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You're an inventor and you've thought of a brilliant invention and you want to do some good with it and hopefully make a lot of money by recognition of your invention. It might be something which you suppose might revolutionise the world or should be hailed as one of the greatest inventions of all time, or it might be a modest but neat idea for a gadget or something which you deserve to get something for. It's your idea, so what are you going to do? How about getting a patent? Or getting companies interested in your invention? Now let's not rush into this, because there are some things you ought to know about the inventing business.
I know a few things about this, partly because I am a mad scientist / inventor / creator of ingenious ideas myself, and also because I have seen inventors do less well than they deserve just because of unawareness about a few things. I'm going to explain some of this in case this helps you.
There is something I would like to request in advance, which is that you don't try to get me to sponsor your invention, to help you with the patent office or otherwise to get involved in promoting your particular invention! I'm sure it's a great idea, but you should keep it a secret. I'm just trying to do some good by giving some helpful advice.
(If you are the inventor of a type of perpetual motion , there's a separate page for that).
The first problem with being an inventor is: THE PATENT OFFICE! The Patent Office is (as far as I know and unless something has changed drastically for the better) not run for the benefit of inventors! The Patent Office is a bureaucrat's dream and an inventor's nightmare. Rather than suffer from that, I have released a few of my inventions as shareware inventions!
Next, there is the puzzling dilemma of secrecy of an invention or idea. Obviously you want to tell companies about the good idea so you can get it working and make some money, but you don't want the secret to get out or someone might steal it! Isaac Newton has this problem and was going to keep his work secret including all that stuff about gravity, and he would have kept it secret if it hadn't been for Edmund Halley who talked him into publishing. See, Halley didn't just discover a comet!
So anyway, what do you do? The answer is available: You write to a likely looking company that you think you'd like to tell about the idea and you ask them for "a non-disclosure agreement". It's a bit like asking for a shrubbery, but the companies will usually be impressed that you seem to know what you're doing, and they may even send you such a thing. (A non-disclosure agreement, that is, not a shrubbery). A non-disclosure agreement is a legal promise by which the company agrees confidentiality, so you can tell them the idea without it being pinched. After you've got the agreement and explained your idea, it may be such an amazingly world-changing idea that the company will sign you up to a special deal and a percentage of the profit, and, what's more, the company will deal with all that patent office bureaucratic nonsense which you had previously been dreading!
But, there's no telling, and you might find yourself in a situation like many famous authors of best-selling books found themselves in before they were famous, where there is a regular sound of the sickening thud of a manuscript falling on the doormat, its potential greatness underestimated by yet another company.
Don't worry, just PERSIST! Persistence is a key feature to being an inventor.
Advice on writing letters to companies to tempt them into being interested in your invention:
* First do some research and find out the name of the person who runs the company. Then write to that person personally! This will give you a better chance of notice being taken.
* Even if your idea is brilliant and will totally revolutionise the way business is being done, try to play this down. Companies often get crank letters arriving claiming all kinds of stuff. It's much more seemly to write and say that you have invented something which will be complementary to the current way of working at the company and will be advantageous and give a business edge etc. This may at least get you a reply and then you can show off the amazing invention when you get to see the people.
* Don't give the idea away until you've got a non-disclosure agreement. You can still state that the invention will be good for business without spilling the beans. Make it a tantalising lead with which to tempt the people at the company into listening to you.
Beware of scams and vanity publishing
Sooner or later you will receive a message saying that some kind of institute is interested in promoting your invention. This would be good if it was true, but beware! It might be a vanity scam. I have been caught out by this sort of thing myself and I only realised it was a scam after the company took no notice of my actual invention but just tried to sell me some marketing. The big question which determines whether such an ideas institute etc is genuine is: Do they make money from inventions or do they just make money out of inventors by selling marketing?! Is the quality of the inventions crucial to the profit of the company? Artists, writers, and especially poets, are targets of such a scam. So beware! See Talent Vanity Scam
GOOD BUSINESS SENSE
Good business sense is essential to making a profit out of inventing. This doesn't mean you've got to be able to run a business, or even be businesslike in your manner; it just means you have to make good businesslike decisions. It's a matter of priority. I remember an inventor coming up with a neat idea for a piece of equipment, and he was lucky enough to get a company interested, but then instead of moving emphasis towards taking advantage of the business opportunity which had just unfolded, he tried to tweak the invention technically. He was more interested in engineering than business, and neglected the opportunity so severely that the company gave up and went for someone else's inferior invention.
Watch out for in-house boffins
Nothing against boffins, you know. It's just that you have to be careful if you invent something and the bosses of the company suggest it goes for technical appraisal to their in-house company boffins. The problem is that SOME in-house company boffins have a philosophy termed "Not Invented Here". That is, they are hostile to ideas that come from external sources. This tends to go on in some small companies especially if the company management have no clue about engineering or science. However, there was a whopper of an example of this problem in the energy generating business in the UK a while ago. Professor Salter had invented an electricity power station that could generate unlimited power from the relentless waves that pound the seasidey shores of the little islands that are the UK. But when he tried to show the government, they referred the idea to the Nuclear Industry experts. Can you guess what their verdict was? Still, I suppose you can't blame them, as they'd have been out of a job. Also, from the government's perspective, wave power may be nice for having free electricity forever, but it's not much good as a back-up excuse story for making atomic bombs, is it?
Once you've got a company to agree to a contract with you, make sure you read all the smallprint, and get a contract expert to eye it up too. Don't be too eager to leap at the first contract that comes along. Also, there have to be no get-out clauses where the company can get away with exercising an undeclared intention. I remember an inventor of a new kind of ship engine having a problem because a well known shipping company bought the invention and agreed to a percent of the profit, but what they didn't say was that they promised to make the engine in the first place. In the end the inventor got however many percent of NOTHING and the shipping company got rid of a brilliant ship engine design and got it eliminated from the market, which, if their rivals had got it would have seen them in the slow shipping lane.
There are some success stories, for example DYSON! The inventor won despite the game being stacked against him! (Follow through and read the "about Dyson" story and the shocking patent stuff!)
More Inventor Resource references to be added here:
Dyson (follow links and see tabs at top)
The Trevor Baylis Foundation - a useful resource for inventors
Peer to Patent - the idea of open-source applied to patents
BoggleIT.com - a website designed to help inventors and entrepreneurs set up business. Also see www.boggleit.com/diy-introduction.htm . Mr Boggle says "We have pages and pages of expert advice from experienced entrepreneurs about every step you need to take between having an idea and marketing it as a successful product".
Sometimes, as well as new ideas being good ideas, old ideas can be good ideas, and need to be "reinvented". That's when they are not Retro, they are Revivo
Also, as a matter of good design, it's best if contrivances are made so they can be repaired, rather than manufactured and then later disposed of. See Considerate Design
Legend has it that "If you invent a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door". This may give the impression that inventors live in houses with very overgrown gardens, and whilst this may be true, the expression really means that if you invent something that is even a small improvement to the world, then fame and fortune may be forthcoming. The truth is maybe slightly more complicated than that, but it's a nice idea. By the way, although I haven't invented exactly a "better mousetrap", I have invented something which is an improvement to the mousetrap which might help.
The situation about perpetual motion has aspects to it which most people don't realise.
Plus, see science and business
It's usual for an inventor to keep a collection of junk handy in case something comes in useful. If you are that type of inventor, a hoarder, you may be interested to hear that there is a remarkable collection of electronic junk for sale. Well worth visiting and having a poke over tons of interesting stuff, and putting some offers in.