Cheat Sheet

Inventing For Dummies

From Inventing For Dummies by Pamela Riddle Bird, Forrest M. Bird (Foreword by)

Inventing is more than coming up with a great idea. It’s the process of successfully marketing your idea and the invention, itself. This includes licensing your work, and protecting your intellectual property.

Protecting Your Invention Idea

A patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret are ways to protect your invention idea. If you’re patented product is really good and you’re successful at marketing it, chances are you’re going to have to defend your rights. Get good legal counsel, as a product is only as good as it can be defended in a court of law. Use these tips:

  • Document everything. Keep a journal and have it witnessed along the way.

  • 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.

How to Market Your Invention

Do some thorough research about marketing your invention because whether you, or someone else, decide to produce, distribute and market your invention, the success of your idea is only as good as your marketing plan. A good product successfully marketed is worth more than a great product poorly marketed.

Going to market

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 royalty (a percentage on each unit sold).

Planning your marketing strategy

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 Small Business Association, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, local college and university business schools, and inventor organizations.

  • 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, realize 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.

Inventing Licensing Tips

If you don’t have the resources to produce, market, sell and distribute your invention idea, licensing your patent to companies is a great way to make money on your invention. Only a few patents (about 6%) are licensed for royalty, but it can be very lucrative. Use these licensing 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 negotiations at the negotiating table by planning, listening, studying, and strategizing.

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