Watch the video to this article at the bottom of the post.
Hello, and welcome to another inventRight blog article. My name is Andrew Krauss. I’m one of the cofounders here at inventRight. The topic for this article is inventor help for patents, design, and licensing.
Patents, designs, and licensing. Let’s break those down one by one.
First, patents. What is the big misconception when people are looking to get help with a patent? Well, getting a patent is quite often the first thing that people think they need to do when they have an invention idea, and that’s just completely untrue.
Your friends and family say, “Well, that’s a great idea. You better get a patent on that.” The only thing you should take away from hearing that — unless they’ve licensed a bunch of products and they have tons of experience licensing products to big companies — is, oh, they’re trying to tell me that the idea is a good idea. Great! Be flattered by that. But it’s absolutely terrible advice.
Do you know why? Well, for one, there is a much better tool to help inventors who are just starting out on their invention journey. The tool I am talking about is a provisional patent application. When you file a provisional patent application with the United States Patent & Trademark Office, you can now label your invention as “patent pending” for the next 12 months. This gives you an entire year to “fish off the pier,” so to say, and see if there’s any interest.
So, you’re not out $10,000 or $12,000 for a patent, you’re only out $75. That’s what the USPTO charges small entities to file a provisional patent application. Do you need to hire a patent attorney or patent agent to write your provisional patent application? No, you can do it yourself. Anyone can file a provisional patent application. I have students who don’t have a GED or a high school degree, and they’re able to do it.
Now, some of you are probably thinking, “Oh, no, Andrew, I’ve seen patents. I’ve been on the Patent Office website and I’ve Googled patents. I can’t do that!”
Well, when you write a provisional patent application, you can do so in common English. Your provisional patent application doesn’t need to look like those issued patents that you’ve seen and read. Not even remotely. You shouldn’t even try to do that.
Look at it like this. Filing a provisional patent application is putting a stake in the ground on a particular day and time. The big benefit is that filing a provisional patent application gives you a whole year to go shopping for a home for your product idea, meaning try to license it for royalties. If you know what you’re doing, it won’t take you more than a year. (Well, it might, if it’s a really, really difficult project.) Still, for $75, it’s a great tool. Now you can legally describe your invention as “patent pending.” Please learn and utilize this very important tool for inventors!
Next up, design. Everyone thinks they need a prototype of their invention. They either get a patent and then think they need a prototype, or maybe they do a prototype first and then the patent. But when you contact a company for licensing consideration, that’s not what you’re selling. You’re selling the benefit of the idea!
I think people have this perception of, “If I get interest from a company and I kind of faked the product in my sell sheet, they’ll get mad at me.” I’ve never, ever seen that happen in the 21 years I’ve been coaching inventors at inventRight. We’ve had students in over 65 countries. That’s not going to happen. What a good sell sheet does is open the door to a conversation.
What you need to do is sell the benefit of your product in a marketing piece. A one-page sell sheet or a video. That’s what we guide our members to do. That’s how they get initial interest. You can have a virtual prototype in place of an actual physical prototype. Now, if you can go down to the store and you can Frankenstein a prototype by cannibalizing other products and it looks good in a picture? Great, use that.
I’m not saying don’t tinker around with prototypes. What I am saying is, you’ve really got to put your best foot forward in your marketing material. And quite often, I would say for 75% of our inventRight members or more, we make virtual prototypes for them so they can show their product in the best possible light, and it’s a lot more affordable than trying to build a perfect prototype. You don’t need to do that.
Most inventors will struggle with that, and they go, “I can’t build it, so I can’t license it.” Heck no. You can show a virtual prototype, show the benefit in your marketing piece, with a big benefit statement showing the benefit, picture of the virtual prototype of the product, and some bullet points.
It’s an advertisement for their customer. So they look at it and go, “Oh, yeah. If our customer saw this, they would want it.” So that’s what you’re selling. You’re selling the benefits of your product.
It makes it easier to chop vegetables. It makes it easier to flip burgers.
Whatever it is, whatever the benefit of your product is. That’s what you want to show. They will not run for the hills if you don’t have a prototype.
Now, sometimes they don’t want to prototype it and they want to make you prototype it. But a lot of times, you don’t even need to have a looks-like works-like physical prototype at the ready.
They’re like, “Oh, I see what you’re doing there. We’ll go get some quotes and see if this can be made and made at a reasonable cost. We have enough information based on your picture.” Maybe you show them some similar products and go, “Well, I just changed this.” And they’re like, “That’s good enough.”
So, do not think that you need to fully design your product and make a prototype. You can do a virtual prototype. That’s what our members do. Now, there are exceptions, such as if you’re really great at making prototypes. But don’t spend months and months and months making a prototype. If you can throw together a prototype together in a day, fantastic, more power to you. Go for it. And some of our students have those capabilities. But a lot of our students don’t.
The third one is licensing. Some people say, “Well, why would I only want 5% or 7%? I could sell it myself and I could get 20%.” Well, yeah, sure. You can sell it yourself. You could struggle with a website that no one visits and sell a thousand units a year and get a 20% profit margin, maybe. Although right now with the supply chain issues, trying to source something overseas, good luck with that. The big companies know how to do it, but it would be an insane time to try to do that yourself.
But then you compare you selling a thousand units and getting, let’s say, a 20% profit margin. A lot of people aren’t making any money for years. But then this big company, maybe they’re going to sell 200,000 units. And they’re paying you maybe a 5%, 6%, 7%, 8% royalty rate.
You do the numbers.
You don’t need to do any work after you license it to them, although it may be advantageous to offer. It’s their money. It’s their workforce. It’s their distribution. Licensing for royalties and not having to run a business is very, very powerful.
If you need help with patenting, designing, and licensing your product, this is my best advice for you.
Don’t feel like you need to make a prototype of every idea. If you’re great at that, more power to you. Most of you are going to do a virtual prototype and that’ll be just fine. Don’t feel like you need to have this production-ready prototype or some beautiful prototype.
Learn how to file a provisional patent application, which gives you a whole year to fish off the pier. You should also commit to learning how to license before spending a lot of money on any one idea. You will learn a lot by when you start reaching out to companies.
So, be ready with your sell sheet. Get your PPA filed. Make your list of companies. Not an anemic list of two or three, but 20 or 30. We guide people how to do that. Then start reaching out to companies. That way, you’ve got a whole year. If you commit to following up, you’ll never need a year to license the product.
So this is my advice. If you need help with patenting or design or licensing, I know this article describes big-picture, overview stuff. We have other articles and videos that offer more detail about each of these topics.
Consider this advice, which flies in the face of what many inventors are told they must do and are often used as barriers to taking action. But there is a way to share your creativity with the world more easily and learn along the way. That’s why we invented the 10-step system for licensing a product idea.
Take care and keep inventing.
Disclaimer: Andrew is not an attorney and is not giving legal advice.