The number in the headline is correct.
Ninety-eight percent of all patented inventions fail in the
marketplace. Why do only 2 percent of the patents issued by the U.S.
patent office each year produce a profit for the inventor?
We usually examine well-known
inventions in this column -- the successful ones that you've heard
of -- but this week we take a look at the main reasons why the
majority of inventions fail. In the seven years that I've been
working with inventors, I've found that there are three main reasons
for failure. These three reasons are:
1. There is simply no market for some
inventions, even though they were patented. Just because an inventor
has been issued a patent for his gadget or gizmo doesn't mean that
people are going to buy it. If that were the case, we'd all be
buying patented inventions like the automatic pet petter, the Santa
Claus detector, the motorized ice cream cone and the toilet seat
landing lights. Each of these inventions received a patent, yet, as
you can see why, they failed to catch on with the buying public.
Do your research to find out if a
market exists for your invention before rushing off to get a patent.
2. Another main reason why inventions
fail is that the inventor doesn't have the marketing skills
necessary to get his product off the ground and into the
marketplace. Inventing and marketing are two totally different
skills; one is a right-brain function while the other is a
The creative aspects of inventing occur
in the right side of the brain, while the left side is responsible
for logical, analytical thinking that correlates with business
skills. The same pattern can be found among artists, which explains
why there are so many "starving artists." Artists and inventors tend
to be more creative than business-minded.
Marketing is a skill that can be
learned, so spend enough time on the "business end" of your
inventions. The most successful inventor in U.S. history, Thomas
Edison, succeeded with his inventions because he knew how to market
them. (He also said, "To invent, you need a good imagination and a
pile of junk," but that's a whole different story.)
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3. The other main reason why inventions
fail is that many inventors patent their inventions before
determining the likelihood of success. As a result, there are far
too many patents issued each year. Some inventors think that their
inventions -- like their children -- are perfect.
Don't fall in love with your invention
without first considering whether your potential customers like it
too. It's their opinions that really matter.
Just as a patent does not guarantee
success, not all successful inventions were patented either. Since
this column is about inventions, I know you've been waiting
anxiously to read about one certain invention ever since you first
discovered this column in your newspaper, so I'll go ahead and
mention it now: the Pet Rock! The Pet Rock was a huge success even
though it wasn't protected by a patent.
invention that succeeds, there are 50 other inventions that fail.
People often assume that just because someone has invented something
or has received a patent he'll make a fortune from it. Nothing could
be further from the truth, though, so if you come up with your own
electric vote recorder, remember the words of Thomas Alva Edison
when he said, "I only want to invent things that will sell."
"Invention Mysteries" is written each
week by Paul Niemann. He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004