Someday is Not a Day of the Week

September 21st, 2009

SomedayIn inventing, few ideas are more comforting – and more dangerous – than “someday.” To the inventor with a product in mind, the concept of “someday” becomes a security blanket, allowing him to endlessly theorize about his idea and safeguarding him from responsibility for bringing it to market. After all, if you start now – the reasoning goes – any number of things could go wrong…and then your product might fail. Or perhaps friends and relatives denounce inventing as a frivolous hobby. So instead, the wait for “someday” continues, and the project is postponed until the inventor finally musters up the courage to see his product as a defensible goal worthy of serious pursuit. But for some inventors (perhaps many),”someday” never comes. So what happens to them? This is a question worth exploring.

Well, for one thing, they don’t become failures. In this narrow sense, their decision to indefinitely wait has succeeded in making it absolutely impossible to fail. But is this really something to be proud of? Only by Homer Simpson’s cynical “I find that trying is the first step toward failure” logic can this be considered a success. The truth is that most inventors who don’t try are not happy with their decision. Some try to forget about it by consciously avoiding thoughts of the dream they did not pursue. Others experience regret more intensely, living each day with the deep awareness that they gave up on themselves. It’s not a fun feeling, and for some it never fully disappears.

But enough psychologizing. I think we can safely assume that you don’t want any of that. You would rather know that despite all risk, uncertainty or criticism, you gave your invention an honest-to-God chance. Perhaps it isn’t fear holding you back, but simple confusion about where to start. After all, conceiving of an entirely new product, developing said product and bringing it to market is hardly a routine matter. It is very tempting to look at such a lofty goal and conclude “little old me could never do all of that.” However, this is exactly the type of fearful thinking that “someday” feeds off of. If you are going to make a serious go of this, you need to replace that thinking with bold practicality. Instead of succumbing to complexity, determine specifically what a given thing actually requires you to do. This nearly always involves breaking down huge goals like “develop my product” into smaller steps that do not boggle the mind.

With this in mind, IdeaBuyer would like to offer the new or timid inventor a “roadmap” that will make the huge goal of new product development less intimidating. Think of these steps as stages that any successful inventor passes through. As you read them, ask which stage you are currently in what it would take to keep going.

Step 1) Define your product

Step 1 is where inventors consumed by the “someday” bug never depart from – defining your idea. Nevertheless, it is the critically important step that forms the foundation of everything else. If your product exists in your mind as a jumbled mess of “neat ideas” or things that would “be pretty cool”, it will be tough for you to focus or advance the idea in any meaningful way. The reason is that our brains rely heavily on schemas to motivate us and keep us moving. It has been proven, for example, that students who see college as the centerpiece of a passionately sought-after career of their choosing get better grades than those who simply see college as a vaguely important chore. For the same reason, inventors who begin each day with a crisp, clear vision of what they are trying to create have an inestimable advantage over those less certain.

It therefore pays tremendously to define your idea as best you can at this early stage.

Step 2) Determine demand for your product

This step is somewhat less fun, but just as crucial as the first. You must determine whether there is demand for your product. The reason, simply enough, is that even the best product won’t sell if nobody wants to buy it. And few things are worse than pouring months or years into creating something with no demand. Luckily, there is an effective way to reduce this risk – market research. IdeaBuyer has an extensive, free article on that here. Read it and follow its advice.

Step 3) Patent your product
If your product survives the “market research test” – that is, you can give plausible reasons why people want it and identify who those people are – the next step is filing for patent protection. Be careful however! Work with a patent attorney who has experience working with products in your industry and steer clear of the large invention marketing companies so eager to charge you to review your invention.

Step 4) Develop a prototype of your product
The next step following patent protection is to develop a prototype of your product. Understandably, this is something you may or may not be able to do yourself. Not every inventor possesses the skills to literally create what he envisions from physical materials and drawings. Fortunately, this is not necessary. There are firms you can hire to do the bulk of this work for you, under your guidance and according to your specifications. IdeaBuyer’s “Turning Ideas Into Profits” and experienced engineers can draft up industry-standard technical drawings and develop physical and virtual prototypes based on them. This is when your idea begins to really take shape.

Step 5) Decide upon a commercialization strategy for your product
When it comes to inventing, there’s more than one way to skin the cat. Many inventors wish to carry their product all the way through completion and get it onto store shelves. This is a perfectly good strategy and one you should certainly investigate. Other strategies include licensing your patented product to someone else (say, a manufacturer or retailer) who will do all of that themselves and pay you royalties. Should the latter strategy appeal to you, visit our article onPatent Licensing and learn more about the process. For all others, continue on to steps 6 and 7.

Step 6) Find a manufacturer (if your strategy is to sell product in stores)
Finding a manufacturer to mass-produce your invention is no simple task. A new inventor with little or no industry experience may feel overwhelmed by the sheer newness of this goal and lack a firm direction on how to accomplish it. Our engineers can assist with prototype development and have valuable, long-standing connections with manufacturers who can produce your invention on a wide scale.

Step 7) Sell the product
Finally, it comes time to sell the product, either online, in stores, or otherwise. This too can seem bewilderingly complicated, but remember to think pragmatically – what does it really involve? IdeaBuyer has a free article called “Getting Your Invention on Store Shelves Within 30 Days” that begins to answer this question. We recommend everyone check it out before getting started on this step. Of course, IdeaBuyer also works one-on-one with inventors on connecting them with interested retailers and manufacturers. We are happy to talk with anyone who thinks their invention might be ready for prime time.

Someday is not a day of the week
Above all, remember our earlier discussion about someday – and remember that it is not a day of the week. Those who stake all their hopes and dreams on “someday” typically find that life has passed them by, leaving little more than longing for what might have been. Don’t be one of those people! Instead, use this road map as your guide, and remember these timeless words regarding criticism and big dreams.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

The Importance of Technical Drawings

August 29th, 2009

One seldom-discussed but important aspect of inventing success is having good technical drawings. A technical drawing varies from a simple sketch or layman’s drawing in a notebook. While these are helpful in the early stages of conceptualizing, a technical drawing is a much more detailed visual representation intended to “concisely and clearly communicate all needed specifications to transform an idea into physical form”, according to Wikipedia.

This becomes important when it comes time to develop a working prototype of your invention, and especially when it comes time to mass-produce it. The crude “notebook” drawings you sketched up yourself won’t be accepted or usable by a manufacturer. Without detailed technical drawings that a manufacturer can take into his hands and understand, you most likely will experience serious delays and costly errors. So let’s explore in more detail what technical drawings are, how they will benefit you, and how you can attain them.

As noted, the main people who will be creating and using technical drawings of your invention are engineers. The main difference between technical drawings and other drawings is the degree of standardization. Rather than simply sketching your invention, an engineer drafting a technical drawing will meticulously draw it out in accordance with industry-wide standards for everything from layout, line thickness, symbols, descriptive geometry, text size, notation, dimensioning and view projections. This means that any similarly qualified engineer can look at your technical drawing and understand exactly what it represents with minimal explanation from you.

An example of a technical drawing (an engineering drawing, in this case) for a machine tool is shown below:

Technical Drawing

Engineered drawings such as these unambiguously represent the proportions and dimensions of the invention. Every angle, nook and cranny of the invention is described in terms of length, height, and scale indicators that any engineer will immediately understand.

However, engineered drawings are not the only kind of technical drawings useful to an inventor. Another commonly used drawing is known as the cutaway drawing (shown below). The main purpose of the cutaway drawing is displaying your invention in 3D form – rather than flattened out – but opaquely, so that the inner workings of the invention are still visible. Drafting a cutaway drawing enables an engineer or manufacturer to get a better picture of how the invention should look in its finished state.

Cutaway Drawing

Still another kind of technical drawing that often proves valuable to inventors is the exploded view drawing. For inventions that contain a lot of moving or inter-locking parts (such as the gear pump pictured below), an exploded view drawing captures the interconnectedness of these components and the exact way in which they fit together to form your completed invention. Without an exploded view drawing, you are left explaining these complicated inter-relationships verbally, which rarely captures the subtle nuances of how it all has to work in practice.

Exploded View Drawing

In addition to physically creating your invention, technical drawings come in handy when filing for patent protection. If you do apply for a patent, you will be required to submit what are known as patent drawings (see our article on the subject), that visually convey your invention in much the same ways as you have seen here. Getting technical drawings done early on will be a serious time saver when applying for patent, because you can use these as your patent drawings.

It used to be that a drafter or engineer would create these drawings out manually, using drafting boards, protractors, and triangles, pen and paper to get the job done. Naturally, this was a rather error-prone process that did not always convey the object effectively. Today, the whole process of creating technical drawings is much more streamlined. Using computer-aided design programs like AutoCAD, a skilled engineer can depict your invention on any or all of the technical drawings above with total precision and accuracy.

In addition to AutoCAD, another program commonly used to create high-quality technical drawings is SolidWorks. The main benefit of using a program like SolidWorks is that it lets you specify a feature (or several features) of your invention and hold that feature constant regardless of other changes you make to the design. Wikipedia offers a practical example:

“For example, you would want the hole at the top of a beverage can to stay at the top surface, regardless of the height or size of the can. SolidWorks allows you to specify that the hole is a feature on the top surface, and will then honor your design intent no matter what the height you later gave to the can.”

The benefit to you as an inventor should be clear. Beginning from a simple 2D sketch, an engineer can use a program like SolidWorks to draw out your invention with its features (pumps, hooks, handles, or what have you) as the foundation, making changes to the size, shape, or texture while ensuring that the critical features of the invention remain prominent and intact throughout. This, in turn, enables you to visualize what your invention would look like in different shapes and sizes before it physically exists.

SolidWorks also contains simulation technology that allows your engineer to see how a certain design would behave as a physical object. (For instance, whether your invention will lose durability at a given size or weight can be gauged using simulation.) Designs deemed problematic or cumbersome are then abandoned on the computer screen, at relatively low cost, rather than after being physically created.

Another helpful feature of SolidWorks (which some other programs have since copied) is the ability to “roll back” through every drawing of your invention that exists. For example, let’s say you have ten drawings created of your invention at various stages of its development. Chances are that each of these drawings contains different features, sizes, geometric dimensions and other differences from the drawings before or after it. However, because of the rollback feature, you or your engineer can quickly and easily modify an older drawing in any way deemed necessary without messing up the other drawings.

A typical drawing created with SolidWorks – of a stapler, in this case – looks something like this:

Solidworks Drawing Drawing

Need technical drawings of your invention?

Idea Buyer LLC recommends Patent Help Now for inventors seeking professionally-crafted, industry-standard technical drawings. Using SolidWorks, PDC’s team of experienced engineers utilize a time-tested, five-step process beginning with a basic surface model and ending with a comprehensive technical drawing that a manufacturer can take into his hands and create your invention with. The process typically encompasses 4-6 weeks and involves the following steps:

Step 1 – Engineering/3D CAD Development: The first step involves creating a 3D product surface modeling of your invention similar to the 3D car drawing shown earlier. At this stage, PDC’s engineers will also conduct a critical analysis and simulation of your invention’s design, looking not merely for what “might” or “would” work, but for the best, most cost-effective design possible.

Step 2 – Structural Analysis: With a professionally designed 3D product model in hand, the next task is to conduct what is known as a finite element analysis (or FEA) on that design. In a nutshell, this involves running a number of simulations and stress tests to determine how your invention (as laid out in the 3D model) will respond to stresses, strains, and reaction forces. Will it break if someone pushes it too hard? Will it hold up under heat? How will it react to repeated use? These and other questions are answered definitively in this stage, as the overall structural integrity of your invention is rigorously tested by PDC’s engineers. Your invention will also be assessed in terms of its weight, with an eye toward eliminating needless bulk and size.

Step 3 – Virtual Prototyping: Once your 3D product model has shown itself to be reasonably stress-resistant, a virtual prototype is developed based on that model. Essentially, this involves optimizing the model created in step 1 and validated in step 2 so that it can be created using the most cost-effective manufacturing procedures and materials. The end result of this step (from your perspective) will be an interactive 3D image that you can twist, turn upside down, zoom in or out of and see from every angle in as much detail as you wish. Manufacturers actually prefer to receive prototypes in this format because it is easier to rework a virtual prototype than a physical one. It also makes for easier communication between you and the manufacturer.

Step 4: Form Fit Function Testing: All that remains after virtual prototyping is subjecting the prototype to Form Fit Function tests. Very simply, form fit function (or F3 in engineering-speak) encompasses your invention’s identifying characteristics. Wikipedia defines each of these as follows:

Form refers to the “shape, size, dimensions, mass and/or other visual parameters which uniquely characterize an item. This defines the “look” of the part or item. Sometimes weight, balance and center of mass are considerations in form.”

Fit refers to “the ability of an item to physically interface or interconnect with or become an integral part of another item or assembly. This relates to the associativity of the part in relation to the assembly, or to other parts, and includes tolerances.”

Function refers to “the action[s] that an item is designed to perform. This is the reason for the item’s existence, which also includes secondary applications.”

This step, then, involves ensuring that the virtual prototype created in step four includes each of these things and that any manufacturer or engineer can clearly discern them by looking at your technical drawings.

Step 5: Final analysis: When each of the first four steps is complete, a final analysis is performed to ensure that everything has been done correctly, according to standard and without oversights. Loose ends are tied up and the end result is an invention ready to be created by any manufacturer willing to do the job.

Now What? Phase Four

July 6th, 2009

Do you feel like you have worked so hard to move your invention along, and now you are just stuck? Do you just need some guidance as to where to go from here?
Hopefully this newsletter series has helped you to understand the normal progression of the invention process, while helping you figure out where you are and what you need to do in order to move forward.
The 12 steps were broken down into four phases:

    Phase One: Research

    Phase Two: Development & Realization

    Phase Three: Presentation Material

    Phase Four: Pitching to Companies

Each week our newsletter has covered a phase in this process. Following the process should save you time and money, while greatly increasing your chances of success.
This week we explain the last phase of the process, pitching to companies. If you have missed a phase of this series, you can find the articles archived here.

Phase Four

Step Ten: Generate Interest

Time: 30-50 Hours

Money: $3,000-$8,500

Now that you have all of your pitch material compiled, it is time to generate interest. This process has two steps: 1. Generating interest among potential customers and 2. Generating interest for the sale of your patent.
The goal of the first step is to get potential customers excited about your product. Ultimately, you should aim to walk away from this process with letters of intent or purchase orders. Any LOI’s or pre-orders will greatly enhance your position when trying to license or sell your patent in the next steps.
Press releases should be sent out to publications with readers that are in your target audience. Many publications have “New Product” sections where a spotlight is given to products that would be of interest to readers.
Interest in your patent can be generated through advertising that your patent is for sale. Again, it is important to advertise in places where the people you are targeting, are going to read it. Online marketplaces like, IdeaBuyer.com, can help you to promote your patent to people who are looking for intellectual property. For instance, your patent on a home product would be best advertised to individuals looking to purchase or license patents specifically in home goods. IdeaBuyer.com allows Entrepreneurs, Retailers, Manufacturers and Distributors to choose which patent listings they would like to be informed of. As a medical supply company, it is likely that their interest is only in patents regarding their same field.
Don’t forget to think outside of the box on places to advertise:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Craigslist

Although, it may seem unusual, the key is to ADVERTISE IN PLACES WHERE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE WILL BE EXPOSED.

Step Eleven: Contacting Companies

Time: 30-60 Hours

Money: $2,000-$4,500
Before making contact with any company, be sure to refer to your market research regarding which companies to contact. Of the several companies that you may feel would be a good fit for your product, choose the five with the most potential to contact first.
*By starting with only five companies, you will have fewer conversations to manage.
When you decide to make contact, use the method of communication that they prefer. Email will typically be the best form of initial communication for most professionals. However, it may be necessary to contact the head office in order to find the name and contact information of the person you need to contact.
(For step-by-step in-depth information on contacting companies, please see A Foot in the Door, our guide to contacting companies.)

Step Twelve: Sign a Deal

Time: 20-30 Hours

Money: $750-$6,500
As you begin negotiations, it will be important to not let the excitement get the best of you! Hiring someone to help you through negotiations is highly recommended.
Benefits of hiring negotiation help:

  • You are not alone! Imagine being in a boardroom all alone, trying to talk to ten people all while attempting to understand the terms of the agreement.
  • Now, it’s two against ten! You have someone on your side to make sure you understand all terms of an agreement correctly.
  • You get to be the good cop! When hiring someone to handle negotiations, they will be the person to play bad cop in order to get you a good deal!

Food for Thought from Past Articles:

  • When you license a patent, the first decision should be whether it will be an exclusive or non-exclusive license. In general, people looking to license your patent will prefer an exclusive license. This way, they will be the only ones allowed to profit from the patent, and have the right to enforce violations of it if anyone tries to “copycat” what they end up bringing to market. However, you may prefer a non-exclusive license.
  • As the name suggests, a non-exclusive license grants someone rights to utilize the patent, but on the understanding that you may license those rights to others as well. For obvious reasons, potential licensees do not usually like this kind of licensing deal. It creates the threat of competition in the future that will make their lives harder. However, some licensees will agree to this, and it would be advantageous to try and work out such a deal.
  • One of the biggest fears you may have as a patent holder is “What do I do if the licensee fails to capitalize on the patent?” Not every licensing deal works out as hoped, and this is a reality you must in some way face. Therefore, you may want to write certain requirements into the contract so that you can revoke the license if this happens. These are called performance obligations, or milestones. Simply put, you can write sales targets, profit margin expectations, or just about anything else that both parties agree on into the contract. If the other party does not meet these obligations, you can revoke the patent.
  • Another way to ensure that your financial needs are met is to simply use royalty requirements. Under this approach, you do not require them to capitalize on the patent in any specific way. Your only concern (and the only thing written into the contract) is that by X date; you want to start receiving Y dollars in royalties on a monthly, annual, or semi-annual basis. This might be worth looking into if you want to get paid, but don’t want to be hassled with figuring out what reasonable sales or profit targets are.
  • Signing does not necessarily mean all of the work is over. You should be continuing to manage the relationship with the buyer or licensee of your intellectual property, to make sure that the agreement is being fulfilled.

**We now offer discounted patent, prototyping, and engineering services to our members. For more information, you may contact us at 832-683-1527.

For more information on this newsletter series, or if you are looking for help moving your product forward, please feel free to email me at: Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com
Recommended Service Providers and Resources for Phase Four:

Lindsey Yeauger is the Product Marketing Director for 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 her at Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com.

Now What? – Phase Three

June 29th, 2009

Do you feel like you have worked so hard to move your invention along, and now you are just stuck? Do you just need some guidance as to where to go from here?

This newsletter series will help you to understand the normal progression of the invention process, while helping you figure out where you are and what you need to do in order to move forward.
The steps are going to be broken down into four phases:

    Phase One: Research

    Phase Two: Development & Realization

    Phase Three: Presentation Material

    Phase Four: Pitching to Companies

Each week our newsletter will cover another phase in this process, explaining each step and what should be completed before you move on to the next step. Last week’s newsletter covered development and realization of your product. This week will explain creating professional material and generating interest in your patent.
Time and/or money spent on each step will also be explained, so you know what to expect. In some cases, you may be able to do things on your own, but you should expect it to take more time because you are saving money. When paying for services, you are paying other people to do them for you, so your time spent should be significantly decreased.

Phase Two: Steps 8-9

Step Eight: Creation of Professional Presentation

Time: 40-60 Hours

Money: $1,600-$10,500
It doesn’t matter how great your product is, a professional presentation of the product is necessary. The following documents are not recommendations; they are a must if you are looking to license or sell your product. Preparing the documents in advance will keep you from losing credibility through either explaining that you don’t have material to send or by saying “oh sure” and throwing something together at the last minute. The materials need to be well written, factually based, and organized in a logical manner.
The following documents should express your products value, your professionalism, and your credibility.

  • Pitch Letter
      • How you came up with the invention.
      • How successful you think it will be.
      • What your friend Joe thinks about your product.
      • Anything regarding money. (How much you have spent so far, how much you think it is worth, how much you are asking for it.)
      • A full explanation of the product and its history.
      • Your reason for contacting the company.
      • Your product’s name and purpose.
      • Your contact information.
      • Credibility factors
    • A pitch letter is intended to help you make contact with someone. It should be short and to the point. This is simply an introduction to you and your product. You are trying to find out if the company has any interest, and essentially lure them in to ask for more information about your product.
      Exclude information such as:
      Include information such as:

  • Briefing Document
      • Remind the person of when they heard from you, or when they asked for more information.
      • Explain your objective. What are you looking to do with your patent? Leave out specific numbers at this point.
      • Include only pertinent details.
      • Briefly explain your product’s history. Where is your product currently? Are you already in production? Are you currently selling? How are you selling it? How many units have you sold in the past year?
      • Your contact information should be included.
    • A briefing document is exactly what it sounds like… a brief explanation of your product. It should be no longer than a page, and should be sent to someone asking for more information about your product after receiving the pitch letter, or hearing about your product.

  • Pitchbook
      • Product Profile
        • Include product description, benefits, features, and design.
      • Target Audience
        • From your market research, explain the ideal person who would purchase your product.
      • Competition
        • This will be a direct write-up from your market research.
      • Manufacturing Quotes & Drawings
        • After working with an engineer, you should know how much it will cost to manufacture your product, and also have manufacturing ready drawings to show interested parties.
      • Contact Information
        • Phone number, Mailing Address, Email, Website
    • The majority of this information will be found in your market research. In the Pitchbook, you will take information that you learned through market research and explain how it affects the potential success of your product.

  • PPT
      A PowerPoint presentation will be extremely valuable to have on hand. Most business people prefer to start conversations via email, and you want to have material in a digital format that is ready to be sent. The presentation should be a maximum of 15 slides. Use bullet point sentences to express the information in your Pitchbook.
  • Press Release
      A press release is written with the intention of getting an editor at a publication to write a story based on your press release. In order to get your story published, it needs to be professional, and in the exact way that the publication wants to receive it. If published, the final story is a great way to show potential investors, buyer, and licensors that the public is interested in your product.
      Contact the publication and find out how they prefer to receive your press release.
  • Website
      Having a website for people to use as a reference is not a requirement, but it should be a goal. Through having a website, if someone looses your material or doesn’t have it available, they are always able to access information about your product.

Step Nine: Create Business Proposal
Time: 20-40 Hours

Money: $1,000-$2,500
A business proposal is essential to securing a sales or licensing agreement. It is unwise and unrealistic to expect a company or individual to come up with an offer when you are contacting them. For example, would you try to put your house on the market with no asking price and simply ask potential buyers to make you an offer? Most likely, you would not. Doing so would only prolong the process and would turn many potential buyers away. People like to validate a price, they do not care to come up with one. It is easier to qualify a price than to establish one.
Take the time to create a proper business proposal. The proposal should include each of the following elements:

  1. Licensing Stipulations (Exclusivity, Non-Exclusivity, Term, Renewal)
  2. Royalty % and basis you are proposing
  3. Down Payment Request

Your business proposal should be based on your market research and justifiable given the products profit margins, potential sales, and any comparable deals.
Next week’s newsletter will cover contacting companies and signing a deal.
For more information about phase three, please feel free to email me at: Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com

Recommended Service Providers and Resources for Phase Three:

Recommended Service Providers and Resources for Phase Two:

  • ** We now offer discount patent, prototyping, and engineering services to our members. Contact us at 832-683-1527 for more information.
  • Patent Help Now Articles: “Choosing a Patent Attorney”

Recommended Service Providers and Resources for Phase One:

Lindsey Yeauger is the Product Marketing Director for 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 her at Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com.

Now What?- Phase Two

June 23rd, 2009

Do you feel like you have worked so hard to move your invention along, and now you are just stuck? Do you just need some guidance as to where to go from here?

This newsletter series will help you to understand the normal progression of the invention process, while helping you figure out where you are and what you need to do in order to move forward.

The steps are going to be broken down into four phases:

    Phase One: Research

    Phase Two: Development & Realization

    Phase Three: Presentation Material

    Phase Four: Pitching to Companies

Each week our newsletter will cover another phase in this process, explaining each step and what should be completed before you move on to the next step. Last week’s newsletter covered necessary research. This week will discuss the steps to make your product real.

Time and/or money spent on each step will also be explained, so you know what to expect. In some cases, you may be able to do things on your own, but you should expect it to take more time because you are saving money. When paying for services, you are paying other people to do them for you, so your time spent should be significantly decreased.

Phase Two: Steps 4-7

Step Four: Engineered Drawings

Time: 60-150 Hours

Money: $3,000-$12,500

Unless you have the qualifications necessary to create these yourself, I would strongly recommend hiring a professional to help you. With high-quality engineered drawings, your patent will be crystal clear, reducing the chances of someone being able to profit from your idea.

Along with strengthening your patent, an engineer, familiar with developing new products, could help you to make your idea better than what you originally though it could be. By adding a switch here or coming up with a way to make it not need a switch at all, your product could be more successful because you had help from an engineer when developing your product.

Not only do they have experience with new products moving to market and knowing how to make a product market-ready, but experienced engineers know the manufacturing process and can help you to create a product that will be profitable. They have the ability to let you know which materials would be good to use because they cost less, or which design is best because it requires less complex machinery to make it.

The drawings that you receive from an engineer should be manufacturing ready. They are also able to tell you how much it is going to cost to manufacture your product based on the drawings. It is important to make sure that you see examples of their previous work. For around $5,500 you should receive manufacturing ready drawings with detailed images of the product and all of its components.

*Depending on the complexity of your product, your price for drawings will go up, and the opposite may be true for more simplistic products.

Step Five: Determine Manufacturing Costs

Time: 20-50 Hours

Money: $1,000-$5,500

Whether you choose to contact several manufacturers for this information or you have an engineer run the numbers, it is extremely important to know how much it going to cost to make your product real. For those of you who will work with an engineer, make sure to work with someone who will provide you with manufacturing costs based on the drawings.

In order to do this step yourself it will require that you have already worked with an engineer to some capacity and can explain to a manufacturer a detailed description of your materials, machinery necessary, and product components. You will start by contacting small manufacturers that are willing to do custom projects. Provide engineered drawings in order to receive a quick and accurate quote. When they do quote you, ask for the lowest quantity they would produce at a time for you. Also, find out how the costs change as the quantity increases.

Another very important question to ask is what their terms are. You should look for a manufacturer who is willing to provide you with 60-90 day payment terms upon receipt of your product. This will become very important if you decide to sell your product on your own as many retailers pay on 90 day terms. Not having terms lined up with your manufacturer to match your receivables could cause a cash crunch.

* If you feel uncomfortable contacting manufacturers and describing every last detail of your product, then you should work with an engineer. Most new product development engineers will willingly sign an NDA, and your idea will be protected. It is okay to ask manufacturers to sign an NDA, but be prepared that most of them will not.

*Depending on the complexity of your product, your costs for services will go up, and the opposite may be true for more simplistic products.

Step Six: Build Prototype

Time: 10-200 Hours

Money: $500-$15,000

It is crucial that you have a way for people to visually understand how your product works and what it is. This can be accomplished in several ways:

  • You can create a working prototype yourself.Should you decide to do this, it needs to be done well. The prototype should look and work exactly like the product will, once it is manufactured. Use the same materials. Equip the product with the same components that it will have after production.It is important that your prototype is an EXACT replica of the product. During a meeting with a potential buyer, you don’t want to be explaining how the product will be different later.
  • An engineer can provide you with 3-D prototype drawings.This is a great route to go if you are looking for a professional presentation, but are unable to spend the possible thousands it may cost for a prototype. It is especially a good idea if your product is complex. If you already have engineered drawings, 3-D prototyping is the next step.
  • Have a professional build a prototype.It is certainly the best way to approach a visual demonstration of your product. The biggest benefit is that it shows an audience that your product CAN be produced, and WILL work. Typically people are more apt to prefer a professionally produced, production-quality prototype that they can hold and utilize.

*For example, think about telling a child about a really neat new toy, and everything that it can do. They may agree, but they will most likely forget about it immediately after the conversation. If you tell the child about the toy while he is playing with it, the chances of him remembering the product will increase significantly.

Benefits of an Engineer 101

Step Seven: File for Protection

Time: 20-40 Hours

Money: $400- $12,000

This step is a commitment. If you have gotten this far and still believe after all of your research and development that your idea will be successful and profitable, and then it is time to patent it. The reason that this step is a commitment is because you have already spent a lot of time and money to get this far and it will take more time and more money to get the product to market.

If you do not feel able to make this commitment, or you are questioning some of the reasons to move forward, then wait.

In order to file a patent, you should seek help from a patent attorney who will help you to include everything necessary to make your patent strong. An alternative to filing a full patent is a provisional patent. With a provisional, it is important to work with the patent attorney on the dates. Once you have “patent pending” status you are committing to filing a full patent in 12 months or risk losing your patent rights.

Either route you choose to go, when you file for your patent, you need to have the drive, ambition and resources to run with it.

Once you have completed phases one and two, you will have much better insight if this invention is going to be not only successful, but profitable.

For more information about phase two, please feel free to email me at: Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com

Lindsey Yeauger is the Product Marketing Director for 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 her at Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com.

Need prototyping? 3-D Engineering? Manufacturing Quotes?

Have a question? ASK US!! http://www.ideabuyer.com/askus.php

How to Invent

June 8th, 2009

How to Invent

How to Invent

How to Invent

“Do you feel like you have worked so hard to move your invention along, and now you are just stuck? Do you just need some guidance as to where to go from here?”

This series will help you to understand the normal progression of the invention process, while helping you figure out where you are and what you need to do in order to move forward.

Four Phase Tutorial on How to Invent Check List

Phase One: Research

Phase Two: Development & Realization

Phase Three: Presentation Material

Phase Four: Pitching to Companies

Each week our newsletter will cover another phase in this process, explaining each step and what should be completed before you move on to the next step. Time and/or money spent on each step will also be explained, so you know what to expect. In some cases, you may be able to do things on your own, but you should expect it to take more time because you are saving money. When paying for services, you are paying other people to do them for you, so your time spent should be significantly decreased.
Phase One


How to Invent Step One:

“Aha!”

You have a great idea. You THINK it will be wildly successful. Before you do anything else, you must conduct research in order to substantiate your feelings with fact.

How to Invent Step Two:

Conduct Research

Time: 30-100 Hours

Money: $750-$6,500

This phase should come almost immediately after the “Aha” moment. While research can seem like a time consuming task, you need to be conducting a very vast amount of research that may seem broad to your product idea. If you feel that you already know everything that you need to know, I ensure you, you do not. Consider it like studying for a midterm, isn’t it always better to be over-prepared and do well, then be under-prepared, fail and wish that you would have done more in the beginning?

Patent Search

Start with conducting a patent search. It may seem like no one else has thought of this idea because it’s not on the market, but there may be a patent for the same idea and for several reasons, it never made it to market. Starting with a patent search is going to save you time, money and hassle later.

When searching for a patent, do not specify your idea. Use broad terms related to your idea that will bring you to anything closely related.

Industry Market Research

Once you have determined whether or not your idea is truly original, determine the best industry for your product to go into. The best way to decide on your industry is to compare it to similar products. Begin with researching the industry in broad terms, getting to be more specific. Your research should leave you with a good understanding of your industry, its major companies, and past, present and anticipated changes.

Example:

“AHA! I have got it! This will change the world! Heated windshield wipers! No one will ever have to worry about their windshield wipers being frozen to their car during the winter again!”

My research will begin with the automotive industry, and then become more specific to automotive accessories.

List of Industry/ Market Research:

+ What is the environment surrounding your product like? How will these things affect your product?

  • Economy
  • Government
  • Technology

+ What is the market defined as? How small/large is it compared to othermarkets?
+ Which companies are controlling the market?
+ What has happened to this industry in the past? Present? Future?

Competitor Research

Competition for your product can be direct or indirect. Existing products that consumers are using as a solution to the problem that your product solves will be direct competition. Make sure to be knowledgeable of extensive details for each of your products competitors. Including, ownership, target audience, price points, manufacturers, distributors, and contact information of company executives.

It is also necessary to be well-informed of indirect competition. These products will not necessarily have the same target audience, or may not even solve the same problem. However, a consumer may choose to purchase this product instead of yours.

For example, you have invented a travel toothbrush capable of compacting to an inch tall. Direct competition would be other travel toothbrushes, and indirect competition would be basic toothbrushes. While your toothbrush is convenient, some consumers may choose to just stick with buying a basic toothbrush and toting it around.

Consumer Research

There are many things that will affect the way in which a consumer decides whether or not to purchase a product. However, you should be able to anticipate what obstacles your product will face. Know the demographics of the “typical” consumer in your market, along with buying motivations and expectations.

Product Research

In order to understand if your product will make money, more research is necessary. A guesstimate of manufacturing costs can be made by figuring out the materials needed to make your product and roughly how much they cost (you should get a detailed estimate of manufacturing costs later).

Based on direct and indirect competition currently on the market, you should be able to determine roughly what your product would sell for. After some math, it should be evident whether or not the product would make a profit.

*If your product uses complicated materials and manufacturing techniques, it will be especially important that you contact an engineer for drawings and cost estimates.

Know which methods your product would be sold best through, a detailed description of who would buy it, and information on manufacturers and retailers that would be a good fit for your product.

How to Invent Step Three

: Evaluate Research

Time: 10-20 Hours

Money: $150-$400

It is extremely important to evaluate your research before you speed on. Many inventors become overly excited about their idea, and run to patent their idea without considering the results of the research. The reason that research is so important is because it will tell you whether or not you should move forward with your idea.

Reasons you should NOT move forward:

o The idea is already patented by someone else.
o The industry is not profitable and is not anticipated to become profitable.
o The sole company involved in your industry, is already selling a product like idea.
o Your product will cost more to make then people are willing to spend to buy it.
o The problem your idea is a solution for, is not a problem most people care about.

Reasons you SHOULD move forward:

o There are few patents related to your idea.
o The industry has grown rapidly and is expected to continue to grow.
o The leading companies in your industry are actively researching and developing new products.
o Manufacturing costs are estimated to be 10% or less of what similar products are selling for.
o Many people have the problem your idea solves. Or, if only some people have the problem, it is a large obstacle that they would greatly spend money on.

Once you have completed step one, you will know if this is the right invention to take to Phase Two.

Stem Cell Contact Lenses Cure Blindness

June 3rd, 2009

The following video features a new process for creating stem cell contact lenses that have cured 3 cases of blindness so far in less than a month. This is an inspirational innovation in the medical field that focuses on solving a very large and very serious problem.

If you have a new medical invention that you are looking to commercialize, please contact us via email at Contact@IdeaBuyer.com.

How to Talk to Anyone

April 9th, 2009

How to Talk to AnyoneIn the quest to bring your invention to market, your ability to talk to decision makers will have a huge impact on your success or failure. Many inventors have trouble knowing how to identify decision makers and have an even harder time carrying on a worthwhile and intriguing conversation with them if they do get in touch. To help you out, I have created a simple guide on how to talk to anyone.


The guide is setup in three parts;
1. How to identify decision makers
2. How to engage them in conversation
3. How to get commitments

I. How to Identify Decision Makers

A. Research (Website, publications)

B. Manta.com, Linkedin.com

II. How to Engage Them

A. Create a compelling argument

B. Credibility

C. Appeal to their self interest

III. How to Get Commitments

A. Discuss win-win situations

B. Persistent follow-up without ‘nagging’

C. Positive Reinforcement

Identifying decision makers can be a daunting task for some. Many people tend to shoot lower than they should and thus miss the very people who can get things done on their behalf. On the contrary, it is key not to aim too high and be labeled a pest. When it comes down to it, this step is all about research. You need to read through the company’s website, their news publications, and the “about us” section. If you can find specific staff positions, analyze which individuals should theoretically be the decision makers for helping you achieve your goal. For example, who determines which products get a formal review? It probably isn’t the Chief Financial Officer.

Your research can be aided by extremely useful sites like Manta.com and Linkedin.com. If you are not a member on LinkedIn.com, you should be. There is absolutely no excuse to not being – you can keep your profile private and it is free. Once you setup your account, try advanced search and look for individuals who work for certain companies in particular positions.

How to Engage Them
When you contact people, offer a compelling argument of why it is beneficial for you to talk. Why should they respond to your message? Your first priority is to prove credible to the contact. In a world where emails are sent like telemarketer calls were in the 90s, you need to separate yourself from the herd.

There are several things you can do to gain credibility. Here are a few of them.

  1. Similar Contacts:
    If you know similar people, this is a big leg up as it is a validation of who you say you are if the contact is reliable. If possible, have them make an introduction even if it is an acquaintance.
  2. Offer Personal Credibility:
    Have you had prior professional successes that you can point to via an online resume? Do you have references you can provide?
  3. Offer Product Credibility:
    Has your product been tested? Has your product been featured in a magazine?

    After gaining credibility, appeal to their self interest. Do not ask for favors. Few people walk through the business world with a Red Cross badge on their arm and for good reason. This is a capitalist economy, not a socialist one. You are looking for what benefits you and should not expect others to just do favors for you. Talk to them about the potential this holds for them as an individual or to the company they work for. Do not be cheesy about it – offer sincere opportunities for win-win situations.

How to Get Commitments
After creating a compelling argument as to why they should talk to you, you should be able to get a commitment for a review of information you send, an introduction to someone else in the company who can help you, or a follow up call.

If you fail to get a response within a week, follow up with a phone call to the office and ask for the person by their first name. If they ask who is calling state your real name and your company name. If they ask what you are calling about, state that you are following up regarding your product evaluation.

Once you get them on the phone, with a smile on your face, introduce yourself and see if you can engage them over the phone regarding your product. Be empathetic to their situation – you most likely do not like getting random calls. Few people do. Be gentle, be compelling, appeal to their self interest. Be an interesting person to talk to.

Whenever someone tells you they will do something make sure you put a date on it. For example if someone tells you, “I will review it and get back to you”, respond with a, “Great. I’m going to be very busy through Thursday of next week with Meetings but I could talk Friday. Would 10 am work for you?” Adjust according to their response but get a time that they have approved you can call them back.

I hope this article has been of value to you. Feel free to email me if you have questions or need a little advice in your pursuit to sell or license your IP.

When you work with us, you get my personal cell phone number. We care about your success.

Eric Corl is the President of Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company that owns and operates IdeaBuyer.com. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com.

Inventions of 2008

March 9th, 2009

IdeaBuyer Favorite Inventions of 2008

Of the several patents filed in 2008, the following 10 are our favorites! Some because they have been recognized as having the most potential for changing the world and others because they are cool.

1. Diamond Kidney Dialysis

For people dealing with kidney failure, this new method of removing toxic chemicals from the blood could be a lifesaver. Most patients facing kidney failure have the option of organ transplantation or dialysis. Unfortunately, with a shortage of donors, and complications with current dialysis filters, treatments are severely limited.

This new method of filtration is claimed to more closely reproduce the filtration function of the kidney, in its ability to filter proteins. William Fissell at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, with help from colleagues at the University of Michigan, designed the filtration system to be potentially implanted within the body. Made from several layers of nanoporous diamonds, each layer will only filter a specific protein size, removing what needs to be removed and keeping what the body needs to keep.

2. Muskrat Feces Antibiotic – Weird!

An antibiotic with the capability of killing the Salmonella bacteria, the cause of most food poisoning cases, has been found in Muskrat faeces by Ki Keun Kim and colleagues at Pusan National University in South Korea. Found to also be effective against Staphylococcus (commonly referred to as a Staph infection) and termites, the compound is extracted through drying the faeces and using an organic solvent.

The gross factor doesn’t change the fact that it kills the bacteria that can kill us!

3. Hurricane Suppression through Supersonic Boom

From the University of Akron in Ohio, Arkadii Leonov has patented a method “sufficient to suppress, mitigate and/ or destroy a typical sized hurricane/typhoon”. The patent application claims, all that is needed are two F-4 jet fighters flying at Mach 1.5. The jets fly in concentric circles around the eye of the hurricane, calming the area the hurricane is rotating around.

4. Bionic Contacts

Scientists are currently working on the contact lens, everyone will want, even those without vision problems. A digital contact, capable of zooming on distant object and displaying information about the object, has become a reality. Engineers have been able to install an electronic circuit and lights on a regular contact lens, proving it possible to build a SAFE electronic lens.

For all of us that have dreamt about being terminator for a day… it’s not too far-fetched anymore!

5. Pollutant Killing Sidewalk

The latest weapon in the fight against pollution is TX Active, cement with a chemical composition capable of neutralizing pollutants. Sunlight activates the main ingredient, titanium dioxide, oxidizing any pollutants that come into contact with the cement. While it seems like a great idea, some scientists are not as optimistic about the products potential, explaining that this is not a cure for pollution.

6. Enhanced Fingerprints

A way to analyze fingerprints off a gun after it has been cleaned, discovered by English physicist, John Bond, is already being used by police to re-open some cases. Because sweat corrodes metal, a fingerprint pattern can be revealed when an electric charge and fine carbon powder are applied.

7. Flying Wind Power

Higher elevation, higher wind speed. But building a taller wind turbine to get to the stronger wind is no longer necessary. Sky Windpower, Laddermill and Magenn are all companies working toward flying the windmill! If these flying wind turbines can harvest just 1% of the jet streams wind power, demand for power in the US would be supplied.

8. The Touch-Sight Camera

Chueh Lee, while working for Samsung China, designed the world’s first camera for the blind. The easy-to-use digital camera does not have an LCD, rather a flexible Braille display sheet allowing the user to touch their photo. Not only does this camera display a 3D embossed image, it also records sound for three seconds after the shutter button is pressed. When reviewing previously taken pictures, users are able to reference the sound for a better understanding of their picture. Research concluded that for stability and accurate aim, the forehead was the best placement. All the user has to do is place the camera on his/her forehead and click!

9. New tools for Spies?

Michael Yu at John Hopkins University and colleagues have made a rubbery-plastic-based material that allows for piezoelectric devices (microphones and speakers) to be put in previously impractical places. Flexibility for piezoelectric devices used to be extremely difficult. Adding silicone to the rubber material solves this problem. The group is looking at applications such as wallpaper speakers, and foldable speakers.

10. Cost Efficient Solar Power!

Nanosolar has set the standard for cost efficient solar power with their thin-film solar panels. Bulky silicon panels are a thing of the past. The technology used in the manufacturing process of the thin-film is the crucial component that makes Nanosolar able to produce 100x thinner solar cells 100x faster.
Check out Idea Buyer’s latest product created specifically for inventors:

About the author of this article:

Lindsey Yeauger is the Product Marketing Director for 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 her at Lindsey@IdeaBuyer.com.

Invention History

February 26th, 2009

Invention HistoryOn a day to day basis we take thousands of inventions for granted. This article discusses some of history’s everyday inventions.

Superglue or Krazy Glue was originally rejected by its discoverer, Dr. Harry Coover, in 1942 for being “too sticky”. Coover realized the usefulness for the material in 1958.

Hippocrates, also known as the father of modern medicine, lived sometime between 460 B.C. and 377 B.C. and left behind historical records of treatments for relieving pain. He believed that a powder made from the bark and leaves of a willow tree could heal headaches, pain and fevers. Scientists later discovered that the compound salicin, found in willow plants, was the reason for the pain relief.

The first patent for a bar code, issued to Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was intended as a solution for automatic reading of product information during checkout. The solution was a series of concentric circles, not the series of parallel lines we know today.

The bikini bathing suit was named after the site of atomic bomb testing, the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Its inventors, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard referred to it as “The world’s smallest bathing suit.”

Ancient Greeks, Ancient Mayans, North American Indians, and American Settlers all had their own form of what we now know as chewing gum. William Finley Semple was the first to patent a chewing gum in 1869. In 1871, Thomas Adams patented a machine with the ability to manufacture the confection. Frank Henry Fleer was the first to invent “bubble gum” in 1906. He called it Blibber- Blubber, later to become Double Bubble.

Created by a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. John Pemberton in 1886, the original formula Coca Cola contained extracts of cocaine and kola nut.

Marvin Stone patented a spiral winding process for manufacturing the first paper drinking straws, in 1888. Before paper straws, rye grass straws were used for drinking beverages.

Grammar school dropout, Chester Greenwood, invented earmuffs in 1873 at the age of 15. While testing a new pair of ice skates, he became irritated with trying to protect his ears from the cold using a scarf.

Barely visible marks left when contact was made between a person’s hand and a surface, known as fingerprints, were first observed in the 19th century. Letters by Henry Faulds and William James Herschel were published in the British scientific journal describing the uniqueness of fingerprints, in 1880.

In 1899, the first police car was used in Akron, Ohio. Police cars became the basis of police transportation in the 20th century.

Harry Wasylyk invented the green plastics garbage bag, made from polyethylene, in 1950. Originally intended for commercial use, Union Carbide manufactured the first green garbage bags for home use in the 1960’s, under the name Glad Garbage bags.

Albert J. Parkhouse created a coat hanger in 1903, inspired by a clothes hook patented in 1869 by O. A. North. Parkhouse bent a piece of wire into two ovals and twisted the ends together to form a hook. Thomas Jefferson invented the early wooden coat hanger.

Although it is not known who invented the first ice cube tray, John Gorrie, an American physician, built a refrigerator in 1844, to make ice in order to cool the air for his patients with yellow fever. It is speculated that Gorrie may have also created the ice cube tray because it has been documented that his patients received iced drinks.

In 1920, Joe Cartledge the Owner and founder of the Guelph Elastic Hosiery Company invented the first jock strap or athletic supporter. The jock strap was marketed under the name Protex.

While having a drink in a pub in England, post World War II, Craven Walker noticed a fascinating lamp made of a cocktail shaker. Walker purchased the lamp, determined to make a better version. With negative initial reactions from retail merchants, the “Psychedelic Movement” made the Lava Lamp’s popularity soar.

“…starts from nothing, grows possibly a little bit feminine, then a little bit masculine, then breaks up and has children. It’s a sexy thing.” – Craven Walker