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How can I protect my invention and get it on the market?
|Q.||I am very untrusting of others when it comes to my idea for a new product which is very easy to make, could be sold everywhere and will be wanted by everyone. I don’t want it to be stolen, and I don’t want to be milked of all my money. I could probably manufacture these items using my own money, but that still doesn’t protect my invention OR open up marketing channels that would already be present if I was to work with a larger firm. How can I protect my invention and get it on the market?|
|A.||ANSWER from Joanne Hayes-Rines, Inventors Digest
#1. Do a patent search. You can do one at a Patent and Trademark Depository library. Check http://www.uspto.gov/ for location near you.
#2 Do a market search. Determine where the product will be sold (hardware stores for hardware items, sports outlets for sports item, etc.). Talk with the department manager or buyer in the store and ask if they have a product that solves the problem. Also, go to the library and check every magazine/trade journal in which similar products would be advertised.
#3. Consider filing a patent application if #1 & #2 look good. I’d hire a patent attorney or agent to do a thorough search, then based on their opinion of patentability determine if you should file a patent.
#4 Do a test market study. Manufacture a small quantity, package them well and have a local store(s) sell them. You mention that it “could be sold anywhere” well, that’s not really true. Where would people look for such an item? That’s where you try to get them sold.
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The first people I would talk with are inventors like yourself who have been through the process of commercializing their products. These people will be able to tell you what they went through, what concerns they had and how they dealt with them. They can also suggest to you others who may be able to help you commercialize your product.
If your product has patent potential you may want to pursue that avenue. If it can not be protected through some legal means you must be more careful. Depending on the market potential of the product just by introducing it to consumers others may produce knockoffs very rapidly. I would strongly recommend that before you talk with anyone about your ideas that you have them sign a confidentiality agreement that keeps all you proprietary information confidential for a specified amount of time. If your product is protectable by patents, has a significant licensing potential and is demonstrable, you may want to take it to a product development company and contract with them to commercialize the product and share a royalty stream.
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I would suggest that you complete and file a $75 Provisional Patent Application which will give you patent pending protection for up to one year. To learn more go the the Patent Office site at www.uspto.gov
I just filed one, and the moment I mailed the application I had legal patent pending status that allows me to shop for vendors and disclose my invention as needed to develop it. Before a year is up, I will need to decide if a more expensive, 20-year patent is called for. You could do the same.
Once you have filed, please let me know what you have and perhaps I could help. Bob Merrick 1-800.426.5454
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To be brutally candid, you are not ready to do business as your attitude will allow you to be taken by someone who will size you up, and give you words you want to hear.if what you have is as good as you think it is. I occasionally get people coming to me with your attitude and I tend to send them away, as there is little anyone will tell them candidly, that they will believe.
If you want to be credible, you will have to provide non-enabling information about your idea(s), so that people can get an idea how to be of service. Go back and learn how to sell your ideas and know your market. You will then be able to know if you are dealing with ethical people! Not all out here who might be helpful, are unethical.
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Regarding the design of your product, I would ask how far along are your designs and what materials and manufacturing processes are involved? Whether or not you need to go to a design engineer depends on the answers to these questions. If the product consists of one plastic injection molded piece, chances are you can go directly to a mold maker. If it is fairly complex, it is best to work with a design engineer who can finalize the design and recommend materials to maximize the efficiency of the manufacturing process. Once you have a good design talk to several manufacturers and get quotes on various quantities, then compare.
You should consider filing a patent application only after you determine your innovation has a sizable market, and there would be a reasonable profit margin after manufacturing and distribution. These points are the primary factors of marketability. Many inventors have wasted thousands of dollars on patenting because they did not first do their due diligence.
As far as product marketing, inventors have basically two choices, 1) licensing and, 2) venturing. To license your product means you grant the right to a manufacturer to make, market and sell your product in exchange for a royalty. The royalty is paid as a percentage of sales, or a per unit dollar amount, or some other arrangement. The benefit to licensing for the inventor is it is far less risky than venturing and there is no capital outlay (other than what has been invested in development). The right manufacturer already has the channels of distribution in place and hopefully the funds to properly market product. The disadvantage is the loss of control over the sales and marketing.
In venturing the inventor makes and markets the product himself. This is a highly risky, but possible, prospect. The more business experience the management team (notice team, not necessarily inventor) has, the greater the possibility of success. What prevents most inventors from going the venture route is the large amount of up-front capital required for manufacturing, building inventory and marketing the product. It is easy for an inventor to think that because his product is inexpensive to make that he could easily operate his own venture. T hey forget that an inventory must be built and maintained. Additionally, proper marketing must be done to make the target market aware of the product and to create the demand. This is usually not cheap. I should also add that if the product is one that is best sold through retail outlets, mass merchandisers for example, there will be the hurdle of convincing a buyer to take a chance on your new product and new company. It will be all the more difficult if your company is a single-item manufacturer.
To avoid getting scammed by unethical predators that prey on unwary inventor, it is your responsibility to educate yourself on the development and marketing process. To mitigate the chances of wasting your time and money, I advise you to know your product works and is marketable prior to filing a patent application. ,If you take these steps it will at the least insure that invention development will be a positive and educational experience, and at the most dramatically increase your chances of having a successful product.
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I would recommend that you do a patent search first before going much further. It is possible that your idea has been conceived before and that you will need to get on to your next idea.
You can carry out a preliminary search on the internet and see where this takes you.
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The U. S. Patent Laws protect new, useful, and non-obvious ideas. You can get a lot of information about patents from the government at their web site (www.uspto.gov). You can also do some rudimentary searching of prior U. S. patents at that site to see if the idea has been patented in the US before. Also see www.patents.ibm.com for searching U. S. patents.
If you decide to prepare an application for patent, the national average that Patent Attorneys charge for a patent application is between $5,000 and $6,000-reported by the American Intellectual Property Association (AIPLA). You can also prepare your own application with a software package called PatentPro (www.4patpro.com). The software was reviewed in Inventors Digest in June 1997 and received very favorable marks. Quite uniquely, the Software comes with both technical and legal support by registered Patent Attorneys at no extra charge. Applications for patents sometimes open marketing and investment opportunities.
PatentPro-Customer Service – PatentPro includes attorney review of application Kernel Creations, Ltd. http://www.4patpro.com toll free 1-888-472-8776 Do-it-yourself Patent Application Software
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It’s important at this point to be aware that there are also several fraudulent invention promotion companies operating around the country who will also offer to do an evaluation for around the same price, but they will not be valid evaluations. Furthermore they will try to convince you to spend further monies to patent and market your idea, regardless of its true feasibility. Your best bet at this point is to contact a local inventors support group in your area for guidance and referrals to reputable service providers. You can also learn a lot about the do’s and don’ts through reading and a visit to the nearest Patent & Trademark Depository Library(PTDL), where you can do your own preliminary patent search.
To contact a local inventors groups or to learn where your nearest PTDL is located you can contact this office and we’ll give you that information. You can reach us at UIAUSA@aol.com