Dispelling the Myths

If you ask any expert how an amateur inventor can increase the odds for success with a new product idea, they will say, "Learn about the business of inventing first. Those who don't are certain to waste money." However, many new inventors don't follow that advice because it sounds like, "Learn the owner's manual from cover-to-cover before taking your new car for a spin." You might take the time to read a caution booklet or briefly listen to advice from a mechanic.

It's hard to find the patience to study the route when you are eager to start down the road to riches. This overview is a "Read Me First" booklet for that adventure. Rather than showing you the way, it highlights the most common dangers. We hope that you will take the time to read it so you can safely enjoy the journey with your invention.

Caution Did you know that . . .

. . . most of those invention promotion companies you see on TV charge over $6,000 for their services? Even so, one of the largest admitted that none of it's nearly 8,000 customers ever made a profit.

. . . manufacturers that agree to evaluate your idea will probably tell you they don't want to be held responsible for keeping your idea a secret? They'll even want you to agree not to sue them if they make a product like yours without your permission unless you have a patent.

. . . if you do get large manufacturers to take a serious look at your invention, the odds that it will ever be made are probably less than 5 out of 100? And, usually, only one of those five makes money.

. . . after you apply for a patent, it can take years to find out if you'll actually get one?

. . . if someone uses your patented idea without permission, you have to stop them? That often means expensive litigation - the cost of a trial is more than a half million dollars for the average patent case.

. . . it's unlikely that anyone will jump at the chance to build a prototype for your invention in return for part of the profits?

. . . the simplest one-piece, plastic product you could imagine can take many years and close to $100,000 to bring to the mass market?

. . . the world will not beat a path to your door no matter how much better your new mouse trap is.

We use a strong cautionary tone in this briefing because many inventors are lured by myths about an easy road to riches in the mass market. Creative individuals can profit from their ideas when there is a market they can penetrate. However, a patent and some luck are rarely a ticket to wealth in the mass market.

There are many excellent books and guides to inventing. Many assume that you're already sure you want to do something with your idea. This can start an inventor on an enthusiastic journey into the invention business encouraged by myths and unwary of its pitfalls.

On the one hand, this may be responsible for many great products because their creators would never have started if they knew what they were getting into. On the other hand, there are many wonderful innovations that never made it to the market because the inventor wasn't prepared for the road ahead.

This overview will help prepare you by dispelling some popular misconceptions and pointing out the major pitfalls of the invention business. It will also give some real-life examples of new product development. You will gain a new and valuable perspective and be more likely to succeed at making your idea a reality if you read this before venturing into the unknown.

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Ron O'Connor, P.E.

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