5 myths told to new Inventors

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Don’t feel bad if you have already fallen for this. Most of the advice you are going to get is from people who cannot make your idea work. It is the same story, all you need to do is find a lawyer, have them draw up your idea, apply for your patent, submit your idea to hundreds manufactures (for a fee)  till one agrees to finish the design, manufacture it for free and send you royalties, and you will live happily ever after (though they do mention these results are not typical). You have to buy into some myths if this is true:

  1. You don’t need to hire an experienced engineer – If it’s an invention, not a commodity, you are probably going to need an engineer.  You need to choose materials, assembly methods, the right components, and figure out how long it’s going to last, Or if it’s even going to work.
  2. You don’t need a working prototype – You need a working prototype. You are going to learn things that will affect Manufacturing cost, patent claims, and if people even like it.
  3. You need to license your invention to a factory – Until you know what it’s going to cost to start manufacturing you don’t know that.  If your idea is going disrupt a manufactures big client who generates much more revenue than you, you may get a cold shoulder. Also typically licensing produces low returns for the inventor (1% to 5 % of the revenue), you could get as little as $1 for every $100 in sales. Or to get to your 1st Million the licensor must generate 1/10 of a billion (Probably enough to cover your startup cost). For experts in the field, this can work if the development relative to their field is complete and confirmed with test data.
  4. You need to get in brick and mortar stores – By now you know the answer to this. 10 years ago this may have been true now not so much. Profits are much higher if you don’t need to be in a brick and mortar store. My old employer DELL sold all their computers over the phone and online.
  5. You need to find a manufacturer for your invention – Not necessarily you may be able to a assemble it yourself. Components are the easy part, the hard part is assembly. If you can assemble it you may able to get away with only making what you need.  Also if you are doing final assembly typically every component gets a visual inspection. Better to have a garage full of your manufacturing setup than a warehouse full of product you paid for but cannot sell.

Most inventions are going to fail. Before you spend all that money on lawyers, patent searches, marketing, submissions, animations, patents, and industrial design, talk to an experienced engineer and make sure it works and manufacturable at a profit. A few $100 consulting can save a few thousand later.

Homework:

  1. Find a company that makes something similar. Check their website to see if they hire engineers.
  2. Watch an episode of Star Trek TOS or TNG. Count the number of props that were invented years later (Flat screens, the cell phone, iPads).
  3. Find something similar to your idea and see if a factory gets paid to produce it or if they pay an inventor. (typically patent number is on the box or item).
  4. Find one other well-known company (besides Dell) where brick and mortar stores are not the primary source of revenue.
  5. Find at least one Billionaire who personally helped built the first units in a garage or dorm.