I had to reconcile that “I’m likely NOT the first” in the ONLY time I seriously thought of patenting an idea. It was ridiculously simple: a particular way to make backup webcams/car sensors, which is funny because I barely drive.
Spare time at work back in 1999/2000, drew up plans for it after checking the USPTO (Patent Office) and finding nothing that was the same. After nine months of playing around with the idea, i was ready to go forward with it and actually put money into the process.
But.. I took one more look at the USPTO database…. and some guy had filed for a patent (they didn’t approve it yet) SIX MONTHS BEFORE…. [or three months into my initial idea].
I couldn’t find a flaw! It was EXACTLY the same as far as I could see.
It took a week before I FINALLY UNDERSTOOD that when the “time is right” for an idea (culture/society/technology/whatever is ready) – MANY PEOPLE are going to come up with the same idea.
Since then, I try to ask myself, “What’s nobody asking?” and pursue those but now I spent as much time as I can finding somebody ELSE who already came up with the question or the solution.
When I _do_ find them, I’m happy now, because I can tell myself, “Good. They did it. They went through ALL the trouble. Now, I don’t have to do it, and I’m free to work on something else”.
Helps a lot tongue emoticon