ADVICE FOR INVENTORS AND ENTREPRENEURS
We have all been inspired by the stories of Ron Hickman, Trevor Bayliss, Mandy Haberman and James Dyson. It is possible to have an idea, and pursue the idea through to commercial success and even fame and fortune. But as many will tell you, its a long and arduous road, and only a few make it. It's our goal to help improve your chances of success.
Identifying what's useful and what isn't
If you're an inventor, you may be feeling that the "IP system" is rather daunting - full of jargon, complex and expensive. There's a plethora of information available on the internet and elsewhere - the question is how do you know what is useful, what is essential, and what is nice to know but non essential? Our aim is to give you the information you need to know, without burying you under a mass of gobbledegook. You can get some basic information from this website - for a start, check our page on patents.
The one essential to keep in mind, is:
Do not disclose your invention to anyone before filing a patent application, unless your disclosure is
What to do next
The process of invention is itself fascinating and interesting, but only a small part of the entrepreneurial process. Here are some thoughts about how you take your idea forward.
- Do thorough patent and general commercial searches
- Talk to business advisors about how to progress
- Seek funding to build prototypes, file patent applications, and do market research.
- Seek partnerships with people who can provide complementary skills and experience - for example, with experience in marketing, selling or manufacturing
- Do market research to understand your potential customers, how they will perceive and use the product, and how much they will be willing to pay for it
A fundamental decision - make or license?
At some stage, you will have to decide whether are going to commercialise your invention yourself, or whether you will seek to license the right to commercialise the invention to someone else.
Licensing and the Holy Grail
In licensing, you enter an agreement with a licensee, in which you give them permission to exploit your invention, for example, by manufacturing the product and bringing it to market, and in return the licensee pays you a fee, which may be made up of a one-off upfront fee, and royalties which are dependent on sales turnover.
Licensing is the Holy Grail for many individual inventors - sitting on a beach while the royalties roll in. While it does happen, unfortunately, it is rarely that straightforward.
In the licensing route, patentability is all important to you, since you are bringing two things to your licensee - the product idea, and monopoly protection for that idea. The two go together, but for you the licensor, the value of the license is dependent on the strength of the patent. Patentability should therefore be explored thoroughly at an early stage, preferably before a patent application is filed, and then again as soon as possible after filing.
How to be an inventor but not an entrepreneur...some dos and don'ts
- Focus on the technology and not the customer
- Don't talk to lots of possible customers about whether they actually need, or want, or will pay for your product
- Don't try and understand customers' needs
- Don't try and understand how customers will perceive and use your product
- Don't think about how much the product will cost to bring to market
- Don't do any customer research or market research
- Don't take advice - think you can do it all yourself
- Spend all the money on the technology, and none on research or promotion
- Do it all on the cheap - surely when people see bits of string and gaffer tape they'll be able to imagine the brushed stainless steel or brightly coloured plastic
- Focus on getting a patent, and everything else will fall into place
Hopefully you get the idea! A patent is only one part of the entrepreneurial mix. Many inventors are not natural entrepreneurs, and will need to take advice and/or join forces with people with complementary skills and experience.
WARNING - "INVENTION PROMOTERS"
If you have a great product idea or invention, you may be tempted to contact so-called "invention promoters" who may claim to assess your invention, provide a report, obtain IP protection and arrange backing or finance. Be very careful who you talk to. It's advisable to make sure that anyone you talk to is a CPA, which means a qualified UK patent attorney and chartered member of CIPA (The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys) or an EPA, which means a qualified European Patent Attorney.
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