Cheat Sheet

Inventing For Dummies (UK Edition)

Inventing is about how to take an idea and turn it into a product or, if you prefer, turning your dreams into reality. This Cheat Sheet offers up some practical advice and some key point to remember about making, protecting, and improving your invention.

4 Golden Rules for Inventing

Bearing just a handful of golden rules in mind as you set about becoming an inventor can help you to keep your feel planted firmly on the ground and your ambitions realistic. Try to remember these rules as you work:

  • One inventor can change the world.

  • He who has the technology wins.

  • Getting a patent doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to make money – less than 5 per cent of patented products ever do. A patent is only one piece of the total product pie.

  • Many successful inventors don’t invent for the money, they invent because that is what they do.

Characteristics of Successful Inventors

Successful inventors tend to share a number of key characteristics and personality traits. To be a successful inventor, it helps if you are the kind of person who is

  • Able to tolerate failure

  • Achievement oriented

  • Competitive

  • Creative

  • Demanding

  • Goal oriented

  • Highly energetic

  • Independent

  • Innovative

  • Inquisitive

  • Open to feedback

  • Persistent

  • A risk-taker

  • Self-confident

  • Self-motivated

8 Sources for Innovative Inventing Ideas

Inspiration for invention can come from the unlikeliest of places, but here are just a few of the most common sources of innovative inventing ideas:

  • Demographic changes in society

  • Imagination

  • Luck

  • Energy-saving

  • Problem-solving

  • Health & safety

  • Dissatisfied customers

  • Vision

A Typical Product Lifecycle

Most inventions are in and out of the market within a few years. Years 1 to 2-1/2 are the introductory years. You take your product through the idea and development stage while you check out the commercial market, apply for legal protection, and try to obtain funds.

At about year 2-1/2, the product enters into the market and sales start. They peak at about year 5. During year 6, you must cope with new competition and competitors and by year 7, the sales are in decline. Remember, although your patent life is for as much as 20 years, the market life is quite different and nearly always shorter.

Taking Your Invention to Market

Taking your invention out into the market is a key step in making it a success. You have three choices on how to bring your product to market:

  • You do everything – manufacture, market, and sell.

  • You subcontract the manufacturing and concentrate on marketing and selling your invention.

  • You license your intellectual property rights to a company that arranges the manufacturing, marketing and selling aspects and pays you a lump sum and/or a royalty (a percentage on each unit sold).

Planning a Marketing Strategy for Your Invention

To paraphrase Thomas Edison, ‘I’m not going to invent anything unless it will sell.’ You can create the greatest invention in the world, but unless the world knows about it, what difference does it make? The way to make a difference is through creative marketing and advertising efforts.

Some marketing tips:

  • Find out as much about the industry your product sells in as you can. Educate yourself about wholesalers and distributors, manufacturers, and competition.

  • Use every resource you have for assistance, including the Internet, the British Library, the UK Intellectual Property Office, Business Link, local college and university business schools, and inventor organisations.

  • Let the customer drive your product. Find out what customers like and, even more important, don’t like about your invention and try to accommodate their preferences.

    Likewise, realise that the customer determines the price of your product. You charge what the customer will pay and work out your profit margins from that.

    Most importantly, once you have customers, pay attention to them.

How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

Protect your idea with a patent, registered design and/or registered trade mark. Be aware of and make use of your automatic rights such as copyright. If your invention is really good, you are more than likely going to have to defend your rights. Get good legal advisers, as a product is only as good as it can be defended in a court of law. Use these tips:

  • Keep good records of your concept and its development.

  • Conduct a patent search.

  • Get sound legal advice from a professional.

  • Use confidentiality, non-disclosure, and employment agreements with anyone and everyone with knowledge of your idea.

5 Tips for Licensing a Patent

Only a small percentage of all patents are licensed, but it can be a profitable way to go if you can do it. Use these tips:

  • Make contacts at trade shows and elsewhere who can help you get a foot in the door of the right companies and help you avoid the wrong ones.

  • Take time to develop negotiating skills.

  • Focus and concentrate on obtaining a win-win licensing agreement.

  • Know when to sign on the dotted line and when to walk away.

  • Leave room for further rounds at the negotiating table by planning your strategy and tactics, and by listening and studying.

When You’re an Inventor, Money Matters

Make certain you have adequate financial resources. You don’t want to start developing your product and then be forced to quit halfway through. Funding sources can include:

  • Anyone and everyone who tells you that your product is wonderful. Ask them to put their money where their mouth is. Don’t deny them a wonderful investment opportunity.

  • Investor and entrepreneurial networking meetings. These can be really helpful. Follow up on any referrals; nearly all funding comes from them.

If you have to bring investors into your business, make sure to look for more than just money. You want an investor with business savvy, experience, and funding friends.

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