Every once in a while, you may come up with a big idea. Let me be clear: not all of your ideas are big ideas. Big ideas are rare. They’re powerful. How do you know when you have one? You’re going to feel it, at first. And after you’ve done your homework and some initial research, you’ll know it. You’ll know it when you begin computing the numbers after receiving some interest from a large company. And it’ll dawn on you. This could really be a big idea.
You’re going to need to protect it. Most of my ideas have been small ideas. Some of them required protection, but a lot of them didn’t. When I worked in the toy industry, for example, I submitted and licensed many products with no protection whatsoever. But big ideas are different, and you should go about protecting them in a specific way.
First of all, my readers know I’m not wild about patents (more on that in another post!). But when you have a big idea, you’re going to need to patent it – more than once, in fact. It’s absolutely necessary to create a wall of patents. Building a wall of patents around your idea speaks volumes to anyone or any company that considers infringing upon your technology. Why would someone bother? You’ve gone above and beyond to protect your idea. In all likelihood, you’re going to continue to do so.
Filing for numerous patents can be very expensive, as anyone who has filed even one knows. There are ways to get a potential licensee to help pay for them. But more importantly, when you begin the process of bringing your big idea to life, don’t file for all of these patents at the same time. Consider filing for one or two. And then, as the idea starts making you more and more money, begin filing for continuations. I like creating strings of patents that into one another because it prevents my competition from knowing exactly how many claims I actually have. They’re unsure of my hand.
As an additional form of protection, I also recommend brainstorming all of the ways a competitor might try to rip you off. I am always thinking of new ways to rip myself off. How are people going to get around the claims I’ve filed on my patented ideas? This defensive measure will help you anticipate potential threats and file for new developments.
And finally, how is your big idea going to be manufactured? Some of my “biggest” ideas have failed because they couldn’t be manufactured at a low enough cost. But before sending your idea off to determine if it can be made, make sure to have the manufacturer sign a NDA or work-for-hire agreement.
Big ideas often require professional help. Don’t be afraid to reach out. But again – the trick is to determine if it is indeed a big idea, and start filing for patents and hiring professional help after the money starts coming in! Otherwise, you may just be ripping yourself off.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 30 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 listen to the weekly radio
show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media
outlets find you for news stories.