The Hook I have an idea..(now what?) 

For aspiring inventors

We receive many inquiries from individuals who are interested in turning an idea into an invention into a new product --so, we created this page --just for you!

No company will want to acquire a raw unlicensable 'idea' as is  --even though that is theoretically possible. The idea needs to be systematically developed into a product (which may then indeed have value) for a reasonable chance of success to exist.

We want to help you, but our criteria is primarily limited to patented and prototyped devices. Nevertheless, we DO have some general procedural information on this page which may be helpful to you in your journey of invention.

Seed Capital is usually a top issue, so here is a very direct answer: funding for patents/ early stage inventions almost always comes out of the inventor's threadbare pocket.  That's reality. A study at the University of New Hampshire a few years ago showed concrete proof that the source for 95% of low cap (less than $500K) startup financing is money invested or borrowed from friends and family. Virtually no Financial Institution money is available for inventions. And conversely, 95% of all deals over $500K are Financial Institution ('institutional') deals, investments in companies, NOT inventions.

You know what this means? MOM! Or, adopt a rich uncle! Do some schmoozing!

Once you have the money, the process of developing an idea needs to be systematic and complete. Although we do not provide legal advice, we are very familiar with the procedure for turning an invention into a new product and offer these basic suggestions as a public service, and also in the hope that once you fulfill the 6 Steps that you will turn to us for our expertise in marketing.

THE R&D STAGE:

  1. RESEARCH IT. This is the single most important item. You must have a REAL and compelling market for your device! If you don't have one, or can't market it, proceed with great caution because patents are very expensive. Government fees alone during the life of a patent are over $4,000 (small entity). Funding an invention that nobody wants to buy is a HUGE cash drain. So.. know the larger market, know your submarket. Prove that there is a market for the innovation and that people will buy it. Proof of market can include:
  2. Be convinced that the device can be manufactured, marketed and distributed successfully. At this stage, be as secretive as possible. How does one be secretive and simultaneously prove a market? That is one of the great challenges of inventing. Some rush out to patent  the device first, however, usually this approach results in the inventor spending alot of money and obtaining an unmarketable patent. Although, it is helpful to talk with a patent attorney as sometimes public disclosure of a patent can limit or terminate rights, especially in foreign countries with 'absolute novelty' rules. In the US, normally an inventor has a year from disclosure/ sale/ public use to file for the patent. Our feasibility checklist offers more detailed items to consider.
  3. SEARCH IT. Especially if you are planning to license your invention, you need to prove that your invention is new ('novel'). Search your patent for novelty on the internet. One good place to start is at the IBM Womplex patent server (FREE!)
  4. RECORD IT. You need to document your work. Keep a bound witnessed lab book. Beyond that, you must reduce your invention to practice and enable it by showing how someone with 'ordinary skill in the art' could teach, use, make, reproduce, and benefit from your invention.
  5. CERTIFY IT. For $10 use the PTO's DD (document disclosure) program to certify a default date of conception. This is NOT a substitute for a patent, but can be referenced in your patent. You must continue to show diligence!
  6. PROTOTYPE IT. Build it. Prove it works. Further reduce your invention to practice. Make it look like a real product, NOT a risky 'invention.' You are the visionary; you have to help prospective business partners (who may lack your specialized knowledge or vision) understand the product. Also, produce a professional brochure. One prototyper is Larry Fargo. IPMG can render a virtual prototype on CD-ROM.
  7. PATENT IT. Last Warning: again, don't patent it unless you have market evidence and a well supported belief that the product will make money! Just because it can be patented, doesn't mean it should be patented. Don't waste your time with confidential/ non-disclosure agreements; usually NDAs are a bad idea. Instead, if your device is new and useful and truly marketable, legally protect it and ready its intellectual property status for development by patenting it. Get a reasonable competent patent attorney who is inventor friendly such as registered patent attorney Pal Asija or  Ray Nuzzo. Once filed (subject to your attorney's approval) you should now tell everybody about it!  Only if there is highly sensitive information associated with the technology, simply create a non-enabling fact sheet/ attractive brochure, which sums the basic benefits of, and markets for, the device  --WHAT the device accomplishes and why it will make money, not necessarily HOW it accomplishes it.
THE MARKETING STAGE:

NOW, PLACE IT. The hard part is now just beginning.. the marketing! An inventor's marketing "bucket" is not usually adequate, nor any match for an existing company distribution "pipeline." Why reinvent the wheel? Why attempt the impossible? Unless you have lots and lots of money for media buying, tooling, factories, inventory, workers compensation insurance, and payroll --the best (and perhaps only) option is to license it and integrate it into an existing product line. Another realistic option may be some sort of partnership with suppliers or vendors; this makes eminent sense because they may stand to make money --and may understand the industry and the benefit.

Select companies have made alot of money with outside inventions and are hungry for more. These companies are very open to new product proposals --and a few are actively seeking inventions! But how to find and market to these entities? Industry in general is very skeptical of new devices.

Be smart and now contact Hal Meyer [info@thehooktek.com] at The Hook Appropriate Technology [www.thehooktek.com] about licensing and commercialization opportunities.

We hope this general marketing guideline helps. For more info, please see our FAQs page, or the Hook's books page. If you have any specific problems, interest, questions or suggestions, please email us.



Got a patent already? Please see our criteria and/ or our submissions page.


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Page last updated 6/9/00