So you have a great idea and you are looking to do something with it. Even before you consider if you need to protect your idea it is a worthwhile exercise to do some research to see if someone else has already done some work in this area. Today the best way to do this is by using the internet and a search engine like Google. To illustrate this let’s say you have an idea for a picture hanging tool. When I typed in ‘picture hanging tool’ in Google I got over 5 million results and on the first page I had tools from Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, Walmart as well as a few companies like AS Hanging Display Co and The Grommet. At this point I might consider going back to the drawing board and coming up with a new idea or refining the search by adding some of the characteristics of my idea. Using the picture hanging tool again perhaps my idea includes a leveling system. When I searched ‘picture hanging tool with leveling system’ in Google I was down to 1.5 million results, less than a third of what I had before, but still that would be more than enough for me to consider looking for a new idea.
It helps to understand what your motivation is behind moving your idea to the next step. For most of us the objective is to make money from our ideas in whatever form that takes. Making money from your idea can happen in a couple of ways. Many of us are under the illusion that we can just have an idea and sell that idea to someone for a large sum of money. Let’s explore this a little further.
Let’s say that you have an idea that is so innovative someone maybe interested in buying it. The first thing to consider here is: how do you protect that idea? While patents aren’t the only way to do this, it is what a patent is designed for. Be aware though patents typically cost over $5000 and this can be just a starting point. Moving a great idea through to commercialization is a process that can take years. In his blog Layers of the Mind Bruce Rutley states, ‘One of the key points of marketing new ideas is that research has shown that it takes about 1000 ideas for every one product that is successful in the marketplace.’ Companies know this from experience. I very much agree with Patent lawyer Doug Thompson’s analogy that asking a company or investor to buy a patent without a working prototype followed by commercial activity is like asking them to buy a lottery ticket. And I guess that is ok if you only want $10 for your idea.
One of the other things that always surprises me is that some innovators/inventors really feel that someone else should invest in their idea when they themselves are unwilling to. Once again the research shows that we are far more convinced of the value of our ideas and the things we invest our time in than others are. (If you want a great demonstration of this check out the Ted Talk by Dan Ariely) So if you don’t believe in your idea enough to invest a significant amount of time and/or money you can bet no one else will be interested in doing that either.
The long and short of it is if you want your idea to make money for you be prepared to invest not only a large amount of your time but ultimately some of your money too.