I think most people want to start their licensing journey off correctly. I see it countless times: people throw themselves headfirst into a new project, excited about the possibilities. Don’t get ahead of yourself! There is a step you should take before you rush out with your product idea and file for a patent. If you miss this first step you’re going to fall off the ledge! Save yourself trouble further down the line by making sure to be thorough in your preparation.
You know, this first step…I’ve written about it, I’ve talked about it, my business partner Andrew Krauss and I have taught classes about it, and we even help our students accomplish it, because if you neglect this step it’ll take you a longer to get your idea right. The first step is: study the marketplace! It’s really what I like to do at the beginning of the whole process. I study the category in which I’m interested or that my product idea fits into. I want to know all the other products that are already on the market as well as the players (companies) and become an expert in my micro-category. How do you go about doing this?
The very first thing you should do is open Google Images and type in the category of your product. You will find things on a Google Image Search that you won’t find if you just do a Google Search. You’re going to see all sorts of information about the products that are already on the market and see that each one probably has a different benefit. By clicking on links for these products you may bring up blogs, the stores where the product is being sold, consumer comments and complaints – really a wealth of information!
You want to dig it all up. You should look for different price points of product related to your idea. Search for terms that are close to your idea, and make sure to take note of the manufacturers of these products, as it will ultimately help you to make a list of companies you will contact. Generating information about your category and the competition in the marketplace is incredibly useful when you set out later to create your point of difference. Just a few hours of homework on the Internet can make you an expert in your micro-category.
So why is this important? Most people try to search if their idea has ever been made before. That is not what you should be doing. Instead, you want to understand how your product fits into the marketplace. Being ‘unique’ does not always translate into sales or profits. You need to frame your idea or product within the context of all the other items that are already on the market.
You might find that you need to make some changes, and that is ok. You might even find your idea is already out there. Don’t give up now. This is the point at which you should keep going. Finding your idea out there just means that there is a market for it! If you tweak your idea just a bit, and set yourself apart from the competition, that may be all it takes for your idea to be profitable. Find or create your point of difference.
Some might say at this point: “But shouldn’t I run out and get a patent?” or, “I think I should just do a prior art search first.” Having a patent doesn’t mean your idea is able to be manufactured. There are tons of ideas that make no money whatsoever. And searching for existing products is, in fact, a form of a prior art search – remember not every product on the market has a patent – so a prior art search might not turn up items that are already available for sale. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think the marketplace is the best indicator of what is selling and what can be manufactured. It will tell you so much more than just what is or isn’t patented. It is, by and large, the first step that needs to be made before any else! Knowing the products that are in the market ofay will help you later when it is time to do a prior art search.
This first step of studying the marketplace is described in more detail in my book: “One Simple Idea.” It’s what we teach to our students at inventRight. It’s the basis for the start of your licensing journey.
Or, if you’d prefer to watch my YouTube video on studying the marketplace, you can watch it below.
Studying the marketplace is the most important step you can take to become an expert in your field. Don’t go out and file a patent because you are fearful. See what is out there and see if your product is unique. Learn from others in order to set yourself ahead of the competition.