Published May 1, 2000

Potential Buyers for Small Business Inventions!

"I've invented my product, now what should I do?" That is one of the questions I am most frequently asked by inventors when they first contact me.

I ask, as a way of answering that question, what their invention is. Invariably they answer, "I can't tell you, it's confidential."

Now, the fact of the matter is that hardly any idea is ever stolen. Products that are in later stages of development are sometimes stolen by those looking to do spin-offs for a fast profit. But to appease the inventor's fear, I fax a "confidentiality agreement." When it comes back signed, I hold a more or less open-ended conversation with the inventor.

I usually ask first if the inventor has developed a model of the idea. The answer is often, "No, I don't know how." I coach them by asking them to start making a sketch of their idea to which I usually hear, "Oh, I don't know how to draw."

I don't truly believe them because I believe everyone knows how to draw at least a basic sketch with stick figure people. I try to persuade them and most often am successful. Soon after a sketch will arrive by fax or mail and with their help on the telephone, I can puzzle out what they have in mind.

If I work with them for any length of time, the sketches get better and the invention becomes quite clear. While the drawings remain sketches, there are more details added. Pretty soon the invention becomes fairly real, both to the inventor and to me.

The sketch is truly not only to tell me what the invention is, but also to tell us both how to go on to the next step of making a working model of the idea.

If I begin to believe in the invention's potential use, and therefore its sale, I will perhaps work with the inventor to build the model. Or sometimes I have one of my friends who is in the model building business meet with them, either by mail or on the internet, to make arrangements to work together.

I try very hard not to go into business with the inventors who contact me and, over the years, I have made arrangements only a few times with inventors who have created particularly intriguing products.

To make a successful invention much more is required than a good sketch or a working model and I will be talking about these steps in future columns.

You must have a successful marketing plan and select a potential buyer for your product. This requires knowledge of the market for your invention. The best way to sell an invention is to understand who is most apt to buy it.

Truly the best invention is one which is "created" for a special buyer. Then all its aspects speak to the needs of the business that will license or buy your patent.

Finally, to get a business to "talk" with you, you should have a patent applied for.

Article - Copyright 2000 Stanley I. Mason. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA