Posted by William Mullane | March 23, 2016
Poof Fling Flyer by Alex Brands Story
Part One Introducing Inventor, Doug Gaus
Part Two – Q&A on Invention with Doug Gaus
Part Three – Intellectual Property, Selling Your Idea & Licensing
July 2016 Update – Sales Soar at Walmart & Amazon
In Part One of our Inventor Spotlight Post, we introduced Doug Gaus of Innovation in Mind and celebrated the launch of the Poof Fling Flyer by Alex Brands. Doug invented and perfected the Flyer with Caleb Chung of Furby and Pleo fame. In Part Two, we learned more about Doug and what it takes to be an inventor. In part Three, we address intellectual property, licensing and finding potential purchasers of an idea.
At the New Product Development Lab at Boise State, the TechHelp NPD Team sees inventors of all kinds. They bring various levels of experience to the lab and may or may not know what direction they want to go with an idea. One issue nearly every inventor faces is Intellectual Property. We explored IP and idea issues with Doug.
How do you address patents, trademarks, copyrighting and such?
Because I mostly license my inventions, I deal mainly with the patenting process and sometimes with trademarks, but not really with copyrights.
When I’ve completed my usual prep work on an invention (researched other patents, made a good looks-like, works-like prototype and have nice visual depictions), I’m almost ready to begin disclosing the idea to outside companies for possible licensing. But before I do, I’ll submit a provisional patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO. It is not very hard to complete and is inexpensive to file. Once the application is in receipt by the USPTO, it changes the inventor’s own new product ideas status from just an “idea” to a United States “patent-pending” product. This gives an inventor looking to license the idea a full year to “shop” the product around to outside companies, before committing to filing the more expensive utility patent, also known as a non-provisional patent. Whether you’re looking to license your idea or bring it to market yourself, I recommend filing the provisional patent before disclosing your idea to any outside companies.
In early 2013, the USPTO office officially moved from first-to-invent (FTI), to the first-inventor-to-file (FITF) system. So now, companies realize that independent inventors with a pending patent have some real leverage in the market. In the old system, a company could have been working on the same idea before another entity filed a patent, and still have some legal priority on the other as the first-to invent. Although filing a provisional patent doesn’t mean you will receive a utility patent down the road, it does show the reviewing company that you could likely be the first entity to come up with the idea, if it is a new innovation in their industry. It also demonstrates that you are committed and serious about bringing the product to market. A potential purchasing company may realize that if they pass on the idea, their competitor may be looking at it next.
How do you find companies to submit your new product idea?
If it’s a new product idea in an industry I’m not familiar with, I just do a lot of research on the internet to find out who are the main players, what products they sell and find the ones that are open to looking at new product ideas. I make a list of all of them, in the order I think is the best fit with my product. I start at the top, and work my way down the list.
Over the years, I have made a lot of great contacts with some innovative and progressive companies that sell products all across the board, including infomercial type products, toys, housewares and hardwares. By just attaching some pdfs and a short video to an email, I can quickly get my new product ideas and those of my consulting clients in front of some big players in some very big industries!
When licensing, what are some things to consider when submitting your new concepts to outside companies?
I submit a comprehensive new product submission packet to each company. This can include background information on the industry, the business opportunity, costing estimates if possible, visual depictions (3D model artwork is best, but sometimes pictures of nice looking prototypes), as well as video demonstrations.
I spend a fair amount of time tailoring the submission specifically to each reviewing company. The goal is to have the company quickly see that your new product easily fits in with theirs and is a complement to their existing products and lines. For models and other visual depictions, I make basic changes such as choosing the color(s) I think are the best match for the company. I may make the product look more upscale or less upscale to match the company. I’ll also include possible product names that also are tailored to each individual company.
What is your top piece of advice to the novice inventor?
Stay true to your vision and try not to waver along the way!