1. Those who have ideas for new
inventions (50 percent of the population).
2. Those who know someone who has ideas
for new inventions (the other 50 percent of the population).
OK, this may be a little
oversimplified, but the point is that roughly half of the adults I
talk to tell me that they've had at least one "invention idea"
Most inventors have one thing in
common: They don't know how to market their inventions. We're going
to do something a little different today and deviate from our usual
format and make this article a how-to guide, in case you belong to
the 50 percent that has ideas for new inventions. If you're part of
the other half, then please make your newspaper editor (and me, your
humble scribe) happy by passing this article on to an inventor after
you read it.
It would be impossible to tell you all
that you need to know in just one article. We'll cover some of the
most important points, though, in order to increase your chances of
OK, so you've just thought of the next
big thing that everyone has to have. Before you rush off to the
patent office, you'll want to do a little research to find out if
potential users of your invention would be likely to buy it. Which
people do you talk to first? You can get a pretty good indication of
whether you might have a winner on your hands by talking to the
managers of stores where your invention would likely be sold, as
well as potential users. Be sure to not give away all the details,
Patents are expensive, and if you find
there's no market for your invention, then there's no reason to get
a patent for it. Besides, if there's no market for your invention,
isn't it better to find out now so you can move on to your next
If you find that there is a market for
your invention, then the next step is to decide how to bring it to
market. There are two main ways: You can either manufacture and
market the invention yourself, or you can license it.
[to top of second column in
Licensing your invention means that you
sell the rights to an established company, usually in your industry.
It is riskier and more expensive to manufacture and market an
invention yourself, but it could pay off better in the long run.
You'll also want to create a prototype,
also known as a working model, of your invention. It's important to
determine the cost to manufacture it and the price at which you
expect it to sell at retail (even if you plan to license it). The
manufacturing cost should be no more than 20 percent to 25 percent
of the retail cost, because each link in the distribution channel --
wholesaler, distributor, retailer -- will mark it up along the way.
If you're considering applying for a
patent, you can begin by doing a quick search at the
U.S. patent office website and
then consulting with a patent attorney or agent. If you decide to
apply for a patent, the cost of the entire process is usually
between $3,000 and $5,000, and it generally takes 18 months to
receive a patent. You can claim "patent pending" status after you've
applied for a patent.
It's important for you to become an
expert in your industry. Regardless of which industry your invention
falls into, there are three sources you can turn to for help: your
industry's trade association, your industry's trade publication, and
your industry's trade show or annual convention. Nearly every
industry has each, and your library's reference section has a book
called the Encyclopedia of Associations that has a complete list of
industries. Using these three sources will help you become an expert
in your industry.
This is just
a brief overview. I've posted a list of "how-to" invention books at
"Invention Mysteries" is written each
week by Paul Niemann. He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004