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35 Replies Latest reply: Oct 22, 2008 12:03 AM by LouisForeman RSS

Event: Getting your invention off the ground

SBC Team Master
Currently Being Moderated
Are you full of great ideas but don't know how to bring them to life? Think you've invented the next best thing and don't know where to go from there? Join us on October 20 when Louis Foreman answers those questions in addition to:

  • How do I apply for a patent?
  • Who can help me with market research?
  • Who can help me make a prototype?
  • Should I manufacture my product in the U.S. or overseas?
  • What reputable patent attorneys and agents are in my area?
  • How can I commercialize my product once it's manufactured?

Louis Foreman is founder and Chief Executive of Enventys, an integrated product design and engineering firm with offices in Charlotte, NC and Taiwan. Over the past 20 years, Louis has created 5 successful start-ups and has been directly responsible for the creation of over 10 others. A prolific inventor, he is the inventor of 9 registered US Patents, and his firm is responsible for the development and filing of well over 150 more.

In addition to being an inventor, Louis is also committed to educating others on the topic of intellectual property. Louis is the creator, executive producer and lead judge of the Emmy® award-winning national PBS reality show, Everyday Edisons. In 2007, Louis became the publisher of Inventors Digest, a 20-year-old publication devoted to the topic of American Innovation.

Post your question here and then check back on October 20 at 3:00PM EST for Louis' reply. You can also pose a question any time during the event hour.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    LUCKIEST Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Help with Marketing Research

    My son has been in the janitorial business for the past 9 years. He had 6 employees but lost
    an account and was forced to lay-off 3. He need to improve the business. He have people that can help him search for new customers both by phone and or direct
    contact. He need to do a Marketing Plan and Marketing Research.

    Thanks in advance for your ideas and help
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Your son should leverage his existing clients to generate new ones. Assuming that his current clients are happy with the job he performs, then ask those clients for referrals and start there. Also, it would make sense to target similar industries or types of businesses that he is already working in. Example...if he serves law firms, then target other law firms.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    CommunityTeam Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    We know you're busy - so we are taking advance questions if you are unable to particiapte on Oct. 20. Go ahead, post your question now!
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    Invest4Wealth Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    I'm new...is this an event we can attend via teleseminar/webinar? Thanks!
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      SBC Team Master
      Currently Being Moderated
      Hi Invest4Wealth and welcome to the Community!

      The event is solely forum based and will occur right here on this thread. Posting your question to Louis in advance of October 20th ensures that your question is one of the first to be answered.

      You may post your questions any time during the event hour, however he may not get to all of them.

      What's your invention question?
      • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
        Invest4Wealth Newbie
        Currently Being Moderated
        In a addition to the questions already posted, some additional questions would be, when or how do you know if the idea you have warrants a patent? What is the depth of protection that a patent gives an inventor and for how long? Is more or less detail important in creating the patent for protection? What does the patent process look like from start to finish?

        If I think of others, I'll add them later. Thank you!
        • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
          LouisForeman Newbie
          Currently Being Moderated

          A patent prevents others from making suing or selling your invention for a period of 20 years from the date of filing. A patent is therefore a great asset in protecting an invention that you have developed. Filing for a patent is somewhat time consuming and expensive. Typically, a patent can run from $8000 to more than $25,000 depending on the subject matter and number of claims. A patent should only be filed if you believe that the invention you are protecting can generate enough of a financial return to justify the expense.

           

          When drafting a patent application, your patent attorney will try to construct the claims to allow for as broad of protection as possible, however, during the prosecution phase of the application, you may be required by the examiner to abandon claims or narrow their scope.
        • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
          Invest4Wealth Newbie
          Currently Being Moderated
          How do I apply for a patent?
          Who can help me with market research?
          Who can help me make a prototype?
          Should I manufacture my product in the U.S. or overseas?
          What reputable patent attorneys and agents are in my area?
          How can I commercialize my product once it's manufactured?
          • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
            LouisForeman Newbie
            Currently Being Moderated

            You are full of questions today...glad to see that the forum is providing you useful information.

             

            Applying for a patent is done through the United States Patent Office. I highly recommend that you enlist the services of a registered patent attorney. Get references and make sure you meet with the attorney before snagging them.

             


            Market research can be obtained through online surveys, focus groups, and plenty of traditional research online and in libraries. You can also hire research firms to conduct some of this for you. A cost effective option is to talk with the local college or University. Many have entrepreneur programs and will work with outside clients.

             

            The prototype question was addressed in post #29, sourcing question is in post #22

             

            Finding a good patent attorney should be through word of mouth, but you can also get a complete list of registered patent attorneys at http://www.uspto.gov/

             


            Commercializing your product is what makes the investment worthwhile. You need to identify who the customer is and the most appropriate channels of distribution to be effective. There are sales organizations out there, but BEWARE of the invention promotion forms that love your product and want money upfront to commercialize it.

             


            Bottom line...if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    caffeinated Apprentice
    Currently Being Moderated
    Does a prototype have to be in complete working order to obtain a patent? How do you protect your idea while the prototype is being fine-tuned?

    -caffeinated
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    mominbiz Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Louis, Thanks for being on. I am a stay at home mom who has been thinking about getting into business for myself. Can you tell me, from your perspective, waht the pro's and con's of design patents are?
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      A design patent only protects the ornamental appearance of an invention...not the function. If your invention has an iconic look to it, a design patent would present others from creating something that looks exactly the same. Slight modifications to the look would bypass the patent. Generally speaking, design patents are not very useful unless they are filed along with utility patents.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    start_up Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Louis,

    Do you ever use deliberate processes to come up with your inventions, or are they all mroe light bulb moments? There was an interesting Malcolm Gladwell article about some silicon valley group that does patent brainstorming sessions where they take big problems and issues, invite smart people and then try to dream up great ideas. If they get something good enough, they patent it and then take a sub-set to market. Would you recommend a struggling start-up consider a process liek that or do you believe more in kismet (spelling).
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      I think all great inventions are just solutions to society's pains. If you can identify a pain that someone suffers from and invent a better remedy that consumers prefer over what already exists, then you may have a product that could be successfully commercialized. Brainstorming is certainly a good way of identifying that pain and figuring out a solution.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    FCPainter Novice
    Currently Being Moderated
    I have an idea for an invention that would make painting houses easier, and I know the process is to submit a patent. However, I don't have the funds to hire the attorney and the patent fees. I also don't want to market my idea to a company without a patent, in fear of losing it. It there anything I can do?

    Like, in a legal way to protect my idea but still market it to a company without a patent? Or some kind of funding for such things? Thanks
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      It would be difficult to license your invention to a company without some level of protection. A patent is the preferable method (and at the very least a patent pending). Before you speak with anyone about your invention, you need to execute a confidentiality agreement. This protects you from disclosure issues.

       

      If your idea is really that great, you might want to partner with someone who is willing to assist you with the funds necessary to obtain the patent. Giving up a portion of the equity is better than not doing anything at all.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    mistataco693 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Looking for angel investors to take a record label to the next level. The company has been in business since 2006, has a full studio, has a group signed and the group's CD is expected to be released in February 2009.

    They are looking to upgrade the studio/equipment, expand the company worldwide and sign more artists.

    What is the next step and where do we find angel investors? Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Lynda
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Angel investors are a great source of investment funds AFTER you have gone the route of friends, family, and personal funds. If you are not personally invested in your business, it will be hard to convince others to. Ultimately, it comes down to a return on investment. You need to produce an executive summary explaining the business opportunity and then support it with financial projections that illustrate the profit potential of this business. If the numbers add up and the rewards outweigh the risks, your chances of attracting investment dollars is much better.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    Invest4Wealth Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Louis,

    Could you please give some insight on the pros and cons of manufacturing overseas vs say in Mexico? This would be for a product requiring fabric and sewing skills.
    Could you please comment on costs associated with having an idea patented? What are we up against? Things to watch out for? How long does it take for a patent to be established? Where does one begin in figuring out whom to contact for manufucturing?
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Sourcing manufacturing outside of the US is done largely due to cost savings. This needs to be balanced with the costs of shipping, the time of production, and the lack of control. When you are producing outside of the US, you don't have the luxury of just driving over to the factory and checking on the production. While you can deal with some of these issues by using in-country quality assurance firms, you need to weigh that cost as well.

       


      Your biggest savings outside of the US will be on the labor portion of the product. If the product has a great deal of "hand work" and is relatively small and lightweight, it would be a good product to source outside the US. On the other hand, if it is large, heavy, and can be manufactured in an automated process, producing in the US will generally be cheaper.
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    colonny Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated

    I made a beverage at home and believe it would make a great cocktail mixer or straight over ice. There is nothing like it on the market. The ingredients are simple. Where do I start?
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Beverages are very difficult to patent. Protecting the invention through a "trade secret" might make more sense. The formula for Coca-Cola was never patented. If it had been, it would have been disclosed to the public and been able to be copied by anyone after the patent expired (today that is 20 years from filing). Instead, the formula for Coke was kept as a closely guarded secret that has been successfully protected for many years.

       

      If you have an interesting beverage idea, don't let anyone know how you made it. You really have 2 choices in commercializing...(1) become an entrepreneur and produce it yourself. This worked well for VitaminWater. He sold his company to Coca-Cola this year for billions, or (2) license the concept to an existing beverage company. While obtaining a patent will be difficult, filing a trademark on a clever and catchy brand might be much easier.

       

      I must disclose here that there will be a search on Edison Nation later this month for a new beverage. More details will be available online at http://www.edisonnation.com/
  • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Community,

    Please join me in welcoming Louis Foreman to the SBOC.

    Shall we get started?

    Louis, its all yours!
    • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      Thank you for having me. I am glad to be here and hopefully can shed some light on the process of invention.
      • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
        SBC Team Master
        Currently Being Moderated
        Louis,

        For members that have a great idea, but do not have the financial backing, what options are there available to these individuals?

        Thanks,
        The SBOC Team
        • Re: Event October 20: Getting your invention off the ground
          LouisForeman Newbie
          Currently Being Moderated

          We all have great ideas, but unfortunately, most of us do not follow through. This could be for many reasons: lack of time, money, or understanding of the process. An idea without execution is not worth a whole lot, however, if you can execute on the idea, it could be worth quite a bit.

           


          I created the PBS TV show Everyday Edisons to shine a light on all the great ideas out there that never seem to get exposure. Each season we travel around the country meeting thousands of ordinary people who have extraordinary ideas. We select 10-14 ideas per season and then the show illustrates the process of development; taking the ideas from a sketch on a napkin to the store shelves. The inventors receive a 20 year annuity on sales. Not bad for someone who just has an idea and does not want to develop it. Casting calls for season 4 will begin in January and you can learn more at http://www.everydayedisons.com/

           


          In addition, we created Edison Nation http://www.edisonnation.com/ an online community for idea people to network and learn about the invention process. One of the greatest features on Edison Nation is the ability to respond to "Live Product Searches". These searches are from major manufacturers and retailers who are looking to reward you for your great ideas.
  • Re: Live Event: Getting your invention off the ground
    Generation4 Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Is there an online directory or online resource that I can use free of charge to see if my invention is original or if my idea has already been produced?
  • Re: Live Event: Getting your invention off the ground
    simon07 Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    I have an idea for a consumer product, but I need help with developing the prototype. If I don't have any partners or friends that have this expertise - how do I go about finding a company or person that can build it for me? Also, by telling them how I want it designed.... how do I make sure that they don't steal my idea? Or do I owe them part of any future profits since they are building the prototype for me?
    • Re: Live Event: Getting your invention off the ground
      LouisForeman Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated

      Surround yourself with people who have done it before and who know how to do it right the first time. A great way of finding these resources is by talking with other inventors. Every state has an inventor organization that assists independent inventors. You can find a listing for these at http://www.inventorsdigest.com/ in addition, Edison nation is another great resource for finding prototypers and other model makers.

       


      Any time you work with an outside service provider, it is critical that you have them sign a non-disclosure agreement. This agreement should include the necessary language that provides for any improvements or modifications will be assigned to you. This prevents them from become a co-inventor on your patent.
  • Re: Live Event: Getting your invention off the ground
    SBC Team Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Louis,

    On behalf of the SBOC Team and the members of the Small Business Online Community, we wanted to say we truly appreciated your time today and your professional responses to user questions.

    Community members, while our session with Louis has now concluded, please feel free to discuss today's session and the questions answered. Again, if you'd like more information about Louis and Enventys or Everyday Edisons, visit:

    http://www.enventys.com or http://www.everydayedisons.com

    Thanks again,
    The SBOC Team

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