Top Ten Lies of Inventors

What lies do you tell yourself? Are they helpful or hurtful? As an inventor, your lies may be lethal.

Our Guest Bloggers, Tatsuya Nakagawa and Peter P. Roosen, are the co-founders of Atomica Creative . Atomica Creative is a strategic product marketing company that has been involved in many successful product launches in North America and Asia in several industries. Roosen and Nakagawa have recently released a book titled "Overcoming Inventoritis - Lessons from Thomas Edison, the world's greatest product marketer". They have some valuable advice that they wanted to share with readers of

Here's their article:

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Inspired by the Top 10 Lies series produced by Guy Kawasaki, we put together a list for Inventors.

Inventors are a mysterious group consisting mainly of engineers and scientists who have in common a patent on some clever new gadget or method. Whether hatching their ideas from a garage or a research lab, they can have inventoritis and create difficulties for professionals working in the financial or business fields.

Most inventors are creative people with an impressive ability to focus on their ideas and the tenacity to see through all the steps toward a working prototype and a patent. Yes, there are many imaginative and creative engineers out there and not all of them are Star Trek fans or prefer reading over sex. The imagination of an inventor often goes well beyond the technical issues involved in turning an idea into something with a granted patent. The purpose of a patent is not to impress family and friends, but to help the owner make money by preventing others from exploiting the idea for a few years. A patent is supposedly a licence to print money although it rarely turns out that way because they come with a catch. There is a need to sell it and that requires a different kind of creativity.

To help them sell their patents, inventors have developed a special set of lies to help close the sale. If you fall for any of the following Top Ten Lies of Inventors, don't feel sorry for yourself after you and your money part company. Here are the lies and some suggestions directed to those who utter them:

  1. "The invention will sell itself." This is never the case. Even if you made a proper evaluation of the market and it is a good one, you need to sell your invention. If your invention has the addictive properties of crack, you still need a dealer to push it into the marketplace. Watch for this big fat lie.
  1. "Everyone will need my invention." This lie is usually followed by the inventor sharing positive feedback from close friends and family members. The difference between liking an invention and buying it is huge.
  1. "There is no competition." This can translate to only two things: There is no market for your invention or you haven't done enough homework to find the competitors. An internet search is a good place to start looking to dispel this classic lie.
  1. "I don't have a problem letting go." One of the most vexing problems for investors and business people is dealing with power and control issues. Inventors have emotional attachments to their baby, whether is an automatic electric potato peeler or a new way to print ads onto truck tires. Inventors would likely do much better if they thought in terms of learning from the first one or two with the idea of making money on a later one.
  1. "We have a patent so no one can copy us." Try telling that to a factory manager or engineer in China. Even if you have a sound patent, that is only a small part of the equation. The real challenge is protecting your patent if and when you make any money. No one is going to do it for you and the government's issue of a patent only gives you a right to sue infringers on your dime. Even if you sue and win, you'll likely eat a bunch of litigation costs making it a Pyrrhic victory.
  1. "No one has thought of this." This relates to classic lie number 3. Even the greatest minds in the world were not completely unique in their ideas. Originality is overrated, deal with it.
  1. "The prototype is shelf-ready." Prototypes need to be manufactured in small quantities before they can be validated and debugged. If it was made exactly right the first time, it is just sheer luck and who wants to bet their bank account on just luck? Put simply, this is a lie because there is no such thing as a shelf-ready prototype.
  1. "The packaging is no big deal." It is commonly said that "we shouldn't judge a book by its cover", but well we all do. Packaging is an important part of the initial marketing effort.
  1. "‘Insert big company name' will give us millions for the patent." Occasionally you will hear of an inventor getting millions from selling a patent. They make the news because they are so rare. If you're looking for an easy way to make money with similar odds, buy a lottery ticket.
  1. "It's not about the money." This lie is commonly associated with an absence of a business plan or the lack of business knowledge on the part of the inventor. It costs a lot of money to manufacture, operate and market your invention. It's always about the money.

Exposing these Top Ten Lies of Inventors should cause inventors to either face their inventoritis and get serious about applying sound marketing practices and approaches to their effort in selling their invention, find another sucker or come up with some new lies. The first and last of those options require creativity leaving the second option as the easiest as long as suckers continue being born every minute. There are just as many patents being granted each year so inventors should hedge their bets by learning as much as they can about how to effectively turn their ideas into commercially viable products. Inventors can get this information easily from most professionals in product marketing, business and finance who are normally quite willing to share it as long as they don't start hearing any of these Top Ten Lies of Inventors.

Tatsuya Nakagawa and Peter P. Roosen
Guest Bloggers from Atomica Creative

Nov 28, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

What about patenting your

What about patenting your invention also in China? I have heard that China isn't a good place to get a Patent. Is this true? If they were credible, since China makes 75% of new products for companies, it seems that China would be a logical choice.

Dec 2, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

china patent

China has a bad reputation when it comes to intellectual property. Their patents are known to be useless and they are not enforced. They are also quite contrary in awarding these patents and prove to be costly. Thus, it is not feasible to put in the cost of a patent in China or any other Asian country.

Feb 19, 2007
by CriterionD (not verified)

The 10 lies

Just some clarifications I would make...

"Presentation" is extremely important. In a situation where an inventor takes a product to market himself, depending on market channels used, "Packaging" could play a major role in "Presentation." But I think the emphasis has to be on physical "Presentation," rather than simply "Packaging."

If you have solid patent protection, no one can legally copy you, and this will help discourage some from copying you. And yes, unfortunately if someone does copy you illegally, they're not going to sue themselves. But if you truly do have a solid case, then any patent attorney should be able to see this, and if there's money at stake you should be able to find someone to fund your case, in one way or another. Yes its easier said than done, but everything is.

As a patent searcher, I would emphasize # 6. Occasionally someone might have a good patent search conducted relative to their idea, and nothing all too similar in general concept will be located. It just doesn't happen too often, statistically speaking. Also worth noting that, just because a product is "patentable," does not necessarily mean that it is overly unique or original.

#10....I understand what the authors are trying to express, but I'm not sure I've ever heard an inventor say or express that "Its not about the money"

Some of the more common lies I have witnessed around inventors:

1.) "The friends, family, and random acquaintences I have approached have all had good things to say about my invention, and say that they would use it or they could see others using it. This serves as proof that my invention is marketable." Unfortunately, there are probably a few factors you are overlooking. And the people you are approaching probably aren't thinking at all about those factors either, as they don't personally have anything at stake.

2.) "When potential licensees have a look at this product, they will be just as enthusiastic about it as I am." Its hypothetically possible....but...

3.) "The cheaper the cost of production, the better." All things equal, this is obviously the case. But sometimes a small tweak can make a product that much more marketable, even if it does increase production costs and/or unit price. If you are an inventor, and you do license an invention, the licensee will likely do research and be responsible for a needed tweak, but the more marketable your invention looks before approaching a licensee, the better. For obvious reasons.

4.) Lastly, "Because its obvious that my product is marketable, it is obvious that (big company name here) will want a piece of it." Companies have target markets, and even if your invention falls within the same industry, its target market(s) may differ. If the company were to successfully market your product, it still might not fall in line with the company's existing strategy. Or, perhaps the company has other new products developed in house - even a big company does not have unlimited resources, and can only introduce so many new products. Yours may have to present a noticeably better opportunity, compared with other opportunities, for them to bite. In many cases, even if a potential licensee realizes that your invention is marketable and potentially profitable, they may still very well adopt a finesse strategy and pass it up.

May 23, 2008
by Anonymous


You better listen to What they are telling you they are right i study patents they are really no good and in other countries they dont use patents they just make the idea and license name is Kermit Williams. learn from me no one really know what your idea can do you got to reach the right company and or investors or your find your idea out on the market place patented or not money matter and lawyers can tell you that patent are no good in other countries i can tell you a better way to protect a idea its the simple way put your name on it or trademark or a logo and get it to the market and sell it some kind of way they cant take whats already out they can just make somthing like it .