Protecting an Idea Is Easy. Selling an Idea Is Hard.

Get Up & Grow

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The concepts I had licensed when I started freelancing were very simple. Before I had a blast on my own, I had opened a fancy gift shop and worked in a toy startup, so at first I stuck to what I knew. When a company in these sectors liked one of my ideas, they agreed to pay me a small percentage of each unit sold in exchange for the right to produce it.

It was quite simple. I’m talking about plush characters and fun word games, like a plastic dart with an arrow that says “I’m stuck on you”. Intellectual property was not a starter. We never even talked about it.

Related: What’s the use of a patent if you can’t enforce it?

But one day, I had an idea that I thought was great. I recently read how the labels on prescription drug bottles do not provide as much information as they should. There was simply not enough room. Underdosing and overdosing have resulted.

“What if the label turns?” I asked myself. Shortly after this thought, I made a sample of a rotating label at my local Kinko on a photocopier. I sent the sample to a large pharmaceutical company. A few days later, when I entered Walmart and took the number of cylindrical containers, my head started to spin. They could all benefit from my label!

When the company told me it was interested, I was scared for the first time. My contact there was curious: did I have a patent? I hadn’t thought of patents before. When I started reading about IP, my chest tensed. It seemed confusing. I was more afraid. If I didn’t patent my idea as soon as possible, I thought I would never be compensated. Like everyone else, I let fear take over.

All creatives share the fear of being robbed of an idea. The same is true of the fear of losing financially. But I want to clarify something. There are much more serious problems if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur.

Is the idea marketable? Can it be manufactured at a competitive price? Answering these questions is so much more fundamental than filing an application for protection of intellectual property.

Related: Low Cost Patent Search Options for Low Budget Inventors

John Ferrell, my patent attorney to date, gave me remarkable business advice when I became his new client. He said, “Steve, remember: protecting an idea is easy. It is selling a difficult idea. “

He couldn’t have been more right. It is much more difficult to successfully market an idea than to invent and “protect” it. The hundreds of thousands of patented ideas that never hit the market every year bear witness to this.

You can learn to venture out or license your idea. This information is there, waiting for you to retrieve it. But at the end of the day, if your idea is not desired, your efforts will have been in vain. So don’t even think about rushing to file a patent. Instead, focus on how you are going to test your idea.

Is crowdfunding potentially viable? What about presenting the idea to retailers or soliciting potential licensees for their advice? Are the waters warm? You need to know if your idea has potential. The only way to do this is to get relevant feedback from people who might actually buy it.

Do I hold a patent? Absolutely. I have almost 20 patents in my name. But I only tried to patent an idea – my big idea. I didn’t think it was worth doing it with my other ideas. Only this one was big enough to justify such an investment.

I regularly meet people who equate being an inventor with a patent. It’s good, but I never aspired to hold a patent. I want to see my ideas in the market. I want to support my family by taking advantage of it. So thank you for the great advice, John!

Related: You May Have a Great Product, But It Means Little Without a Marketing Plan

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