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This Invention: A Family Content Network

A journal, information and resources for establishing a Family Content Network, as I am doing - essentially a framework for managing all your Family's online assets and inventions for maximum exposure and revenue. This blog began as an inventor's journal, and retains the overall parent inventor's context and mindset.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

(9) The Internet and Home-Based Business

An additional item worth mentioning, with respect to the marketing/business plan front, is that I've established a domain name, web site (just the address, not any content yet), and email address for more formal communication with manufacturers and vendors. This is to mainly help establish some legitimacy, as well as start using the name in public to help support a future registered trademark application. As of right now, I'm going to start using the TM notation on some things, to establish this right. I'm pretty sure the TM term, while conceptually descriptive and related to the product, doesn't actually say what it is - therefore it's neither a generic nor descriptive term, but a real 'exclusive name or word used as a business trademark', that can be protected.

The email moniker seems to have helped with a couple of communications, perhaps somewhat more credible than "tedacdc"; my typical online avatar (used mainly for informal communication and collection of spam).

I've started to lay out the website, taking input from others who have gone before - there's no end to the list of really bad websites out there, created by individual inventors, and my job involves establishment of online presence and capability. So I think I can design a really good website, though I'll probably outsource the initial programming, while retaining rights to the source code, to I can change it by myself later.

I've actually been very informally maintaining my wife's website, which is a whole other story. She and her neighbor have started a computer training and safe use business for children and adults, starting first with Kindergartners and Word/Excel training for adults. We've set up an in-home computer center, and it's all called 'WhizKids LLC'. This should be pretty successful, and I certainly look to the exercise to help 'test run' various marketing and business methods involved with starting a home business, and will apply the lessons learned to the business of my invention. In fact, there are some very interesting 'cross-selling' and 'cross-testing' opportunities, as well as 'cross-collaboration' opportunities. Developing a home-based business can really benefit from collaborating with all the others in your community, who are in various stages of creating their own businesses, or offering local/online services to those who are.

Another interesting development is a neighbor I grew up with in NJ has evidently obtained a patent for a meatball cooker, several years ago, and has just now started focus-testing it. Another in my neighborhood appears to have created and trademarked a business that could reference my invention. Between these persons and others online I've shared information with, it appears there's opportunity to expand my rapidly expanding online virtual community to some other actual inventors. Perhaps an opportunity for additional cross-selling and marketing exists. The online Inventor community is very vibrant, active and useful.

Lots of converging stories to this Invention saga; probably should write a book. In fact, isn't this Blog the starting point for that?

(8) Return from Hiatus

From this blog perspective, I've taken a vacation from the invention process - but actually have still been very part-time making incremental progress. It's very slow going, if (1) you're not focused on it, (2) there's no immediacy or pressing concern, (3) other extra-curriculars involving children and family get busy, and (4) you're trying to balance concurrent activities on multiple fronts (regarding the invention), while not spending all of the investment pot.

Current update

- The designer I've located has produced initial CAD models of the core component, and, working with me, has finalized the mechanical structure/design of a few key attachments. It's pretty interesting seeing your invention materialize in a 3-D CAD rendering.

- The Patent Lawyer has finally scheduled a time window to file the patent (just in time, as the provisional patent was filed in November last year). Should be some interesting discussions next week, trying to make sure the claims are broad enough so to avoid 'design-around', and deciding on how to include reference and drawings of all the additional 'embodiments' I've thought of over the past year. That's a key point; don't file the patent until you're very certain of all the ways someone could attack your problem, and the various design/embodiment perspectives. Also, through the rough prototyping and software design process, you run into slight issues and some fundamental design shifts, that need to be reflected in the patent.

- The designer has suggest a 'printer' for the initial set of prototype (plastic) parts; appears will be very much cheaper than classic injection molding prototying.

- A very integral part of the item has taken me a surprisingly long time to locate; several months of Internet searching, emails, phone calls, trips to retail stores, etc. has turned up only a handful of possible suppliers, who can further customize their core product to my needs. My needs are specific from a capability perspective, but I need the component to fulfill 'low' and 'high' end markets, i.e. cheap ones and expensive ones. The whole concept is to produce something that's cheap and consumable (the core revenue stream and marketing concept), on a Walmart shelf, but also can be extended via options, accessories and more expensive, durable parts to a whole product line, cheap to expensive. The invention itself really isn't glamorous, but a very fundamental solution that ought to be commoditized to some extent, either separately or in conjunction with the market and products associated.

- Have made a whole 'parts list' diagram and assembly instructions; it's pretty interesting once this is done, how many little decisions and design alternatives come up. My objective is to (a) create an assembly of components that's easy to use with minimal or no construction, yet (b) enable those who wish to, to 'mix and match' or customize the assembly for particular needs. Serve both the general, 'non-participatory' public and the focused, interested specialist.

- In terms of publicity and marketing, I've assembled a large list of benefits, possible safety issues that will need to be addressed (from a product liability perspective), target test labs and certifications, possible dealers/licensors, possible trade shows (like JPMA), and a long list of those possibly helpful in the online community. This means interest groups, message boards, product review sites, related distributors and retailers, etc. Altogether, I'm pretty sure I can launch, market and sell the product successfully on my own, with an Internet retail site, given the preponderance of forums available to have the product exposed and critiqued (hopefully positively!).

- A very helpful inventor's group (and I've research them all!) turns out to be Inved.org; lots of good advice and discussion, avoidance of advertising/spam, not for profit, all people who are just like I am. I browse the message board here several times a day, and have read all the past archives. Another newer site is inventorhq.com, which is a bit more commercial in nature, though the message board is well facilitated and free of agenda.

- I've looked into the various Inventor contests; most end up with you, as an inventor, relinquishing all licensing/marketing/selling rights, possibly turning over your patent, losing exclusivity (assigning to the contest backers), and altogether not seeming like a good idea for someone interested in creating a long-term market and business with the invention. These are a good idea for the casual inventor, who doesn't want to 'own' the business around the invention, but just wants some publicity and a license agreement. Now some of these contests, by specific retailers, may make sense - if they are a true target and good representative of the qualities of your invention. In my case, I may seriously consider the Hammacher Schlemmer contest, next time it runs - if I can retain long-term patent rights, and the product proves itself in initial testing. One contest I would have like to have dealt with, was sponsored by ABC and Mominventors - the only problem is that (1) you lose exclusivity in licensing your patent, and (2) I'm not a Mom Inventor - but a Dad Inventor. Have actually emailed with the ParentsofInvention people, and executed an NDA with them to see if they were interested in helping with the product - but they referred me to related retail manufacturers. I think the main reason was that my invention was not mature or formulated enough for them to invest any time in considering.

- One invention contest that just came up, though, looks really promising. The History Channel's "Modern Marvels" Invent Now challenge; it's all about the invention and inventor's story, and not at all about licensing or seeking control and exclusivity of the product. Will very likely be entering this one, so long as the patent filing get done in time (the contest ends Dec. 31), and I'm confident my product will sell (having by then done some initial trials, tests, and focus group marketing).

So, though overall progress seems slow, a whole lot of moving parts have blossomed, and need to addressed in 'spurts' during my off time; I'm trying to accelerate a little as the idea seems much more real and likely to make money, and our Disney Vacation is coming up. I think I may be able to take a prototype with me and do some testing there.

In the meantime I'm dealing with an interesting development; birthparents! Very interesting and exciting story, to be continued. The day job has also expanded, into a North America-wide Homeland Security initiative; therefore there's no end to the number of things that can take my mind and activity off the invention process. What I expect to do, however, is make determined, incremental process on each front of the invention, making sure to establish some progress each week. And I continue to scour the Internet (every day!) for any developments in my target area - it's amazing that there still aren't any solutions like mine available yet, but plenty of complaints and alternative methods.