It was seen that the works of founders of States, law-givers, tyrant-destroyers, and heroes cover
but narrow spaces and endure but for a time; while the work of the inventor, though of less pomp,
is felt everywhere and lasts forever.          - Francis Bacon Preface to a Treatise on Interpreting Nature




The Design of Everyday Things

Every inventor should take this free online course. Learn the basics of design and start observing and applying design principles.



How to Design Breakthrough Inventions

A CBS interview of IDEO founder David Kelley


How to Build a StartUp

In this free online course, learn the key tools and steps for building a successful startup (or at least reducing the risk of failure).

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 2017



For creative individuals who hope to profit from their ideas, invention is only a small part of the story.  Consumers buy products (material realities), not inventions (ideas).  John Ritchison (intellectual property attorney from Anderson, IN) offered us advice on how to best market our products: be patient, stay focused, and don’t get frustrated.  Bottom line—be bold.  Go big or go home.

An inventor typically has 3 marketing options: make and sell a product or method, sell the invention to others who will use it to make and sell a product or method, or license (rent) the invention to others who will use it to make and sell a product or method.  For all 3 options, learn all you can about your product’s market, study your business opportunities, and draft a basic business plan that can take you from point A to point B.

Here are some useful steps for learning how to take your product to market.

Find out how others have marketed a product similar to yours.  For example:

Identify companies that can market your product.
Look in stores and online for products similar to yours.  Look at the packaging to see who the manufacturers and distributors are.  Then go to the library and use SIC (standard industrial classification), NAICS (North American industrial classification system), or ICC (International Code Council) classification numbers to find similar manufacturers and distributors.  These companies can either buy or license your invention or help you take your product to market.

Learn whether it would be profitable to market your product.
Find out how much it would cost to mass-produce your product, then look in stores and online to find the prices of products similar to yours.  Form a few focus groups of 2-3 people who would use your product and get their detailed opinions of your product and its cost.  Join online marketing forums (eg, The Marketing Forum USA) to learn what other people think about your product. 

Join groups online or in-person (like the Indiana Inventors Association) and ask people to share their experiences, information, and resources with you. University-related engineering blogs often offer the opportunity to ask technical questions.

Learn about the tools that can help you market your product.
Price ladders, costs of intellectual property, size and nature of your product’s market.  If you plan to protect your invention with intellectual property (patent, trademark, or copyright), consider doing so early in the marketing process so that you get the full benefit of protection.  Find out what, if any, government regulations your product must satisfy.  Forming an LLC company to hold your intellectual property can be helpful.

Develop the best prototype of your product that you can afford.
Depending on your product, the prototype can range from a drawing to a professionally made product.  Send a well-crafted outreach letter (requesting a reply) to companies to arrange meetings in which you can pitch your product.

Remember—you are the best person to market your product.
Be highly skeptical of anyone who claims to have unique access and ability to successfully market your product.  A few companies, Edison Nation or Invention City for example, might be helpful.

If you want to avoid the high costs (and high profits) of marketing your product, consider selling or licensing your invention.

Approach companies that:

Own less than 15% of your product’s market;

Don’t have a strong in-house product development program;

Have previously bought or licensed inventions;

Have internally influential marketing and sales departments.  Don’t try to persuade a company’s product and development department (ie, your competitor) to invest in your invention; and

Have the money to introduce your product into the market.

You need help from 2 kinds of people.

External Advocates
End users of your product, important retailers, and decision-makers in product distribution provide evidence to companies that buying or licensing your invention will be profitable.

Internal Advocates
A company’s executives, sales managers (regional or national), or marketer can help persuade the company’s decision makers to buy or license your invention.

Prepare a 10-15 minute show-and-tell presentation to sell your invention to a company.  Provide evidence that your invention will be successful and that it aligns with the company’s present goals and strategies.

Ask one of your internal advocates to say why s/he likes your invention.

Demonstrate your invention.  Maybe side-by-side with competing products.  Show a chart listing competing products, their prices, and their strong and weak points.

Describe your experience with making or marketing your product.

Give a short history of your idea: how you got it; why you designed a product as you did; why you think your product will sell well; a categorized list of people who like your product.

Summarize results of any previous attempts to sell your product.

Explain why you chose this company for your invention—how your product will increase sales of existing company products; how the company can afford to promote sales of your product.

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us, Mr. Ritchison!

Patent Drawings by Richard McVicker

Some inventions patented by our members:

Bob Brand
3,179,907 Tuning system for television receivers
3,219,933 Television tuner switching system
3,241,072 Tuning control system
3,538,466 Television tuner cast housing with integrally cast transmission lines
4,503,740 Optical cutting edge locator for a cutting apparatus
4,503,896 Dog system for veneer slicer
4,601,317 Veneer slicing system
5,511,598 Veneer-slicer with remotely controllable blade angle adjustment
5,562,137 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
5,590,700 Vacuum flitch table with self-cleaning vacuum valve
5,678,619 Method and apparatus for cutting veneer from a tapered flitch
5,680,887 Veneer slicer with timing belt
5,694,995 Method and apparatus for preparing a flitch for cutting
5,701,938 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
5,819,828 Method and apparatus for preparing a flitch for cutting
5,868,187 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
7,395,843 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
7,552,750 Method and apparatus for cutting veneer sheets from a flitch

Rick Hanson
6,240,579 Unitary pedal control of brake and fifth wheel deployment via side and end articulation with additional unitary pedal control of height of patient support
6,253,397 Deployable siderails for a wheeled carriage
6,256,812 Wheeled carriage having auxiliary wheel spaced from center of gravity of wheeled base and cam apparatus controlling deployment of auxiliary wheel and deployable side rails for the wheeled carriage
6,264,006 Brake for castered wheels
6,507,964 Surgical table
D474,446 Sterilizable battery component

Bob Humbert
4,281,368 Keyhole illuminating apparatus

Ron Jackson
4,886,110 HVAC zone control system
4,943,039 Adjustable clamp
4,987,409 Level sensor and alarm
5,132,669 Level sensor with alarm
5,381,989 Adjustable spring clamp
5,944,098 Zone control for HVAC system
6,145,752 Temperature monitoring and control system
6,322,443 Duct supported booster fan
D347,596 Audible security alarm
D376,747 Door security device

Jerry McQuinn
D689,343 Universal Nutcracker

Richard McVicker
3,261,937 Three position snap switch utilizing interference blade means
3,319,477 Timer Escapement
3,332,704 Manually propelled treadmill vehicle
4,625,616 Thumb pick
6,309,076 Light barrier, screen or reflector
D240,237 Sculpture or the like
D356,653 Yard light
8389839 Thumb pick

Bill Pangburn
5,943,831 Device for Hauling Objects

Al Robbins

3,882,960 Ride quality control for surface effects craft
3,946,689 Air dynamo pressure regulation and modulation device for surface effect ships and air cushion vehicles
6,588,702 Lighter-than-air device having a flexible usable surface

Matt Thie
4,844,446 Multiple-compartment currency stacker-sorter
4,940,162 Rolled coin dispenser
7,298,280 Lighted fluid flow indication apparatus
7,617,826 Conserver

Richard Tucker
5,833,751 Powder coating booth having smooth internal surfaces
6,840,367 Material handling and manufacturing system and method
6,976,835 Manufacturing system and process
7,018,579 Manufacturing system and process

Don Walls
D707090 Torque key lever
RE36209 Door lock apparatus

Dave Zedonis
5,637,926 Battery powered electronic assembly for wheel attachment

Patent Document of the Month

Get Involved