent on the other hand, is not very valuable by itself, since it is easy to work around most designs.

Example: I have an “invention” to protect mobile phones from water by in casing the phone in a water proof container that still allows it’s use.

If that were a new idea and it was issued a patent, then the patent would apply to all case designs that keep the phone dry and allow it to be used.

I could then get design patents on any case design.

But, if I have the concept patent the design patent is not as valuable.

So, does having a 3D prototype help you get a patent on a concept? No, not really.

Does it help you reduce your invention to practice? Absolutely

It may help you refine your design; nothing more. That, however, may be very valuable while you iterate your design towards a patentable state.

1 Like

before application for a patetend the model isn’t shown in public by you. 3dprinting can enhace the further developement of your design/invention, lead time decreases. If you want something to be printed by a thrith party alsways do that with signing an NDA . a finalized product can be tested on different levels functionality, durability and last but not least productionpricing,

Thos this answer your question Athos?

1 Like

What you need to do to patent your idea is to do background search of your invention (prior art). Your invention has to fall under 3 categories: useful, non-obvious and novel. Get as much of info about your idea on paper in plain English on paper, drawings help too. There is a format for writing a patent which can be found online. Consult a patent attorney regarding your invention. If you still want to move forward you can file for a provisional patent, expires after 1 year. This will give you time to iron out all the details and claims. Once your patent is “approved” by the USPTO make sure to keep up on the maintenance fees. If you do not your patent will become invalid. 3d printing will not help expedite the patient process. 3d printing is a good tool to iron out manufacutrability of your idea Hope that helps :slight_smile:


You can register an idea before the patent submission which gives you protection. That’s why you see often patent pending on the product. I assume you have a working prototype? The best is to patent the product in the US, Germany and France. But you will get infringements. A friend of mine invented the butterup knife, when on kickstarter and collected USD360k. His product was a huge success but as soon he sold the knives after his launch, fake ones where offered on amazon daily. There is a lot of effort required by him to get those listings removed. It all works but lot’s of effort. Better is to team up with a large company specialised in the that product type or application. You supply them with an initial batch of 100 and if they like it the produce it in licence and you get paid a percentage which could be just 10% which seems very lowbut wait… 10% of 1 million orders is more than 1000 units sold yearly by yourself. That last option to do everything yourselves is attractive and you learn lots but it does not pay the bills for one or two years. I ran my kickstarter in August last year and sold 250 controllers for laser unit from China. I just ordered another batch of 250. I have no patent because it’s too expensive for that niche market. So i just sell them untill they get copied by china. This gives me they option to learn and gather some funds for more lucrative ideas like selling my own designed laser cutter engraver unit based on my developed controller. So do the sums in terms of selling items and ROI and that gives you an indication. A patent is just to stall the big companies in the developed world. China, Taiwan etc will copy it regardless but you have a chance to establish a brand before the others do like dyson etc. people buy from them because it’s guaranteed to work. Hope this helps!

US patents are now based on first to file not first to invent. If you print a prototype and don’t file a provisional patent and someone comes along 6 six months from now and files a patent and you have not done yours, they are first and you may be out of luck.