Making the most of your million dollar idea has a lot to do with spending your energies where they belong- coming up with the new ideas!
Focus on what you actually do best. Leave the rest up to those who are set up and qualified to do their bit! Do not just stop at one idea, keep trying to create and come up with new products for your target market. By partnering with financial, legal and manufacturing, marketing and distribution partners, setting in place licensing agreements and protecting all parties involved in these processes all go hand in hand in making the most of your new idea, patent and innovations. It saves time, money and effort and gets dollars in pockets quicker and more effectively, with the minimum risk. It has all the elements of a successful process and outcome, for all parties. You are spreading and sharing the risks and rewards involved! WITHOUT having to give up ownership, recognition and satisfaction that springs from it.
Lowering margins and outsourcing are ingenious ways you can make the new economy work.
Licensing agreements (limited tie exclusivity shared with partners, for mutual benefit) helps all make a profit from every unit sold. Royalties are calculated and stipulated and everyone benefits.
Overhead costs are kept at a minimum and you are spending less money of actually making, selling and distributing the product by yourself and through your own means, using your own capitol.
For any business owner keeping the costs low is what it is all about. Worries about staffing, manufacturing etc. are now not yours solely or at all (depending on the contracts and agreements in place).
Sales and marketing expenses is another area that can eat up capital fast, it not run well. It can be as high as 20%! There are lots of specialist firms and online strategies that can help you keep this as low and effective as possible, making every dollar spent count and worthwhile!
Patents and clauses to protect you from competitors or theft of your ideas are very important and a key element, combined with all the practical realities and strategies you have in getting your million dollar idea into the marketplace, earning you riches, profits and glory! Also eating into any profits you may realize.
Add to that the fact that there are a lot of less than forthright organizations that allegedly help individuals sell their inventions to industry. In all my years of working as a patent lawyer, I have never come across a single person who ever used one of these organizations to effectively market or sell their invention. However, I have met several who successfully marketed their inventions themselves.
Before you take any steps to market your invention, you should take a few preliminary steps.
Preliminary Patent Search – A preliminary patent search is generally a good first step. A preliminary search of various patent offices can be conducted for a reasonable fee (just contact a patent agent/lawyer), and it is even possible to conduct one for free (see the US patent office at http://www.uspto.gov/)
Patent Application – Don’t publicly disclose your invention until after a patent application is filed. Publically disclosing the invention before filing a patent application can potentially ruin the chances of ever being granted a valid patent. In fact, many Companies will not even talk to you until you have filed a patent application.
Prepare a Formal Information Package – You should prepare an informative and concise information package describing you, your invention and the potential market your invention reaches. The package should include color photographs of the invention, and a one page executive summary. In a future blog post we will discuss this in greater detail.
Prototype – It is much easier to sell a product if potential buyers can see, touch and feel the product. Building a working prototype is often a key step in selling your invention. Of course, some products are difficult to prototype, in which case a non-working mock-up may have to do. In any event, create the most professional prototype or mock-up you can.
Obtain Financing – Building prototypes and filing patent applications require funds. Finding that initial start up funding is often difficult; however, there are two tried and true methods, namely partnerships and incorporations. A signed partnership agreement is one way for a few people to pool their financial resources into a project. If several investors are involved, then an incorporated company is a better method. Essentially, the company takes ownership of the invention and the investors contribute money to the company in exchange for shares. The number and price of the shares can be tailored to suit the particular needs of the project.
Now that we have dealt with some of the preliminary issues, let’s take a look at the mechanics of selling your invention to a company. The actual steps in the process are as follows:
1. Compiling a List of Potential Buyers – Finding a company that is willing to buy the invention is the most challenging part of the process. It begins by generating a list of companies that may be interested in the invention. You can use a business directory to generate that list. Business directories list companies by the products they manufacture (or services they provide) and include basic information about these companies such as their address, phone and fax number, and the name of the president (CEO or owner). Suitable business directories may be found in the business section of the local reference library.
2. Contacting Potential Buyers – Your list of potential buyers may include literally hundreds of companies. You simply call up each company on the list and ask them if they would be interested in receiving a solicitation for a new invention. Then get the contact information about who in the company to send your information to.
3. Presenting the Invention to Prospects – After you have thinned out your list, your next step is to submit your information to each of the companies on the list. This may involve calling the people identified to be the contact for new product ideas and telling them that you are sending them an information package about your product. Your package should include a cover letter and a one page synopsis of your product (including a picture). The information must be clear, concise and it must appear as professional as possible. Dont try to overwhelm the recipient – you want to impress them, not burden them.
4. Follow Up – Do not expect the prospect to come to a quick decision concerning the invention. It may take a prospect many months (even a year or more) to make up his/her mind on a project. You have to be patient. It is important to periodically follow up with the company but do not pester the prospect. Remember, the people considering your invention are probably quite busy with several other projects – annoying them may do little to speed the project up and may cause them to drop the project altogether.
5. Negotiations – If you find a company that is interested in picking up the project, then be ready to negotiate the terms of the sale. The key here is to be reasonable. From my experience, nothing kills off a potential licencing deal faster than an unreasonable inventor. Realistically, the most you are likely to get is a good return on your investment. Asking for a smaller signing fee together with a modest royalty is far more likely to generate a signed agreement than holding out for a big payoff.
6. Royalty Amount – I am usually asked the question how much can I sell my invention for. The answer can range from hundreds to thousands and even millions of dollars – depending on the license seeker and the overall lifetime value they place on your invention. Here are a few rules which can help you figure out a reasonable royalty rate. First of all, try to negotiate a royalty which is broken down in to two parts, an initial signing payment and an annual royalty payment. The initial payment should cover most of your costs of the project. The annual royalties should represent an amount which is sufficient to represent a good return on your investment without being a burden on the manufacturer. The general rule of thumb is to ask for a small percentage (1% to 5%) of the net sales of the product. It is also possible, and in some cases advisable, to fix the annual royalty payment to an easily calculated amount (e.g. $1.00 per unit sold).
Selling your invention to a manufacturer is possible but it is not easy. How successful are you likely to be? From my experience, individual inventors are far more likely to successfully sell their invention by themselves than by going through some invention promotion organization. Like any business, the chances of success are a function of your determination, knowledge and willingness to take risks. However, if you prefer to hire a company to manage the process, I have listed a few organizations below. It is important to do your own due-diligence when vetting these resources. Our disclaimer is that we provide this of prospective licensing options for your searching convenience – Inventing Women does not in any way warrant the outcome of our visitors and members hiring one or any of these companies listed below: