Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Have a Patent, Now What?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The Problem 

Your concept may be novel and your invention may be exactly what everybody needs. However, unless you get your patented idea from the drawing board into your customer's hands, the chances of it reaping profits could be scarce. Here's an overview of your options for getting your invention made and out the door.

Many small inventors develop something new and then unrealistically expect that a path will be beaten to his or her door by big companies. They go to the expense of researching the area of their technology, preparing intellectual property rights, filing the rights and eventually issuing them without any real focus on what they really want from the protection they obtain.

Many inventors get to this point and then indicate that they do not know what to do going forward. This is a common theme and what they do not realize is that they are very capable of executing an effective strategy to commercialize or monetize their inventions. The patience, planning and skill that were involved in the steps to secure the intellectual property are transferrable to the commercialization/ monetization phase. The other problem that is always prevalent is a lack of funding to further advance the project. For many inventors this has the perception of being insurmountable and frequently results in the project coming to a standstill or being entirely abandoned.

In reality, the pursuit of commercialization/monetization of an invention is similar to any other business. A plan must be prepared and followed diligently with constant adaptation to changing factors.

A general game plan involves a series of steps including:

1. Define the market to which the technology relates. What is the size? What amount of revenue is generated? How many competitive products are in the market space?

2. Delineate the advantages attributable to the product or process relative to existing players. Is there a cost, ease of use, manufacturing, efficiency, etc. advantage?

3. Research which companies are most likely to entertain new developments for introduction into their existing product lines. This can be easily ascertained by internet research as well as through the use of intellectual property professionals.

4. Approach government funding agencies, technology innovation centers, bankers inter alia to source funds for eventual marketing and manufacturing of the invention.. There are a number of such agencies and the Canadian government has a large number of incentives available.

5. Prepare marketing materials to present the concept to other interested parties. Many of the previous steps material will also result in a loose business plan which can be perfected with additional help from an experienced person. The business plan is an important part of the process as it will demonstrate the economic feasibility to the target audience and illustrate that thought and preparation has gone into the project.

These initial steps will position an inventor for success. Other alternatives for monetization include listing the intellectual property in an auction for sale when direct involvement in the “business” of the invention is not desired by the inventor.

Finally, the technology may be licensed to another party. In this scenario, the innovator collects a licensing fee for certain activity undertaken by the party holding the license.

In conclusion, the road to commercialization/monetization requires perseverance and a disciplined approach exemplified by Mr. Bell and Mr. Edison.

By Paul Sharpe