Have you ever heard of the “inventor 911 call”? It’s called (no pun intended here!) “I need help!” It all starts when you’ve got this great idea and think it has commercial value (which is synonymous with your brother-in law telling you that it is worth millions!), but you don’t know what to do with this “million dollar idea”? Many inventors feel somewhat lost and overwhelmed wondering how to go about getting help with their idea. The one thing you don’t want to do is to respond to any of the TV ads you see such as dial “1-800-I CAN HELP YOU WITH YOUR INVENTION”.
My suggestion is to always start by finding other inventors in your area that you could talk to. You want to know what they did with their idea, were they able to successfully commercialize it and, if so, how did they do it. You also want to ask them did they need help and, if so, where and how did they find the help they needed. Ask them for referrals to professionals that are credible and knowledgeable. You should look for inventor type clubs and organizations in your area. A good such list appears each month in the back pages of Inventors Digest magazine. Getting input and experience “stories” from those that “have been there and done that” will be extremely helpful in getting you starting in your how to proceed process.
If you are considering the possibility of commercializing your invention idea, then you need to start thinking like a businessman. After all, this is a business venture! Businesses typically have a Board of Advisors (or some type of Advisory Team) to guide them, then why not the individual inventor?
He or she should likewise have a Board of Advisors to provide guidance and assistance as the inventor goes down the commercialization path. Generally speaking, most inventors end up doing this in an ad hoc way enlisting the support of people with special skills and expertise along the way as needed. However, when starting out, the novice inventor generally doesn’t have a clue as to what types of “People help sources” he or she is going to need. The use of patent attorneys for advice on patenting and legal procedures and/or the use of patent agents to assist in patent filing is an obvious example of the type of “people help” an inventor is going to need, but what are the other types?
A way to approach answering this question is to examine the “people help needs” from the perspective of where the inventor is in the stage of commercialization activities. A simplified and illustrative way of viewing this time sequence of activities and the matching of “people help needs” is to examine this situation from the perspective of three major types of activities starting with what I call the “Thinking About It Phase”, where every inventor starts (what I call the “ do your homework” phase), the “Development and Implementation of the Invention Development Business Plan Phase”, and the “Development and Implementation of the Marketing Plan Phase”, which focusses on the licensing and/or sale of a patented idea. The following chart presents a summary of typical people help needs relative to these three phases and is not intended to be all inclusive, but illustrative.
As you go down the commercialization path with your new product idea, you should have a “team” of advisors, or Advisory Board if you will, made up of people who can advise you along the way. You don’t necessarily need one of each type listed above, but you want those individuals who you know and can trust. Friends and relatives are not necessarily the best choices for Advisory Board members. Keep in mind that these are your “cheerleaders”, ego boosters and sources of moral support. Unless they have the requisite skills and prior applicable business backgrounds, keep them separate. Your Advisory Board members should be made up of those specific individuals that can help you where you need help. Since your Board members may be discussing confidential issues, be sure to obtain signed confidentiality agreements. Remember don’t try to be the “Lone Ranger”. Even he needed Tonto! In your case, as an inventor, you are going to need more than one Tonto!