Patent Prototyping & Drawings- Checklist Week 2

November 17th, 2008

Realizing your Invention

Last week’s focus was on the protection of your intellectual property. This week, creating your prototype and drawings should be on the forefront of your mind. As you move along the checklist, each step is crucial, so keep updated with the newsletter!

THE CHECKLIST
PROTECTING MY IP
CREATE A PROTOTYPE & DRAWINGS
DO RESEARCH
CREATE PRESENTATION MATERIAL
GET MANUFACTURING QUOTES
CREATE COMPANY CONTACTS
SEE MY PRODUCT ON STORE SHELVES
RECEIVE ROYALTY CHECK!

Now, you are ready to create proof of your idea. Proof that it CAN be made, HOW it will be made, and when it is made, IF it will work. Looking forward, these are the questions people in the industry want answers to.

Start with the drawings, if you do not already have them. These directions are based on USPTO guidelines for drawings when filing for a patent. It is better to make your drawings to meet the guidelines now, as opposed to being forced to re-do them later.

High quality, thick paper is best for your final drawing, but you may want to practice on cheaper material. The drawings should be done in black and blue ink on paper that is 21.6 cm wide and 27.9 cm long. Refrain from writing in the margins. Reproduction will be easier if the lines are dense, dark and well-defined.

Use consistent proportions throughout your drawing so that it will be clearly understood. Number every drawing or figure and every element that you have a description for. The numbering should be done consecutively. Numbers should only be given to elements of the drawing that you refer to in your description. There should not be text on the drawing unless it is necessary for the understanding of the invention.

If you are sending your drawings anywhere other than to the USPTO, date and sign your drawings so that no changes can be made without your approval.

It is important to remember that these drawings will need to be reproduced, so take good care of them. The paper should be flawless with no creases or folds.

After you have the detailed drawings and descriptions of how your invention will be designed, you can start on the road to your prototype. This is only an early stage model. It’s simply something to look at when describing how it will function. The prototyping phase is important because until you can actually play with and use your invention, you cannot be 100% positive that it will work.

A real, working, tangible version of your invention is a step that will feel like a leap in this process. A working prototype says that you are an inventor with serious intentions.

Start with a handmade prototype. Use the things that you can find around the house, inexpensive things that you don’t have to worry about making a mistake with. This will give you something to use for explanations and demonstrations, until you are able to upgrade.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the main purpose of your prototype is to solve the problem it was created to solve. At this point, it just needs to work.

Drawings and prototypes are helpful tools when pitching your invention, so create them wisely.

Now you are just one step further to gaining credibility for your invention, and ultimately selling your idea!

This week: Create a tangible working prototype and explanatory drawings… CHECK!

Next week: Research and More Research!

About the author of this article:

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

Intellectual Property Protection- Checklist Week 1

November 12th, 2008

Store Shelves…CHECK! Royalties…CHECK!

Over the next couple weeks our newsletter is going to be based on a checklist for getting your patent to market. Each step is crucial, so keep updated with the newsletter!

THE CHECKLIST
IP PROTECTION
PROTOTYPE AND DRAWINGS
DO RESEARCH
CREATE PRESENTATION MATERIAL
GET MANUFACTURING QUOTES
CREATE COMPANY CONTACTS
SEE MY PRODUCT ON STORE SHELVES

RECEIVE ROYALTY CHECK!

Protecting your intellectual property is the first and most important step in the inventing process. Use the USPTO’s recommendations to ensure that you are as protected as you think you are. There are ways to market and sell your intellectual property without formal filing, but the only way to GUARANTEE that you are protected is to make sure that you are patented.

I highly recommend starting with a provisional patent. They are inexpensive compared to a full patent, and they protect you for a year while you are doing market research. The results of your research will let you know if you want to continue to move forward and spend the money for a full patent.

protecting my idea

While you are awaiting your provisional patent, you will be in a patent pending status. This is good, but there is always a chance that you could be denied for one reason or another. In order to make sure that you are covered, use partial disclosure when you describe your idea to anyone that has not signed a non-disclosure agreement.

If you are wondering how to explain your idea without giving it away, use this to help you:

“Selling intellectual property is like selling a cake. Show the buyer how good it looks. Show the buyer how good it smells. Let the buyer taste how good it tastes. You can show them why it will work and why it will sell, but you don’t have to give them the recipe.”

Anyone who knows about your non-patented intellectual property should be signing a non-disclosure agreement. Now when I say anyone, I mean anyone. Friends can easily become foes, people get divorced, and some people just have big mouths. If they know that they are legally bound to keeping your idea a secret, they will be more likely to actually do it. Keep several non-disclosure agreements on hand and this will be easier to accomplish.

This week: Protect your idea and CHECK it off the list!

Next week: Creating a prototype and drawings!

About the author of this article:

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

Selling an Idea

November 3rd, 2008

Selling an Idea

How do I protect my intellectual property and still move it along in the sale process if it is not yet patented?
Sound familiar? Lately, that question has been asked most frequently by our members to our IdeaBuyer staff.

Well, let me first say that you need to get your intellectual property protected before it slips or is ripped from your fingers. Patents are the best way to do this. However, something important to understand is that patents protect inventions and not ideas. Without something tangible produced from your patent is not worth much. The USPTO only can legally protect those who do something with their idea. So, before filing for a patent or provisional patent, create a prototype or model.

If you do not yet have a tangible example of your idea, with or without a patent, use caution when
talking to others. Your idea should be on a strictly “NEED TO KNOW” basis. If they don’t need to know, don’t tell them. You only set off the chain reaction for them to go tell others and for one of those others to capitalize on your idea.

For those whom you decide “NEED TO KNOW”, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement. The
contract will ensure that both parties involved understand that the conversation(s) you have about your IP will remain secretive. And if for some reason the person violates that contract, you have the
documentation necessary to file a law suit.

Still, the best way to protect your IP is to create a working prototype as proof of your concept as soon as possible. Only a patent will protect you, and only if you have visual embodiment of your idea.

So let’s talk patents. You will need to patent your invention idea prior to selling it. While there are many patent attorneys available, you will want to be sure to work with one that has experience in your invention idea’s industry. Idea Buyer offers a number of it’s patent attorney’s at a discount to it’s members. For a free consultation to get your IP patented, call 832-683-1527.

I would like to share a way of thinking about IP sales:
“Selling intellectual property is like selling a cake. Show the buyer how good it looks. Show the buyer how good it smells. Let the buyer taste how good it tastes. You can show them why it will work and why it will sell, but you don’t have to give them the recipe.”

About the author of this article:
Lindsey Yeauger is the Director of Communications for Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company that owns and operates 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.

Patent Licensing – Negotiations

October 13th, 2008

Patent Licensing Negotiations

Now that you have a patented invention and are ready to license it, you still have to contend with the thorniest obstacle of all: the patent license negotiation. This is when you and the prospective licensee hash out what you believe a fair license agreement to be. However, this is not something you should rush into. In this article we’ll offer tips and suggestions for making sure the negotiation goes smoothly – and hopefully in your favor!

Patent Licensing Negotiations Tip #1:

Determine your objectives

Why are you trying to license your patent? What are you hoping to get out of it? The obvious answer is “Because I want money”, but it has to go deeper than just that. Do you want to wash your hands of the patent altogether? Do you still want some day to day interaction and a say on how it gets marketed? If so, these are things you need to specify and take into account during the negotiation, and it helps greatly if you go into it with your priorities fresh in mind.

Patent Licensing Negotiations Tip #2:

Assemble a team with the right players

According to a very detailed scholarly article called “Best Practices in Patent Negotiations”, you must enter into negotiations with the right “team” behind you.

“Whatever the reason, your team should include a business development executive, a scientific-technical expert, a decision maker and a licensing attorney. The business development executive (sometimes the CEO at smaller firms, or a technology transfer professional at a university) usually finds the deal, brings the parties together and keeps the process moving. The scientific-technical expert provides scientific and technological expertise and conducts due diligence research relating to the technology at issue. And the decision maker must have authority to commit your party to particular deal terms. In our opinion, document drafting is often easier when an attorney has the benefit of participating in negotiations and understands the positions of both sides. Once the team is in place, it’s important to meet and reach an understanding of the motivation for the deal and to go over each member’s responsibilities.”

SRC: Nature.com

We should note that it is not always necessary to have a separate person handle each task. For example, in your situation, you might be the businessman and the technology/scientific expert. If so, you don’t need to go out and bring in a separate businessperson. However, the point remains that all of these considerations must be accounted for by someone, and you should know exactly who is responsible for each one before negotiating to license your patent.

Patent Licensing Negotiations Tip #3:

Determine the value the licensee will add to the patent

Typically, the reason you are licensing the patent include not having the resources to market and capitalize on it yourself, or not wanting to. It is important, therefore, to assess how qualified the potential licensee is to capitalize on the patent. What assets, strengths, and abilities do they bring to bear that increase the value of the patent, over and beyond what it would be if you just held onto it? The article elaborates:

“Your team should evaluate and determine your own marketing, technical, sales and services strengths as well as the strengths of the other party in the field of the patented technology—all are relevant to licensing fee amounts and royalties to be paid back to the patent holder. These and other contract provisions will help the parties define the scope of the licensed technology and their competitiveness as potential licensing partners.”

Another step you should take leading up to negotiation time is exchanging a term sheet with the potential licensee. This helps establish a starting point so that both parties can get straight to business when the actual negotiation begins. Here are some of the things you might want to include or look for in a term sheet:

“The term sheet typically outlines the major issues in a potential deal. These include the following: the licensed product or process; licensed territory; preliminary thoughts on fees and royalties; technical information and training required to develop and manufacture, sell and service the licensed product (and who will be responsible for the same); sales and service support; degree of exclusivity; and duration of the license.”

As for the negotiation itself, the primary sticking point will how broad the licensee’s rights are (ie, how much it can do with the patent) and how much they will have to pay you. While this is inherently a somewhat speculative process, you can and must aim to create a license agreement both parties can live with. Here is one approach, using specific numbers, recommended by “Best Practices in Patent License Negotiations”

“A rational approach is to develop a win-win scenario by looking at the actual investment return of each party. If the licensor has spent $10 million to develop the compound, and the licensee will spend an additional $100 million to commercialize it, negotiating a deal in which the licensor receives 10% of the return may be realistic, although the licensee may want a greater return based on assuming a greater risk (greater investment). Alternatively, where a licensed compound is ready for commercialization or is on the market, more standard accounting techniques may be used because the risk/return ratio can be more directly calculated.”

As the licensor, you will want to grant as narrow exploitation rights as you possibly can. While the licensee will want as much leeway to capitalize on the patent as possible, it is in your best interest to be able to license it out to others if you see fit. One way to provide for this is to only license the patent out for specific uses, leaving you free to license it to other people for other uses.

Here are some other ways to get your licensee to accept narrower exploitation rights:

“There are compromises: you may grant a broad field of use with the right to retract fields if you present a use to your partner and your partner elects not to pursue it, or you may grant a narrow field of use and give your licensee the right of first refusal on other uses. Alternatively, your licensee could convince you to restrict any future licensees from particular uses that fall within the licensee’s specialty or area of expertise.”

As you can see, being focused before the negotiation and creative during it lets you grant a patent license that puts money in your pocket and leaves you free to pursue other options.

Recommended Articles:
1. Patent Licensing

Sell My Patent

October 13th, 2008

10 Tips for Commercializing Your Patent

When it comes to selling or licensing your patent, there are a number of ways to close the sale. Whether you directly approach a buyer, place ads or join listing websites, the methods open to you are virtually limitless. The key is to use the techniques that suit your own needs, strengths, and weaknesses. In this article, we’ll explore 10 different ways to sell or license a patent and you can evaluate which one(s) suit you best. The first five will focus on attracting a buyer, and the latter five on closing the deal.

1. Use a listing website

Thanks the Internet, various websites exist for buyers and sellers of patents to find each other. One such website is IdeaBuyer.com, where patent holders can list their patent and receive professional help in finding a buyer for it. Other websites do this as well, and the advantage is that everyone on the site is ostensibly there to accomplish this same task. This cuts down on the friction involved with other methods, where you are trying to take someone out of some other task and get them into the mindset of buying or licensing a patent.

2. Approach manufacturers directly

If you already have a manufacturer or a few manufacturers in mind, you can approach them directly about setting up a meeting. The key is to get in touch with their buyers or business development personnel, as these are the people with the scope and authority to make decisions like buying or licensing patents.

3. Set up a website

If your patent is complex or highly desirable, you might want to set up a website explaining it. Additionally, this website would offer a way for interested buyers or licensees to get a hold of you and learn more information. Having a website gives off an air of professionalism and seriousness that high-spending buyers will like to see. It helps defray the fact that they will be dealing with “just some guy.” You can combine this strategy with placing ads or using listing websites for maximum effectiveness.

4. Search the Thomas Register

If your patent is at all mechanical in nature, the Thomas Register is an excellent place to look. Not only does the Thomas Register list a lot of manufacturers and suppliers, they allow you to search for them based on the products they make. This makes it very easy to find people who create or sell things relevant to your patent, which is where you want to target your efforts. The link below will take you to the Thomas Register’s website. You can search by product/service, company name, brand name, and more.

SRC: http://www.thomasnet.com/

5. Place ads

Another effective way of selling or licensing patents is to advertise for it in places your target buyers are likely to see. For example, a patent covering new industrial equipment could be advertised in a trade magazine or journal relating to that field. Ads can also be placed in general interest locations like Craigslist.com. The idea is to place it where people you want to reach are likely to see it. Think about the types of magazines or websites those people visit and make your ad placing decisions from there.

6. Use an exclusive license

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.

7. Use 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.

8. Use performance obligations & milestones

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.

9. Use royalty requirements

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.

10. Approach buyers as a Product Developer

It seems like a silly semantic difference, but calling yourself a Product Developer as opposed to an inventor reassures people. It makes companies and individuals think that you are savvy, that you are in the business of creating and selling patents as a career and you know what you are doing. Filling this role will assist you whether your goal is to sell or license your patent.

No matter what your strengths are as a person or what your patent covers, some assortment of these 10 strategies will help you accomplish your goals!

Also, for more information on how to sell your patent, view our powerpoint tips below.

Selling Your Patent Power Point Presentation

 

Sell A Patent

October 13th, 2008

sell a patentSell a Patent

I’ll just sell the patent!” Ever find yourself saying this as a kind of all-purpose declaration of how all your hard work will eventually pay off? The truth is that while selling a patent can be very lucrative, certain steps need to be followed. In this article, we will offer 10 tips to make your patent selling efforts more effective.

Sell a Patent Tip #1: Identify Targeted Buyers
Spend time researching companies that are relevant to your innovation. These should be companies that are currently in your industry and in the specific line of business of your product offering. Identifying specific companies to target will save you a host of time and effort while you are working to sell a patent.

Sell a Patent Tip #2: Do not be greedy
Remember the old saying: pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered. The idea is to not be too greedy in setting or insisting upon a price for your patent. This sounds easy to say in theory, but difficult to do in practice. The key, however, is to remember an all-important truth about patents. Many of them produce no income for their owners. In fact, some patents even expire while the owner fails to capitalize upon them! This does not mean you should be desperate to sell, but it does mean that you should not be turning away reasonable offers. Do not try to squeeze every last drop out of the buyer.

Sell a Patent Tip #3: Make your patent look appealing

Why should someone want to buy your patent? You had better ask yourself this question, because anyone thinking about buying it is going to be wondering the same thing. Is there a large market waiting to be capitalized on? Does your patent position the owner to jump in before competition gets fierce? Is your asking price paltry compared to the expected profits? These are the types of things you will want to emphasize in your selling efforts. Focus on benefits to the buyer. See step 6 for more on this crucial point.

Sell a Patent Tip #4: Get legal advice before the sale

Selling a patent is not like holding a garage sale. There are complex laws governing how and under what terms a patent may be sold. Therefore, you should not attempt to sell yours without getting competent legal advice. A patent attorney, while expensive, can ensure that your sale takes place in compliance with the law, and in such a way where the other party cannot use “weasel clauses” to back out later on. Consider this a must in your patent selling efforts.

Sell a Patent Tip #5: Create a powerful presentation

The ins and outs of a powerful patent presentation are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that you should have one. Fortunately, IdeaBuyer has a comprehensive how-to article on this very subject! See our article “10 Tips for Creating a Powerful Presentation” for practical guidance and key considerations to keep in mind.

Sell a Patent Tip #6: Decide whether selling is truly what you want to do
Some patent holders are unaware that they have other options besides selling. The other main option is to license your patent, or grant someone rights to it without actually turning over the patent itself. The advantage of this approach is that you can capitalize on the patent in the form of royalties while still owning it, and being able to revoke it if certain conditions are not met. Of course, selling may still be the best option, but you should make sure this is the case before you sell.

Sell a Patent Tip #7: Run the numbers before setting an asking price
While you don’t want to be greedy (as per tip number 2), you also want to make sure the price you get is worth your while. This becomes important if you are already capitalizing on your patent in some way, such as by selling a product. You want to make sure you make enough from selling your patent to replace that income and then some. Otherwise, why not just keep the patent for yourself? Tally up the profits you’ve been making and try to get a price at least 10x the yearly amount that you make. This is the standard calculation in corporate acquisitions and a good starting point for patents you are already making money from.

Sell a Patent Tip #8: Bring the underlying idea to market first
Most patent holders want to sell precisely to avoid this task, but think about it from another angle. If you are a potential buyer, which are you more likely to buy: a totally unproven patent that just sounds nice, or a patent which has already been capitalized on, and demonstrated its success? If you are at all entrepreneurial, and you feel you are up to the task, you should definitely consider bringing the patent to market. This will make the task of selling it far easier, and allow you to claim the residual income that result after some initial hard work.

Sell a Patent Tip #9: List your patent on a patent listing website
Thanks to the Internet, patent holders have a whole new medium for selling their intellectual property. One of the best ways is to use listing websites that bring buyers and sellers together and help them complete sales in a safe, legal way. IdeaBuyer.com, for example, allows patent holders to list their patent and help ensure that relevant potential buyers will see it. They will also receive assistance in negotiating with buyers and closing the sale in the proper way.

Sell a Patent Tip #10: Attend trade shows
One great place to find patent buyers is at trade shows. If you have a technology or software patent, for instance, it may be worth your while to set up a booth at a tech expo where relevant professionals and corporations can see what your patent is all about. It is a more proactive approach than placing ads and can sometimes be highly effective to sell a patent.

Chances are, some of these tips will fit your style, strengths, and weaknesses more than others. Just pick the ones that suit you best and you should be well on your way to sell a patent.

Read more about selling a patent

Selling a Patent

October 7th, 2008

Selling a Patent

Selling a Patent

Selling a Patent

So, you have ensured that your intellectual property is securely yours by getting a patent- NOW WHAT?

Often inventors patent their intellectual property and then are stuck on how to go about selling or licensing it. Is this you? Good news, I have some ways to help get you out of the waiting stage and on to the moving along stage.

Here is a quick lesson in sales, marketing, and advertising important for inventors:

Selling a Patent Lesson One: Appearance

By now you should have not only a patent, but also a working prototype or at least a great drawing. Keep in mind, people interested in buying your patent will not only want to read your full patent (pages and pages of legal jargon and small print), they will want to see it packaged in a manner that makes it worth buying.

What I may consider basic, some people may not be aware of how these things can affect their sale or non-sale of their patent. Appearance is crucial in the business world. People say they don’t judge others based on appearance, but let me be the bearer of bad news: THEY DO! You and your patent material need to be dressed as nicely as the amount of money you want to sell it for. If you are looking to sell the patent for a dollar then feel free to dress it like something off of a dollar menu at your local fast food restaurant.

Of course, I do not recommend this. Simply wear a suit, show up with well written and easily readable material packaged in a visually pleasing way.
Okay, now you and your patent are visually appealing to potential buyers. Where do you find them?

Selling a Patent Lesson Two: Research

It’s called good old fashioned research! A library or internet search engine should suffice.

You need to find the potential users of your patent. Who would want to use it and why? What industries would this fall under? Come up with 10-20 potential users. Then based on industries begin your research for companies that would sell to your potential users (the potential user may be the company itself).

Selling a Patent Lesson Three: Contact

Once you know which companies you will be targeting, start contacting them! Start by sending them a professionally written letter making them aware that you are looking to sell your patent and enclose a clear and concise description of your patent.

If you are having trouble getting into contact with companies through direct mail, try attending a trade show! They are a great way to meet people in your target sales group and also to gauge interest in your product. You may also meet other inventors and gain valuable knowledge of the market you are trying to get into.

Selling a Patent Lesson Four: Advertise

How will people know that your patent is for sale if you don’t make them aware? Advertising that your patent is for sale will only help you.

Let’s say “Joe” is interested in buying your patent. Joe looks on IdeaBuyer.com under patents for sale and does not see your patent listing. How will he buy it? He won’t. Joe will end up coming across hundreds of other great patents for sale and invest his money in them. Do you want Joe’s money or do you want to give it to someone else?

A patent buyer interested in buying your patent can’t buy it if he can’t find it for sale.

Recapping today’s lessons in selling a patent:
1: You and your patent material need to look like they are worth what you are selling them for.

2: You must research! You need to be the one able to answer all of the questions about your product, its markets, industries and potential users.
3: Get the word out! Write a professional letter to potential buyers letting them know your patent is for sale.
4: Advertise. No one will know your patent is for sale unless you tell them.

Now get moving! Read more about Selling a Patent

About the author of this article:

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

How to Go Broke Inventing

September 25th, 2008

Did that headline grab your attention? We hope so! The all-too-unfortunate truth today is that many inventors waste tons of money on things that they A) do not need yet, B) could get cheaper, if they did their homework, or C) may not ever need at all. This is a major problem, for even inventors with market-busting ideas will probably not see a dime from their efforts if they go broke by making these types of mistakes first. That said, let’s cover some of the most common and not-so-common inventor debt sinkholes.

1) Applying for a patent too soon (or right away).

By far the biggest money-wasting mistake inventors make is to apply for a full utility patent too soon. Why is this a waste of money? A few reasons. The first is that patents are expensive. Really expensive. The cost of filing a patent (including attorney’s fees) ranges from $4,500 for a “relatively simple” invention to $15,000+ for a “highly complex” invention. Now, take a minute to reflect on those numbers and ask yourself, “Am I at all certain that my invention is going to do well enough to justify those fees?” If you’re just getting started, and you’re honest, the answer is probably “I’m not sure.” Don’t spend money on a patent until you are more sure than you are now. Talk to some trusted sources, do some market research, and see if your invention has legs before spending this kind of money.

2) Pouring your savings into a “really great” (but unresearched) idea.

A similar money-wasting mistake is when a starry-eyed, novice inventor dumps his life savings into creating “This really great idea” he thought of. The problem with this approach is the huge risk. Tragically few inventors take the time to do any kind of market research or in any way answer the question, “Does anyone but me think this invention is worthwhile?” But if you haven’t answered that question (and if the answer isn’t “yes”), you should not be spending a lot of money pursuing it. Of course, you’ll never be 100% sure your invention has a market. To paraphrase Perry Marshall, “If inventing were a color-by-numbers activity where you followed a blueprint and got a guaranteed result, it would be a job.” But still – do at least some homework before emptying your bank account on an invention.

3) Borrowing money to finance an invention with no repayment plan.

If you’ve avoided the two pitfalls above, congratulations! – but you’re not out of the woods yet. Even the most realistic inventor pursuing the most surefire idea can go broke by financing the invention without a repayment plan. By “repayment plan” we don’t necessarily mean a fixed, signed agreement to pay a set amount over a set time. Rather, we are just saying that you should have some rough idea of how and when you will repay what you borrow via a credit card, cash advance, or bank loan. Don’t rush into the first financing opportunity you think of if not repaying it on time gets a lien placed on your house. Try instead to approach the matter of financing your invention in a sensible, logical way, researching your best options and consciously planning how you will repay.

4) Agreeing to supply your invention to stores without enough inventory or capacity.

If you have persevered through the first three mistakes and actually have gotten your invention on store shelves, give yourself a pat on the back. You are savvier than most. But beware, for if you don’t take the proper precautions, you could soon become a victim of your own success. Many big-name retailers (and especially “catalog” companies) want you to have excessive amounts of inventory available to handle a sudden spike in demand for your products. If your invention becomes a hot seller, they need to know you can produce enough to keep up. If you can’t, you will either go under completely, or go into crushing debt to stay afloat. Neither of these are at all desirable, so make sure you can keep up!

If there’s a common thread in all of these mistakes, it’s lack of preparation and foresight. Luckily, these are skills you can learn and even master if you are truly committed to doing so. We can’t teach you everything about inventor planning, research, and risk management in one article. But you should continue doing this type of homework before spending money on an invention. (With IdeaBuyer or anyone else.)

To that end, we’ve put together a free, five-day e-mail course called “5 Secrets of Savvy, Successful Inventing” that will show you the ropes. It’s packed with common mistakes, examples of successful and unsuccessful inventions, and proven strategies you can apply to your invention today. If you’re at all serious about inventing something and making a profit (without losing your lunch in the process), sign up for the e-course and take its wisdom to heart. You’ll be glad you did.

About the author of this article:

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

Why You Should Focus on Higher Level Inventions

July 23rd, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New T-Shirt Prototype Improves Athletic Performance

July 23rd, 2008

A new T-shirt designed by EU researchers could assist athlethes with the ability to improve their performance and prevent injury. As part of the ConText Project, a project with the mission of producing clothing to measure electrophysiological activity from the body, this shirt can send muscle movement information to a computer using sensors.

These disc-shaped sensors are 12 millimeters wide constructed of three conductive layers. Two layers are made of knitted polyamide fabric and silver-coated thread printed onto it just as a logo would be printed onto a shirt. These layers are the shield and the sensor. The third layer is made of polyurethane for insulation.

Sensors measure the electrical activity produced from muscle contractions. The electrical field created by this movement generates a small charge built up in the sensor, as muscles contract. The signal is then amplified by a circuit board and sent to a computer wirelessly. The results can then be analyzed.

One concern with these sensors was that there would be interference from other waves such as radio signals, or interference caused from a shirt. However, attaching these sensors directly to skin makes natural performance more difficult. This new prototype will eliminate that problem.

“The sensor can even measure the [muscles’] electric field through another T-shirt—it’s very unobtrusive,” says Torsten Linz, researcher from Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration and team member.

This is possible because the sensors pick up the electric displacement current using a capacitive coupling to the body. This means there is a transfer of energy through measuring the amount of electric charge stored or separated. As a result, the sensor shirt can be worn over clothing instead of being applied directly to the skin with liquid gel.

The prototype for the body-sensing shirt was tested on hockey players. From the sensors, the players were able to see how they were using their various muscles and how to adjust their movements for accuracy.

It could also be useful for other sports such as tennis and golf that require repetitive movements. The computer would show athletes exactly which muscles they were using for each specific movement. Players could improve on their techniques and modify how they use their strength to further improve their performance.

Eventually, the device could also be used in training to help prevent athletes from straining muscles, therefore preventing injury. The computer could display of muscles that are being used and overworked, allowing athletes to adjust motions to enhance performance quality.

Sarah Crowell is a staff writer 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. Edited by Lindsey Yeauger, Director of Communication, Idea Buyer LLC.