How to Value Your Intellectual Property

March 31st, 2008

Value Intellectual PropertyValuing intellectual property is no easy task. No matter what kind of intellectual property you own, there are certain bases you need to cover in order to assign a reasonable value to it. It cannot be done on a whim, based on what you feel your patent, trademark, or copyright is worth. As with anything else, your intellectual property is only worth what someone is willing to pay. Obviously, the key then becomes setting a value that is high and convincing. You want potential buyers to feel like the price you have set is commensurate with its true value. In this article, we will explain some of the most crucial steps in setting such a value.

The first step is to get the advice of an intellectual property attorney. The valuing and sale of intellectual property is not like holding a garage sale. There are thorny, complex laws and regulations governing how to assign a value to different kinds of intellectual property. It is not the kind of thing a beginner should try to jump into with no experience or research. Instead, take the time to find a respected intellectual property attorney and spend the money to acquire his services. He will advise you on key considerations, as well as offer advice on how to set a value effectively and legally. Beyond that, he will ensure that any transactions after the fact are documented in a professional, comprehensive way. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. If your valuation becomes the subject of patent litigation, what will be more comforting: knowing that a licensed attorney stands behind the valuation, or that you concocted it with no professional help? The moral of the story: don’t cut corners on legal advice!

The next step is to assess your intellectual property from an outsider’s point of view. You might think your patent or trademark is the best thing since sliced bread, but you may be looking at it through rose colored glasses. This affects creative people in all fields, not just intellectual property. But before you set a value, you need to take those glasses off and see your IP like a complete stranger would. If someone tried selling you a patent, what are some of the questions you might ask?

What is the market and market size?

What are the competitive advantages the patent offers?

How much will it cost to implement the underlying idea?

How long before competitors start crowding in?

There is simply no way around these questions, and your valuation must take them into account if you hope to be taken seriously. The more appealing the answers are, the higher your valuation should be. A huge, untapped market with few competitors is more valuable than a marginal niche filled with established players. Again, these are market realities that you cannot ignore. Once you have a rough valuation in mind, it’s time to consult the professionals once more.

You need to research comparable transactions and see what similar intellectual property has sold for in the past. The best way to access this data is through an appraiser, or your intellectual property attorney. Together, you can discuss what you think the value of your IP should be as compared to comparable values. Try to settle somewhere between your own idea of the value and the values of the comparables you research. This is a time-tested formula for valuations that stand up and get taken seriously.

Finally, you need to heed the age-old warning against being greedy. You cannot ask for too much in valuing your intellectual property, or else you will scare off potential buyers. To prevent yourself from doing this, ask yourself some more hard, honest questions:

How long would it take you to develop this idea yourself? Months? Years? And how much money would it cost on top of your time? Thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds? Generally, he longer and more expensive this would be, the lower your valuation should be. The other party will still be doing most of the work, and they know it.

What about unexpected problems or challenges that might come up? Businesspeople are familiar with the maxim that everything is harder than you think and takes longer than you think. Ask yourself whether holding out for a few extra thousand dollars is really worth committing yourself to years of headaches and problems that you can’t even anticipate right now.

The point is that whoever buys your intellectual property will be assuming all of these risks. You shouldn’t lower your value to the ground, but you shouldn’t be overly greedy, either.

If you keep these considerations in mind and execute them in order, you can accurately value your intellectual property. Good luck!

Jay Cross is a staff writer for Idea Buyer LLC which 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 him at

10 Steps to Creating and Licensing an Invention

March 25th, 2008

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 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

Does Your Invention Have What it Takes?

March 13th, 2008

Some mistakes are just too fatal to overcome. If you make them, your invention is pretty much dead on the water with no hope for success. Fortunately, your invention need not be doomed to the scrap heap of useless or uninteresting contraptions. A wise man once said that smart people learn from their mistakes, while geniuses learn from the mistakes of others. This article is an attempt to capitalize on the latter method. That being said, here are four surefire signs that your invention totally, unequivocally, and without argument, sucks.

1) You have no target market sums up this mistake:

“You have a big idea. You’re sure the masses will clamor for it. So you begin sinking lots of money into building your prototype, developing a business plan, hiring a patent attorney, and more. Little do you know there’s an identical product that’s already out there on the market. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to learn that someone else came up with your big idea first. But it’s even more heartbreaking when you’ve lost a significant amount of money because of it. Advice: be sure to research stores, the internet, catalogs, etc., before moving along in the invention process. I’ve seen people who’ve invested their life savings only to discover–too late–that their idea isn’t original. And it often takes a 10-minute search to find what you are looking for. How can you be sure your product doesn’t already exist? Spend enough time to ensure you’ve exhausted every angle. Search relevant stores wherever you go. Search the internet with multiple key words. In other words, don’t develop your product in a vacuum.”

This is by far the leading cause of inventions that suck. You cannot – repeat, NOT – create something no one wants and hope for a smash hit. If your invention is to succeed, it has to fill a real need for real people. Find out who they are before pouring your time and money into an invention.

2) Your invention is a vitamin instead of an Advil

The website once had an article dividing ideas into two categories: vitamin and Advil. A vitamin is a nice product, but nothing that anyone would feel lost without. An Advil, on the other hand, fills a need so well that once it catches on, one can hardly imagine life without it. This is an instructive distinction for inventions, too. Who would be upset if your invention came off store shelves? Would anyone care? Would they even notice? Is your invention a vitamin, or an Advil?

It isn’t that all non-essential inventions suck; clearly, there is a large market for iPod accessories. It’s just that the ratio of bad vitamin inventions to bad Advil inventions is very lopsided in favor of the former. You are far less likely to screw up if your invention solves a major, pressing need than you are if you focus on some fringe desire that may or may not even exist.

3) It’s a “Me Too” invention

They say imitation is the finest form of flattery, but this is deadly advice in the invention world. It is statistically proven that the first and second to market take home the lion’s share of sales. It is also common sense that the hoards of knockoffs that inevitably follow are seen for what they are: knockoffs. The problem is that when something is first created, the first few producers make sure everyone knows about it. So by the time the knockoff artists come around, the buying public is fully aware that you are just the latest copycat. This being the case, you have no one but yourself to blame when sales plummet faster than The Core emptied theaters a few years back. Create something original, or at least add a new variation on an existing invention.

4) Your costs are out of control

Keeping costs low is not one of the sexier aspects of inventing, and therefore it is often avoided. Inventors without business acumen often assume that sales are all that matter. They figure with enough sales, they’ll have to turn a profit eventually regardless of how expensive it is to make their product. This is a deadly error that fells inexperienced inventors time and time again. It’s fine to use whatever is most convenient when you are making a prototype. At that stage, you are just trying to prove that your invention is workable. But once this is established and you set your sights to selling it, you need to find ways to get cheaper materials and supplies. This is crucial to turning a profit on each unit you sell and recouping the sizeable investment of time and money you are making in your invention.

If you steer clear of these four fatal errors, your invention probably won’t suck.

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


The Priorities for Gaining Credibility for Your Invention

March 10th, 2008

With all the false starts that come with inventing something, it is easy to feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of inventing: like you get “no respect” from credible figures in your field. If investors are turning you down, business partners are flaking out, and you can’t even seem to get your calls returned, it may be time for a change of priorities. Believe it or not, there is actually a tried-and-true formula for establishing yourself as a respected inventor. It begins be creating credibility for your invention.

 Priority # 1 – Creating a Prototype

 If anything separates players from spectators, it is this. Having a prototype – a real, working version of your invention – says unequivocally that you are for real and have serious intentions of entering your field. It takes your idea from, as says, “your mind’s eye to the palm of your hand.”

Their article on prototyping offers some helpful guidance on how to approach the process:

“So what exactly should a prototype look like? First, it depends on your idea. Second, it depends on your budget and your goals. If possible, it’s great to start with a handmade prototype, no matter how rudimentary. For example, I’ve seen prototypes made from the simplest of household items: socks, diaper tabs, household glue, empty milk containers–you name it. If it works for your initial demonstration purposes, it’s as good as the most expensive materials.”


The number one thing to keep in mind is getting your prototype to solve the problem it aims to. Early on, it is not important whether it looks glamorous. It does not need to exactly mirror the ultimate vision you have for it. Get something up and running – something that works – and you will have taken a bold and important step toward gaining credibility for your invention.


 Priority # 2 – Secure a patent for your invention.

 Once you have a working prototype, you should file a provisional patent application for your invention. This will protect any new formulas, equations, processes, technologies, or methods you employed in creating your invention. Having patent protection is an invaluable asset in establishing your credibility.

 For one, it enables you to approach retailers or business partners with a tangible asset. Not only do you have a working invention, but you also have the exclusive, legal right to commercialize it. This portrays you as a legitimate player with something to bring to the bargaining table.

In addition, a patent gives you some peace of mind that a sleazy ripoff artist can’t clone your operation overnight. It won’t stop all of them from trying, but it will give you the right to sue them for damages and legally compel them to stop.

Above all, being a patent holder puts you in a position to capitalize on your invention by conferring on you the status and rights you have earned.


Priority # 3 – Set some initial sales targets – and meet them!

 This step is where the rubber meets the road: that fateful day when the market decides whether your invention will fly. It is a day inventors anticipate with both excitement and fear; excitement driven by hope of success, and fear driven by worries about what could go wrong. However, you can increase your odds of hitting your sales goals with some rational planning and foresight.

 The first thing to do is some market research. You cannot just concoct sales goals on a whim, based on fantasies of what you would like to earn. Instead, you must research the market and determine what similar companies have sold. While this in and of itself does not determine your fate, it will give you a realistic idea of what to expect. Reliable sources of market research include industry trade journals, periodicals, and library/academic databases that include access to market data.

Another good step is to avoid overextending yourself. There is a temptation among many inventors to hit the market in a huge way. They want to get their product in as many stores as possible right up front. While the excitement is understandable, this is not always the smartest choice. A better idea is to start off by selling in one or two stores and use that to test the response. How did people respond to your invention? Were sales high? Are you maybe pricing your invention too high, or low? These questions are easier to answer on a small scale. There is an old piece of marketing advice that applies here: fail early, and fail cheap. If you can learn from mistakes at smaller stores, you can apply that wisdom and approach the bigger retailers with the most important thing of all – a track record.

 It would be dishonest to say that gaining credibility is easy. However, if you are diligent and smart in your approach, it is eminently possible. Don’t give up.

How to Fast Track Your Invention to Market

March 9th, 2008

If you are the kind of person with a million ideas and not enough time to pursue them, you might want to consider “fast tracking” your invention to market. In this way, you essentially become a hired gun. You, the inventor, perform the tasks of researching and developing the product. Then, you “outsource” the manufacturing and marketing to partners with money. Those partners will develop, market, and fund the startup costs. In return for their greater efforts, they will receive a greater return. The benefit to you, however, is that this is one of the quickest ways to bring a product to market and exit with cash in hand. If you are a serial inventor, this can be a great way to build up some cash and move on from one idea to the next.

The best way to get the ball rolling is to find an angel investor, ie, a private person with personal wealth and the skills necessary to fast track your invention. has a comprehensive directory of angel investors. Using it, you can locate investors in specific areas, with specific skill sets, and find one that is sure to meet your fast-tracking needs.

Once you have found an investor, the next thing you will do is determine how profits will be split and who is responsible for what. Typically, you will be the one researching and creating the product in question. If it was your idea, this is only logical. You should make it your business to know the market inside and out and formulate a product that can be profitably sold in it. Then, you want to create a prototype for it. Since the extent of your responsibility is creating the product, it makes sense to do this as quickly as possible. Then, responsibility shifts to the investor to put up the funds and get the product to market.

In his landmark text “The Time Trap”, Alec Mackenzie stresses that the single most effective way to get more done in less time is writing a list of things you are going to do that day. It sounds simple – and it is – but it takes a high level of discipline to actually put it into practice. Accordingly, this is an excellent way of ensuring that you develop your prototype as quickly as possible. Not a day should go by when you are not doing something to advance this goal.

When you finally do have your prototype ready, you should waste no time hitting the market. How can you do this? The best way is to use a tried and true formula: start with smaller stores, build a track record of success, and use this as leverage to get into bigger outlets. An article on imparts a very specific strategy that you can use to get your product to market in a short period of time. Here is the course of action recommended:

“This is where reps come in. They have had to change their ways of working. It used to be that they would spend the majority of their time with the big chains. The little guys got whatever time was left over. In some cases, reps would use sub-reps to call on the little stores. Well, it ain’t that way today. Some big firms such as Wal-Mart say that due to their volume they don’t need the rep to call on them and they want the commission usually paid to the rep for themselves. That means that reps have to look for other ways to make money. They do this by two methods: One, call on smaller retailers and call on them more often; two, take on lines that the smaller retailers are looking for.

“So, as a supplier to the retail market, seek out the reps. Ask some stores that might be potential candidates for your line who they believe is the best rep that calls on them. Interview several reps, see what other lines they have that would cause them to call on the same type of firm you believe your goods could go into. They are your best bet for getting into all types of stores both large and small, that is their profession.”

For the best results, you can have your investor start working on this while you are creating your prototype. Optimally, you can do these tasks side-by-side, wasting as little time as possible and getting to launch as fast as you can. If this is not possible, you should at least begin this process as soon as the prototype is ready. When it comes to fast tracking, time is obviously of the essence.

Keep your objective in mind with the eye on the prize to compress time and shorten your time to market.

Inventor How-To: Keeping Your Finances in Order

March 8th, 2008

With all the invention-related things on an inventor’s mind, it is easy to overlook another important consideration: keeping your finances in order! The importance of a well-organized and documented financial life cannot be stressed enough. That being the case, it pays to take reasonable precautions and keep your finances in order.

How can this be done? The first step is a change in habits. Whenever you buy things relating to your invention – materials, postage, storage space, whatever the case may be – you need to save all receipts and paperwork that come with them. This is crucial so you can keep tidy books for your own reference, for future investors, and for your accountant. Many of the expenses you incur during the new product development stage may be able to be written off.

Another important step to take is establishing a filing cabinet for your finances. Too often, people stuff their receipts and records into random drawers, folders, and other miscellaneous hiding places. The problem comes down the road when you need to find a certain receipt or notice and have absolutely no idea where you put it. The way around this dilemma is having a small filing cabinet to put these things in. The other benefit of a filing cabinet is that not only are your records in one place, you can keep them in order. Nothing is more frustrating than digging through years and years of records when you need someone from one particular time. Fortunately, with a filing cabinet, this does not have to happen to you. offers some helpful guidance for how to go about doing this. They say that you can divide up your filing system into three categories:

  • Bills due
  • Important documents to keep
  • Items to throw away or shred

It really is that simple. Either you have a bill that needs to be paid, a receipt or document that should be saved, or something that can be discarded. It is up to you how you want to organize these items, but it can be as simple as using three individual folders labeled with the above information.

Then, whenever you get the mail or receive another financial document, take a moment to put it into the correct folder.

Beyond mere organization, you need to make sure you are in good financial standing at all times. The most easy-to-read gauge of this is your credit health. Do you know your credit score? Is it good? Do you even know what a good credit score is? These are all questions that you can and must answer. As an inventor, it is very likely that you will one day seek investors or loans or credit from stores that you are selling your product in. When that day comes, they will look long and hard at your credit health to decide whether you are a trustworthy person that they should be doing business with.

Not familiar with credit scores? Here is a brief description and link to more in-depth information from

“When you apply for credit – whether for a credit card, a car loan, or a mortgage – lenders want to know what risk they’d take by loaning money to you. FICO® scores are the credit scores most lenders use to determine your credit risk. You have three FICO scores, one for each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Each score is based on information the credit bureau keeps on file about you. As this information changes, your credit scores tend to change as well. Your 3 FICO scores affect both how much and what loan terms (interest rate, etc.) lenders will offer you at any given time. Taking steps to improve your FICO scores can help you qualify for better rates from lenders.”


If your credit score isn’t perfect, don’t worry. There are steps you can take to improve it, and taking them is the important thing. Do some reading and, if necessary, rehabilitate your credit status! Your career as an inventor may depend on it.

While on the subject of your credit status, you should also aim to eliminate any consumer debt that you have. This will only harm your credit status and make you look risky to business partners you may meet down the road. You want to fit the profile of someone who pays his/her bills on time.

Above all, you should strive to be in control of your financial life. This means having an organized filing system with all important records and being aware of your financial standing. Accomplish these tasks and you will have gotten your finances in order!

Networking – It’s the Small Things That Matter

March 8th, 2008

In a fast-paced world where today’s partnership is tomorrow’s downsizing, how do you maintain your networking prowess? The short answer is to forget the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff.” This may be true in certain contexts, but networking is not one of them. When everyone and his mother is promising you the moon, you trust those who remember the little nuances and details – and who comes through on them.

What types of small things matter? Think about what matters to you. One of the smaller details that always matters is birthdays. Your partners’ lives are just as busy as yours. In the daily bump and grind of conferences, trade shows, stockholder conventions and business trips, even the mightiest producers can be worn down. Consequently, occasions like birthdays are seen as a rare opportunity to relax and take stock of one’s place in the world. If you remember to send over a bottle of champagne or even simple a happy birthday phone call, you will likely be held in high regard by your partner.

Better yet, go the extra mile. If the partner in question lives nearby or will be in town, make a point of taking him or her out to dinner for special occasions like this. Things like this become cemented in our minds as signs of loyalty and good will.

The same holds true for major anniversaries. If you have been partnered with someone for many years, you probably know important anniversaries of theirs – their marriage, the day their company went public, even the first deal you two consummated. These are days of triumph and celebration, as well. It is gracious and appropriate to extend well wishes or even gifts like champagne or tickets to sporting events in recognition of anniversaries. Little things like this show that your partnership transcends the pursuit of profit and encompasses the good will between you.

Of course, the little everyday things matter as well. Remembering the names of a partner’s child, spouse, or even pets can go a long way toward showing that you value them. When you think about it, this is common sense. You would begin to question someone’s authenticity if you had to tell them your kids’ names a dozen times too, wouldn’t you?

You can also look to things outside of work to strengthen your networking acumen. The easiest example of this is the throngs of businessmen who hash things out on the golf course instead of in the board room. There is just something about an informal setting that fosters a sense of trust between partners. For this reason, create such settings often. Whether it’s golf, sporting events, concerts, or anything else the two of you deem enjoyable, such activities will add a new dimension to your partnership that a cutthroat, fly-by-night competitor won’t be able to outdo.

Another way that the little things matter is when it comes to deadlines and obligations. These are the heart of any partnership, since you are presumably partnering to benefit from each other’s skills and experiences. The best advice is also the simplest: be a man or woman of your word. If you promise a partner that you will have a report ready by a certain day, see to it that you do. If you can, strive to exceed your deadlines. This creates an image of you in the partner’s mind as someone who can be trusted under any circumstances. And, like bad images, these are very difficult to dislodge once they take root. You will benefit from this perception of trust and reliability time and time again.

Finally, it must be said: for all of these things to work and truly be effective, you must be sincere about them. In other words, don’t feign concern, care, or respect for your partners if you don’t actually feel it. Harvard Business School graduate John T. Reed offers an example of what not to do in his review of Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”

“On page 154, Kiyosaki says “the reason you want to have rich friends” is to get inside stock market information that you can make low-risk profits. He ends that discussion with the sentence, “That is what friends are for.” That is the narrowest, most mercenary definition of friendship I have ever seen. I doubt Kiyosaki is the only person who feels this way about his friends, but he may be the only one dumb enough to say it in a book.”


Obviously, this is not the reason you want to have friends or partners. You should feel a genuine sense of trust, respect, and good will toward any business partner that you have. If you do not, the tactics in this article will lose their status as friendly gestures and become mere brown nosing.

However, assuming that you and your partner have an authentic relationship, you will do wonders for yourself to keep the small things in mind!

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

Stand Out From the Crowd

March 7th, 2008

Have you ever looked around and wondered, in amazement, why everyone seems to be living the same life? Tragically, many people are content to become cogs in larger machines or groups of people. They become mere microcosms of the dominant attitudes and trends around them that they never stop to scrutinize or question. There are two kinds of people, however, who do not mindlessly submit to this corporeal of sameness. The first kind of person rebels against it, but in relatively benign and meaningless ways. They might dress flamboyantly or oppose trends for the sake of opposing them, but in substance there is very little to separate them from the common man. In reality they are entirely dependent on other people. Others shape their attitudes, but in reverse.

The second, much smaller group responds differently. They look around in horror, slam their fist on the desk and decide that they are not going to go through life as another schlep nobody. They are going to stand out from the crowd in a meaningful way.

 How do they do it? They stand out by taking a completely first-handed posture in the world. They accept responsibility for forming the beliefs at the core of their being and become an uncompromisable expression of their vision. Standing out is, in the words of fictional hero Howard Roark, “living as though you were the first man born.” It is achieving a radical independence of mind.

 In the eye-opening book “Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics – The Virtuous Egoist”, philosophy professor Tara Smith offers some insight:

“An independent person seeks neither his direction, his conclusions, nor his satisfaction from the views of others. He does not act for the sake of others in any way. Others are not his compass. Reality is.”

This kind of attitude naturally leads to standing out from the crowd, for the simple reason that so few live this way. So engrained is the herd mentality, so pervasive is the sameness that the man who charts his own course is a violent jolt out of the norm. That being said, here are some practical ways to employ this attitude in the service of your efforts to stand out.

Make your views known instead of accepting the status quo.

When it is appropriate, feel free to dissent from the prevailing viewpoint in a debate or argument. If the popular opinion around the office is that universal healthcare is the greatest thing since the New Deal, speak up in protest. If you know government healthcare leads to rationing and violates the rights of doctors, saying so will make you stand out immediately. If you give an impassioned plea for the glory of the free market, you will distance yourself from those who consider this cruel and heartless.

This does not mean that you should go looking for excuses to make a scene. It means that if you genuinely dissent from some popular viewpoint, you should feel no shame in saying so.

Live by your stated convictions and beliefs.

We live in a very hypocritical society. On the one hand, Hollywood glorifies the hero who holds true to his convictions against all odds. On the other, we hear from our leaders and cultural spokesmen that we live in a “complex world” where principled action is “simplistic.” However, this is not true. The masses of people who think that are confining their vision to the immediate moment. They are ignoring the broader consequences of their actions; in fact, they pretend that no such consequences exist. The standout man is the one who realizes that this is not true.  He is the man who knows that caving in to an irrational spouse’s or employer’s demands only fuels them and encourages them to grow. He is the man who realizes that living by a code of principles is the only honorable and practical way to live. Staying true to principles like honesty, integrity, and independence in the face of societal or institutional pressure will set you apart from the crowd in a huge way.

Center your life on a purpose that fulfills you.

Another tenet of the follow-the-crowd orthodoxy is the general lack of purpose or direction in people’s lives. The unwashed masses delight in pointlessly drifting from one unfulfilling day to the next until their lives have, as E.L. Kersten writes, “Faded into the obscurity and irrelevance they have earned.” For this reason, the man or woman who lives each day in purposeful pursuit of a vision or dream will always stand out from the crowd. He is a walking, talking statement that the only meaning of life is the meaning you choose to give it. This is a sharp contrast to the general crowd, who is more than happy to let someone who seems astute enough render an opinion or direction for them. It is a bold departure from the hopeless “oh well, whaddaya gonna do?” logic that keeps most of humanity running in place.

When you get right down to it, standing out from the crowd is really a matter of following your own vision. Do that and you will be standing out in more ways than you ever dreamed possible.

Inventor How To- Increase Your Creativity

March 5th, 2008

Every inventor knows the dreaded feelings of a creative dry spell. It is the pit of dread that comes with feeling like you are totally out of new ideas, that you could not innovate your way out of a paper bag, that you are creatively burned out. Ayn Rand called this anxiety “the squirms”, and it is well-known to any creative person.

So how do you wriggle out of the squirms and back into creativity? Brian Clark, creator of the popular website, offers some helpful clues in his article “Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Roadblocks to Creative Thinking?”

The first roadblock Clark discusses is following the rules. He explains:

“One way to view creative thinking is to look at it as a destructive force. You’re tearing away the often arbitrary rules that others have set for you, and asking either “why” or “why not” whenever confronted with the way “everyone” does things.

This is easier said than done, since people will often defend the rules they follow even in the face of evidence that the rule doesn’t work. People love to celebrate rebels like Richard Branson, but few seem brave enough to emulate him. Quit worshipping rule breakers and start breaking some rules.”


Two real-life examples of this spring to mind immediately. Ten years ago, people probably would have scoffed at the idea of “A collaborative encyclopedia?”, they would exclaim. “Impossible! It’s never been done. It will be rife with errors – if people bother to edit it at all!” Well, today Wikipedia not only exists, but is one of the most trusted sources of information in the world. In addition, its accuracy rate is almost as high as Encyclopedia-Britannica.

Another example of an invention that whose creator “didn’t follow the rules” is Digg. Prior to Digg, news websites virtually all had moderators and anchors who decided what news got seen. Digg changed all that by creating a socially-driven system where users voted on news and thus determined what was popular enough to be on the front page Today, people pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars to consultants who promise them that they, too, can be seen on Digg’s homepage. All because the creators of the site went against the conventional rules.

Another roadblock Clark identifies is being practical. He argues that while practicality is important when it comes time to deliver the goods, it can lead us to idea killing self-censorship when we are just brainstorming.

“Like logic, practicality is hugely important when it comes to execution, but often stifles innovative ideas before they can properly blossom. Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.

Try not to evaluate the actual feasibility of an approach until you’ve allowed it to exist on it’s own for a bit. Spend time asking “what if” as often as possible, and simply allow your imagination to go where it wants. You might just find yourself discovering a crazy idea that’s so insanely practical that no one’s thought of it before.”

The problem with practicality is that too often, we let established conventions define what is “practical” to us. In this way, any new and original thought is instinctively labeled “impractical” because it has not yet been done. Instead, do your best to banish “practical” from your vocabulary during creative brainstorming. You can apply the demands of practicality later, after you decide if you like an idea or not.

A third roadblock Clark talks about is the fear of being wrong. This is ingrained in all of us. As humans, we never like to be wrong on some issue because it makes us feel like failures. However, this is not necessarily true. Even the greatest minds in history have used failure and mistakes as stepping stones to technological discovery:

“We hate being wrong, and yet mistakes often teach us the most. Thomas Edison was wrong 1,800 times before getting the light bulb right. Edison’s greatest strength was that he was not afraid to be wrong.

The best thing we do is learn from our mistakes, but we have to free ourselves to make mistakes in the first place. Just try out your ideas and see what happens, take what you learn, and try something else. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen if I’m wrong? You’ll often find the benefits of being wrong greatly outweigh the ramifications.”

The common theme in all of Clark’s roadblocks is that if you want to be creative, you shouldn’t self-censor. Instead, let creative brainstorming be a time of open, free flowing ideas. Ask yourself bold new questions and don’t feel like you need to come up with exact answers right away. It may turn out that you are onto something huge – something you may have cast aside by being unnecessarily stringent.

Getting Your Invention On Store Shelves in 30 Days

February 29th, 2008

If your invention is done, functional, and ready for sale, congratulations! You have reached a plateau that few inventors ever see with their own eyes – a finished product that is destined for store shelves. But now, it’s crunch time. You want to be in stores 30 days from now. What do you do to prepare? That is the focus of today’s article.

If you want to sell in stores, there is a rule you need to know front to back, inside and out: “Show me the inventory.” That is the mindset of buyers and managers at nearly any store worth selling in. A article called “Selling to Stores” explores the issue further:

“Forget catalogs – store owners want to see the merchandise. Your sales will increase if you approach them with samples in your hands. Sales will increase even more if you have inventory to leave with them at that moment. While some stores will pay cash for their merchandise, most prefer terms of thirty days net.”


What this means in practical terms is that you had better have the capacity to create and store inventory. This is no small issue, and it should command your full attention if you are even thinking about getting into stores. Do you need to hire people to help you? Do you need to rent storage space to keep a certain number of units on hand? Do you have enough room in your house? (Make sure your wife and kids are on board before saying yes, it only creates problems later if you don’t!) The point is that keeping inventory will be a necessity for getting into (and staying in) stores. Do not approach the matter lightly.

Another consideration is that you probably cannot get your invention into huge, big-name department stores right away. An article called “Selling Your Invention” explains the more likely reality:

“Unless you’re very lucky or very connected, you probably won’t launch your product directly into mass-market retail stores like Target or Wal-Mart. Instead, there’s a product sales lifecycle you should follow that basically takes you from the ground up, allowing you to build sales in a smart, methodical fashion, starting with small independent retailers and moving up to the big guns.”

Instead of staking everything on the ill-premised hope of “Wal-Mart or bust”, the article outlines a more reliable and time-tested approach to getting – and staying – into stores.

o Start by selling directly to end-users. This’ll give you confidence in selling and create “referenceable” customers. You can also get their feedback on the product and packaging to make improvements before expanding your sales efforts.

o Once you’ve ironed out your product and packaging wrinkles, begin selling to local independent specialty stores and online stores. For instance, if you’ve designed a line of greeting cards, approach your local gift shops. Become successful with these retailers, and you’ll have the leverage and negotiating chops to go on to the next level.

If you take this kind of approach, getting into stores within 30 days becomes a realistic goal. However, you must still make sure that the invention itself is prepared for the store environment. Primarily, this is a matter of packaging. This should not be overlooked either, because packaging can add both weight and cost to your product. If it weighs more, it is more expensive to ship. And if the packaging itself costs a lot of money, that gets added to your costs as well, making your break-even point higher.

For this reason, it makes sense to use as little packaging and excess as you can get away with. Early on, cash is king, and you cannot afford to squander it on grandiose packaging that does nothing but make your invention seem big and flashy.

If you have figured out the answers to your inventory questions, set realistic goals for your in-store launch, and square away the matter of your packaging; you are just about ready to get your invention into stores.

What remains is a solid and easy-to-use system of keeping records. Once you start selling in stores, you will encounter a whole new series of record keeping issues relating to taxes, receipts, inventory statements, sales records, and all kinds of other paperwork. Without a reliable way to keep track of all this, your life will be considerably more difficult.

Therefore, you should invest the time to create one before your invention hits the shelves. That way you establish habits of organization before things spiral out of control and leave you in a mess of random papers.

If you do not have the capacity to get your product store ready yourself, you may want to consider licensing or selling your patent to an entrepreneur, retailer, or manufacturer who does.

With all of these matters taken care of, you will be better positioned to push for store shelves. Remember the strategy: avoid big stores at first, and build your track record at smaller outlets. It is a recipe for success that has been tried and battle-tested.

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