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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, November 26, 2005

(13) Great advice

In my tireless quest for advice, and tips on avoiding costly mistakes, I ran across this summary in the alt.inventors group (Google). Fantastic stuff, and absolutely right on, imho. This blog won't typically contain references to outside advice, but this particular thread is one I'm very much following, and aspiring to, as ground-roots guidance.

(In answer to a question about what to do next, once you have an 'idea' for an invention' - by Wayne Lundberg.)

"Don't pay a penny to a patent attorney - yet. Disclose your idea with a $10 check to the patent office along with a drawing, sketch or photo of your idea/prototype. Or better yet, apply for a $100 Provisional Application yourself with help from folks in the inventor's newsgroup (alt.inventors). No matter how good you think your idea is today, in months you will have changed it and if you had spent the money on patent attorneys and all that stuff it would be money down the drain and no money left in the pot for that very essential engineering change to make it all work right.

Make sure your product/idea will sell at a price that will leave you a margin. Today's greatest tool is free and is something old time marketing people only a year or so ago could only dream of. Create a long list of keywords that you will be using in your advertising copy. Go to http://www.ebay.com/ and under the special search function click "closed items only" and input your keywords. You will see what the market has paid for items such as yours over the last couple of weeks. Do this every two weeks as you go through your development process. Sony never sell their products based on the old and obsolete MBA based manufacturing cost formulas. They sell them at PERCEIVED value by the consumer, and then they create manufacturing/distribution systems to achieve these targets. With eBay, you are at par with Sony's marketing gurus.
Be first on the market if you really believe your product has a future. Bet everything on marketing and manufacturing. When you think of making a copy what company name comes to mind? Right, Xerox owns the concept and everybody, no matter how good, will be second best in the eye of the consumer. What a tremendous advantage this gives Xerox.

Don't spend money on business incorporations, stock ideas, expensive letterhead, offices and business stuff. Work your checkbook until it's ragged, and then at some time, master Excel, Visual Basic, Access and use it until you hit over $30 million a year in sales. Get others to play in your sandbox by offering them a share in your future company. Do a fictional incorporation, say for a million shares. Set half of them aside forever - they will be used later as collateral at your bank. Sell 25% of your stock for cash. Reserve 25% for yourself and others who will help you build your business. Pay your lawyer, business consultant, accountant, and engineer in fictitious paper stock. Once you explain your business plan they will see the value of this option. Keep 12.5% of the stock for yourself from the get-go. (Keep the voting rights on the 50% for yourself). When you start making money distribute the 50% back into the business in the form of tooling, machines, marketing - whatever will further the business. See chapter 10 in http://home.att.net/~impresario/Index.htm it¡¦s free, no obligation, no come-ons.

Find your nearest Small Business Development Center (Not SBA, and not SCORE) at your nearby college. Have an interview and show them your idea and basic strategy. Their service is free, funded mostly through the SBA and State funding. They will assign people like me to help you through the maze at no cost. You have paid for it through your taxes.

Farm everything out. Do final assembly yourself. Don't buy machinery - others do it much better. Make good drawings, get good quotes, and manage your purchasing.

Get some prototypes into the hands of friends and neighbors and let them tell you what they would be willing to pay for such a device. This is the second step in guerrilla marketing. Be ready for heavy duty criticism and be willing to listen very well. You are in love with your idea, they are luke warm but may be looking for something jazzy.

Don't spend a single Dollar that does not help take you toward your objective. Have a solid objective and put in some measurables. For example if you send out 100 post cards showcasing your product/idea to so many businesses, at a cost of $0.76 each, and you get two queries, but it takes four queries to make a sale, then you know the approximate cost per sale if you repeat the process. This is key to your promotional and advertising budget. Time share marketing is on a strict formula; it takes something like one thousand phone calls to get 500 people to listen, for 5 to attend an event for one to buy a $12,000 unit.

If you go after a loan or venture capital focus on showing them exactly how you are going to spend their money in such a way as to make a positive return on their investment. This is the real heart of a business plan. Everything else is window dressing for which you usually pay a creative writer a fortune --- and it adds nothing of value. The financial spreadsheet showing exactly how you will spend and how you will gain a return from that expenditure is what matters.

Ask people to help you. Don't be afraid of rip-offs, that's why you protected your idea! Put a non disclosure document in front of them to sign. Use this newsgroup to the maximum.

If you don't want to get involved with the manufacturing, perhaps a licensing deal would be best. Contact our friend with the Boomerang fish thing, Rodney, in the newsgroup. He'ss an expert at it.

Distill your business plan, your business objective into a 15 word sound-bite and repeat it endlessly. You will be explaining your whole business to a fellow on the way to the third floor on an elevator. Learn how to get their interest in those few seconds.

Recognize that as the CEO of a new company you have four key responsibilities. Recruiting, Selling, Finance and New Opportunities. Recruiting can be getting a free consultant from the SBDC - Selling could be a write-up by your local paper interested in promoting new talent - Finance could be getting 30 day credit from McMaster Carr or a venture capitalist. New Opportunities come from being observant and asking yourself "What's new" at all times.
Get a copy of Matthew Yubas "Product Idea to Product Success¡¨ http://www.broadword.com;/ Bob DeMatteis' book "From Patent to Profit" and James White's book "Will it Sell" and read them cover to cover. Email George H. Morgan, Marshall Price, John Pederson, Michael F. Brown, Dave Kiewit, David M. Geshwind and others in the inventor's newsgroup. Go to stuff at http://home.att.net/~impresario/Index.htm and learn about cost effective manufacturing, how to invent and how to double your brainpower in one fell swoop - all for free, complete and unabridged. Start by mastering Project Management and go from there. "

Friday, November 25, 2005

(12) Patent Submitted

Just back from Disneyworld, would've been great to demo/test my device there, with such a captive and engaged audience. But it wasn't yet ready for prototyping, as several loose ends needed tying up, revolving mainly around the accessories to the core invention (that might influence how the core item is constructed).

In the meantime, the utility patent application was formally submitted by my patent law firm, after I reviewed it and had a number of somewhat minor but pretty important comments and corrections. It serves to note that you know your invention best, no matter how smart or experienced a patent attorney/agent you're dealing with - so scrutinize their work carefully, and question everything. This includes the actual claims, which are the heart of the application - though the language may seem difficult to interpret, try hard to make sure you understand.

Just in time for this, as the provisional application being claimed was submitted a year ago (11/20), and the 'real' application got in on 11/18!

Now, there's quite a lot more to focus on with the patent out of the way. It doesn't matter whether it actually publishes or not at this time, really; so much rides now on whether the product actually works, actually sells, makes some profit, and doesn't hurt anyone. If none of this happens, the patent is worthless anyway.

So I'm going to get a prototype done as quick as possible, get it in front of some testers/evaluators, and come to an agreement with my designer and various suppliers with respect to the first actual incarnation for sale. It looks like I won't be able to create the 'perfect' incarnation first round, with my absolute best target materials, weight, shape, design, or price - but it'll be close enough to really start understanding whether the market is interested. The 'perfect' incarnation will have to wait until a future round of funding/investment, with the support of initial testing/evaluation results. Just gotta get it out there.

Speaking of getting it out there, I plan on marketing in a 'viral' manner, using the Internet and casual use around target venues. I'm not going to pay for any marketing, just start talking it up, offering it, referencing it, and otherwise generating a PR campaign. To that end I've compiled a whole list of target online forums, blogs, discussion threads and related invention sites to target with either direct or more clandestine messaging. For example, a couple of times I've seen a discussion list member complain on a public board that she's having problems with 'X'; I'd probably post a casual message with a reference to my site as a possible solution, avoiding outright sales tactics. After all, I am part of the community I'm addressing, and I believe my invention is actually very helpful to others in it (regardless of the fact that I have some profit motive). There simply isn't any other solution out there like this, and I'm happy to let others know about it!

Also finishing up the application to the Modern Marvels InventNow! contest; based on past winners and honorable mentions, I'd be surprised if my invention didn't generate at least a little interest. Though it isn't really a 'modern' marvel - it's the kind of invention that would've been useful in any age, but mostly now.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

(11) First DRAFT of Patent Filing

...was received today. Looks pretty good, but it should, given all the effort I put into research, the efforts of the design engineer and associated CAD drawings, and the very good conversations I had with the Law Firm, both during the Patent Search process and in constructing the filing. It's just in time, as the Provisional Patent was filed one year ago 11/20, so this needs to get in pronto (darned Lawyers leaving everything to the last minute, and expecting it to be perfect first DRAFT!). There were, however, a couple of issues I had with this DRAFT; the email I sent is copied below - it looks like I'm entering a new 'Phase' in this adventure, where my attention to the Lawyer community needs to grow:

"I received this (DRAFT) on Saturday - looks very good, and thanks for including the considerations we discussed on the phone. Have a couple of quick questions right away -

1) The illustrations and text reference numbers through 100 and above; where are the rest of the illustrations, and rest of the numbers? For example, the text speaks to number '80', but I don't see number 80 among the 3 illustrations.

2) In the 'summary', it says that this invention is a 'combination of first....and second.....'. Is the invention ONLY the combination, or is BOTH the xxx AND the combination (i.e. really two inventions). The xxx could actually be used all by itself, if constructed in a manner that there's a really snug fit...

3) The invention is described as xxx..., yet the principle claim is yyy...isn't it really xxx AND yyy? (can't disclose the invention details yet in this Blog!).

3) In the 'combined declaration and power of attorney' - I think the power of attorney stated is probably too unlimited for my interests right now. It says "I hereby appoint the following attorney(s) and/or agent(s) to prosecute this application and transact all business in the Patent and Trademark Office connected therewith". It also says to direct all telephone calls and correspondence to Lawfirm XXX (offices).

I'd rather not be in a position where calls/correspondence regarding this filing are received and processed by Lawfirm XXX (without my knowledge or consent), thus generating additional charges for services implied to have been agreed to (through this power of attorney declaration). I acknowledge that there will be costs associated with submitting additional amendments and arguments; but I'd like to be in the position of determining how, when and by whom additional correspondence with the PTO is conducted regarding this filing.

There are probably situations in which the PTO needs simple clarification or updates to the filing package, that are covered in this initial filing fee and activity. There is obviously a threshold at which the legal activity required to satisfy PTO requests exceeds that covered by the initial filing fee (the $9K paid). Where is that threshold? How do I ensure that any legal activities conducted, and therefore fees incurred, are approved in advance by me? I simply wish to actively control costs and breadth of activity, retain my personal 'power of attorney privileges', and retain the right to change or expand them as necessary. All correspondence can be directed to Lawfirm XXX, but needs to be immediately copied or forwarded to me (with no costs for this). If there is a cost to me for Lawfirm XXX to simply receive and file/adjudicate the PTO correspondence, I'd rather receive/adjudicate the correspondence myself, and request specific action by your firm as necessary.

Please don't misinterpret this request - I'm fairly satisfied with the output to date, I just want to make sure the 'power of attorney' assignment isn't an open expense account."

.....Turns out my concerns about the application were valid and corrected, and the Law Firm sent an email confirming they will first consult me and propose a price for activity, should they become aware of any actions required. All PTO correspondence will be copied to me.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

(10) Patent Filing Underway

Finally, after exerting some Project Management levers (i.e., please get me a draft by COB Friday, so I can review and approve), the patent lawyer is engaged in drafting the Patent Filing. It's surprising how clear YOU think your provision patent and notes were, and how NOT clear they are to a complete outsider. Had a good discussion of all the elements of the claim, mostly around my need to have as broad possible claims, vs. his reluctance to put too much in there that wasn't actually supported by specific drawings, use or basically information allowing one to actually build the item.

Meanwhile, the 5 individual parts of the invention are beginning to slowly converge; a few hopefully get shipped to me this week to inspect/test, and a couple should hopefully be ready to 'rapid-prototype'. I'm spending probably too much time on the accessories and safety elements, vs. the underlying invention (which is actually ready to produce and prototype); but I think my target market of parents would not appreciate the invention as much without the accessories. Also, I'd probably be at a more disadvantageous position from a product liability perspective without the accessories - this product liability issue is going to be a difficult road, I expect. There will be many design changes, marketing statements, tests and warning labels involved with the eventual product, to make sure I'm covered. To that end, I think I'm ready to be an 'LLC'; but I hesitate to do that, until I get at least a little justification and acceptance from testing the early prototypes (to see if they will actually sell).