Have an invention idea? Need help and advice about your invention?
Ed Zimmer has written what I think is one of the best articles on the web for inventors, "New Product Licensing" on his helpful website The Entrepreneurs Network.
I thought is was one of the best distillations of the challenges of the invention process and it offers priceless advice for inventors. We had Part I and Part II earlier this week. Here's Part III of his article:
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Summary on New Product Licensing
Given a product idea -- that you're not prepared to "venture" -- you really have only three choices that are at all rational:
1. Go about it "right" ...
Do the research and prepare a presentation that offers -- not just an invention -- but a documented, substantiated profit-making opportunity. This is the approach used by the "pros" -- the "professional" inventors. It provides by far the greatest odds of successfully licensing -- not because the pros are necessarily more creative, but because -- as they research their ideas -- and encounter the obstacles that are always present -- they improve their inventions to overcome or bypass those obstacles -- and, hence, when they're ready to present -- they have something they know will license -- and generally to who -- and why.
2. Use the 'business bluff" approach...
The odds of successfully licensing are obviously much lower than the first choice (but certainly better than not trying to license at all). This isn't likely to get you a license with any of the giant companies (but neither is any approach other than choice 1). But it may well get you a license with a company that is not the market giant -- and it may get you a license even if there are serious patent obstacles.
If you present them with a patent (or provisional) that they can design around, they will very likely do so. But if you leave the patent issue up to them, they may well decide that they don't care about patent protection -- that first-to-market is enough for them. And even if they do care, you've given them the opportunity to get the broadest possible patent protection -- which it's unlikely you would have discovered (or have paid for) on your own.
3. Or "forget the idea and get on with your life".
Any approach you try between the extremes of choices 1 and 2, will almost certainly be a waste of time and money. Yes, you may well get a license with a only a half-baked patent and mere submittal of your "invention" -- but if that's the case, you would have obtained that same license with choice 2 -- without the front-end costs and hassle.
One final note... I've used the word "idea" throughout this paper -- substitute the word "invention". An "invention" is an idea "reduced to practice" -- .... Ideas are not licensable -- only inventions are. Do not use choice 2 to try to license an idea -- doing so will only make it more difficult for others with actual inventions to get industry to look at them.
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Here is Part I and Part II in case you missed it.
Well any thoughts on Ed Zimmer's advice? Would you suggest anything different?
Do you agree with my introductory statement that "I thought is was one of the best distillations of the challenges of the invention process and it offers priceless advice for inventors."?