1. You don’t need a revolutionary idea to bring a product to market. You need a good idea – a solid idea. An idea that identifies a need and solves a problem. How can you determine if your idea is a good one? Ask an industry expert. Those companies that want to sell you an evaluation? Forget them. Their evaluation is both a waste of time and money. The only opinion that truly matters is from the company that is going to cut you a check.
2 – Why are most patents worthless? Why do good ideas never make it to the marketplace? And why do some bad ideas? The answer lies in manufacturing costs. The cost to produce your product is its single most defining aspect. At the end of the day, if your product is too expensive to produce, it will never see the light of day. Get a quote. It doesn’t matter if it’s a quote from a US manufacturer – you’re going to be asked to provide one eventually and you need to be prepared. You need to know as early on as possible if your product can be made at a price the market can bear.
3. You’ve already spent more time thinking about this topic than you should. Protecting your idea is a very small piece of the greater puzzle – stop living in fear. The reality is that the life cycle of products is actually very short, and unless you have an idea that is truly grand, you don’t need to protect yourself with numerous patents. My experiences have taught me that filing a Provisional Patent Application is the best first step. It’s inexpensive, and doesn’t require legal assistance to create. Yes, it’s not perfect. But neither is your idea yet. It’s overwhelmingly likely that you first need to determine if there is any actual interest in your idea first. Use the PPA as a safe starting place.
4 – Prototypes. Build one if you have to prove that your idea works. But realize that companies buy benefits, not prototypes. Prototypes of an idea are subject to change, but benefits aren’t. Produce a well-designed sell sheet and learn how to sell your idea. This should be enough to determine if a company is interested. Working dutifully on your prototype until it is “perfect” is an exercise in futility. Most of the time I find that inventors use building a prototype as an excuse for not moving forward. There is no excuse. Nothing is perfect or complete until it’s on the market shelf. And your product never will be if you aren’t approaching companies.
5 – The “if only”s. If you’ve ever said, “If only I had the name of a company. If only I had a contact. If only I had someone’s name and e-mail,” then read closely. The truth is, there is no ideal contact. You need to find a company that benefits from your idea. You don’t need an in if you’ve found this company. Summarize the benefit of your idea into a single sentence. This benefit statement is key – practice it again and again. Pick up the phone, and ask for someone in sales or marketing. Tell them that you are a product developer and that your product does “this”. If you have done your homework and your product truly has a benefit, then you WILL be in. Let your sales sheet do the rest.