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.