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

I get asked all the time why companies are reluctant to look at ideas from Inventors unless it is through a broker/agent or an Inventor based company? The answer is simple. They use these outside resources because they are afraid of the small percentage of Inventors that are nutcases and have unrealistic expectations.

Utilizing the internet and social media it isn’t hard for a disgruntled Inventor that has been told his baby is ugly and feels the company is against them or they are out to save the Inventor community from something they perceive as a problem can make false accusations rather quickly. This leaves the company with a PR issue of trying to disprove accusations from a nutcase who doesn’t want to accept the truth.

Let’s take this situation for example. Company X gets a product submission from the Inventor for a new type of Kitchen utensil. The Inventor does not have a working prototype, does not have a patent, but does have a PPA filed. Company X reviews the idea, thanks the Inventor for the submission, but states they are passing on his idea due to a similar project ongoing in-house.

Three months later the Inventor is in Wal-Mart and sees a kitchen utensil very close in function to what he sent Company X and sees that this product is from Company X. The Inventors first reaction is that Company X stole his idea and he is going to make them pay for screwing him over. The Inventor gets on Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, Twitter, Inventor blogs, Inventor forums and even starts their own blog all blasting Company X and accusing them of stealing his idea. The Inventor sends out nasty emails with accusations of the company stealing his idea to the company’s board of directors, Company X’s sponsors, local newspapers, radio and TV.

The Inventor fails to mention Company X stated they were already working on something similar in-house. He also fails to mention that when he looked at the packaging for the supposedly stolen utensil idea it had a patent number. The Inventor doesn’t have a clue what it would have taken to accomplish everything he is accusing them of doing. But that doesn’t stop him from his vendetta.

So, let’s break that down. Company X would have had to :

Review his idea and decide it was marketable and they wanted to move forward with it and then make the following moves.
1. Decide they weren’t going to pay him a royalty for it and that risking a lawsuit and bad press was worth the risk.

2. Get their design group working on the products design and decide whether they were going to make a line of these or just a single unit.

3. Get their legal group filing a design or utility patent depending on what they thought they could get and protected them the best.

4. Get samples made and tested ( most likely using an overseas factory in China)

5. Get quotes for material costing

6. Get quotes on the molds needed to produce the product.

7. Approve the molds and have them made.

8. Decide on styles, colors, materials used

9. Develop packaging for the product

10. Get the samples back from the factory in China and decide if the samples are ready for production run or if more samples and redesign was needed to have them market ready.

11. Get the final product to buyers for the big chains and get purchase orders from the chains.

12. Make sure the product has SKU numbers associated with it

13. Get different packaging made and approved for the different chains that have agreed to carry it. (if it is sold as a private label item in one chain the packaging has to conform to their labeling setup)

14. Send the orders to the factory in China so they can begin making them.

15. Get the patent you filed for issued and get the patent number so it can be printed on the packaging or imprinted in the mold so it shows up on the product. (getting an issued patent takes over a year if it is moving fast. Normally two years or more is normal due to the backlog they have at the patent office)

16. The product is made and put into shipping containers and transported to the port for loading on boats.

17. The boat trip and getting the product through customs can take two weeks to a month.

18. It has now gone to the Company X’s distribution center to be shipped out to the stores that ordered it.

19. The company that ordered the product in turn has to ship it out through their distribution center to their stores.

20. The stores receiving it have to unload the trucks and put the stock on the shelves.

21. You the consumer can now buy the product.

So, the disgruntled Inventor making the accusation that Company X stole their idea is saying that from the time they first sent their idea to Company X they were able to review the idea, decide to steal it and get all of the above done in 3 months’ time? Does that sound feasible to you?

Yet because the Inventor has no idea what it takes to get a product to market in his mind all of this was done specifically to rip him off. Which justifies him going all over the internet bashing Company X.? If you were Company X would you want to open yourself up to all of this?

This is why I have always stressed for Inventors to approach companies in a professional manner and to have realistic expectations. It only takes a couple of nutcases to ruin it for the rest of the Inventor community. It is in the Inventor communities’ best interest to try and educate everyone how the system works and what it actually takes to get a product to market. And those with unrealistic expectations giving out tainted advice or making unfounded accusations need to be corrected so they don’t ruin it for the rest of us causing more companies to shy away from outside innovation.

Invention posting sites are gaining popularity, but do you gain any benefit from them? In my opinion these sites feed off of the Inventor’s hopes of getting discovered by a major player in their particular target market and making millions.
The web is flooded with these websites all claiming to be the place every Inventor should list their idea/product to get noticed, receive funding, and make sales. They say list with us for free or they charge a monthly fee and companies and investors will find your product. Some offer paid services to build your presentation page, make a pamphlet, sell sheet or other material.

Some make the pitch saying they are an international marketplace, as if they have this special connection no one else has. There is nothing special to being international anymore. You get international exposure just by being on the internet. I get contacted by people all across the world that find my site using or some other search engine. I didn’t do anything special that makes me stand out over the next website or buy a spot on Google so that I show up first in a web search.

Ask yourself this, do you really think that Stanley, Black and Decker, Kraft, Mattel, Craftsman, Rubbermaid, and all the other mainstream companies spend their time surfing these idea posting sites? I put in the search topic on Bing “invention Buyers” my results were 1-10 of 748,000 results. I know a number of them are repeats of the same companies so lets say you only have actually 748 of those as the correct number of sites worldwide offering these services. Do you think any business like Black and Decker has the resources or cares to have their staff look through 748 websites for a new product they can sell? Why should they even bother when they have Inventors contacting them daily wanting them to review their ideas? The answer is they don’t.

I looked at one of these companies website and they had 18 categories of products you can look through. If they have a minimum of 10 ideas/products listed per category you have 180 products to review for just this one website. Now multiply that by the 748 companies offering this type of service and you get 134,640 products to review. So, how would a toy company find you out of this large pool of ideas/products that cover such a wide variety of markets?

Plus, that number will not stay static since you are adding new products as more Inventors join these sites. So, again I ask does any one company have the resources or need to review these products, even monthly? Your chances of getting picked up from one of these sites are small at best. You would be better served pushing your product yourself and targeting the companies you want to go after. Lets not forget that Inventors will post their unprotected on these sites not realizing they are doing public disclosure.

I have my own website that I include in my emails to companies or can tell them when talking with a company. I can direct them to it easily and don’t have to worry about them sifting through other websites and advertisements.

If you don’t have the ability to make your own sell sheets using PowerPoint, Photoshop or some other computer program you may need to hire someone.  Look at your local college or high school for a student in the graphic arts department. These are people you can hire for a fraction of the cost of going to a design firm or invention Submission Company. If you do decide to hire someone to do your sell sheets first make sure you have them sign a nondisclosure and a work for hire contract. This keeps you the sole owner of the product.

Sell sheets are basically your calling card to the company. It describes your idea in a short and concise manner. You are using this to get the company interested. The best way to describe it is think about the blurb you see on the back of a novel. It gives you an overview of the 300 pages in the book. Based on this blurb the Writer is hoping you will be interested enough to purchase the book. Go to a book store and look at the back of a number of books to get an idea of what you need to do. You need to keep your sell sheet to 2 pages or less any more than that and you are wasting the reviewer’s time.  If I told you that you can read a pamphlet or a 300 page novel to understand my products benefits which would you choose? I see Inventors have a small phone book and they can’t understand why they get their presentation back unopened or can’t understand why they got a No. When it comes to sell sheets less is more.

I am writing this in the hopes that it will make Inventors stop and examine what they are doing and if it is really helping or hurting them. Recently I was contacted by an Inventor and asked to review their product. I said I would after we signed a nondisclosure first. They didn’t want to bother with a nondisclosure because that would delay them sending me their material for review by a couple of hours, since they were going to scan it in and email it back. I insisted on the nondisclosure or I would not proceed further. They agreed and the nondisclosure was signed and returned.

They sent me some material and a video of their product. The material was concise and gave you the information needed without a lot of fluff. The video was 1 minute 7 seconds long and gave a great demonstration of the product. After reviewing the written material and seeing the video I was very impressed with their product and already had several places in mind to contact. Everything about this product is a winner and had a high chance of success, (I am not trying to be mean here)… if you did not involve the Inventor.

When I contacted them via phone I was looking forward to working with this person and seeing them succeed. I told them I thought their product was sound and had a great chance of success. This is where things went downhill quickly. When I asked what they were expecting out of a licensing deal with a company red flags started shooting up immediately. They wanted an advance that was 10 times what is even realistic. They wanted full control over the product and a royalty percentage that even the most seasoned Inventor couldn’t get.

I tried explaining how the industry really works and what they could realistically expect and that was met with, “I understand, but this is what I want.” I again tried to explain that unless you were making and selling this product yourself no company licensing your product will meet these demands. They insisted it had to be those terms or it just wasn’t going to work for them.
I conceded and told them we were at a fork in the road and they needed to follow their own path and I wished them success with that path. I even gave them a couple of companies to try.

Five weeks later I get a phone call from this Inventor and they are angry at me. I ask why. They stated that the first company I gave them reviewed the idea loved it and wanted to move forward. This confused me since getting licensing deal should be a good thing…right?

They said they received a licensing agreement that stated the same percentages I had told themwere standard in the industry and offered no advance. They said they FIXED the interested companies licensing agreement to what they wanted and sent it back to them. Then was surprised when the company contacted them saying they were no longer interested in the product and wished them success elsewhere.
The Inventor wanted to know if I had called the company ahead of them and told the company to only offer them the deal they did? (regardless of what people think I do not have that kind of power).
This Inventor wanted to know if the other companies I gave them to try would make that same kind of offer? I told them if they liked the product it would probably be in that same area. The Inventor said “Then why did you give me these companies?” (which made me ask the same question. Why did I give them any company to try?)
This Inventor has the best and worst of two worlds. They have a product companies would be interested in and a unrealistic expection of their products value.
How do you get this person to change that perception and except reality or is this a lost cause?