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15 Invention Tips

15 Short Invention tips for Independent Inventors –

We added these additional Invention Tips on request from some of our inventor friends!

By Jeffrey Dobkin

1.  You may not need a patent.
A patent is $5,000 to $10,000! Wow! And keep this in mind: A patent does NOT protect you. That’s Right! A patent only gives you the right to protect yourself (meaning you can sue someone). BIG difference!

You do NOT need a patent to market or sell your product.

Consider a cheaper way – a special provisional patent: it offers no protection, but does establish your patent claims and date of invention. This provisional patent is good for 1 year, and costs only a few hundred dollars. If you feel you must get something, it’s simple enough to do yourself.

Simple fact of life: I recommend a patent to less than 2% of the inventors that have shown me their invention. Less than 2 people out of 100! For the more than 98%, in my opinion they either couldn’t get a patent, it wouldn’t make sense (they weren’t going to market or license their product), or the patent they would be able get would be so narrow in claims it would be worthless.

Don’t forget – a patent doesn’t protect you.  A patent gives you the right to sue someone if they infringe on your patent.

2. Don’t trust invention marketing companies.
Sadly, this invention tip is very necessary: out invention community is plagued by fraud. Most of these firms are really really very very bad guys who DO NOT want to steal your idea – but they WILL steal all of your money.

3. Don’t count on making money for 2 years.
Yes, it takes that long from when you are standing there holding a fairly well finished prototype in your hands to bringing a product to a marketplace and starting to sell it. You can shorten this time by having additional people work on it besides yourself, or by investing more money in it to make it happen quicker. But working out of your home, garage, or small office – everything takes way more time than you think it will.

4. The idea – the flashbulb going off, that Eureka moment – turns out that is the EASY PART.
It’s the time you invest after that moment that creates success, and that’s the hard part. The long hours in development, the prototypes, the hits and misses. Sweat and toil, making the best possible product that can be made and all the while keeping an eye on costs. The research, pricing parts, analyzing competitors, finding markets. That’s the hard part.

5. Find people that can help.
There are companies (and people) that can definitely help inventors, depending on where you are in the invention process and what help you are looking for.  It’s best to join a local inventors club – some are just awesome.

6. Here are just a couple of people I trust —

Jack lander, the Inventor Mentor (and all around good guy) wrote a book on financing your invention (How to Finance Your Invention or Great Idea; $19.95, ISBN 0935722246-7,, 203-264-1130)  Jack is great with early stage inventors, and helping inventors along in the process. He’s very trustworthy, and a great guy.

Paul Niemann is – or at least was – a product scout., 800-337-5758.  He’s an all around good guy and very knowledgeable about the marketplace and inventions, and very honest.  He scouts all the hardware and automotive shows looking for products for his clients.  His specialty is licensing.

Harvey Reese’s book, “How to License your Million Dollar Idea” is great reading, and also has the best contract I’ve ever read.  I recommend reading this and using his contract (it’s printed in the book).  I use this myself.  Harvey will review your idea to see if he will represent you (The cost is about $150), but he doesn’t take on too many projects, including my own inventions (sigh…). But if he takes yours, he’s very smart, honest too.

Stephen Key – He’s written several books on licensing your invention in clouding One Simple Idea.  I like Stephen, he’s a pretty good dude.  Licensing is hard, but he gives some very savvy invention tips.

Read my own cult classic book:
The number one Invention Tip:  Read “How To Market a Product for Under $500!” The best book ever if you’re thinking about marketing a product yourself.  Available on Amazon and directly from us – 800-234-4332, or 610-642-1000.  I usually answer this phone and am happy to field quick questions from inventors who have read my book.

I assist inventors who are in the later stages and have a product ready (or almost ready) to bring to market. I do some inventor consulting, but I’m expensive because most of my clients are corporate and don’t mind paying my higher rates. The first consulting phone call to me is always free.  These invention tips are just the beginning:  Got a quick question?  I’m always happy to help – just gimme a call.  610-642-1000 rings on my desk.

7. Our own Philadelphia Inventors Alliance.
We are just starting out, so be patient.  We review products in person at our board of directors meetings and it’s FREE to area members (membership is $49.95/year). But: you must be in the area and attend the review.  Reviews for inventors from outside our area are $295. And we’re looking into webinar and Skype reviews.  Products may be in any stage – ideas to finished prototypes.  Our mission is to help inventors, and to guide them away from shady invention marketing fraud companies.

Our review panel (our Advisory Board of Directors) is just developing.  It’s our own (non-paid) board of directors. We all sign NDAs.

Frank and honest, our in-depth one hour reviews are startling clear and a great value from an absolutely non-partisan group who have nothing to gain or lose from a good or bad review. The Philadelphia Inventors Alliance doesn’t offer inventors any additional services other than the reviews stated here.

The paid review money goes to our non-profit to bring in better speakers to present to our group and the inventing community in Philadelphia. We offer these speaker presentations to members and their guests, and sometimes open up the registration  to all others who wish to attend.

Written reviews – which we also offer (for $795) take much longer to research and write and are more in depth. Application fee for this service is $25, which we send an amazing amount of questions to you and for you fill out. It’s worth the $25 just to see this form – it’s comprehensive and will make you see your invention in the light of reality.

If we don’t think we can help we’ll tell you before going full tilt and starting your review. This written review is strictly for the more serious inventors with products that are further down the line. The value inventors receive is simply amazing: confidential design help, prototyping advice, materials review, marketing analysis and marketing strategy, and patent assessment (go/no-go) just to name a few areas.

Here are a few more Inventor Tips for when you’re just starting out. To get past the idea stage:

8. You need to be able to tell people about your idea.
If you never tell anyone… your invention won’t be a successful and profitable venture because no one will know about it.  Which is OK, too. Some people are just great idea people, and have fun generating new ideas.

To commercialize your product, eventually you’ll tell someone about your invention. This is generally considered “disclosure” by the patent office – which is only important if you intend to file for a patent – because technically you have one year from this disclosure date to file for a patent.

If you tell a limited number of people and each agrees not to disclose disclose your idea to anyone else (best to get a non-disclosure statement in writing) it is NOT considered disclosure.

9. There are lots of GREAT ideas that would NOT be great products.
One reason is: the product would be too costly to manufacture for the price you need to sell it for (retail price is usually 5 times the manufacturing cost! Yikes, 5 times!). So if you invented a new golf ball that went twice as far as other balls – great idea!  But if it costs $500 to manufacture and market – it would have a sales price of $2,500! It would be a great idea but would not a great commercial product.

10. Some ideas are just not “commercially feasible.”
Over the past 20 years I’ve reviewed member’s inventions, I saw a lot of ideas and inventions that were not “commercially feasible.”  What this means:

If the manufacturing cost – or the marketing cost – is too expensive and you wouldn’t be able sell the product at a profit, we say the product is not a viable commercial product, and not commercially feasible.  This doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea, it just means it’s not a commercial product you can successfully bring to market. For example it might cost you $100 to manufacture and sell a $50 product.

11. You need to keep an inventor’s note book.
An inventor’s notebook is a composition binder (like you had in grade school) with dates of your inventions.  I say this because if you have one invention, you probably have more.  Write them all down in chronological order, don’t skip any lines or pages, and keep everything dated.  Occasionally have the book date stamped by a notary.  You never know when this will come in handy.

12. Licensing: Send inquiry letters.
If you are thinking about licensing your great idea, send a letter of inquiry to a firm most likely to purchase or license it.

Don’t disclose your idea, but write what it does better, faster, cheaper (the benefits) – and send that in a letter to the president, vice president, or sales manager of the firm you think could use the innovation.  Ask him or her how they would prefer that you to submit your idea to their firm.  Then you can follow their recommendations – or NOT!

Just because they want you to submit your idea in a particular way does not mean you have to do it that way. Some firms are honest, some are honest to a point, and some are not honest and some are just unscrupulously crooked. You won’t find this out till later. All firms look good up front.

13. When you pitch an idea to a company for licensing…
Or pitch your invention for manufacturing/co-op consideration, make sure the person reviewing your idea is at the highest corporate level – a president, vice president, or manager.   With larger firms you may have to go down the chain a little more.  The reason? Here:

When you call to find out who to send your innovation to, beware the gatekeeper!

Everyone will say “Yes!” they are the person you should send your idea (product) to. Everyone will want to see your new idea and tell you to send it right to them. Everyone likes new products! Everyone wants to feel important! Everyone wants to be involved in the fun: selection of a new product! How exciting!

But… very few will actually be able to accept your product and pay you for it. Most people can’t write a check to you – for any reason. Most will not be able to move a new product forward and champion your idea by themselves. It will be a great risk for them – because if the idea fails, their job may be on the line.

Most people will really only have the power to say “no”. They’ll look at it, then nix your product!  Don’t worry, they’ll certainly find reasons they can’t possibly manufacture and market it. So…  What are you going to do then?

Others will say, oh – they’ve been working on this idea for several months now. Some will send you a letter from their lawyer saying they’ve been working on this for years.

If the gatekeeper doesn’t want to champion it, or deal with it for any reason – you just got your first refusal from someone who had no authority to say yes! And now you’ll have to go around them if you want the firm to accept your product. This can be a very nasty project, and you’ll likely make an enemy by going over someone’s head who just said no.

If the gatekeeper likes it, still they’ll have to send it to someone upstairs — like the VP or President.

By not flushing this out on the phone in the first meeting, you’ve just doubled your chance of having the product license nixed: once by a self-appointed gatekeeper, and once by the president. The gatekeeper may simply be a block, when the president may have been looking for your exact idea, and ready and willing to license it from you.

14. Because you have a great invention
This doesn’t mean you will be able to start and run a small business marketing it. The skill sets are very, very different.  This isn’t really an invention tip, but it does come into play if you pursue your invention.

15. Invention is the road, not the destination.
At the Philadelphia Inventors Alliance we believe it’s not so much a single invention, but the process of invention and hard work that ensures success. You should enjoy the whole trip, not just the outcome. If your one big invention isn’t commercially feasible, as an inventor… you probably have more inventions!  Look at these other inventions for commercial success.

Hope these invention tips are helpful.

Jeffrey Dobkin, Founder
Philadelphia Inventors Alliance

Jeffrey Dobkin served on the board of directors of the non-profit  American Society of Inventors for 14 years, then became the President for 4 more years.   Dobkin is now the Founder of The Philadelphia Inventors Alliance, a community of inventors that helps area inventors free of charge.

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin is a fun speaker, a marketing guy and a specialist in direct response. Jeffrey is the senior writer at The Danielle Adams Publishing Company. His firm offers marketing strategy, creative writing and full writing and design services of direct mail, letters, brochures and booklets, and websites. Jeffrey has written 5 books on effective marketing methods.  Call 610-642-1000 to order his books or for a free 20 minute consultation.

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