I’ve often promoted the use of blogs and Internet forums as a means of reaching out to the inventing community – they’re a great way to connect with other inventors. However, you must be very prudent about how you choose to interact on these sites and what you choose to post! People are advocating the use of “open sourcing” (essentially, asking people online) as a cheap way to get advice and information. In some situations, this works. But realize, please, from whom and from where you’re getting this information! Can you trust the source? It is sound? There are some regular bloggers and forum users who are experienced – but there are an equal, if not much larger, number of inventors who are new to the field but eager to share their opinions.
However, I want to make sure you are aware of another risk I recently witnessed a green inventor take. This inventor posted an image of his prototype and his sales sheet on a forum and asked other inventors for feedback. I’m assuming he wanted to figure out whether other inventor’s liked his product (a smarter question would have been, “Would you buy it?”). All these inventors, new and old, started commenting on his product. I’m sure they thought they were doing him a favor by helping out, but this really is not the case.
What this inventor clearly did not realize is that it is possible to interpret their advice and comments as “improvements”. And in the event that the original inventor implemented these changes, he would now share in “co-ownership” of his product with the inventor who supplied the improvements. If he hadn’t included these improvements in his patent application (which is unlikely, because he probably had already filed it), they now had the right to ownership!
You must be very, very careful about what you choose to disclose on forums. You cannot trust everyone in life – the Internet world is no different! Take what you’re told with a grain of salt, and remember to protect yourself.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.