The Business of Invention

Mark Sheahan (Inventor In Residence at the British Library) recently gave me some tips on how to make more money from inventing.

Here is the checklist he uses when advising Inventors via the British Library ‘Ask- an-Expert’ service:

Best solution: Is their idea the best solution to solve the problem for the target market?

Patent search: The importance of getting a professional patent search carried out, before spending significant amount of time and money on the idea -and who to use.

Market and size: Ways of finding details on the market and its size, to gauge whether it is worth commercially pursuing. Also, how they intend to reach this market, or help with it.

Manufacturability: If a physical product, can it be made, is the cost sustainable and is it fit for purpose? Getting ‘proof of concept’. Maybe showing them how I think it should be made can help.

Adding value: Most new ideas are generally better or cheaper – ideally both. I look for ways of adding value to the invention, so it offers more.

Reality check: I talk about “Getting off the train” now and again. An objective approach asking yourself the question “Is this worth continuing and, if so, am I moving in the right direction?” can often lead to a fresh perspective.

IPR strategy: Securing strong defendable intellectual property rights (IPR), be it a patent, registered or unregistered trademarks and design rights, copyright or, more commonly, a strategic combination (advice and direction).

Avoiding sharks: Avoiding invention promotional companies and doing proper due diligence on everyone – companies or individuals – that you intend to do business with (how to do this).

Business Models: What is the best way to set up the business, taking into account the product or service they are offering and how they want to exploit it?

The Business Plan: Best way is to compile a Business Plan with a focus on the most important commercial elements of their venture.

Contracts: The various contracts you will need to understand in this business, for example NDA’s, shareholder, licence, distributor and agency agreements etc. and maybe many more.

Funding options: How to get investors and/or available grants.

Negotiation: Getting the best deal, whether negotiating for a cost of something small or in a full blown licensing deal (some of the basic tricks to use).

Licensing: Why license? Plus the general terms and conditions of a licence.

Timeframes: Being realistic about the timescales involved in having an idea and making money from it, plus coming up with an exit strategy, if things go wrong, or right.

Objectives: What do they need to do to get the outcome they want? Clarity of intent can help direct them.

Re-motivation: This involves encouraging them to move forward, but may be in a different and more focused way, e.g. ‘’I like it, but …’’.

On-going support: Advise joining Inventors’ Clubs/organisations. Aside from providing a peer group where many find themselves ‘in the same boat’, they offer an opportunity of sharing experience, advice and expertise on many aspects of invention development.

I’ve also attached a related article Ask A Expert British Library Mark Sheahan. Contact me for further details.

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