If you’ve ever been picked last in gym class, gotten dumped by a boyfriend or girlfriend, or failed to get a job after an interview, then you’re familiar with the lingering sting of rejection. It’s so easy to take those discouraging circumstances personally and to curl up and admit defeat. Toxic musings such as “if only I’d done or said this or that…” or “there must be something wrong with me.”
As glamorous as it might seem to those on the outside, the invention industry is sometimes filled with more rejection than it is success. Having an idea or invention turned down is a common and challenging part of the innovation process and it can easily leave an inventor feeling defeated and doubting his or her abilities. In reality, rejection is simply an opportunity to learn and take your ideas in a different direction. And it is most definitely NEVER a reason to quit! We’ve gathered a few ways to constructively work through the various phases of rejection in the invention industry in order to come out wiser on the other side and ready to get back to that drawing board.
Like many of the tough parts of life, comprehending the situation at hand and accepting what’s occurred is the first and sometimes most difficult reality to acknowledge, especially in the face of rejection. You may not agree with whomever ruled out your invention - heck, you might even be furious at them - but it’s happened just the same. Whether a patent’s been rejected, an investor has declined to support your work, or a Quirky forum member has simply turned their nose up to or scoffed at your creation, it will feel unfair and it might hurt. While you’re justified in feeling those emotions, it’s more important to understand WHY your work was rejected so that you can process this failed attempt, try again, or move on to your next big idea. In some cases, your idea might just need to be defended more strategically and is worth a fight before you give up. Either way, J.K. Rowling summed up the necessity of failing sometimes be saying, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
This awesome flow chart detailing the various stages of the patent process can help you understand how non-final rejections and final rejections come into play when submitting a patent, what they mean for the life of your idea, and appropriate actions to take in either situation to assure your invention has the best possible chance of receiving a patent.
If you’ve been granted a patent rejection, it will help you to process this bump in the road by doing some homework on what went awry. Be curious and ask questions, request clarification on concerns or issues voiced by patent examiner or the deciding parties, and ask for suggestions on how you could improve your patent application, your invention’s purpose, design, functionality, cost or marketability. Document everything, good and bad, to serve as some closure and to steer you in the right direction for the next invention. If this process sounds overwhelming, consider working with a patent attorney who will help you decipher the reasons as to why your invention was rejected.
At this point in the process, it can be hard to remain objective as you are made aware of less than favorable opinions - even criticisms - of your invention. But remember, it is not you yourself under fire, simply an idea. And research has shown that embracing rejection can lead to increased creativity and can also signify that you’re doing groundbreaking work - the outside world just can’t appreciate it yet. Talk about a silver lining!
Working in the volatile invention industry is not for the thin-skinned, so give yourself a break for having the courage to push forward and pursue your dreams! If the rejection of a patent, invention or idea has you all turned around, consider joining an inventor’s forum or council online or in your city to seek support and to learn how others have dealt with similar setbacks. If nothing else, conversing with other inventor’s will reiterate that failure and rejection in some form is unavoidable in this industry.
If you’re experiencing some burnout, having put all your energy and time into what is now a rejected patent or failed endeavor, take a break. Recenter yourself with a few encouraging and reaffirming books about the invention process, bounce ideas off of friends, family and colleagues, attend invention conventions like this one for a fun, thought-provoking and creative experience. Or, simply take a hiatus from inventing all together! Clear out the cobwebs, take care of yourself mentally and physically, and set a date to begin thinking of an working on a new project.
If a rejection of your invention - in any form - has you feeling unmotivated and disheartened to begin anew, check out some of our previous articles to get your head back in the game and get those creative juices flowing, like Top Tips for Brainstorming and Creativity, Wise Words from Great Inventors (who undoubtedly failed numerous times before their idea caught on!), How to Be More Innovative and more. Your next invention could be a huge hit, and wouldn’t have happened without working through this “failure.” Allow future, prospective inventions and unlimited possibilities excite and energize you, rather than focusing on what didn’t work.
As the famous and infamous Thomas Edison reminds us to have a “glass half-full” perspective, saying, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
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