Patent Article by William S. Ramsey, P.C.

MARKETING YOUR INVENTION

William S. Ramsey
Attorney at Law
410-740-2225 or email: billramsey1@comcast.net
Not Legal Advice.

A Letter to a Client:

I understand you have a great new idea for a product or service. You want to go into business or sell the idea to an established company but donıt have much money to spend. I will show you how to save money and have the best chance of success.

You need professional assistance in certain areas. 1. See a lawyer for business organization assistance and personal liability protection if the worst happens. 2. See an intellectual property lawyer for patent, trademark, and copyright protection. 3. See an accountant for a proper financial system and avoidance of tax problems. Do not hire a professional market researcher. Do your marketing yourself. Marketing is too important to trust to the professionals.

Letıs face it. You can start a business without the use of lawyers or accountants. True, you might loose sleep worrying about the tax man, and your closest competitors will copy your produces and services, but it can be done. Itıs impossible, however, to have a successful business without understanding how your product or service meets a market need and without understanding how you can exploit this need.

Invention promotion firms develop and market inventive products or services. These firms often advertise on television, radio, and in magazines. The ads suggest the firms will provide the very services the inventors need. Response to the ad generally leads to a meeting with a very persuasive salesperson. This has led to a lot of problems for inventors.

Patent laws were amended in 1999 (35 U.S.C. sec. 297) to require that invention promoters must disclose, among other things, the number of customers in the previous five years who received a net financial profit as a direct result of the invention promotion service and the number who received license agreements, and the total number of customers. (This disclosure is not required if a patent already has issued). Look for these numbers and take them very seriously – in one case 0 of some 25,000 customers actually made money. You should ask, "Why will I benefit when all those other customers did not?"

Before sending money to an invention promotion firm check them out – the nonprofit United Inventors Association has an excellent site at www.uiausa.com; another good one is at www.patentcafe.com. The Federal Trade Commission has a worthwhile brochure at www.ftc.gov.

There are perfectly credible, reliable and ethical marketing firms. You may wish to engage one. My impression is that most of their work is with already established companies, probably because of the costs involved. At least look into several firms. The good ones and the ones to be avoided will become clear to you.

The good news is that you can and should do your own marketing. You end up with a much better job and will save the $10,000 an invention promotion firm typically charges.

How do you do it? Fortunately we have the best resource locally, the Howard County Library. The library has 44 books on marketing, from the academic Harvard Business Reviewıs "Seeking Customers" to the esoteric "The Popcorn Report" by Faith Popcorn. Ms. Kristen Blount of the Howard County Library has written on marketing resources at the library in the August 2002 issue of The Business Monthly. There are countless libraries is this area. They generally can give you a solid foundation in marketing issues and procedures. Librarians in the research departments want to help you. They are the best source of free professional advice that I know of. Get to know your research librarian.

But you wonder if you can do the necessary marketing work. Isnıt it very specialized? Well, letıs see what one invention promotion firm promises for your $10,000. The firm doesnıt evaluate your invention but accepts virtually all comers (it will arrange a loan if youıre short of cash). It will place a description of your invention in a booklet and send it to a number of companies, although there is no assurance that the companies are right for your invention. The firm attends trade shows, but will display your invention only on purchase of an additional exhibit service. The firm doesnıt perform patent services, and advises you find an independent patent attorney, but if you wish it will but will pass your case on to an independent attorney. The firm lists your invention in one edition of its register, along with many other inventions. You can advertise in the firmıs catalog at an extra cost.

In other words, a typical invention promotion firm doesnıt promise and doesnıt deliver anything you canıt do better yourself. You will slowly develop an understanding of who will perceive an advantage from your product or service (your customers) and how you can best provide that product or service to their benefit. After taking your best shot at your own marketing, if you need professional services, you always can engage a credible marketing expert.

Let me know how it works out.