Wednesday, October 1

Brennan has a question....

I am a prospective inventor myself and really found lots of informative questions for self evaluation from your post. I do have a few questions though. How does one calculate an accurate value proposition? Also, as my funds for prototyping are limited, is 3D printing a good medium for rapid prototyping or is there a more efficient way to bring forth low cost plastic prototypes?

Brennan

 
HI Brennan - let's see if we can get you some answers. 

First, Value Proposition isn't really something you can "calculate", it's more of an overall package of value we look at in a product.

A great example of that is Intrinsic Value. This form of value comes from something the consumer "feels" more than "knows". Say you have a product made of plastic. You construct it of obvious thick durable plastic that the consumer sees clearly when they pick it up. We all know that thick is more durable than thin, so that knowledge itself is what gives the product intrinsic value to the consumer, helping them logically justify their purchase.

As you can see from this example you can't measure the customer's intrinsic value because it's different for everyone - but it's a very important part of the value proposition. 

Second, 3D printing is a very effective way to build low cost prototypes and dial in design changes - however, before you spend money on that, make sure you actually need that level of prototyping. To license a product all you really need is a homemade proof of concept. 

Hope this helps Brennan! 

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, September 30

What? a Consumer Products Group

As inventors we sometimes think the product world is big stores and brand names. It isn't really, it's big business and hundreds of thousands of people looking for great new products.

Recently a marketing company named Affinnova conducted a survey of 400 people who work at what the industry calls CPG's - Consumer Products Groups. These groups generally live outside the door of major retailers and through their relationship with the retailer use their understanding of the category needs to find new products. (I know what you're thinking, and yes, CPG's always want to see new products, but they don't generally like working with inventors)

You would think a CPG would be hyper innovative, but as you can see from this survey, not always.

Many people developing new products at CPG companies feel frustrated and demotivated according to the survey, which probably comes as no surprise given the high failure rate in the trade. But looking at what firms that produce more winners have in common could help boost everybody's mood, claims Affinnova.

In a global survey* of 400 people working in the innovation function at CPG firms of all sizes, Affinnova found that “most CPG innovators we surveyed are clearly frustrated with their companies’ current processes and lack of competitive advantage.

“In fact, 40% admitted they are currently considering leaving their companies to work for more innovative companies. No doubt lack of engagement and low morale are also having an impact on performance.”

Poor tools, lack of consumer data, subjective decision-making…

Among the biggest areas of frustration identified by CPG professionals in Affinnova’s survey were:

• Inadequate tools: 75% felt their companies were using outdated technology for innovation. 76% were also dissatisfied with collaborative practices in their organizations.

• Slow processes: 49% felt that their companies were unable to move fast enough to keep up with competitors and the pace of the marketplace.

• Lack of creativity: 62% said creative risk taking was not supported by their companies, limiting breakthrough ideas.

• Subjective decision making: 55% believed that internal politics— not data—was guiding most new product decision making.

• Limited customer insight: 66% believed their company wasn’t doing enough to understand consumer needs.


The good news is that retailers are slowly moving away from the outdated forms of Open Innovation and towards a new innovative structure of Adjunct Innovation that will eventually provide the tools these CPG's need, and a more direct path to the retailer for the inventor.

Mark Reyland

Monday, September 29

I "invented" the Skateboard

Ok, I was 12….I didn’t actually invent “the” skateboard. I invented a version of the skateboard for my older sister Susan.

As you would know from reading these silly childhood stories about my wacky adventures, I have an older sister named Susan.

Susan is a doctor of Psychology now living in Denver Co with her three beautiful little girls.

But back in 1974, Susan was a trusty sidekick willing to get involved in almost anything I happened to be dragging her into at the time.

So, when Susan saw one of the kids on the block who had a “board with wheels” rolling down the street she asked me if I could make her one - I of course said Yes.

Simple enough, back then we had roller skates that were all metal. They had an adjustable rail to fit them over your shoe and that’s what we skated with. Susan donated her set of skates and I found a board in my Dad’s pile of woodworking lumber and set off to the garage to fashion my older sister a skateboard.

First, I had to cut the board into a shape that loosely resembled a long rectangle. Then, it was all about “Modifying” those skates. Off came the straps, and the metal slide – a very large hammer would help me "convince" the metal brackets to lay down and be quiet – and they did. Some screw assembly and a few nails and it was ready for a test ride.

I called Susan out to the garage to test out her new skateboard. She was so excited that she jumped right on. The board promptly slid out from under her feet and she hit the floor with a loud “thump” followed quickly by an ear piercing scream the likes of which I have not heard again to this day.

My Father came running out of the house, quickly assessed the situation to make sure Susan was alright - then looked directly at me. With a glaring “not again” stare he proceeded to pick up the Skateboard and with one swift and powerful swing broke it in two over the workbench....he was really mad.

Ok, so I got grounded – again. I’m not sure how it happened, but in addition to my traditional post invention grounding, I had to cut the grass for two weeks to earn enough money to buy Susan a new pair of skates.

Life is simply not fair sometimes – but somehow the experiences make it all worthwhile.

Mark Reyland 

Friday, September 26

Lincoln and that damn beard


In 1860, Mr. Milton Bradley was a successful lithographer whose major product was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
When Mr. Lincoln grew his trademark beard, Bradley's clean-shaven portrait was no longer popular. Out of desperation, Mr. Bradley printed up several copies of a game he'd invented called, "The Checkered Game of Life." Its immediate popularity put Milton Bradley in the game business. This was Milton Bradley's first game. He sold 45,000 copies of the game by the end of the year.
In 1959, Milton Bradley executives asked freelance toy and game inventor, Reuben Klamer, to come up with an appropriate game for the 100th anniversary of the company. Inspired by a "Checkered Game of Life" game board he saw in the Milton Bradley archives, Klamer and a co-inventor developed The Game of Life® which was introduced in 1960. In 1992, The Game of Life® was updated to include Life Tiles which reward players for recycling their trash, learning CPR and saying "no" to drugs. Today, The Game of Life® is played all over the world in some 20 different languages.
The original Game of Life is part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institute. – I bet Milton would never have guessed it would end up there.
As is often the case in inventing, Milton Bradley started off down one road and quickly had to change his strategy to adapt. In his case it was Lincoln and that damn beard. But we all face similar situations where something (okay…not normally facial hair) changes the direction we’re headed with our inventing.
This new direction is often frustrating and exciting at the same time. We have little understanding of where it may take us and the impact it may have on our end result, but like Mr. Bradley, if we adapt and press on it could lead us to places we never dreamed.
So buckle-up and let the inventing journey take you where it will.
Mark Reyland

Thursday, September 25

Hey Mark – Will you take a look at this?

As you may expect, I’m asked every single day to evaluate products for people. I really don’t mind helping – but what I like better is giving them some questions to answer that should lead them to be able to evaluate the idea for themselves.

This is important because I know from many years of working with inventors that if they can learn to ask themselves these critical questions and assemble some basic data – they will be much better at evaluating these ideas on their own and ultimately better at developing products themselves.

Here are a few of the questions I ask inventors to answer....


What are the problems this product solves for the consumer?
What are the demographics of the consumers who would use this product?
What are the key benefits of this product over what’s currently available to the consumer?
Why would the consumer buy this product - what's it's value proposition?
What price is the market currently supporting for like products?
List the benefits of the product (such as convenience, time savings…) and the detriments of the product (such as storage or price) in order of their importance to the consumer.
Create a "Market Audit" - find EVERY comparable product on the market and list – Price, Retailer, Size, Colors, Manufacturer, Product benefits, Product detriments, and the Pro’s/Con’s between your product and that product.
If you take the time to assemble this data and honestly answer these questions, you are creating a process for yourself that will allow you to evaluate your future products in a way that is based less in emotion and more on reality....plus you won't need me.
Mark Reyland

Wednesday, September 24

Sound advice....


We all know how slippery a slope the commercialization process can be. The licensing of an innovation or an invention to a company can be not only slippery, but scary as you traverse waters you may never have been in before. Roger Brown recently wrote a list of things to do (and more importantly not do) when approaching a company with your next big idea.

It’s sound advice from a very successful inventor

1. Understand that inventing is a business. Treat it like one.

2. Actually research your idea before you send it to a company. Don’t tell them “There’s nothing out there like this!” When spending 2 minutes on the web they find several items exactly like yours.
 
3. Understand every company has a different method and time range for reviewing submissions. Don’t send a proposal on Monday via snail mail and call them Tuesday at 8:30am wanting to know when they will be sending you a contract. It is a simple task to ask the company you are submitting material for review “What is your normal turnaround for reviewing submissions?”

4. Don’t be married to your product and totally against changes to make it marketable.

5. Put your contact information on every item you send them. Don’t make them guess.

6. Don’t send prototypes unsolicited. Let them know a prototype is available upon request. You can’t expect a company to pay shipping for every prototype they receive unsolicited.

7. Understand every idea is not a million dollar idea. Yes, there are million dollar ideas, but they are not the majority of ideas. Be realistic in your expectations
8. Realize everyone that rejects your idea is not stupid.
 
9. Don’t send a 20 page explanation of your product. Be concise and clear on your sell sheet. If it takes more than two pages to explain your idea you have a problem.

10. Know who you are sending your submission to in the company. Don’t assume they will figure it out for you if you just send it in care of the company.

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, September 23

A "Virtual" Prototype....Really?

We use a lot of big words in the inventing industry - one of which is Prototyping. The concept of an inventor prototyping something can take on several meanings.

Often an inventor will go to the garage or basement and hobble together a crude functional model that proves a theory. Sometimes an inventor progress from there to a more complicated model to show that same or additional functions – while other inventors will have professional prototypes created.

Not that many years ago a prototype was always a physical model required not only to show function, but to give the manufacturer what they needed to produce parts. Those days have changed and what are often given to the manufacturer now are working computer files that represent the physical properties of the model in three dimensions. These files are often referred to as CAD, files, or Computer Aided Design files.
In the professional product development world these 3-D CAD files have become known as “Virtual Prototypes” and are natural extensions of the way manufacturing works today.
However, there appears to be a tremendous amount of confusion within the inventing industry between what manufacturers would consider a virtual prototype and just a simple 3D rendering, both of which are CAD files.
A 3D rendering is a pretty picture and nothing more. It shows you, the inventor, a three-dimensional representation of your invention that can be rotated or manipulated. These drawings are great way to help people visualize what you see so clearly in your mind however they are not prototypes.
In contrast, a virtual prototype may appear on the surface to be the same thing - however is not. The file structure in a 3D prototype is developed in such a way that the file can be exported to a machine that will then act on its embedded logic. Often referred to as machine code, this embedded information is necessary for producing 3D prints and tooling implements required for manufacturing.
Many companies selling products to inventors (through a lack of understanding or in some cases deceit) often sell 3D renderings under the label “virtual prototype”. You as the inventor will not know the difference until you send that file to someone for samples or parts. At which point you may find you paid for virtual prototype…. but received just a pretty picture.
Mark Reyland

Monday, September 22

Did you know this?

"Congress shall have the power...to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." -


U.S. Constitution Article 1. Section 8. On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the bill which laid the foundations of the modern American patent system. The U.S. patent system was unique; for the first time in history the intrinsic right of an inventor to profit from his/her invention is recognized by law. Previously, privileges granted to an inventor were dependent upon the prerogative of a monarch or upon a special act of a legislature.

Young or old, most inventors are thrilled when see their name on a patent issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.
In 1790, one Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont, was granted the first U.S. patent, for an improvement in the making of potash (a substance derived from the ash of burned plant life and used to make soap and other items)
.
The reviewer of this patent was Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State and himself an inventor, whose work area was filled with gadgets he had devised (perhaps he examined the patent on the famous portable desk that he invented in 1775). Jefferson next passed the document to the Secretary of War for his review and then obtained signatures from the Attorney General and, finally, from President Washington.

So began something bigger than the Founding Fathers had ever dreamed. During that first year, Jefferson received two more patent applications, both of which were granted after due deliberation and signature-collecting. But sometime during 1791, as he scrutinized models and sorted through stacks of designs, Jefferson realized that patent-examining was too much for busy Cabinet members. For as little as four dollars, American inventors could seek patent protection for their inventions under provisions of the Act of 1790. And seek it they did.

Jefferson found himself overwhelmed by an outpouring of American inventiveness. By 1793, patent examining duties had been reassigned to a State Department clerk, until the Patent Office was formed in 1802. Today there are more than five million patents that have been issued to Americans and other nationals by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Prior to the Patent Act of July 4, 1836, patents were issued by name and date rather than number. The Patent Office had already issued nearly 10,000 patents, when a fire destroyed many of the original records in December of 1836. Using private files, the office was able to restore 2,845 patents. The restored records were issued a number beginning with an "X" and called the "X-Patents." Thus the first patent ever issued was actually designated patent X1. The patents that could not be restored were cancelled.


Mark Reyland

Friday, September 19

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 4

Well this is it.... the day you have been waiting for. The day we talk about how to actually make money from your patent.

Like I said yesterday, one way to make your investment back is to select a very nice frame, hang it on your wall, and when your friends come over, simply charge them a dollar to see it. You may not make a ton of money but at least you will have recovered a small portion of that very large investment.
Secondly, you can do what many inventors do. You can pay a lot of money for the patent, then license it to a manufacturer who will then make a widget and give you a percentage of the profits. For many inventors this is a great option since it generates income with very little effort.

But why does a company want to license, or rent your patent? Because you had a great concept for a solution to a large problem and you educated yourself enough on the areas we talked about earlier to structure a strong defendable patent with little white space and solid claims.
Charge your friends and license your patent are two of the most obvious ways to make money from your patent, but there are two more inventors rarely think about. Optioning your patent and Selling your patent.

Before we start talking about selling a patent we have to take a moment and talk about ownership in general.
Some of you may know, a US Patent can only be awarded to an individual, and that each inventor on the patent is treated as if they were the only inventor on the patent - that is, they have equal rights of ownership. Not 50/50, but each inventor owns 100% of the same patent.  It can be confusing when you have several inventors all free to go off and sell, rent, or give away the same patent.

Additionally, you may or may not know that there is only one way to change ownership on a patent - the process of Assignment.  Unlike almost anything else know to man, ownership of a patent cannot be changed through contract, or inheritance, or as a gift. These mechanisms may be the catalyst for changing the ownership but they are not the mechanism.
The only way to change ownership of a patent in the United States is to register an assignment with the US Patent & Trademark office in Washington. Until that assignment has been filed and registered, the legal ownership remains with the originator in the eyes of the law.

Much like a book or a movie, inventors often Option the use of a patent to a manufacturer. Think of this as a short term rental you offer the company while they explore the technology and figure out if they can or should make a widget.
The basic premise is simple. Never give up control of your patent without some form of compensation.  In an option you may be renting it to them for 90 days, and depending on how well you positioned the patent (based on all the factors we've talked about) you can demand a significant amount of rent.

The final way we want to explore monetizing a patent is to simply sell it.
This is actually a very interesting option that most inventors have no clue about. You see, in today's world patents are often bought and sold as if they were stocks or bonds. Not that they appreciate in value the way a stock can, but that they have a specific value that can be very subjective.

Say you have a company, and you want to increase the value of your company by adding to its assets. You may purchase a patent (or more likely a bundle of patents) for a lower price, then have them appraised at a higher price (remember, value of a patent is very subjective) giving you an asset that makes your company worth more, and can be used as collateral.
So what mechanisms are available for us to actually sell our patents? The most popular one is simply to find a company and approach them. Look for a company working in the technology covered by the claims, and offer the patent for sale.

The second most popular way is to auction your patent. There are many patent auctions that take place year round. Normally held online, the auction catalog is full of individual and bundles patents that can be sold for significant amounts of money. That is, if you have a strong patent.
You may remember in the beginning we talked about these factors that make for a good patent. The reason these are so important is because those are the factors that make up the value of your patent in the first place.

You can sell any patent to anyone willing to pay for it. But in the end it's how strong the paper is, how well written the claims, and how commercially viable the technology that will determine if anyone wants it, and how much they are willing to pay you for it.
So now you know what makes a patent strong and what avenues are available to you to make money from that huge investment.  After all, the time to think about making money from your patent is long before you buy it.

Mark Reyland

Thursday, September 18

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 3

So let's get back at it shall we?

We see that there are some important concepts we should understand as we figure out the value of our patents.  
At this point though we need to talk frankly about patents and the role they play in your inventing process.  You see, patents aren't for everyone. In fact, to independent product inventors they normally serve very little purpose.  With less than about 20% of all retail products patented, and the vast majority of independent inventors working in retail products, an average cost of $12,000 over the life of the patent, and only 47% of the applications actually awarding, it doesn't normally add up for a product inventor to get a patent.

That said, there is no such thing as always and before I get hate mail from the patent office I want to point out that although clearly broken as a system, US patents can play an important role in many inventions. But how do we know what ones?
You never know for sure, but I normally apply this rule of thumb. The more technically complicated and developmentally intricate, the greater a chance the patent will help you. If you are inventing a simple product that will get to market pretty quickly the entire process will be over before you find out if you are one of those lucky 47%.... so why bother.  If your invention is 10 years in development, and will be worth millions then a patent is an important part of your strategy.

Okay, so we got that patent we always dreamed of, and now we want to figure out what to do with it. Let's look at our options.
We can...
A) Hang it on our wall and charge our friends a dollar to see it  
B) License it to a company so they can make a widget with the technology

C) Sell it to someone, or some company
These are the only three options you have as an inventor to monetize a patent once you have it.

Now of course a penny saved is a penny earned, so not getting it in the first place is like getting a check for $12,000 in the mail.....don't ya think?

 Knowing these are the three things we really want to talk about, I vote we all get a good night's sleep and jump right in tomorrow.... come on, you knew I was going to do that... night, night

Mark Reyland

Wednesday, September 17

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 2

Here we are already in part two of this .....well, come to think of it, I have no idea how many parts series.  What I do know is that I'll just keep blabbing until we cover the important stuff, and maybe in that process you get a better sense of how patents are commercialized.

We were talking about definitions that help us center ourselves on the subject. So far we have talked about Claims, and Claim strength.
No we need to expand by addressing a few more terms.

WHITE SPACE: This colorful little term refers to the "space" between claims in a patent. Say claim one is for "A" and claim two is for "B + part of C", and claim three for "E, F, G" The white space in this example is that part of "C" and all of "D" not covered in the excising claims. The name of the game is to reduce the white space so that the claims form a solid barrier with no gaps.
FRESH PATENT:  That's right sports fans, patents like fish go bad over time. Obviously the biggest reason a patent goes bad is simply because it has a term associated with it. The less time left on the patent the less it's worth - simple as that.

DEPENDANT PATENT:  In terms of value, a patent that is dependent on another patent to come together to form a product is worth less than one that stands alone. Say you have a patent for "A" and the commercial viability of your patent lies in the development of a widget that requires both "A" Technology and "B" Technology. Without the value of "B", your patent for "A" has a significantly reduced value to the person making that widget.
LIKE PATENTS: Just different enough to be awarded separately, but close enough to cause confusion and in some cases litigation. If there are a lot of these like patents to yours the value can drop like a stone. The reason is simple really, no one wants to take the risk of paying to defend the patent against someone who feels they overlap.

PATENT STRENGTH: Although as with any strength measurement, patent strength can be, and normally is, very subjective.  After all - what I think is strong, you may not. So let's look more at the elements of what makes a strong patent in terms of valuation.  We look at several indicators, including (you guessed it) Claim strength. However, that alone does not tell the story. So we continue on by looking at how much white space there is, how close the patents are to other patents, how fresh the patent is, and the market/category where products could be developed using the claims.

Okay.... there are a few more terms for you to ponder. We'll pick this up on the next blog when we can spend a little time talking about the actual ways to convert a patent to money.

Mark Reyland  

Tuesday, September 16

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 1

You did it! .... a very long time, much discussion, and thousands of dollars later you got a patent.  Congratulations, you are now a patent holder, one of 47% of applicants that actually received their patents after spending all that time and money.

So what now?
Well, if you are like most inventors you will talk about it to anyone you know until people find graceful ways to change the subject, often while you are still in mid sentence.  Or, there are those who will try to commercialize it and end up sinking even more money into the bottomless pit of possibility.  

What you probably won't do with this expensive piece of parchment is make any money from it. You see, although there are several ways to monetize a patent, most inventors focus on those that appear to be the most lucrative but also the hardest to achieve - selling a product.
Before we explore that crazy mess, let's take a quick moment to define some terms so we're all on the same page. Terms every patent holder should know before they even apply for the world's most expensive wallpaper.

CLAIMS: Not a claim against something, but a claim for something. You see, a patent is nothing without its claims. In fact, the words "I Claim..." should be required in the title of every patent instrument, if nothing more than a reminder of the reason you spent all that money in the first place.
In your patent you are claiming you can do something that has never been done before.  Pretty bold of you actually, but hey, if it's true own it. 

Remember - These are claims NOT products. In fact, in the world of patents, these claims have NOTHING to do with products. So get your head on straight and understand the difference in owning a patent and owning a product - they are not always inclusive.
CLAIM STRENGTH: While this term is self explanatory, its implications are anything but.  When we talk about claim strength in general we refer to the ability to defend the claim against infringers. While this a key component of the patent value, it leaves unaddressed the bigger picture issue with patent valuation and commercialization of the patent - the issue of claim achievability.

Much to the dismay of our founding fathers, who I'm sure are rolling in their graves as they witness the bastardization of their noble intent. The US patent system under its current form DOES NOT require the claim to actually be achievable.  There - I said it. We patent ideas, not necessarily inventions. We didn't always do that but we do now.
What this means to your claim strength is another layer of scrutiny when it comes to figuring out if the patent has any value.  The claim is strong because it's well written,  because it's relevant to some form of commercialization, and in today's world, because you can actually do it not just theorize it.  

Okay...that's enough for today... I'm tired.  In the next part of this series on what to do with that patent you just sold your dog for, we'll define a few more key terms and then talk about your options for turning that paper into money.

Mark Reyland

Monday, September 15

Hey....there are TWO sell sheets?

Many inventors ask this question - what is a Sell Sheet?


Let me answer it for you, it’s a sheet that lists the benefits and sales information about a product, while giving the reader a graphic representation of what the product looks like.

But we can’t stop there – in fact there are two types of “buyers” in the product industry, and that means there should be two types of sell sheets – and there are.

The first sell sheet we’ll talk about is one for a license product. That is, the sheet is designed to show a basic product concept and function. These sell sheets are very basic and normally contain a few core things
.

1. A rendered graphic image of the product
2. The problem/solution statement
3. A short list of basic consumer benefits
4. The status of any intellectual protection on the product (without dates)
5. The innovator/inventor’s contact information 
Because the formula of a product licensing sell sheet is so basic, and it’s not designed to confer a lot of specific information, most inventors do them themselves, or have them done by a graphics person. Either way, it’s important that you don’t go overboard and that you depict the problem, the product and the benefits accurately and concisely.
The second type of product sell sheet is a lot more complex. Because this sell sheet is designed for a retail buyer and that means you already have the product made and ready for distribution.
When you are contacting a retailer trying to get an order they need very specific information.  In fact, the sell sheet is really a secondary conversation between you and that person, taking place after you have hung up the phone or left the building.
A good buyer’s sell sheet takes all the variables off the table by presenting the information they need for decision making; in a way you want it presented to look best for that product. It reaffirms what you told them, documents what you told them, and passes on what you told them to others down the line who may have read the sell sheet but did not get the chance to talk with you directly.
Unlike a licensing sell sheet that can be any configuration, a Retail Sell Sheet has a formula – It’s always a double sided glossy standard size sheet, and the information is presented in a very specific way.
The front side of the sell sheet is pretty basic. It contains what we call a “glamour shot” (a central image of the product) a short paragraph about the problem/solution statement. “The _____ is designed to help the consumer overcome a problem doing this…..”  - And then in bullet form, the top 5 uses for the product.
The back side on the other hand is a little more complicated. It contains what we sometimes call the “retail shot”. This image is of your product on a store shelf presented in a way that plants the image in the buyers mind to help them visualize your product in their stores.
Then it’s down to business – the back side of a buyers sell sheet is about presenting them the information that they will need to understand how they can fit the product into their lineup. It should include images of the different package and display options along with this list of information important to the buyer.
1.    Order lead time and fulfillment information
2.    Piece size, colors, packaging and weight
3.    The MSRP (Based on research not a guess)
4.    Product availability date
5.    Display options
6.    Basic freight information
7.    Minimum order information
8.    Number of units in a Sub Pack, a Master Pack, and Pallet
9.    Contact information including any web site you have set up for the product, your  name, address, phone number, and alternate number

It should NOT however, contain any information about wholesale pricing.
As you can see there are some major differences in the terms inventor soften use to describe “Sell Sheets”. In fact, the wrong type of sell sheet to the wrong company can make you look not only unprofessional, but greatly decrease your chances of getting any kind of deal.
Mark Reyland

Friday, September 12

10 easy steps to Licensing a product

I swore I would never do this...at least not like this, but the demand has been overwhelming to lay out a set of steps that outline the product licensing path.

The reason of course I didn't want to do it was because it normally takes a significant amount of discussion to properly explain these steps. Necessary discussion, because just knowing the steps themselves is only half the battle - you must also know how to use them and why they are significant to your success.
 
These are the steps you take to license an "idea" or a "Product" to a third party company.

It's not scientific, but rather a very practical set of steps that when used correctly will result in success more often than failure.

STEP 1 … Find a good solution to a big problem - You need to start by understanding the demand for your solution.  You are providing a fix to my problem and I'm willing to give you money for it. But I alone can't support the market so it needs to have literally millions of people with the same problem.
STEP 2 … Understand the core function of your product/idea- Products are wrappers for functions simple as that.  Understand the core function of your product and you will unchain yourself from the paradigms you have of what the "product" looks like - A water bottle is a water bottle. But functionally so is a 50 gallon drum. The function is the containment of mass (not fluid) and the orderly movement of that mass. Now apply that standard to design and all of a sudden you have a water bottle the world has never seen before.

STEP 3 … Make sure you know what makes a product/idea successful - You have to do your homework. If you want to be successful, if you want to be a professional, you need to earn it. That means reading everything you can get about things like Use cycle, workarounds, and the benefit detriment scale of a product.  I assure you they are all here on this blog along with many other things you need.  
STEP 4 … Conduct a Market Audit to see if the world needs another one -  A market audit is finding every functionally equivalent item currently being sold and matrixing them out into a giant spreadsheet. Size, price, function, store, color.... all go into a market audit.

STEP 5 … Protect the product/idea the best you can - Look to see if it's already been protected by someone else so you don't infringe on them. But then use an NDA or a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) as a first step in developing a baseline of protection.  There is no need to spend a lot of money here - let the company you license to spend their money on expensive patents.
STEP 6 … Produce a quick manufacturer sell sheet - Again, here on the blog (use the search bar on the upper left) you will find all the information you need to develop a low cost manufacturers sell sheet. Not a retailer's sell sheet you don't need that - keep it simple and give them the information they are looking for.

STEP 7 … Go shopping for contacts - That's right, go shopping. Go to every store that carries a category for your product and flip over the packaging. On the back will be either the manufacturer or the distributor. Take a picture with your phone or simply write it down.
STEP 8 … Respectfully and Professionally contact manufacturers - Now that you are home from the store start calling the contacts you harvested.  BE RESPECTFUL.  Ask them what thier process is for submissions and if they will sign an NDA. If they say no, thank them for their time and hang up. DO NOT get angry and act like a jerk. It hurts all of us.

If they say yes, follow what they tell you. These processes are there for a reason so respect them.
STEP 9 … Understand and Sign a license contract - If you follow these steps eventually you will get a license deal. It may not be on your first try. Like every process you have to get good at it, but eventually it will happen. When it does, understand the deal. Take your offer to someone who knows what to do and ask them for advice. Use a CONTRACT attorney (not a patent lawyer) in all deals to ensure you are properly represented.  Over time you will learn what needs to be in the contract and the legal end will be reduced to more of a review.

STEP 10 … REPEAT STEPS 1- 9 Over and over again - I can't stress this enough. THIS IS A PROCESS you have to own it and make it your process. That means tweaking it and repeating it over and over until it becomes second nature.
So you wanted to know the big secret to successfully licensing a product to a manufacturer? Well now you know. It's not complicated, it's not expensive, it's not even that much work actually. That is, after you get good at it.

Mark Reyland

Thursday, September 11

A very cool little printer....

Invention Awards: A Magic Wand For Printing

A mini inkjet prints on any flat surface with a wave of the hand
By Rena Marie Pacella


In 2000, one of Europe’s largest rubber-stamp companies approached Alex Breton, an engineer from Stockholm, Sweden, for product ideas. Instead of dreaming up a new stamp, he designed the PrintBrush, an 8.8-ounce handheld gadget that uses inkjets, computer-mouse-like optics and navigation software to print uploaded images and text on any flat surface, including paper, plastic, wood and even fabric.

Conventional printers move paper through the machine in large part because it’s the only way to accurately track the position of the page relative to the print head. With such constraints, Breton realized, a printer could never be narrower than its paper—unless the inkjets had an entirely new way to navigate across the page.

That’s the allure of the PrintBrush. The device operates more like a computer mouse than a printer. Laser sensors, originally developed by Philips, track the printer’s movement and pinpoint its position. The sensors continuously emit infrared laser beams toward the paper’s surface as the user moves the device over it. They then measure the scattering of the reflected beams, which—along with the beams’ power fluctuations—determines the device’s velocity and direction of motion. Even small amounts of reflected laser light are enough to track motion, so the lasers work on almost any type of surface.

It took less than two years to develop the first prototype but nearly a decade more to get it right. With each new version, Breton and the team of optics engineers and other experts he recruited refined the navigation system, most recently replacing LED-based sensors with the lasers. They also added color, which required writing a set of algorithms to quickly formulate the ink combinations needed to produce the appearance of 16 million different shades.

By early next year, a PrintBrush with a built-in camera for instant photo printing will hit the market and officially claim the title of world’s smallest printer. Breton will release an even smaller model, the A4, shortly thereafter.

Read more about this and other winners of the Invention Awards at http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2011-05/2011-popsci-invention-awards
Mark Reyland

Wednesday, September 10

We all get older...

This has absolutely nothing to do with inventing, nothing to do with products, and certainly nothing to do with patents.... but who cares....it's pretty funny.

I just hope it doesn't stay in my head all day




Mark Reyland



Tuesday, September 9

No kidding....

Alton Brown has become best known as the host of the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" program. But he's also a damn fine cook with his own show, "Good Eats."With that show he became synonymous with flawless technique and no nonsense cooking.
 
He is also a champion against the kitchen villain known as the "unitasker" — those gadgets that only do one thing and take up too much space in the one room in the house where organization is key. "
I have seen enough kitchens in my time — professional or otherwise — to know not only a unitasker when I see one, but a useless gadget as well. They have no business being in your kitchen" Says Alton.  
Here are three of them that clearly fit in the “unitasker” category:
You don't need this. You need a good blender. A good blender can help you create everything from soups and sauces to margaritas and milkshakes. There are many good blenders on the market, but most pros swear by VitaMix or BlendTec. Be prepared to spend around $500 for either one. That's right. $500. But it's the last blender you'll ever buy. Anyone who has ever struggled with a stubborn smoothie or a leaky blender will immediately appreciate the quality of these machines.
This unholy abomination is a symbol of what's sometimes wrong with America: Why do something right when you can do it quick and poorly?
First, eggs are too delicate for the microwave. Second, there are a few skills I believe everyone should master. How to make a proper omelet is one of those things. With a little butter, a couple eggs and some fresh herbs (thyme is nice, so are chives) you can make an omelet in about two minutes that will put most restaurants to shame. If you want to know how, ask the master - Jacque Pepin has many books. My favorite is "Essential Pepin." Use the money you save not buying the things on this list to buy his cookbook.
There is only one slicer you will ever need. It's called a chef's knife.
Find one just big enough to be comfortable in your hands, take good care of it, and then throw away every banana, tomato, egg or whatever else slicer you have rattling around your kitchen junk drawer. Good chefs will tell you that having at least one good knife — and keeping it sharp and clean — will make you a better cook almost instantly.
So you have an invention...is it a single use, take up space, collect dust kind of product invention like these?
Mark Reyland