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Catalogs and Your Inventions

Here's a great idea on how you can submit your new invention product.

Catalogs are looking for unique, specialty products to insert into their print and online catalogs. When you contact them and they accept your product, they purchase finished goods from you and do not license it from you. You need to be ready with inventory to ship from or a date when your product will be ready to ship to their warehouse. Be prepared to send samples to the catalog buyers after you have made contact and they are interested. Once accepted, they will send you a vendor agreement to be filled out and get set up with them, followed by a purchase order with quantity requested and window to ship.

Companies looking for new products

Catalogs can be a great launching pad for your new product with smaller orders and higher margins to get you started.

Presenting to Your Invention’s Industry

If you are want to pitch an industry specific product, look for the leader brands by visiting their websites and/or call their office and find out what their process is to pitch or submit your invention. Make sure your invention idea is relevant to the company's product line. There are agents within industries that can walk your idea to the licensees or you may want to attend upcoming industry trade shows relevant to your invention. You can go onto trade show listing websites such as [Trade Show News Network] (www.tsnn.com), search by industry, area, and region. Once you find a tradeshow you can attend, visit the website, review sign up credentials needed and attend.
Many are inventor-friendly and even have a dedicated area to showcase new inventions. When you are at the tradeshow, you have the opportunity to see new products from the industry, find potential licensees and maybe even bump into a few buyers along the way.

Infomercial Companies

Direct Response TV (DRTV) companies that sell products on TV are looking for mass audience appeal and will pick up where you left off in your invention process. Pay attention to infomercials you see, get a sense of how they are delivering their pitch and what type of audience they are focused on. Notice that most follow the pattern of problem-solution ideas. Ask yourself if you think your invention could be demonstrated in a way that the TV commercial delivers the message and evaluate the price points. Before presenting to a DRTV company, do your research and due diligence by visiting their websites,
going to retailers that sell AS SEEN ON TV products and jot down the companies listed on the packaging to review online.

How Much Money Will My Invention Cost

Deciding to start working on your invention can have you start wondering how much it's going to cost.

Investing your time and resources into your invention ideas can be an unknown factor until you start the process, as each invention is unique in the materials it requires and the number of steps it takes. Most people have their vision so firmly fixed in their mind that they allow their emotions to take over their business decisions. Expectations can help you with planning and what is needed to bring your idea to reality. Let's review some very loose guidelines to keep in mind as you begin to build your budget to support your dream.

The Patent Search

Finding out if it's your idea can be a crucial step in moving forward any further with your venture. A professional patent search can run from $250 to $1500, depending on the people you hire and the complexity of the search. There are companies that strictly do patent searches and then provide you the information that have found for you to review. You may then decide to take the findings and have a patent attorney or agent evaluation the patentability of your idea compared to the intellectual property you gave them. You can hire a patent attorney or agent and ask them to do the patent search for you with an opinion.

Some inventors may choose to do a search themselves by using Google Patents or the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office websites and searching online or you may know of similar concepts already in existence to then present to a patent attorney or agent for review and determine patentability. Some inventors may take what they find, stop there and move forward with the next steps. Evaluating prior art and/or claims may be complicated for those not skilled in intellectual property requirements. Should a patent search and evaluation not be done properly and the process continues, there may be consequences later on when attempting to license your idea or when bringing it to market only later finding out that you are infringing someone else's intellectual property.

Patent Protection

There is a less expensive option to start and secure a filing date for your invention by filing a Provisional Patent. You could have a patent attorney or agent help you with filing and they would charge for their time as well as the filing fee from the US Patent & Trademark Office or some opt to do it themselves and just pay the filing fee. Having a patent attorney prepare a patent can cost anywhere from $2000 and up, depending on the complexity of the invention. This does not include the patent office filing fee or the lawyer's fee to review and respond to the patent office 'office actions'. When the patent office notifies you that the patent will been allowed, you will be charged an additional 'notice of allowance' fee as well. Here is a link to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office fee schedule.

What Your Invention Looks Like and How It Works

Engineering or product designers can run from $300 to $5,000 or more based on the fees they charge and the time it takes to deliver the final designs. Some may work on hourly or project based fees. More complicated concepts with electronic components and computer chips for example, can cost considerably more.

Prototypes or Models of Your Invention

Your mock up or prototype can cost as little as $50 and as much as $5000 for a basic concept. This dollar amount could be more depending on the complexity of your invention. There are many options of making prototypes these days including 3D printing and model making. Producing a good works-like, feels-like prototype will provide you the opportunity to bring your idea to life and test to see how it works. It may also be an important step during the invention process by producing a good quality model to demonstrate to potential licensees, investors and partners.

Manufacturing Your Invention

You can take the greatest risks and could return the greatest rewards when you choose to do it all yourself, becoming the manufacturer, distributor and customer service guru. Tooling costs will depend on the number and size of the component parts and materials used or needed. It could range from as little as $1,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This number is based specifically on your invention to be produced. Proposals can have a drastic range depending on which country you may consider producing your tooling or molding and then the manufacturing cost per piece as well. Manufacturing and assembling your first run can cost as little as $2,000 and as much as $50,000, even more. Packaging, marketing, advertising, warehousing, distribution and staffing all come with their attendant costs as well.

Alternatives to Manufacturing your Invention

You can choose the less expensive option of licensing, where someone else carries the costs of manufacturing and its details while your investment may be limited to the patent search, the patent filing costs, preparing designs and making a prototype for presentations. Your risk and return may be less but may be a good alternative for those on a limited budget.

Read a previous article on "Licensing Your Invention".

Whether you choose to manufacture or license your product, you need to know how to develop a budget and set up a financing schedule to pave the way for the expenses to come. Building anything comes with fresh sets of expenses at various stages of development. Once you have a better idea of the costs that are involved, you can plan your financing wisely.

Different Types of Patents To Protect Your Invention

Want to Patent an Idea?

Coming up with an idea leads to several steps and decisions that may need to be made to protect it. You will want to talk about your invention idea to your family, friends, co-workers, potential partners or investors to share in your excitement. During this part of the invention process you may want to discuss confidential information with others and need to have peace of mind to do so. Below are ways to protect your idea and also work towards receiving an issued patent. If you decide to file any form of intellectual property, it is suggested to conduct a patent search first.

Many inventors may be on a limited budget or may want to explore the marketability of their ideas and have a level of protection when discussing the details. An option may be to file a provisional patent to start. Here are definitions you should know directly from the US Patent and Trademark Office website:

Provisional Patent

A provisional patent application (PPA) is a patent application that can be used by a patent applicant to secure a filing date while avoiding the costs associated with the filing and prosecution of a non-provisional patent application. More specifically, if a non-provisional application is filed within one year from the filing date of a PPA, the non-provisional application may claim the benefit of the filing date of the PPA. Because a PPA is not examined, an applicant can also avoid the costs typically associated with non-provisional patent prosecution (certain attorney's fees, for example) for a year while determining whether his/her invention is commercially viable. Further, because a PPA is not made public unless its application number is noted in a later-published application or patent, the failure by an applicant to file a non-provisional application based on his/her PPA will not lead to public disclosure of his/her invention.

Definition of a Patent

A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor "to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States" for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

Types of Patents

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues several different types of patent documents offering different kinds of protection and covering different types of subject matter.

Utility Patent- Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it generally permits its owner to
exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing ++, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as "patents for invention".

Design Patent- Issued for a new, original, and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture, it permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design for a period of fourteen years from the date of patent grant. Design patents are not subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Please note that the fourteen year term of a
design patent is subject to change in the near future.

How Much Does a Patent Cost?

Filing fees are available on the US Patent and Trademark Office website. In addition to these fees, you may hire an intellectual property attorney or agent which may charge by the hour or filing. Some inventors may choose to file on their own and need to follow strict guidelines to be accepted. See: Fee Schedule from the US Patent and Trademark Office

Whether you decide to manufacture or license your invention, protecting your ideas could be important for you and your intellectual property. Having the security of the world to know that you are claiming your idea can give you peace of mind to move forward for the time your protection is in full force until it becomes public domain. Once your patent is issued, it is your responsibility to protect your intellectual property from infringement and enforce your rights. Some inventors also choose to invent and receive a patent to simply hang on their wall.