Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Invention Goals

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Invention GoalsAs you set your invention goals, here are a few tips to help you stack on track and achieve success.

Although there may be several things that you would like to accomplish, focus on the most important. It is easy to lose sight of the finish line if you are taking too many detours. Prioritize the resolutions and choose which one will take precedent over the others. This will keep you from spreading yourself too thin.

Similarly, you do not want your goals to be set too high. Set your resolutions at a level that is reasonable for you to achieve. Becoming discouraged because the goal is unreachable will only create resistance when trying other resolutions.

Now let’s put this into perspective.

Sally has resolved that she is going to sell her patent by the end of 2011. Great! Good for her! Well, kind of. The only problem is that Sally has not started the patent process, she has no contact with companies, and she is on a fixed income. This may not be a reasonable goal for Sally, while the ambition is admired.

For the type of situation that Sally is in, a more conservative goal may be to file for a provisional patent by the end of your time frame. This will allow her to work on saving money for the cost of filing the provisional patent while researching the product’s market.

After the reasonable goal for 2011 is set into place, it is time to set up a schedule for when the process will begin, how much time will be spent on it, and how long it will take. Make sure to start working on your resolution when it is good for you. You will be more likely to work on your resolution if you start it during a time best suited for you and your schedule. If you are NOT a winter person and find it hard to get motivated during the season, start working on your resolution in spring. If you are an accountant, start your resolution on April 16th. The goal you have chosen is intended to better your life, not to make it more stressful.

Choosing a schedule is important to keeping yourself on track! Make sure that it works for you. Back to our example:

Sally has decided that she is going to save $50 a month toward her provisional patent. She is going to spend one hour a week researching her product and the market. Every other Wednesday, Sally has a PTA meeting. Scheduling her one hour a week for research will not work on Wednesdays, so she will choose Thursdays.

By allowing your resolution to become a habit, or part of your routine, you are more likely to achieve it. After two or three months of researching her product every Thursday from 9-10pm, it will be part of Sally’s routine, and she will be one step closer to achieving her resolution.

Before the resolution is a habit and engrained into your schedule, try setting up a reward system for yourself. Once you have completed a step of your process, reward yourself with someone applicable to the resolution. For Sally, maybe she could spend one of her Thursday nights designing a logo or packaging, or try setting up a website for her product.

A friend in a similar situation or a mentor that has been through the process could benefit you greatly in achieving your goal along with providing resources and advice along the way.

Whatever your resolution, do your best to stay on track. Hold yourself accountable, and make sure you are completing steps toward your goal!

Recommended Invention Goals from The IdeaBuyer Team:

  • Make company contacts within your industry.
  • Create a Pitchbook, if you don’t already have one.
  • Limit expenses to items that will give you a return on your investment. (I.E. Prototype, Pitch materials, contacts)
  • Find out if there is a market for your product.

About the author of this article:

Lindsey Yeauger is the Director of Communications for Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company that owns and operates 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 her at

Why You Should Focus on Higher Level Inventions

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Too many inventors make the mistake of inventing in commodity markets. That is, they create something that can already be bought from many other sources and is very hard to differentiate in a meaningful, price-increasing way. Marketing guru Perry Marshall provides some insight on this common mistake….

“What you sell should be re-packaged and re-invented to differentiate it from competitive products and make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult or impossible.

The worst thing a business can do is be just like everyone else. And the worst reason your customer can have for buying your product is that it’s the cheapest. Live by cheapest price, die by cheapest price.

There are many, many product categories that are commodity items. My definition of a commodity is something that can basically be bought and sold by the pound from a half dozen or more companies.”

Perry’s point applies just as much to inventing as it does to marketing. In fact, it’s the same issue: what you invent will, ultimately, have to be marketed to customers who will buy it. If what you create is seen as a run-of-the-mill commodity product, you have one foot in the grave before you even start. This is not what you want to do! What could be worse than slaving over an invention for months or years, only to find that no one is really excited to buy it? This condemns you to what Perry calls “the pathetic life of the lowest bidder.”

“It’s easy to think customers only want the cheapest price, but that’s only true if nobody gives them a reason to pay extra and get more. Another Internet example: I don’t particularly care for AOL, but they have done a very admirable job of packaging their service such that it can’t be directly compared to other Internet Service Providers. Features like AOL Instant Messenger have proprietary features that other providers can’t duplicate. AOL has always made it very easy to install their software and they’ve distributed their CD’s to just about every living creature in North America. This is how they’ve maintained a price over $20 while many of their competitors went broke trying to do it for free.”

There is a parallel lesson here for inventors smart enough to see it: focus on higher level inventions.

The reason is simple. Higher level inventions (such as electronics, software, construction tools, systems, or anything that solves a pressing yet unsolved problem) allow you to stand out. It’s easier to put your unique fingerprints on a product that takes specialized skills or knowledge to create. This is not merely an aesthetic issue, either. It’s not just about the pride of knowing you have a unique product. (Although that’s nice, too.)

It is often literally the difference between success or failure. Like Perry said – if you don’t give people a reason to pay more, they won’t. Let’s apply this thinking to an example.

You’ve decided to invent something that will boost a car’s gas mileage. All else equal, this is a great market to invent for: lots of demand, hundreds of millions of potential customers with a very big itch to scratch. But if you’re not careful, you still run the risk of painting yourself into a “commodity corner.” You probably wouldn’t want to invent yet another bottled fuel additive that “erodes engine gunk to free up lost horsepower and gas mileage.”

Why not? Because 9 out of 10 people who know anything about cars know that those things don’t really work all that well. Plus, there are at least a half dozen different ones you could buy. Instead, you need to think about inventing something that solves this problem is a more clever and creative way. That’s why a very smart man invented something called the <a href=””>Fuel Saving Tornado</a>. Unlike the many bottled products, the fuel saving tornado is a physical device that you strap onto your engine. It fits any gas-powered car or truck and claims to boost your gas mileage by 1-2MPG by making it easier for air to pass through to your engine.

There have been some disputes about how well this actually works, but that is irrelevant for our purposes. The point is whoever invented this product knew he couldn’t risk being seen as a commodity. So instead, he created something that solved a problem on a higher level. By doing this he carved out a totally new image and niche one the bottled fuel additive guys couldn’t hold a candle to.

The overall lesson here is to challenge yourself to think about your invention in a different way. Look at it through the eyes of your target market and strive to think of something that will intrigue them. Something they cannot easily associate with the other products claiming to solve the same problem yours does. Pull this off and you will stand a far greater chance of inventing success.

Eric Corl is the President of Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company and the parent company of is a marketplace for new technology and products that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers.

Immunize Yourself Against Inventor Baby Syndrome

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Inventor Baby IdeaMost inventors are tough-minded people who thrive on ingenuity and a willingness to experiment. However, inventors need to be on the lookout for an insidious beast, an attitude hell-bent on robbing you of your fire and ambition: Inventor Baby Syndrome. If you permit yourself to succumb to its progress-sucking powers, you will experience roadblocks in your quest to bring an invention idea to market. So what is Inventor Baby Syndrome? Before attempting a full diagnosis, here are some symptoms:

1)      Refusal to adjust your original idea in any way, shape, or form.

One thing that victims of Inventor Baby Syndrome have trouble grasping is that the idea is less important than execution; ie, less important than the problem you are trying to solve. Venture capitalist Paul Graham discusses this in an article relating to startups:

“In some fields the way to succeed is to have a vision of what you want to achieve, and to hold true to it no matter what setbacks you encounter. Starting startups is not one of them. The stick-to-your-vision approach works for something like winning an Olympic gold medal, where the problem is well-defined. Startups are more like science, where you need to follow the trail wherever it leads.”

Replace the word “startups” with “inventions”, and you will understand the point being made. Clinging to your original conceptions in the face of rational evidence that you should make changes is a disastrous policy. Be careful though! Rushing to start over all the time is another symptom of Inventor Baby Syndrome.


2)      Constantly scrapping your progress and starting over.

In the same article, Graham cautions against the opposite problem: starting over too frequently!

You have to be prepared to see the better idea when it arrives. And the hardest part of that is often discarding your old idea.

“But openness to new ideas has to be tuned just right. Switching to a new idea every week will be equally fatal. Is there some kind of external test you can use? One is to ask whether the ideas represent some kind of progression. If in each new idea you’re able to re-use most of what you built for the previous ones, then you’re probably in a process that converges. Whereas if you keep restarting from scratch, that’s a bad sign.”

This is an Inventor Baby Syndrome symptom because it’s just a way for you to put off that fateful day when the market decides if your invention will fly. By endlessly starting over, you never finish. It seems obvious enough, but this is a surprisingly common problem.

3)      Refusing to partner with anyone or disclose anything

Perhaps the most common symptom of Inventor Baby Syndrome is guarding your idea with such jealous hostility that you turn away perfectly harmless people who just want to help. The obvious downfall of this is that depriving yourself of partnerships and assistance makes the road to selling your product much more challenging. If you need a database programmer, you should hire one. Make him sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and swear him to secrecy, but hire one! This is often the only way to get your invention to market. Trying to carry the whole operation on your shoulders will only lead to an overstressed life, not runaway success.

If you do any of these things, you are afflicted with Inventor Baby Syndrome. It is a harsh name, but an accurate description. Inventing something and convincing people to buy it is hard work, and anyone who tells you differently is lying, naïve, or both.

If you want to throw this success-stealing monkey off your back and face the challenges ahead with open eyes, there is a cure: a rational, reality-based approach to inventing. To achieve it, you need to confront and fully accept some basic facts about what you are doing.

The first fact is that people don’t buy inventions because they’re really cool ideas. They don’t walk into Wal-Mart or Home Depot, pause, imagine all the painstaking work that went into making the product or how unprecedented it is and then, in a rush of inspiration, decide to buy it. Rather, they buy things that they believe will solve some pressing need that they have. That is why you should not cling to your original idea at all costs. Instead, hold true to your vision, but make changes if reason and logic tell you that you should.

The second fact is that constantly starting over is just a defense mechanism to shield you from the pain of possible failure. “What if no one buys the product?” you might subconsciously wonder. Well, that is eminently possible. But what is the alternative? Giving up and living the 9-5 grind that helped drive you to invent something in the first place? Instead, adopt a mindset of optimistic realism. “Yes, failure is possible, but I am confident in my ability and the value of my invention. I am going to persist as though I will succeed until actual evidence makes me think I wont.”

The third fact is that, to be totally honest, most people do not care about your idea. Yes, you should take reasonable precautions like NDAs. But in all actuality, there are not swarms of people just dying to steal your idea. Most people will not drop everything they are doing to pursue an idea they just heard of. For the most part, this will not happen and you should not let it dominate your thoughts.

Above all, keep the end in mind: getting that product to market. If what you are doing is inhibiting the process then stop doing it and start making new decisions. You have to have sensory accuity and figure out what is working and what is not. Don’t expect the market to suddenly change it’s response to your product. You must grow and adapt to meet the markets demands.

Why Paranoid Inventors Fail

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Paranoid InventorEvery inventor knows that it’s a mistake to go around bragging about your idea to everyone who will listen. Careless mistakes should obviously be avoided. However, there is another kind of inventor who commits just the opposite mistake, and suffers the same failure. That mistake is paranoia. It is an irrational, unfounded fear of everyone in his field that causes the inventor to clam up and wall everyone off. An excellent article called “Inventor Paranoia” profiles the problem as such:

Many beginning inventors are obsessed with secrecy. They’re convinced their latest invention is their “best” — and that anyone who hears of it will certainly “steal” it. They then become so obsessed with “protecting” their invention as to virtually guarantee that they’ll never see a dime from it.

Hey, guys, you can’t “protect” an invention. You can seek to acquire certain intellectual property rights in the invention. e.g., with a patent. And if your solution to the problem is truly superior, and if it’s commercially viable, and if the rights you acquire are sufficiently “strong”, i.e., your intellectual property covers ALL economical ways of providing the intended user benefit — you MAY be able to sell or license those rights.

However, even if you do everything ‘right’ — by the book — there’s no guarantee you won’t get ripped off. If someone chooses to copy your invention — without acknowledging your rights — all you can do is sue them. And a typical infringement suit starts in the range of a quarter million dollars.


If this is the case, why are there any paranoid inventors? And what is so disastrous about being a paranoid inventor? To answer those questions, we must first understand what drives this paranoia in the first place.

Nine times out of ten, an overly paranoid inventor places an enormous value on “ideas.” Not even just on his particular idea, but on ideas as such. In his or her mind, the quality of an idea is the sole determinant of whether an invention succeeds or fails. Consequently, inventors who believe this are extremely overprotective of any ideas they might have. They view the entire professional community as potential adversaries who, if they happened to discover the idea, would immediately drop what they were doing to pursue it. While this can indeed happen, it is far from likely. The truth is that ideas in and of themselves are not nearly as important as execution and the personnel behind them. However, many naïve inventors continue to think that ideas are sacred assets to be jealously guarded against intruders.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Paul Graham clears up this misbegotten notion in his article “Ideas for Startups”

“They overvalue ideas. They think creating a startup is just a matter of implementing some fabulous initial idea. And since a successful startup is worth millions of dollars, a good idea is therefore a million dollar idea.

If coming up with an idea for a startup equals coming up with a million dollar idea, then of course it’s going to seem hard. Too hard to bother trying. Our instincts tell us something so valuable would not be just lying around for anyone to discover.

Actually, startup ideas are not million dollar ideas, and here’s an experiment you can try to prove it: just try to sell one. Nothing evolves faster than markets. The fact that there’s no market for startup ideas suggests there’s no demand. Which means, in the narrow sense of the word, that startup ideas are worthless.”


Invention ideas are somewhat different than ideas for startups, but the basic truth holds. If you never network with anyone or get your plans off the ground for fear of “your idea” being stolen, you are damning yourself to failure. You will turn away valuable networking opportunities. You will make it impossible to find the technical talent you need to create the invention. You might even turn down funding or buyout offers that would get your product to market faster or let you capitalize on all of your hard efforts. Clearly, this is not a smart or rational approach to inventing. So what is the solution?

The key is to abandon the fetish with protecting your idea. Instead, take reasonable steps to protect yourself and trust that you are smart and competent enough to get it to market. You cannot hire a database programmer, for example, if your refuse to tell him what his job is or what he’s doing. Therefore, you should have him sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement stating that anything you tell him is legally confidential. This gives you recourse against him if he spills your secrets, and more importantly, it gets you started in the invention process rather than stuck in analysis paralysis about what happens if someone steals your idea.

Risk is a part of invention because it is a part of life. The best you can do is take responsible actions to guard against worst-case scenarios and focus on getting to market as quickly as possible. Do not let paranoia prevent you from taking bold steps to succeed.

Eric Corl is the Founder and CEO of, the online marketplace for intellectual property that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at

Chinese Intellectual Property Violations

Friday, January 4th, 2008

If you are looking to manufacture your product in China, beware. It seems that no matter where you turn, opportunistic Chinese companies are flat-out stealing intellectual property from American companies, be it in the form of designs, processes, algorithms, and even entire products. In this article we will share several examples of well known products being blatantly copied and explore the rising tide of intellectual property violations being made by Chinese companies.

One prime example of Chinese intellectual property theft is a device called the miniOne. To the naked eye, the miniOne looks identical to the popular new iPhone from Apple, right down to the smooth button-less interface. However, the miniOne offers some things the iPhone does not. It runs popular mobile software that the iPhone will not support, in addition to being compatible with every worldwide wireless provider and not just AT&T. As if that were not enough, the miniOne promises to cost half as much as the iPhone and be available to 10 times as many customers.

Now, the troubling aspect of all this is not the additional capabilities this Chinese company is seeking to add. On the contrary, these are all welcome additions to the sphere of wireless technology. The problematic element is simply the wholesale theft of the iPhone\’s design and aesthetic properties, the “grifting” of its style, and applying it to a separate product as though it were their own.

But the intellectual property violations do not stop at iPhone clones. Vehicles are another prime target for cloning and cheap resale by Chinese entrepreneurs. Take the Laibao, for example. It’s a small SUV that would pass to any casual observer for a Honda CR-V. Indeed, many in the automotive industry speculate that the engineers at Laibao simply copied the CR-V, virtually part for part, in creating their own car. Or take the Geely Meerie, a carbon copy of a Mercedes C-Class. All the style and sophistication of Mercedes for a fraction of the price: 120,000 yuan, or $15,000 US dollars to be exact.

However, the problem of cloned vehicles is made most clear by the “sweet spot” of the Chinese market; vehicles that sell for around $5,000, which is just a bit shy of the typical middle class Chinese family\’s income. When it comes to this segment of the market, the Chery QQ is top, front, and center.

The QQ is a part-for-part clone of a car known either as the Daewoo Matiz or the Chevy Spark. (The actual car is a joint venture between General Motors and the Korean company Daewoo.) In fact, Sparks are sold worldwide. In the United States, an upgraded $10,500 version called the Aveo is cheaper than any other car available. This helps explain the astonishment of American officials when the rock-bottom priced $5,000 QQ first surfaced on the marketplace in 2003. The shock and awe of Congressman James Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin) after a 2004 jaunt to China sums it up:

“If you didn’t have name tags on the cars, you couldn\’t tell them apart. It’s such a good knockoff that you can pull the door off the Spark and it fits on the QQ, so close that the doors match right up.”

Clearly, the complete and shameless cloning of other companies’ products for cheap resale is an alarming problem in the IP community. To understand all the developments that led up to the present state, it helps to analyze the history of IP theft in China. In fact, the problem evolved through several distinct stages on its path to today’s frightening condition.

Chinese industry did not become capable of piece-by-piece cloning overnight. Far from it. A report from consulting firm A.T. Kearney segments the growth of China\’s clowning prowess into five separate periods. The first period was the 1980\’s, marked by primitive, fragmented efforts to produce cheap textile knockoffs like t-shirts. Few were alarmed at this point because the violations in question were trivial. The second period ocured during the 1990\’s. Clothing and accessories were the primary focus of this period as well, but with a twist: high-quality merchandise fakes from Reebok and Nike began to flood the market and gain acceptance by budget-minded westerners. By the mid-90’s, Chinese copycats had moved from simple trademark infringement to low-end tech wares: things like Duracell batteries and DVDs.

From this springboard, says the study, an era of “advanced technology piracy” was launched. Difficult-to-detect knockoffs of Callaway golf clubs, counterfeit auto safety class, and other products appeared beginning in 1998. And by the new millennium, Chinese piracy had become so adept at cloning that they successfully duplicated Intel computer chips, Viagra sex tablets and Bosch power tools.

One practical way that Chinese cloners go about their actions is using “ghost shifts.” That is, a factory contracted out to make authentic goods moves to a 24 hour operation, during which it pumps out copies. Some may be made with inferior materials, others are made properly, but all are destined for sale on the black market: from midnight until morning. The only problem with ghost shifts was that they could not run full time. To solve this problem, developers began in the mid 90’s to build shadow factories – entire plants identical in composition and function to the original, often created from the very same blueprints that actual manufacturers used to launch. Using these and other tactics, the Chinese are literally siphoning American brainpower and innovation into their own pockets by way of making cheap knockoffs.

Clearly, this is a serious problem that anyone involved in intellectual property would do well to be mindful of. Chinese IP violations could create a whole host of adverse incentives for inventors if the problem is not addressed.

Luckily, there are still reliable Chinese Manufacturer representatives out there that can help inventors and companies take advantage of the pricing benefits that Chinese manufacturing can offer. However, be sure to conduct due dilligence to protect yourself from predatory manufacturers. Request references from their current clients and ensure that all of your proper documentation is in place. Ideally, try to find an American manufacturing representative (US Citizenship) that is on site in China. This typically reduces much of the friction in doing business overseas.

Eric Corl is the President of Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company that operates, marketplace for new technology and products that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, investors, and manufacturers. You can email him You can visit the site by clicking here >New Technology and Products, Patents for Sale

Five Key Questions About IP Help Increase Market Value and Improve Bottom Line Results

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

by Mark Partridge

Intellectual assets are critical to business success in today’s global market.

If you are a CEO, CFO, GC or other business leader, asking questions about these assets will help you to bring added value to your company.

Failure to consider these issues yields adverse business consequences, including unrealized value, unnecessary expense and legal risk.

Routine attention to intellectual asset management can avoid these consequences, yet many businesses miss this opportunity simply for lack of knowledge and attention.

Intellectual Assets

What are intellectual assets? Essentially these encompass all of the intangible assets of an enterprise.

From the business point of view, we’re talking about brands, logos, packaging, corporate identity, ideas, business methods, marketing information, published content, secrets and inventions.

From the legal point of view, they are trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and patents.

Five Key Questions

1. Maximize IP Assets.

"Have you established a clear claim to your IP rights through registration?"

Brands, packaging, ideas, inventions and content have greater value to investors and purchasers if they are secured by registrations. Companies with strong portfolios of registered rights are worth more. For example, the S&P 500 traded at a market-to-book ratio of 4.7 in 2003. At that rate, tangible assets amount to less than 24% of market value, with intangible assets such as brand and goodwill accounting for more than 75% of market value. This fact presents an significant opportunity for companies with low valuations to create market value.

2. Domain Name Registrations.

"Do you have domain names properly registered to avoid inadvertent expiration or improper transfer by former employees or ISPs?"

In our practice, we routinely deal with companies that have lost domain names because they failed to maintain registrations in their own names or lacked a sound system for managing renewals. It can happen to anyone, large and small, as illustrated by Microsoft’s well-publicized loss of the domain name The cost of prevention is small, while the expense of recovering lost domain names can be high.

3. Content Protection.

"Is the content of your website, manuals, publications and other materials adequately protected?"

Copyright registration and notice is not a prerequisite to protection, but early registration is required to benefit fully from the remedies provided under copyright law. The failure to register copyrights before infringement occurs results in the loss of the right to recover statutory damages and attorneys fees. Many small clients find that enforcement is an unrealistic expense without the benefit of those remedies, yet registration of copyrights is simple and inexpensive.

4. Enforcement.

"Have you allowed third parties to steal or erode your intellectual assets?"

The failure to take action against infringers results in loss of revenue and rights. Haphazard enforcement efforts can be expensive and ineffective. Companies that practice effective intellectual asset management will work with counsel to create a strategic enforcement plan that reduces overall legal expense while maximizing IP rights and avoiding the loss of rights through inaction.

5. Insurance coverage.

"Do you have insurance coverage for IP claims against the company?"

Many companies have coverage for IP claims and don’t realize. Many companies do not, and should. Coverage is often hidden away in an "advertising injury" clause. Courts have often read these clauses more broadly than they appear on their face. As a result, coverage can easily be overlooked. When a prominent New York law firm famously failed to advise its client about coverage and tender a timely claim, defense coverage was later denied, costing the company millions in legal fees.

Added Value

Asking questions about intellectual capital issues can increase company value and avoid risk. Effective management of these rights is the key to success in the information age.

Author, speaker and attorney Mark V.B. Partridge is an internationally recognized expert in intellectual property with over 25 years of experience helping major corporations, entrepreneurs and creative professionals protect their IP rights. As a professional speaker, he offers seminars, workshops and keynotes to help business leaders use IP to turn intellectual capital into incredible value. His book, "Guiding Rights: Trademarks, Copyright and the Internet" is available at and other online bookstores. For more information, visit

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