Listen to What Professionals Have to Say
“Harvey Reese Thinks He’s a Genius!”
That was the heading to a recent Inventors Newsgroup posting by a furiously irate inventor. This gentleman submitted his idea and I sent him a polite, three page personal letter carefully explaining why I knew I’d never been successful in getting it licensed. I also included my New Products Worksheet which pointed out how his idea failed on almost all of the 30 points this Worksheet touches on.
Almost at once I received back a blistering email telling me that that I missed the point because my form didn’t provide him with enough space to describe the idea completely.
First of all, my form clearly states to add any additional description or pictures needed to adequately explain the concept. It’s not a complicated direction. And second, believe me, it didn’t take a genius to understand what he had in mind from his couple of sentences. There isn’t one among you who would have arrived at a different conclusion about the commercial value of his product idea. Even the few who bothered to answer his posting told him the same thing.
I won’t identify the idea or its originator because the purpose of this article is not to embarrass him, but to use it as a cautionary tale about how any of us can become so enamored with our ideas that we refuse to listen to what professionals have to say. I’m sure when this particular person told his wife about his idea, she smiled sweetly and said how wonderful it was. And probably when he told his friends, they also clapped him on his back, proceeding to say what an inventive rogue he is. Those opinions aren’t worth a damn in the real world. Only a successful operator in the business; someone not trying to sell you anything and someone with nothing to gain by keeping the truth from you, will offer an opinion that you should listen to.
I’m not saying this to drum up business – I have all the business I need – but no matter where or how you find him or her – I urge you to seek unbiased, expert advice before investing real or emotional capital in your project. And if you learn that it’s not a wonderful idea – put it aside and move on. I dream up lots of products and I license lots of products – but it’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to present a new idea to a company and, upon hearing the prospective licensee’s observations, to know instantly that it’s a loser. I have shelves and shelves of losers, but I don’t fret about them. The winners more than make up for them.
The person who submitted the product idea that prompted this article is probably still fuming about how stupid I am, and how stupid those who responded to his posting are for not understanding the genius of his idea. If he’s reading this article, I don’t believe it will change his mind, but I hope it had some instructional value for the rest of us.
I’m not an inventor – I’m in the inventing business – and have been for decades. I’ve earned a lot and I’ve learned a lot – and I only know of one way for others to cash in as well.
1. Before you invent anything, learn the market in which you have an interest. Read the trade magazines, go to trade shows and seminars, and do whatever else you can to immerse yourself in the standards, procedures, markups, distribution channels and seasonal timing of the industry in which you’d like to participate. That way you don’t waste your time inventing something that has already been invented, or something for which there isn’t a sizeable market.
2. After you’ve found a niche and a new product opportunity, do the inventing. Inventing means creating an idea and reducing it to practice. Companies don’t pay royalty money for ideas, suggestions or notions. You have to deliver the goods. And after you’ve developed your product idea, do your damndest to make sure it hasn’t been invented before.
3. Before spending money with patents and trademarks, get someone in the industry to give you an honest appraisal. Invention marketing companies offer “free” appraisals, but they’re worthless. Obviously they will tell you that your idea is brilliant. How else can they proceed to sell you their other services? If you’re thinking of marketing the product yourself, I’m not the only expert you can turn to – but I may be the only one who can evaluate an idea based on its licenseability. Lot’s of ideas are marketable, but few are licensable. I know the difference.
4,5,6. etc. Depending upon what you’ve learned up to this point, you can abandon the idea altogether, improve it, change it, get it patented, get a professional prototype made, decide if it’s something you want to market yourself, go out and look for a licensee – or whatever other steps makes sense.
But before you get to steps 4., 5., and 6., you must do steps 1., 2., and 3.
That’s all for this issue. Happy inventing – and I’ll see you again soon.