How to Make Money From Your Invention (Chapter 2, Part 4) – Inventions and Innovation

How to Make Money From Your Invention (Chapter 2, Part 4) - Inventions and Innovation

4. Doing Your Homework

The innovation process is applicable no matter where you are in the process. You could be in the early or late stages with development of a totally new concept, an improved product concept, an enhanced process for lowering cost or improving the environment. The basic concept of doing your homework applies, no matter where you are in the innovation process.

HomeworkDoing your homework means understanding the literature and market in the area of your idea or invention. Even before filing for protection, if you have made an invention, a comprehensive literature search needs to be carried out on a global basis, to identify any other prior art, or published information, related to your area of interest.

This search will help you out when you begin the patent application process. All relevant prior art must be submitted to the patent office when you apply for patent protection.

4a. How to find Information

Where do you find this information? The internet is a tremendous resource for your search, particularly in the early stages. The table below lists some of the web sources that could be used in your prior art search.

Web Sources of Prior Art Information

US Patent and Trademark Office
Google Search Engine
Google Patents
Chemical Abstracts
Science Search Engine
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
European Patent Office
Meta Search Engine
World Patent Search
Fee-Based Search Firm

Market ResearchThe sources listed in the table are just some examples of the sites you can use to get homework information. Many of these sites will provide patent searches, but the question of market information may not be as easily found. Market information sources depend on the area in which you are interested. Once that is identified, you can search the internet for trade associations in that area and they can lead you to sources of data that you need. You will also uncover studies by market research companies.

These studies will have a wide range of costs, depending on the depth of information presented. It can be cost efficient to buy a limited study, particularly at the early stages of your effort, to give you an overview of the opportunity.

    The key components of market information include:
        • size of the total market and the part into which your invention will fit into
        • pricing of goods at all levels
        • growth rates of the markets of interest, historically and projected
        • participants, major and minor companies involved in the business
        • supply chain, from raw materials to the customer
        • specifications the products must meet
        • regulatory requirements

Your search for both the market information and related patents will reveal which companies are active in the area of your invention. This is particularly important since this identifies potential licensees. It also represents companies or individuals to contact to get information about the markets of interest.

A final point on doing your homework is that the telephone is still a useful and efficient way to get information. Good market information can obtained by simply asking the right questions.

4b. Reverse Citation Analysis

The prior art patent search provides not only the technical and company information in areas related to your invention, it also can lead you to a list of the companies or individuals who have cited these patents in their prior art list. It is a relatively easy task to do a simple citation analysis on the patents that you have retrieved in your search.

The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) site allows you to search for all patents that have cited the patent or patents that you have found to be relevant. This approach will provide names of other companies that could be potential licensees.

This approach can be taken a step further by doing a second tier analysis. This determines who has cited the patents that have cited the original patent. This will reveal the names of others who have interest in your technology area. A pictorial representation of a reverse citation analysis is shown below.

There are more sophisticated approaches to citation that can reveal interesting information. There are fee-based companies with large patent data bases that can provide more information than we described above. However, for the potential licensor, a list of companies who are potential licensees is probably all that is needed.

Check your inbox for the next installment of “How to Make Money From Your Invention”.


This information is presented for the general education of independent inventors by the Invention Patenting Group. The Invention Patenting Group makes no warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed herein, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the Invention Patenting Group.

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