The lone inventor and the patent myth
What does it take to make a success in the marketplace with your invention? Well, the trite answer is money. But let’s assume you don’t have a lot of that. What you have is ideas, ingenuity, and a basement or garage full of cool stuff. Often the lone inventor can become very frustrated. Our sense of right and of fairness says, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” But unfortunately, in this day and age, that is no longer the case. The inventor thinks, “Well, it’s a tough world out there, so the first thing I need to do is patent my invention.” But alas, not only IS THIS NOT a panacea but can be a long tortuous waste of time and money. While new patent rules are currently being legislated, the patent office is so backlogged that it can take over two years for your application to even get examined. The cost of obtaining a patent can be easily over ten thousand dollars. But that’s not the worst of it. It is up to you as the owner of the patent to ensure that it is not violated. This means that if someone copies your invention, it is up to you to sue them in court. The validity of your patent will then be on trial as the copier of your invention will probably claim that there was prior art to your patent and it should never have been granted. Whether you win or lose, a legal battle can be extremely costly and take years. And what would you have accomplished?
If your goal in inventing a new product is to make money, I believe that the best avenue is to create a small business around your invention. That means going into small scale production using a contract manufacturer, creating a name and marketing materials for your product, and selling it – with the easiest avenue being over the internet. With moderate success, you can achieve what should be your first goal – a brand name and a revenue stream. Then you are in a position to either decide to sell your product to a larger company (market recognition and a proven revenue stream are the language that businesses like to speak), or if you prefer, continue with your entrepreneurial venture and maybe add new inventions to your product line. This is easier than you think, and certainly much easier and less frustrating than trying to gain product success through patents and the legal system.
Well, you ask, “what if someone copies my product?” So what if they do. This is the same problem that all businesses face. Now you are into the challenge of how to differentiate your product so you can claim to the world why your product is the better choice. You have now moved from being an inventor to an entrepreneur.