Common Sense Inventing - Educational articles to help Inventors make informed decisions

Consider this post from a disgruntled Inventor he sent to a invention company that prompted me to write the article below.
“You claim you don’t steal people’s ideas? I did research my idea and it had NEVER been done before I submitted it to you lying thieves! No sooner
did my idea stall in the selection process, than the FBI announces their new app for missing children. THAT WAS MY IDEA!!! I submitted that. It
was almost word for word my idea, about Amber alerts, and locating missing children, posting alerts on local computers, law enforcement notification, etc…almost WORD FOR WORD!!! You stole my idea and you can deny it all you want. I wouldn’t have been so mad if it showed up a few years later,or even a year later, but not even 3 months after I submitted it to you, all of the sudden, the FBI suddenly has a new app for missing children!!! Coincidence? I dont’ think so! You stole my idea and you sold it. I hope you choke! You lying thieving good for nothing criminal! It will come back on you. Mark my words, Karma is a _itch and she takes prisoners. I hope you get what you have coming to you, because you are nothing but a liar. I want my money back that I PAID you to steal my idea! Give me back that $25! That’s the
least you can do, you sniveling thief!!”

My article

Everyone likes to think they are the only person on the planet with their million dollar idea, but the reality is that may not be true. In fact, there could be hundreds of people thinking along the same lines as you are right now. To put things into perspective, consider how many times you have walked into a store or watched TV and seen a similar idea you had months or years ago now on the market.
Did that person, whom you have never met, creep into your house while you were asleep and using alien technology pull it from your mind? No. Is it possible that your trusted friend shared your idea? Likely not. Rather, it is very possible that someone had the same idea you did, and actually did something with it.

Inventors and entrepreneurs need to realize that if you have an idea, it is almost a certainty someone else has had or is having that same idea. The question is which one of you is going to do something with it? Before you get started, you should do everything you can for free to confirm that someone else hasn’t already acted on the same idea and it isn’t already on the market. Many Inventors spend money on patent searches before they even make an attempt to find what is already out there. Market validation and patent research are simple ways to help determine whether or not an idea is unique and worth pursuing, you can do a lot of this research without spending any money just your time.

First, use a search engine to look for similar products. Search for different variations of the product title, function and benefit to ensure you’re considering not only products that look the same, but also fulfill the same need. Do image searches. Go to stores that you feel would carry this type of product and see what is out there. In many cases it can help you see if your idea is unique and marketable and can spark different ideas you may not have considered.

Next, conduct a patent search yourself. Google Patents is a search engine that indexes all patents and patent applications from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) dating back to 1790. Google Patents can give insight as to what already exists in the space and what about your idea, if any, is patentable. Check out the Claims section of any patent you find similar to help you see if your idea has already been claimed in a patent even if it has not been utilized in a product. Many Inventors don’t realize you don’t have to use everything in your issued patent to make a marketable product.

These simple tasks can help confirm whether or not someone else has had the same great idea or if there is even a need in the market. Conducting research early on in this process can help you save time and money in the long run.
Ultimately, a conceptual idea locked inside your head has no value. As Thomas Edison once said, “the value of an Idea lies in the using in it,” and I couldn’t agree more. If you have an idea, do your research for free first. Stop spending money making everyone else rich on things you can do yourself.

Wanted to make a couple of points about the use of magnets, Velcro and suction cups in your ideas. As a rule, magnet’s run the cost of goods up. And I know your first comment will be how can they be expensive, I see them in all sorts of products. It all comes down to the product, its profit margin and the return on investment. There is no problem using magnets if it is the best fit and not just a quick fix. Also, if you choose to work with magnets do your research to find the right type of magnets that make sense for your application.
Velcro is a very versatile product and great to use in many applications. But you need to think past your use of it and what happens after the purchase. How many times have you put a piece of clothing in the washer or dryer that contains Velcro and seen it stuck to your favorite shirt or skirt? Or it catches all the lint in the dryer and you must clean it out for it to work right again. You have the same issue with Velcro catching outdoor debris on the straps of your shoes. Velcro would be fantastic to hold turkey legs together for cooking but how will it hold up in the hot oven or microwave oven?
Another material that is used a lot in ideas, but not always effective is suction cups. Yes, they are cheap, but they don’t stick to every surface. And they do not hold up well with weight loads that exceed the object they are connected too. Think about how you are attaching the suction cup to the object. If you look at most items that have suction cups they may have a small piece of metal running through the tip that is connected to the object, be inserted into a groove or slot and many other methods.
A suction cup sitting flat on your desk or table has a better holding strength than a suction cup adhered to a mirror in your steamy bathroom as you take a shower. Which is why the device using a suction holding a dry towel in your garage can do a better job than the one in your bathroom holding a wet towel. It comes down to application and environment.
When choosing a material for your idea always try and consider where it will be used the most. Don’t just use a material because it is cheaper; make sure it is effective and proper for the workload you plan on using it. Remember just because it works doesn’t mean it is the best choice of materials. So, when you rush to use magnets, Velcro or suctions cups in your ideas I would challenge you to also include alternatives that could do the same function, so you have a back-up solution in case your first choice is cost prohibitive or impractical.

Many Inventors trying to bring their product ideas to market are totally crushed by rejection. So, I thought I would provide a list of some of the reasons you could have gotten rejected. It does not cover every reason you could get rejected, but hopefully it will give you something to think about.

You need to realize that inventing is fundamentally a numbers game! Yes, you still need to have a good idea, but you will find that no matter how good an idea you may think it is you can still get rejected. Many marketable ideas are rejected all the time. Even if it does not make sense to you that they would reject an idea that they agree would be profitable. Here are some common reasons why even marketable ideas are rejected.

1. The company may already have a full line of products and not wanting to add more.

2. The product is outside their target market.

3. You sent your submission to the wrong person in the company – don’t assume they’ll automatically send it to the right one.

4. You sent the idea unsolicited without contacting the company first to find out their submission policy, and they rejected it solely on that basis.

5. You did not have proper contact information on your submission. (That is one of the highest mistakes Inventors make. The company will not bother to track you down.)

6. They have too many similar products and that market is flooded enough.

7. Your idea appeals to a very small niche market and they want mass market items.

8. The cost to manufacture versus the return on investment is too high.

9. Your sales sheet did not WOW them and lacked consumer benefits information or was overloaded with too much information to sort through.

10. Your product has already been patented by someone else and they don’t want to see if they can go around it or risk infringement issues.

11. Your product or idea isn’t better than what is already on the market. This tells them you did not research your idea very well and don’t have a clue who your competition is in the market.

12. You sent a product that is exactly like their current product and that current product is a marginal seller. So yours will not fare any better.

13. Your idea is outdated or is on the downswing compared to what is coming out the following year.

14. They already have a better solution than yours in the works for release that coming year. (This is also where Inventors may scream the company stole their idea even when the company has already invested in molds, engineering, samples, etc prior to the Inventor contacting the company about their idea. This happens a lot. Inventors forget that they are not the only ones inventing.)

15. They have already received a similar idea from another Inventor and are in negotiations with that Inventor.

16. You have posted your idea unprotected online in one of those invention posting sites where others vote on your product to see if there is interest. Your public disclosure makes the company concerned whether any patent protection would be allowed and turns it down based on that issue.

17. You posted your unprotected idea and video of the working prototype on YouTube and have a significant number of hits. This again raises the concern whether any patent would be possible due to your public disclosure.

18. You stated that you have an issued patent, but when they do a quick search on your patent they see that it has lapsed due to non-payment of fees and it has been lapsed significantly past the due date. Making the chances of it being reinstated unlikely.

19. You have a patent, but it was poorly written and does not cover the actual product. (This happens a lot)

20. You have a design patent and designing around your patent is a simple task, which means they can expect very little protection in the marketplace.

21. Sometimes the company you have approached just doesn’t look at outside ideas and does not publicize that fact. So you get a rejection letter, but it doesn’t explain they just don’t look outside the company.

22. You sent them your product but they have already decided on their line for that year or the following year and are not open to taking on anything else at that time.

23. They only consider items with a sales history they can review and your item has never been in production or sold stores or online. So they do not want to take the risk of being the first company to market it.

24. You decided you had nothing to lose and cussed out the Reviewer for being to dumb to understand a million dollar idea when it is right in front of them. (This happened recently. Not a good move)

25. You sent your idea to a company who came back showing interest. In order to try and get a better deal you lied to the company saying you had multiple offers on the table and you wanted them to make a better offer or you would go to one of the other companies. They said they could not go higher so you would be better off going with one of the other companies. Unfortunately since there were no other companies you lost the deal.

26. You tell the company their current product is stupid, yours is better and they should pull theirs off the market and replace it with yours if they are smart. (Had an inventor do that and was surprised when they turned him down)

27. You send your ideas to a toy company the week before ToyFair in New York, don’t hear anything for a week and decide they are ignoring you and you leave several unprofessional comments on their answering machine, not realizing they have been out of town for a week at the convention and busy.

28. The company feels they can not generate enough sales to warrant the expense of getting the item to market.

29. The factory being used in China does not pass quality control inspection by the retail chain representative. Happens more than you think as they sometimes try and use substandard materials or cut corners to lower their cost and the product suffers for it.

30. If the company considering licensing the idea puts it in front of Buyers and gets weak feedback indicating orders would be small or nonexistent they will most likely pass on it.

31. If your product/idea is seasonal and they are in the middle of that season’s run they may not want to see it until later that year. Example, you don’t send them a Halloween idea two weeks before Halloween. In most cases they are busy dealing with that season and have already picked what they plan on selling that season.

As I stated above these are just a few of the reasons you can have your idea/product rejected by a company. Really take the time to do your research and understand your market, your place in that market and do your part to make yourself as marketable as possible.


PPA’s can be a great tool when used properly, but in a large number of cases the Inventor does not get the full use of the PPA. Why? Because a large majority of Inventors rush to file a PPA without looking at the biggest disadvantage a PPA has, which is time. You have 12 months from the time you file before it expires. (Disclaimer: I am not a patent lawyer so this is not legal advice, just my opinion).

Talking with numerous Inventors over the past 17 years one of the biggest pitfalls Inventors hit was they ran out of time on the PPA and now have to make a decision on filing a Utility patent and don’t have the funds to proceed. Or they decided to refile the PPA and lose the filing date as well as there can be issues with the expired PPA being prior art.
Inventors get an idea and are reluctant to wait to file the PPA for a variety of reasons. Some reasons such as; the fear someone will steal the idea, someone will file before they do, think they will lose millions if they don’t, get pressured by an invention submission company making them feel if they don’t file today all could be lost, friends and family tell the Inventor this is the best idea they have ever seen and everyone will buy one once they get it to market.

These reasons above and others prompt the Inventor to skip a crucial couple of steps such as; doing research to see what is already out there, competition on the market, does their idea answer the Better Than question, is it already patented. Then comes the inevitable question once they have filed the PPA “ What do I do next?”

Once they have filed the PPA the clock is ticking. They have not considered do they want to build a business around the idea or license it to a company. If they do decide to build a business around the idea some realize that they are not ready to build a business due to all the challenges that represents or they realize they don’t have the skill set to do this. Some that decide to license the idea to a company realize they don’t know the first thing about contacting companies, which companies to contact, what type deals they can expect, what questions to ask a company they approach with their idea.By the time some of these Inventors get an understanding of the direction they want to go whether that is building a business around it or licensing 5 to 6 months have gone by leaving them six months on their PPA to utilize.

If they decided to license the idea they are now learning that some companies can take a couple months to review, evaluate, test and respond back to the Inventor if they have interest. Others may ask for a sample which the Inventor may or may not have at the time and will lose more time having this built. They realize their idea needs to be refined due to the feedback they have gotten taking up more time. Contacting multiple companies at the same time can save some time. But if you have a day job keeping up with this can be challenging. These are just some of the issues the Inventor needed to consider before starting the time clock. Same goes for building a business around your idea and working a 40 hour job at the same time can be a challenge they had not considered.

Inventors need to do as much of the legwork, due diligence, research upfront before they file a PPA so they can utilize the entire 12 months and have a plan on what they will do if the PPA is about to expire and they still have not found a company to license it or are still working the bugs out of their product and building a business around it. And don’t forget figuring out any funding you will need along the way and when the PPA expires.
I am not saying you can’t make it work. I am saying the more prepared you are and have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses the better your chances and the more informed decisions you can make to help you find success.

Excerpt from the Ebook “Common Sense Inventing”

All to often I get contacted by Inventors that are paying a Public Relations firm, Media Specialist or some other company to try and generate buzz about their product to get it noticed. The problem is a number of these companies use the same outlets no matter what your product is. If you have a fishing product you don’t need to pay them to send out your flyer to a baby magazine.

One method these companies do is the shotgun approach where you throw everything you have in all directions and hope something sticks. They send out flyers to companies that are not addressed to a specific person in the company, just to the company’s general mail. Your chances of it getting to the right person are rare. Most just end up in the trash. But, the company you hired can say they sent it to company X and they are not lying. They just didn’t do the next step of getting you a contact within that company. They tell you it will be presented at this years trade show, which it is. They put your pamphlet at their booth so anyone walking by can see it. They don’t normally walk up to every potential company’s booth and hand them your pamphlet. But, they can honestly say you were represented at the Trade show. Hey, what do you expect for your money?

Now, lets look at what you can do for FREE and get results. You can get good free press by contacting your local newspaper, State paper, T.V. News station, and online blogs. They are all looking for stories to fill space. National Public Radio is a great place for interviews and they rerun them often to fill empty slots. I did a spot interview on NPR and they ran it for 7 months at different times of the day and week. If possible when doing interviews don’t mention specific dates unless you really have to. When you have no dates mentioned it is easier for them to rerun the spot because no one knows you did it months earlier.

I did an interview with seven years ago and am still getting emails from people who just saw it. Send samples of your product to various online Try It Before You Buy It type of venues. I sent my Pizza Scissors to an online kitchen product tester and got a great testimonial out of it for free

Contact your local cable network and find out if you have any local shows you can be on as a guest. Local shows are always looking for guests. Contact your Public Radio Station near you. They want on-air guests. The great thing with them is they rerun interviews a lot to fill air time. I did an interview with NPR that they ran every week for 5 months at various times of the day.

Contact your state paper for an interview in the Features section. Try submitting a Press Release to magazines that fit your target market. Let’s not forget all of the social media outlets like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, specific blogs that fit your product and a host of others that are all free venues to get your product exposure.

Your local T.V. station can be a great asset. Talk with them about using you as a local expert they can contact for a quote when they run stories on inventions or the topic of your product. If you have local small press newspapers that are free giveaways to the public see if they want an interview. Contact your small business group in your area for other exposure opportunities. Send products to national news shows that do spots like “Try it before you buy it” They are always needing material to fill the 24 hour coverage air time especially on slow news days.

Get t-shirts with your website and product on them. Send some to the national radio shows. John Boy and Billy is a nationally syndicated radio show that is popular in my area. I sent them two t-shirts. They talked about my website for 3 minutes on air. They have over 10 million listeners. I got 67,000 hits within 5 minutes of them mentioning me on the air. It cost me two t-shirts. Well worth the investment.

There are numerous ways to get exposure for free. You just have to be creative in your thinking. Use the same energy that helped you create your invention to get it noticed.

All the things I mentioned above are free. Most PR firms I have talked to start at about $2,000 and go up from there. Try the free things first. Who knows you may have a knack for PR and can do it yourself and save a lot of money.