How to Invent and Profit Like Thomas Edison

Thomas EdisonWell known American inventor, scientist and businessman, Thomas Edison, never stopped inventing from the time he started through the end of his life. He died with 1,093 patents to his name. More notably though, he commercialized hundreds of patented inventions through patent licensing, patent sales, and by building companies around his patented ideas.

Lesson #1: Invent to Sell

One of our favorite Edison quotes explains his desire to create commercially viable inventions:

“Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” –Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison used daily life as inspiration for many of his inventions. He would actively think about and observe problems and needs which he believed people would pay to have solved. Many of his patents were improvements on existing products that increased usability and practicality.


“I have never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.”
– Thomas Edison

Lesson #2: Understand the Value of Marketing

Unlike other inventors of his time, Edison understood the value of marketing. After inventing a product, he did not sit back and wait for customers to come to him. Instead, he went out and actively marketed his inventions. Early on, he focused on licensing or selling his patents. Later, he focused on creating companies to bring his products to market.

“Unlike other inventors of his time, Edison understood the value of marketing”

Edison believed in showcasing his inventions to the public and throwing down a challenge to competing products. When promoting his DC power over Nikola Tesla’s AC power, he electrocuted an elephant with Tesla’s AC power to prove it was dangerous and should not be used.

Lesson #3: Work Hard and Be Persistent

Thomas Edison was a self-acclaimed hard worker. He did what he had to do so that he could keep inventing. His ambition, drive and motivation are inspirational:

“I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.” –Thomas Edison

Edison figured out how to invent while working full time. He worked jobs that would provide him the ability to invent while he was also collecting wages. Edison purchased his first industrial research lab with the money he made from the sale of the quadruplex telegraph to Western Union which he invented after hours.

Lesson #4: Think Outside of the Box

When Edison was conceptualizing the implementation of electric power, he didn’t just stop at the idea. Edison figured out how to distribute it, in order for people to use it, making him money. Edison’s DC power was eventually replaced with AC power in most states during the mid 20th century; however parts of New York City used DC power until 2007.

“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” –Thomas Edison

Lesson #5: Focus on One Idea

Thomas Edison also understood the power of focus. This is displayed by another one of my favorite quotes of his.

“I have more respect for the person with a single idea who gets there than for the person with a thousand ideas who does nothing.” –Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison used his focus and persistence to get results. Over the period of his life, Thomas Edison founded 14 companies, including General Electric, which is one of the largest companies in the world.

Edison’s strategy for inventing can serve any inventor who wants to make money; invent what people need and then actively promote your invention to find your customers. The only way your invention will have a shot is with persistent and proper marketing.

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Lindsey Yeauger is the Product Marketing Director for IdeaBuyer.com, The Online Marketplace for Intellectual Property. You can email her directly at Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com

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