I have received inquiries about how to go about sourcing manufacturers, particularly early in the short run stage, both domestically and in China as well as how best navigate the route to market with one’s invention or product line. Here are guidelines from inventor expert Bob Dematteis, whose inventions exceed $25 million a year to companies like Sears, Wal-Mart and Kroeger:
A smart inventor will build a team as soon as possible. The four principal team members will be you, a patent attorney, a manufacturing expert and a marketing expert. Again, keep in mind that sales generate income, which will generate profits or royalties. And, since inventors are usually not very good at sales, your marketing expert is the most important key member you will want on your team as early in development as possible.
An inventor can brainstorm the basic concept and even make a crude prototype. But prototyping should not be advanced without substantial input from the marketing expert. After all, this marketing expert (or group) is the one that is going to generate the sales. It makes no sense to spend your valuable time and money on developing an idea that no one wants to buy. Having the right marketing person on your team, at the earliest possible moment, will ensure that you will be developing your invention with all the right attributes. This marketing expert will provide valuable input into evaluating the invention and can even provide sales projections.
The simple flow chart below shows how the initial invention evaluation process dovetails with your patent protection process. You basically have three alternatives to start the patent protection process of an idea while it is being evaluated.
The first and best alternative is to evaluate your invention’s merits and its sales potential with an expert you know and trust. Second, if you do not know any trusted experts, you can use confidentiality agreements. Third, if you want to spend the extra money and speculate on having your invention ready for mass production and producing income in a year, you can file a simple, provisional patent application for as little as $75.
As you can imagine, many larger companies will not sign confidentiality agreements as a matter of policy. Filing a provisional patent application can replace the need to use confidentiality agreements and serves to protect your invention’s priority date (the date you file for patent protection). If you file a provisional application you can more openly talk to and interview those marketing experts working with larger companies. The downside of filing a provisional application at an early stage is that you will be incurring the higher costs of filing the regular patent a year later. One year is not necessarily a lot of time to build your team and fully develop your invention. But it should be adequate if you plan your development well.
All three methods are viable approaches for inventors and have their merits. You only need to determine which works best for you in your particular situation. To give you a little insight into my invention activities, I prefer to work either with those marketing experts I know and trust, or using confidentiality agreements with those I do not know well. Any company that will not sign one of my confidentiality agreements I will not consider as a viable team member. And, I will never sign one of their agreements, which invariably protects them a lot more than you.
Figure 6-1 Invention Evaluation – Patent Protection Flow Chart
In your pursuit of finding that key team member, a marketing expert, you will want to interview them based upon several factors. Just remember that some marketing experts will not have any interest in selling your invention and others will simply not have the ability. You would be wise to keep searching until you find just the right match.
If you receive a lukewarm response from one or more, don’t give up right away. Try to field, as many objections as possible from the interviewees to better understand why the objections exist. These problems can invariably become opportunities once they are resolved. Discuss the various alternatives with the expert.
Finding the right marketing expert for your team can quickly propel your efforts forward and can even encourage manufacturers to invest their resources to gear up to manufacture your new invention.
Smart marketing experts who understand the benefits to your invention and have the right contacts can pre-sell your product based upon some simple prototypes. Think about it… can your marketing expert get a commitment for an initial sample order of $20,000 [for instance]? Then it would be easy to assume that subsequent orders from others would probably total 10 times (or more) that amount. With pre-sold orders, it is a lot easier for your manufacturing team member to make a commitment to spend its resources and get the product launched and producing income.