Phase 1 – Invent & Investigate

Phase 1

= Come up with a new idea or way to do something

INVESTIGATE = See if your idea already exists and find out how the product is the same or different than your idea.




Already have a cool idea?

Fantastic! Before you do anything else, find out if someone already had the same awesome idea. Go Investigate.

Don’t have a cool idea?

That’s how most inventors start – without an idea. What they have is a problem they’d like to solve or things they’d like to improve.

To start inventing, look for problems and ways to improve things, then brainstorm solutions. Ask family and friends what bugs them or what they’d like to work better in their lives. Pay attention to what people say online. How do people do things now? Does it work well? How could you improve it? Remember, improvements are inventions too. Keep brainstorming and then start investigating.


Investigate = See if your idea already exists and find out how the product is the same or different than your idea. Search online, in stores, look at patents and in catalogs. Write down what you discover.

Does your idea already exist? Is someone else already selling it? That’s what you need to find out. But how do you do that? You already know the answer – look online first.

Start by searching shopping sites, like Google Shopping and Amazon and also search images. Type in the main words that describe your idea and look for products that are the same or close to yours.

What if I find the exact same thing?

Go back and brainstorm to see if you can improve it. If not, it might be time to come up with a new idea instead.

What if I find products that are close but not exactly the same?

Study them. How are they the same or different? What’s really cool about theirs? What doesn’t work? How can you make yours even better?

What if I don’t find it or anything close to it?

Search again with different words, type in the problem you are trying to solve and also search images. Sometimes things exist but they aren’t for sale.

What do I do with the information I found?

When you find products like yours, or things that solve the same problem, add them to a list. Write down:

  1. The name of each product
  2. How much each one costs
  3. The names of the companies who make those products
  4. The company’s website and phone number
  5. Any other notes that might help you, like how yours is the same or different
  6. Take a photo or save the link of those products because you will be looking at them again later during the process.

Take good notes and keep your list handy. You’ll use it throughout the inventing process.

How else can I investigate besides online?

  1. Go to the store
  2. Look in catalogs
  3. Search patents online at Google Patents or the United State’s Patent & Trademark Office ( Click on patent drawings to see what it looks like.