Inventing 101 – How to avoid product liability issues

Inventing 101 – How to avoid product liability issues

There are different types of product liability to think about when perfecting your ideas.

We want to arm you with all the information you need to make your invention?idea safe, reliable and irresistible to potential licensing partners.

According to Cornell University Law School, the legal definition of Product Liability is as follows:

The liability of any or all parties along the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product. This includes the manufacturer of component parts (at the top of the chain), an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner (at the bottom of the chain). Products containing inherent defects that cause harm to a consumer of the product, or someone to whom the product was loaned, given, etc., are the subjects of products liability suits. While products are generally thought of as tangible personal property, product liability has stretched that definition to include intangibles (gas), naturals (pets), real estate (house), and writings (navigational charts).


We do NOT require our community to have their products formally tested before submitting, and we do NOT expect you to give a guarantee that a product is safe. What we DO want to do, however, is ensure your product has the most opportunities for success, and part of that includes an effective pitch confirming the product will operate safely and as it is intended. That being said, let?s take a closer look at the types of product defects.

While liability law varies by jurisdiction, in ALL jurisdictions, the product must be proven as defective, and an injury must result from the defect itself, not user error.

There are three types of product defects that incur liability in manufacturers and suppliers:


These defects are the type you as an innovator should be mainly concerned with. Design defects are inherent; they exist before the product is manufactured. While the product may solve a larger problem well, a flawed feature(s) may cause it to be unreasonably dangerous to use. To prove liability, in many jurisdictions, it must also be proven that the risk could have been significantly reduced or avoided by the adoption of an alternative design that was feasible, cost-effective and performed the same functionality.

While design defects are possible in ANY category of product, the Review Team often cites product liability concerns around products for babies and children.


Here are some examples of design defects:

  • a particular model of car that has a tendency to flip over while turning a corner
  • a type of sunglasses that fail to protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays
  • a line of electric blankets that can electrocute the user when turned on high


Manufacturing defects occur during the construction or production of the item, either in the manufacturing process or due to a larger issue at the factory. This type of defect is obviously not in your control, and is the responsibility of the partner who will be making your product.


Here are some examples of manufacturing defects: ?

  • a swing set with a cracked chain
  • a tainted batch of cough syrup containing a poisonous substance
  • a moped missing its brake pads


These defects are due to improper instructions and/or failures to warn consumers of latent (non-obvious) dangers of the product. ?

Warning Signs

Here are some examples of defects in marketing:

  • an electric tea kettle that is packaged without sufficient warning concerning its oddly positioned steam valve
  • a cough syrup that does not include on its label a warning that it may cause dangerous side effects if taken in combination with another commonly taken drug such as aspirin
  • a corrosive paint-removing chemical that is sold without adequate instructions for safe handling and use

Before you click ?Submit?, here are some tips to ensure your idea is safe:

  • You have eliminated any foreseeable danger wherever possible by designing the danger out of the product
  • If it is not possible to design danger out of the product, you have guarded the user against it
  • Where it is not possible to either remove the danger or guard against it, give warnings and instructions so the product can be used safely

As an Edison Nation innovator, you are submitting an ?idea?, and it is likely not a finished product. This post is to provide you with guidance and tips to take into consideration when submitting your idea to avoid having your idea declined due to potential product liability. When the team reviews your idea, we need to be able to justify to potential licensing partners that the product can be made quickly and easily within the realm of their capabilities.

1 Comment Inventing 101 – How to avoid product liability issues

  1. Jen - Product Liability

    This is a good guide for the modern world inventors. Most gadgets have already been invented nowadays but I believe we will always have a chore that can be made easier. Will surely be sharing this to a group of inventors I know in FB.

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