Creating and licensing an invention is a quest that many inventors embark upon, but few actually succeed at. In large part, this is due to the amount of misinformation and general ignorance to the crucial steps involved. Luckily, this is not a fate that inventors are doomed to. With some research and diligence, you can create and license a patent in 10 relatively straight forward steps. This article will lay them out for you in order.
1) Think of an idea
The first step to creating and licensing an invention is to think of an idea for something you will get a patent for. The goal is to think of something that solves a pressing problem in a way you can commercialize. A new kind of accounting software, bicycle tires, or alternative energy devices are all examples of new ideas that could, potentially, be patented.
2) Flesh out your idea
Before you go through the steps of patenting your idea, you want to flesh it out a bit further. Is there really a demand for it? Who will your target market be? Are there any similar or competing products you have to worry about? What will your costs be like? If you find yourself stumbling over these questions instead of being able to answer them, go back to the drawing board. Once you have an idea you can realistically see yourself bringing to life, you’ll want to….
3) Create a prototype
Now you are ready to create a proof of concept, or a prototype of your idea. This is simply an early stage model of your idea as you see it functioning down the road. It makes sense to do this because you will learn from it, and because your patent application will benefit from having a working model to include in the claims.
4) File for a provisional patent
Ever see “Patent Pending” on a commercial or product package? That product was covered by a provisional patent, which is, in layman’s terms, a way to obtain patent protection inexpensively for 12 months. This allows you to see if there is any interest in your product before investing hundreds of dollars and waiting years for an actual patent to be approved. In the meantime, you have the status of patent pending for those 12 months.
5) Survey the market for people who might want to license your patent
With a provisional patent in hand, you will want to begin looking around for a bigger or wealthier company who might want to license your patent from you. Think in terms of companies who do something similar to what you have patented. Then, narrow down a list of 5-10 companies that you will focus the bulk of your efforts on.
6) Get an appointment with these companies
Once you know which companies you want to target, you want to get appointments to talk with them. The key here is to introduce yourself as a Product Developer, not a mere inventor. This will exude an air of professionalism that established companies like to see, and it will boost your chances of scoring that critical interview. If this isn’t your strong suit, you may choose to have someone represent you.
7) Seek legal advice on patent licensing
Once you have a meeting secured, you will want to seek the help of a competent patent attorney. While this could be expensive, it is well worth the money you will spend. Patent licensing laws are complex, and it is not something you should just rush into without doing any homework on the subject. A good patent lawyer will explain the options for licensing your patent in layman’s terms so you can see the pros and cons and evaluate them against your own needs.
8) Prepare a presentation for the companies you meet with
Once you have decided on how you would, ideally, like to license your patent, you should prepare a presentation in anticipation for your meetings. This presentation should emphasize the benefits of owning your patent. What is the size of the market? Is the market growing? Are you the first to market? (Or will you be?) How long will it take to bring this idea to life? Appealing yet honest answers to these questions will entice companies to license your patent from you. Again, if this isn’t your strong suit – you may wish to have someone represent you.
9) Follow up after the meeting
Few meetings will result in a company instantly deciding to license your patent. More likely, they will take a few days to consult amongst themselves about how to proceed. The key as far as you are concerned is to stay on them and follow up in the days after the meeting. Be respectful, but certainly call back and ask them where they are in the decision making process. This keeps the onus on them to make a decision and tell you what it is.
10) Close the deal
You may need to give a little last minute “push” to get the deal done. This could take the form of a second meeting, conference call, or last-minute questioning by the company or individual in question. The key here is to keep your cool. Emphasize why this is a good deal for all parties involved and respond to their questions or concerns in a direct way.
Follow these 10 steps, and you will be well on your way to creating and licensing an invention.
Eric Corl is the President of Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company that owns and operates IdeaBuyer.com- The Online Marketplace for Intellectual Property. The site gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com.