Last week I took on a new inventRight student. As typically occurs during a first coaching session, this student and I got to know a bit about each other and he of course had many questions for me. We had a great conversation. He commented that the thought of licensing his very own product was as awe-inspiring to him as watching a magic show.
I immediately thought about the Magic 8 Ball toy. I’m sure that at some point in your life you have played with this classic fortune telling toy by Mattel. Invented by Albert C. Carter in 1950s, the Magic 8 Ball is a toy used for seeking advice and fortune telling. The user asks a yes-or-no question to the large plastic ball, then turns it over to reveal a written answer which magically appears on the surface of the toy. The Magic 8 Ball will answer your burning questions with one of the following responses: It is certain, It is decidedly so, Without a doubt, Yes – definitely, You may rely on it, As I see it, Yes, Most likely, Outlook good, Signs point to yes, Don’t count on it, My reply is no, My sources say no, Outlook not so good, Not likely, and Very doubtful. With its unique function and 1 million units sold a year, I am definitely intrigued by this little toy.
So I decided to dig deeper and took a look into the Magic 8 Ball to answer some of the basic licensing questions I hear from many of my new iR students.
Q: Will licensing my product make me a millionaire?
Magic 8 Ball: Don’t count on it.
There is certainly good money to make in licensing and yes, you can make millions. However, those kinds of products are few and far between. To get to this level of monetary success, your product will need to sell mass volumes and be received incredibly well by the public at large. Typically, money makers like these are not in niche categories.
Q: Do I need a patent?
Magic 8 Ball: My reply is no.
Most products do not need a patent. In fact, most products on the shelf do not have patent protection at all. They go in and out of the marketplace so quickly that patent protection is not necessary. You can file a well-written provisional patent application (PPA) for $70 instead, and get the perceived ownership that our cofounder Stephen Key is always talking about. Remember: A PPA is not a patent, it is an application. Most of our students have absolutely no patent protection at all and we see at least one licensing agreement a week!
Q: Do I need a sell sheet to sell to license my product?
Magic 8 Ball: Without a doubt, yes.
The sell sheet is an inventRight staple. A one-page advertisement — often referenced as a billboard for your product — it is the most effective way of communicating your product’s benefit to a potential licensee. With a one-line benefit statement and three to five short and succinct bullet points, your sell sheet is the link between your creative mind and decision makers at a licensee. Did you know inventRight Design Studio is now open to everyone, not just inventRight students? Consider iR Design Studio for your next sell sheet.
Q: Do I need a prototype?
Magic 8 Ball: Not Likely
A physical prototype is not always necessary. In fact, the majority of my students are using virtual prototypes for their sell sheets to pitch their products. Most people do not have the money and/or skill set to make a beautiful prototype suitable for a sell sheet. By utilizing 3D render artists, the vision of your product in your head can quickly, easily and cost-effectively be represented in a photorealistic form. Sometimes a physical prototype will be needed to prove out your concept, but rarely at first.
Q: Will a licensee steal my idea?
Magic 8 Ball: Very doubtful
In the 20 years that inventRight has been in business, we have never had a student’s product idea stolen by a licensee. Why? Products do not get stolen at this stage. They never do. Products get ‘stolen’ after they have established a level of success in the marketplace and have shown to be profitable. When you are showing your product to a licensee, it is still an unknown and its marketability has yet to be tested. Further, with the explosion of social media in recent years, a company could be absolutely decimated publicly by an inventor who was taken advantage of. Getting your product ‘knocked off’ at this stage just doesn’t happen and you must overcome this fear to make progress on your licensing goals.
Q: I’m afraid to make cold calls. Are there other options?
Magic 8 Ball: Signs point to yes.
If you have a fear of cold calling, you are not alone. Luckily there are many other options to get your foot in the door. We recommend using a combination of all of them to increase your chances for success. Your inventRight coach will show you how to reach out to companies via LinkedIn and email. Some lesser known techniques include reaching out to a company via social media and reaching out to a company via their online chat portal.
Q: Do I need a website?
Magic 8 Ball: No
A website to promote yourself is not needed. A licensee does not care what your day job is or what you have done in the past. The fact that you previously licensed a product has no bearing on whether or not a licensee will want to license your current idea.
Q: I found patents that are similar to my product. Can I still pursue it?
Magic 8 Ball: Most likely.
When you begin searching for prior art, you will almost certainly find a product similar to yours. This tells you there is a market for your product. Most patent claims are very weak. We will teach you what a ‘work-around is and how to add benefits to existing designs. Your inventRight coach will help you navigate this very common concern.
Like the Magic 8 Ball, your inventRight coach has all of the answers you are looking for. We can’t guarantee your licensing success, but in our hands your future certainly looks bright. Make no doubt, this is why you have joined us. You have the incredible ideas, but in a sea of jokers and scammers there are very few places where you can get trusted answers. Each of our coaches is highly skilled in licensing and collectively have seen just about everything. Can we put you in the absolute best position possible to pitch your idea? Can we get you in front of the decision makers? Come take a journey with us because all signs point to yes!