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How can I verify the claims of companies that claim they will help inventors?
|Q.||I have an idea for a product and am not quite sure how to proceed. There are so many firms advertising help for inventors, but I don’t know who to believe or how to verify their claims. Also, my ability to invest in my invention is quite limited. What are low-cost methods of proceeding? For example, can I simply sell a design to a company?|
|A.||ANSWER from Joanne Hayes-Rines, Founder, Inventors Digest
Do be sure to check the references of any companies that you are thinking of doing business with. Ask for names and phone numbers of clients who have used their services and call them to see what they think of the company. Also, check with your State’s attorney general’s office, department of consumer affairs. See if they have anything on the company. You can do your own patent search at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library. To find the one nearest you, go to the Patent Office web site at http://www.uspto.gov
It’s hard to sell a design to a company without knowing if someone already owns the rights to it (a patent) so I’d say you have a lot of work to do before you could interest a company in your idea.
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My usual best source answer to new inventors is to talk with the expertsÂ inventors who have been there before and know exactly what you are facing. Without giving away your idea, they can counsel you on the process they went through and what the pitfalls are. Most states have a local inventors group that can be of great assistance to you.
These inventors and various sources on the Internet and local libraries can help you identify whether your idea has been pursued before or can reasonably be considered a patentable invention. But before you spend any serious time and money on this endeavor, try to determine what the size of the market is for your product. Is there a business to be made from your product or is there a BUSINESS to be made. The larger the ultimate market the better the chance there is for a company to buy your ideaÂassuming your idea is protectable. Without some kind of legal basis to protect your idea (patent, trade secret, copyright, etc) companies rarely pay for access to your ideas.
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If you are prepared to spend the time and money developing your idea into a product, you are much more likely to be successfulÂ but even then the odds are against you! Don’t risk or spend your life savings, retirement money, or mortgage your home. Don’t risk more than you can afford to lose.
As for crooked companies, you are doing the right thing by subscribing to INVENTOR’S DIGEST . ID is a beacon of hope in the dark sea of con-artists, come-ons, and outright frauds.-
Robert Platt Bell, Registered Patent Attorney, 8033 Washington Road, Alexandria, VA 22308, Ph. (703) 768-0340 FAX (703) firstname.lastname@example.org
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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
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Low cost methods of obtaining patent protection can be through PatentPro, computer software to help inventors prepare patent applications that comes with support by registered patent attorneys. Also check out the web site (www.4patpro.com) to prepare your own trademark and copyright applications. Many companies will not want to purchase product ideas without protection.
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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Once you have established that your product works, you need to do some product evaluation. This requires some research. Look at existing products which accomplish the same or similar task as your product. Will the manufacturing costs of your product allow for a retail price comparable to these products? Get quotes from manufacturers to get an idea of the manufacturing cost of your product. Look at the market. What is the size of your market? If it is too narrow, it may not be worth the time or effort to develop the product. Will the market bear the retail price of your product? Is it easy to understand? Is it unique? Is it labor-saving? What is the window of opportunity for your product?
You will also want to make sure you are not infringing on any existing patents. Hire a patent searcher to do a search for you. You can get a search done for about $200. This will not be a comprehensive search, those are far more costly, but an experienced patent searcher can almost always do a much better than you would do. The search results will give you a good idea of how difficult it will be for you to get a patent.
At this point, if you feel your product is viable, it is time to decide how to commercialize your product. Since you mentioned your funds are limited, probably your best route would be to locate a licensee. A licensee is a manufacturer who is granted the right to make and market your product in exchange for a royalty. Many inventors find this task unpleasant because one must usually hear several no’s before these is a yes. The best companies to target for licensing are ones that manufacture similar products and already have the right channels of distribution set up.
If you choose to go with a new products marketer or “inventor assistance” firm, be very, very weary. Caution is the name of the game. There are some companies that will work to get your product commercialized, there are many who will just take your money. There are many articles explaining how to differentiate the good from the bad, read them. The best thing to do is get a list of references from a company and talk to those references. If a company refuses to provide this information (usually they claim reason of confidentiality) you can pretty much bet it is because they do not have any clients who can say anything good about them.