What Is Your “Invention Game Plan”?

I. Introduction

Most new inventors have no idea what to do with their idea… and rightly so! It is new territory that even experienced inventors and companies “wrestle with” to produce their desire outcome (e.g make maximum money, defend their current product line, preclude a product line from competitors).

First of all, think about your goal for your idea, then take into account the expertise you bring to the table (or have access to). For example, trying to start a manufacturing facility to produce products based on your idea might be within the realm of possibilities for a seasoned plant manager or manufacturing engineer, but not for the average person.

In fact, starting your first company is a full-time job in itself (e.g. federal and state paperwork, setting up corporation, locating a business location, having products designed) even when you have the requisite background. Here is a sampling of decisions you might make based on your goals or “endgame”.


II. What is your endgame (i.e. What are you trying to accomplish)?

1. Sell all of my rights in my idea to a big company and be done with it.

A. Best Choice:

Have a professional patent search done with written patentability opinion to determine: 1) whether a patent is likely to be issued on your idea; and 2) how broad the coverage of the patent that issues will likely be (ie. the likely value of your idea).

File a utility patent application and approach companies after you have received a first Office Action from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) so you can show the companies: 1) that a patent is likely to be issued on your idea; and 2) how broad the coverage of the patent that issues will likely be (ie. the likely value of your idea).

– Be sure to discuss the ramifications of “public disclosure” with a patent attorney and the proper use of a “confidentiality/non-compete (CNC) agreement before discussing your idea with any person or company.

B. Next Best Choice:

Have a professional patent search done for the purposes described above.

File a provisional patent application and approach companies with the patentability opinion in-hand so you can show the companies as described above.

– Be sure to follow up the provisional patent application with a utility patent application within one year that claims priority of the provisional patent application to retain its filing date.

– Be sure to discuss the ramifications of “public disclosure” and use of a CNC agreement with a patent attorney as described above.

C. Next Best Choice:

File a provisional patent application and approach companies blind not knowing what you have to sell.

– Be sure to follow up the provisional patent application with a utility patent application within one year that claims priority of the provisional patent application to retain its filing date.

– Be sure to discuss the ramifications of “public disclosure” and use of a CNC agreement with a patent attorney as described above.

D. Next Best Choice:

Approach companies blind not knowing what you have to sell.

– Be sure to discuss the ramifications of “public disclosure” and use of a CNC agreement with a patent attorney as described above.


2. License one or more companies to produce and sell products based on my idea and collect periodic payments (royalties) based on the number and value of the products sold (plus other negotiated lump sum and minimum royalty payments).

A. Best Choice:

Have a professional patent search done with written patentability opinion to determine: 1) whether a patent is likely to be issued on your idea; and 2) how broad the coverage of the patent that issues will likely be (ie. the likely value of your idea).

File a utility patent application and approach companies after you have received a Notice of Allowance stating that a patent will issue on your idea.

– Be sure to discuss the coverage of your patent your patent attorney. You should do this through the entire pendency of your patent application so you know whether it is worthwhile to continue the patenting process).

– Be sure to discuss your idea with a marketing or other specialist in the applicable industry to determine the value of your idea in the marketplace.

– Be sure to discuss the ramifications of “public disclosure” and use of a CNC agreement with a patent attorney as described above.


3. Produce (or have produced) and sell products myself based on my idea.

A. One Choice:

Note – the course you take is highly variable based on your business goals – discuss your particular circumstances with a patent attorney and the appropriate business professionals:

Have a professional patent search done with written patentability opinion to determine: 1) whether a patent is likely to be issued on your idea; and 2) how broad the coverage of the patent that issues will likely be (ie. the likely value of your idea).

File a utility patent application and do not make any substantial money investments until you received a first Office Action from the USPTO so you can evaluate: 1) whether a patent is likely to be issued on your idea; and 2) how broad the coverage of the patent that issues will likely be (ie. the likely value of your idea).

– Be sure to discuss the ramifications of “public disclosure” with a patent attorney and the proper use of a “confidentiality/non-compete (CNC) agreement before discussing your idea with any person or company.

B. Another Choice:

Have a professional patent search done for the purposes described above.

File a provisional patent application and be cautious in making any substantial money investments until you file a utility patent application and have received a first Office Action from the USPTO for the purposes described above. Prominently mark products based on your idea “Patent Pending” or “Patent Applied For”. This may discourage competitors from copying your product until you may obtain a patent in the future.

– Be sure to follow up the provisional patent application with a utility patent application within one year that claims priority of the provisional patent application to retain its filing date.

– Be sure to discuss the ramfications of “public disclosure” and use of a CNC agreement with a patent attorney as described above.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to proceed with commercializing and making money from your invention.

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