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

Having had the opportunity to review a large amount of videos made by Inventors hoping to get a company interested in licensing their idea I wanted to give some advice Inventors may find helpful. Many Inventors have great ideas but allow distractions to hurt their chances of success. They don’t consider how they come across in a video presentation when your audiences focus is not on the actual product but the background you are in, the background sounds, your actions, what you are wearing or your language.

I have seen videos where the Inventor is explaining or demonstrating the product where they had dogs in the room barking as they were describing the product or kids running through the room screaming as they pass by their Mom who is trying to explain the product.

I have seen people do a great job explaining their product in a video but the T-Shirt they were wearing at the time had a number of highly vulgar words in big bold print on it. This is not something you can show to a prospective client looking for a children’s product. Have seen a Dad doing a video of his exercise product and yell off camera for the kids to “Shut the _ _ _ _ up!!!” and then calmly go right back to his presentation. Do you want to show that video to a prospective company for licensing?

Saw a video where the person was shooting it in their den area and all you could do was keep staring at the huge holes in the sheet rock where you could see into the next room and the Police Caution tape in the background. You wanted to know what the heck happened there.

Had another video where the person picked their nose while demonstrating a kitchen utensil. And another where in the background the Mother was helping her child on and off the toilet and wiping their butt as the Dad is demonstrating the product. Granted this is an everyday function when you have small kids, but should it be in your video promoting your product?

Some people like to use music as an overlay as they speak. This is fine unless it is a song with words that would make a sailor blush. Or the volume of the music overrides your talking. And you have to remember just because you like a particular style of music does not mean everyone does.

Superimposing large scrolling words across the video screen as you demonstrate the product may be a distraction especially if they are totally different than what you are saying at the time. The viewer may not know which to focus their attention on and miss an important point you are trying to make. Or the words are so large they can no longer see the product demonstration.

Having your video showing your product in action and seeing your product fail to perform as you described is not the time to look at the camera and say “I’m sure you guys can fix that problem”. Or filming your product so far away from the camera that it is hard to make out what is happening as you describe it.

Had one Inventor show himself in a video just talking about the product for 4 minutes and then at the end tell the viewer if they wanted to see the product in action they would need to do it in person and fly him and his wife to their location and pay for a hotel and all their expenses. This was on a product that had no patent, no PPA and a prototype he stated was in need of repairs.

Having a video that is 18 minutes long and the first 12 minutes are you talking about how you came up with the idea, the ones that didn’t work, how you used your cousins garage because your wife kept complaining about how much space your project took up in your garage are all things the viewer does not care to hear.

All any company wants to know is if the product will make them money. Make your presentation short, concise and to the point. You want it to grab their attention so they “GET” the idea and can see its market value. Inventing is a business, treat it like one.

Excerpt from the successful Ebook “Common Sense Inventing” at

There seems to be a myth out there that all you need is a patent for the riches to come pouring in like a river. The next myth is that once your patent issues doors will open and companies will be begging you to let them produce your product. Nothing could be further from the truth. All a patent proves is that no one else has been granted your specific patent claims.
I need to correct myself; once your patent is approved you will be contacted by companies. There will be companies wanting to send you your approved patent on a plaque, coffee mug, mouse pad, t-shirt, etc, for a fee. Then another group of companies will want you to purchase their services to get your patented idea to market. No matter what your idea is some of these companies will claim that it WILL get to market. Have you noticed all of these companies are getting you to do what?…….spend more of your money?

In the real world a patent does not automatically mean you will get a licensing deal or have success manufacturing it yourself and make millions. Less than 3% of patented inventions make it to market, so your chances are high you will be in that 97%. The way to minimize your chance of failure is through proper research prior to attempting to get a patent. You may even determine that you don’t need a patent due to the size of your market or the length of time your product will be on the market.
An example would be if your product dealt with a certain event such as the 2016 Olympics. Once the 2016 Olympics are done for that time period would there still be the same high demand you had prior to or during the event? The answer is…. No. So, why spend thousands on a patent that will only be useful for a year or two? The patent you are ready to spend thousands on may not even be approved before the event is over.

You also have to consider that even though your idea is patentable is it an idea that the general public would purchase in mass. Let’s say you have developed a device that can change the texture of a toilet seat from slick to rough with the touch of a remote. While this is a neat effect how many people are going to remove their current toilet seat to purchase yours? You can’t assume that if there are 100 million toilet seats in the U.S. all 100 million of them will purchase your product. If you make that assumption you will be sorely disappointed and stuck with a huge amount of inventory.

Now, let’s imagine you have a device that will fit any model car, is less than $20 to purchase and allows the consumer to get 100 MPG and they can install it themselves in a couple of minutes with basic tools. This would be worth the time and financial expense to get it patented. You could also assume that the percentage of customers to buy your product would be higher due to the return on their investment for the consumer. You are saving them money on a reoccurring weekly expense which would prompt their purchase.

Many Inventors allow their emotions to get involved when they come up with their potential million ideas and forget that inventing is just like any other business. You need to make sound choices based on fact, not fantasy. Just because you want a product to sell does not make it happen. It has to be something the public wants, solves a problem, saves them time, makes something that is normally labor intensive easy, is enjoyable to the consumer or they have the perceived notion that it is something they have to have because everyone else has one. The more of these requirements you can match up the higher your chances of it being a success.

Stop throwing your hard earned money away. Do as much research as possible first and look at your idea as a consumer, not the Inventor before proceeding. Make sure you understand your target market, know your competitors product and know why yours is better. Because if your product isn’t better you are wasting your money, your time and need to stop before you even get started.

Go to any forum involving Inventors seeking help and you will see plenty of people/companies offering to help by selling Inventors services. Everyone is quick to tell you that you need to do patent searches, make a prototype, do design work, etc. What you don’t see is these people posting their success rate getting the Inventors product on the market and the Inventor making more money than they paid for all those services. The main reason for that in my opinion is because the number is very low.
What you do see is they only offer to speak to most Inventors offline. Why can’t they tell more of what they have to offer in front of the rest of the people on the forum? That should be a red flag and make you suspicious of what they have to hide. And do they push the hard sell when they have you alone? Don’t allow companies to pressure you into thinking this is your only option and you have to take the offer today or it might not be available in the future. That is just part of the hard sell. If their service is that great it should still be great if you decide to wait a couple of months to see if you REALLY need their service.

First let me say I have nothing against Davison as a company, they seem to deliver the services you ask them to provide. I am using their own posted information to prove a point. Plus they are one of the few I could find that post their information. Go to their webpage and you will find the below information. Read it carefully and pay attention to the last couple of sentences and look at the percentage rate of success they achieve.
They state “The number of consumers who obtained a written license with a company that is not affiliated with Davison is one hundred seventy eight (178). The total number of consumers in the last five years who made more money in royalties than they paid, in total, under any and all agreements with Davison, is six (6). The percentage of Davison’s income that came from royalties paid on licenses of consumers’ products is .001%.” I applaud them for posting their actual numbers when a lot of other companies don’t. The truth is, even with these facts posted I doubt most Inventors will even take the time to read it.
As I have said before, everyone is happy to help you with some form of service you pay for. What the Inventor has to do is make sure it is a service you REALLY need. Don’t let your emotion override your common sense and just blindly start throwing money at it because you love your idea.

To many Inventors get caught up in the trap of well I have already sunk X amount of dollars into the idea I can’t stop now. That in my opinion is exactly what the people selling you services count on to keep you coming back for more services.
Think about it. If you come to a company and say I want you to do a patent search on exploding cereal they will be happy to do it. Because they know if they told you that your idea is not marketable and a waste of your time they know you will just go find another company to do the search, so why lose the money.

Same goes if you told a design firm to work you up a portfolio on this same product. They will be happy to do it because they are in the business of doing designs. They don’t care if it makes it to market. They are just delivering what you asked for. It is up to you what happens after you get the design drawings.

You could probably get a patent on it and spend thousands for the piece of paper saying you have a patent. The question then is what do you do next? Who is going to buy this? Is there even a market for it? Those are questions you could answer long before you spent any money. But in most cases the Inventor will not do the boring work of research first and goes right to spending money.
So who is to blame?

Licensing vs. Manufacturing

Which do you think is the better route for you as an inventor – licensing or manufacturing?
The answer is complex because it begs more questions.

You need to decide which route to take early in the process. To do this, you have to take an honest look at your idea and yourself. Do you have the ability, resources and business savvy to manufacture and build a company around your product? Or are you better suited to license it?

Building a business around a product reaps you a larger share of the profits, as well as greater control over sales and marketing strategies. But you’ll also have the lion’s share of the risk, including inventory expenses, personnel hiring, quality control, returns, late shipments, contract breaches, knockoffs, patent-infringement issues, long hours and a large monetary investment. And it all could end in financial ruin if your product doesn’t sell. Or it could be an enormous success beyond your dreams.

Another thing to ponder: Are you willing to work your current job while getting the business off the ground or quit your job and put it all on the line? Likewise, if you have investors, you’ll have to decide what equity the investors get in the company for their funds. This now means you have shareholders to answer to since they want to ensure they will get a return on their investment. Investors expect to have a say in how the business is run.

Licensing means you’ll receive a smaller proportion of the profits, normally 2 percent to 8 percent, depending on the company’s policies and what you bring to the table. What do I mean, what you bring to the table? Things such as, do you have a finished product they can run with? Do you have an issued patent? Are they going to have to start from scratch and have a large upfront investment? A lot of factors go into what a company will offer you based on what you bring to the table. Yes, they get the lion’s share of the profit, but you have the least amount of risk and monetary investment.

Licensing requires you to find a company willing to license your product and fund it. Or you pay someone else to do the legwork for you. They will most likely charge a fee and want a percentage of the deal they get you.
Depending on your resourcefulness you’ll more than likely have to pay for a patent search, patent, prototype, presentation and legal fees. You’ll have to do this if go the manufacturing route, to in order to protect your product.

If you hire a licensing agent, whose duties include making calls to companies and negotiating contracts, you’ll have to pay her or him a percentage of the license and upfront fee in most cases. If you go to an Invention submission company to find a company to license your product be prepared for them to offer all sorts of services for a fee. Because in my opinion they make most of their money selling services versus getting products to market.

If you do get a licensing deal keep in mind companies often change the product’s design to fit their vision of what’s marketable. Your baby may not look like what you envisioned once it reaches the store shelf.
You will have to wait 30 days after each quarter to see if your royalty will be what you hoped. All the while you may be wondering if the company is pushing your product as hard as you would if you ran the company.

Despite all the caveats with licensing, I have personally favored this route. It works for me because I have numerous products in sell-sheet form, ranging from kitchen, toys, tools, pet, eyewear, lawn and garden and more. And I realized I do not want to start a business around every one of them. Each of these categories has its own set of rules and structure for getting to market. Just learning how to navigate each industry is a challenge on its own.
For someone else building a business around their idea is a dream come true and the best option for them. You have to go with what works best for you and your situation.

Manufacturing it yourself and licensing each has its rewards and pitfalls. Regardless the route you take, be as informed as possible, set realistic expectations and minimize your risks. You may be able to fool yourself about your product’s chances. But in the end, the consumer and market will be the final judge.


Contacting companies for the first time can be scary and uncertain for Inventors. You want to do it right and get the company interested in your product and see it on store shelves. My invention submissions have resulted in licensing deals in toys, tools, eyeglass products, kitchen utensils, and even a device used in the nuclear industry. I did it spending less than $100 on each and some as little as $8. I utilized an NDA and Sell Sheet only, no patent or PPA. My major investment has been my time.

I have been a serial Inventor, a licensing agent and reviewed thousands of Inventor’s products. In short, I see and hear all sides of the inventing process. What I’ve discovered is sometimes inventors can be their own worst enemies. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting pitches or new products to companies that can help you make a better first impression:

1. Don’t send hand-written submissions. Even if you don’t own a computer most libraries have one you can use for free. If a library isn’t an option, go to a FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s). If you send your submission via snail mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Don’t assume your target company will pay postage.

2. Do put your contact information on each piece of paper you send. That includes samples and prototypes.

3. Don’t waste a product reviewer’s time detailing how you came up with your idea. Focus on the benefits of your product/technology and why it will make the company money. Companies don’t care if your second cousin twice removed worked on your project for two years once he got out of prison.

4. Don’t use the phrase, “My idea is worth millions.” Let the company decide that.

5. Don’t use the phrase, “There is nothing else out there like my idea.” Most of the time you will be wrong.

6. Don’t say you have researched your product idea thoroughly when all you did was walk into a Walmart and didn’t see it on the shelves.

7. Don’t use the phrase, “Everyone will buy one.” This gets back to being realistic about the size of your market. Know who the target customers are. (See Rule #6)

8. Don’t send a prototype to a company unless they asked you to and are expecting it. Companies do not want to keep track of or be responsible for items they did not request in the first place.

9. Do be realistic about your expectations. Understand licensing royalties usually are about 2% to 5%. Greed can kill an otherwise profitable deal.

10. Do read and re-read everything a company sends you to make sure you understand everything in the documents. Don’t assume everything is fine and sign it. I send people my two-page non-disclosure agreement to read and sign prior to sending me anything for review. I have to include in my email an explanation to make sure they fill in their address on the top of the first page, because so many people don’t do it. This is in the first two paragraphs of the first page. So, if they are missing that what else are they missing in a longer document?

11. Don’t write a novel to explain your invention. Be concise and factual. No one wants to read a novel to get your idea. Be able to explain your invention over the phone or in person in 30 seconds or less. Practice your pitch until you can say it in your sleep. Look at the short blurb on the back of a book. It gives you an overall idea of the 300 page book. Your pitch needs to be that short.

12. Make sure you know your product. You should be the expert on your product. Never assume companies will just “Get It.”

13. Don’t send your submission to a company on Monday and call Tuesday to ask when they will be sending you a contract.

14. Do your research before submitting anything to a company. Make sure your submission actually fits their target market. Don’t submit a lawnmower idea to a soap company.(this happens more than you think)

15. Don’t send your invention submission in care of the general bulk mail of a company. Get a specific person’s name in charge of that department – new product development, marketing, inventor submissions, inventor relations, etc. Don’t send “To Whom it may concern.” The most likely place it will find is the trash basket.

16. If you call a company asking for the person in charge of invention submissions, make sure you are ready if you’re put through. This is not the time to forget pen and paper or fumble your pitch. If you get voice mail, leave a short intelligent message with your call-back number.

17. Make sure you know the time zone difference of the location you are calling.

18. Don’t send a company any package that has special storage requirements, contains a live animal or flammable liquids. Real example: An Inventor sent his new food-sealing device with samples of food sealed inside. It was not opened until a week later, by security due to the smell of the leaking packages.

19. Don’t send a company anything you can’t afford to lose. Accidents happen and things can get misplaced. If it’s a one-of-a-kind item, you may want to send a DVD or link to a video showing the product in action. If you post it on Youtube and you have not filed for any patent protection make sure it is set on Private and not Public.

20. When sending email attachments to companies, do make sure it is in a program they have installed on their computers. Not everyone has Filemaker Pro or Microsoft Office 2010. Ask if the company has a size limit on attachments. Moreover, some software automatically kicks out any email with an attachment that is not on a safe email list.

The more you do upfront to make sure you are prepared the better your chances of success.