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Lesson # 42 - Reality of Inventing

rogerbrown's Avatargold

Being an Inventor myself I have gone through a number of the same situations every Inventor faces. I have had my products/ideas rejected by multiple companies, products/ideas held for long periods of time as it was reviewed only to be returned, had the company tell me they loved my product/idea but still say No to licensing it (which is completely frustrating). And a host of other situations that can drive you absolutely crazy. So, I wanted to post some of the situations I have gone through to give other Inventors a look into the reality of inventing. Because inventing can be fun, exciting, frustrating, and have you run the gambit of emotions. The first rule of inventing you need to learn is patience. Because without it you will always have a headache.

I have been fortunate to get 11 of my product/ideas licensed in the toy, tool, kitchen, eyewear and nuclear industries and not go into debt during the process. The fastest I have gotten a product/idea licensed from the time I thought of it to the time I was offered a licensing deal from a company was two weeks. The longest I have gotten a product/idea licensed from the time I thought of it to the time I was offered a licensing deal from a company was 4 years and two months. So as you can see that is a wide range from start to finish. This is why I am posting this thread. I want Inventors to understand that every situation is different and how it progresses is not always the same. Because every company is different, their market is different, internal policies are different, how they treat innovation is different. And you will find that companies will turn down products/ideas they agree they love and would make them money if they licensed it.

I have had licensing deals that the company paid me an advance and then later decided they wanted to go in a different direction. The product/idea was returned to me and I got to keep the advance and go back to shopping it around. I have had licensing deals where the company was excited about the product but had to drop it because current manufacturing processes were not able to make the product at a rate that would make it financially beneficial. So it was not the product that stopped the deal, but current technology.

I had a licensing deal for a product that I developed while working for a government contractor company so it fell under the DOE/Contractor policy. It saved the DOE facility I worked at 4 million dollars a year in reduced waste. I received every award my company gave as well as I was the only individual to receive the National DOE Pollution Prevention award that year. Others that won that award were engineering or scientific groups. You can see info on it here http://infohouse.p2ric.org/ref/14/13978.htm Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is until you realize their policy stated that I would receive royalties for every product sold to non-government companies. It was being used throughout the entire DOE complex nationwide,(which is government) so unless I got the commercial nuclear industry interested in it I would not see a dime. Fortunately it was received very well by the commercial nuclear industry.

My point to all this is that inventing is not a one size fits all process that happens the same every time for every company or industry. How you approach the toy industry is entirely different than how you might approach the kitchen industry and so on. As an Inventor you need to learn to do your research, not be married to your product/idea, not be offended by criticism and learn from it to improve your product/idea, understand that companies work on their timetable not yours, realize a No is not the end of your life, don’t just focus on one area look at the world around you and seek out problems looking for a solution (not a solution looking for a problem). Challenge yourself to think outside the box and realize every idea does not have to be complicated in order to be a good idea.

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chicagoinventor's Avatarg8_badge

Thank you for sharing your experience, Roger. The invention process requires a huge amount of patience.

I think serial inventors can take rejection easier, because we have something else in the pipeline at all times. I have noticed that those who expressed their frustrations with how slow the process can be usually have one or a couple ideas out there. Not everyone wants to make their living as an inventor, some have that one great idea they want to see on the shelf. People like that need to absorb one of the lessons you are sharing here, even great ideas that are sure to make a profit might take a long time to get a licensing deal for reasons beyond your control.

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cowbell's Avatarg8_badge

Great post Roger! Thanks for the reminder!

“My point to all this is that inventing is not a one size fits all process that happens the same every time for every company or industry.”

That is a very accurate summary – one we should all strive to remember.

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colleennoonan's Avatar

Thanks Roger that was an awesome read!

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april011's Avatar

Thank You for the insight Roger! This is incredible information. It sounds like the “Reality of Inventing” could be compared to the “Reality of Life”…nothing is predictable or a paved straight path…Thanks!…My synapses are always firing…still trying to create the goose to lay the “golden eggie” Ha!

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april011's Avatar

Thanks Frank! my edges aren’t perfectly round…:)

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stephanieb's Avatarg8_badge

Thank you Roger for taking the time and sharing your story in another great post!! I believe this should also be placed where at least all new members have to read it!!

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williamj's Avatargold

Roger,

I join everyone else in thanking you for a truly great post. No industry specific lingo or references just honest to goodness straight eye ball to eye ball conversation. As far as I’m concerned that’s the best way to disseminate information.

And Stephanie is absolutely right. This post (or at least the contents) should be included in the registration form when someone joins EN to submit an idea.

PS,
Roger, I love the “Super Sleever” concept, so simple, practical and effective. Great job in coming up with the idea !!
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jkp's Avatar

Thank you very much sir.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Thanks for the kind words. Glad everyone is finding this informative.

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chicagoinventor's Avatarg8_badge

Thanks again, Roger.

Didn’t realize you had a CD set until a few minutes ago, just ordered it. Add that to my collection of a couple dozen inventing books (Including Louis Foreman’s “Independent Inventor’s Handbook”). You can never learn too much. Studying is only bad when you use it as a crutch to procrastinate on actually creating and presenting your invention.

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betzy's Avatarg8_badge

Thank you Roger for your insight from practical experience.
EN definitely teaches us to be patient and enjoy the ride!

Your posts are all enlightening. Thank you.

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kdc's Avatargold

Thanks Roger, I appreciate you taking the time to educate us with your experiences.

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speedbump's Avatar

Roger …. two thumbs up… very good post!!

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mykzrock's Avatar

Roger – as usual, great post!!! Thanks!

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ring-go's Avatargold

Worth reading twice!!

“Challenge yourself to think outside the box and realize every idea does not have to be complicated in order to be a good idea.” I like that!

Thanks Roger!

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jkp's Avatar

Research is so important! I just received my third R4, but it’s okay, because the en team has left me valuable and constructive feedback .
Roger, you and the other senior inventors here are really appreciated by me. This is a roller coaster for the mind for sure.

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awildx's Avatargold

I’ve read about everything Roger posts here…figured it was time to purchase the 4 CD set myself! A month early birthday present.

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williamj's Avatargold

Adam,

A premature birthday present deserves a premature…

Happy Birthday !!!

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jen405's Avatar

Thank you Roger for the advice. words of encouragement .makes me want to go out and invent more .I love what I do ,it makes me who I am . .

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cander09's Avatarname search

wis·dom – the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.

in·sight – the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.

Roger, you are a wise and insightful person… thank you for not keeping it to yourself.

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williamj's Avatargold

Colonel, it really is strange that you bring “Wisdom” to the fore front. Just yesterday (literally) I was musing and it crossed my mind that…

Knowledge was all the facts that we have learned through our education and the experience we’ve had in living our lives.

Intelligence was the proper allocation and/or use of those facts… and

Wisdom was the experienced gained from the Intelligent allocation and/or use of our Knowledge.

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marcelselten's Avatar

Knowledge always speaks,
Wisdom listens…

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wittyinventor's Avatargold

Roger, very sound advice. As with any other business, you learn to develop a tough shell, not be married to it and remain objective. Thx for sharing and congratulations on your achievements thus far!

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1walnut1's Avatar

Great post, hopeful and realistic.
Thank you.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Inventors need to treat inventing like a business, because the companies we contact certainly do. They are in business to make a profit. They are not in business to make a product because your family thinks its great, or because you have always wanted to see it on store shelves. They make products to sell to the mass market and expect to get a return for their investment.
So, no matter how good you think your million dollar idea is it will not make it to market or stay there long if it is not making a profit.

When I invent something I look at the competition so I know who I am up against and I know why mine is better. And better does not mean mine is a prettier color or mine is plastic and theirs is made from wood. Better means it does what others don’t or it does it faster, easier, cheaper, etc.
I can define why mine is better or has a twist to it that makes it stand out. This is what companies are looking for. They want theirs to catch the consumers eye to see its benefits so that the consumer will purchase theirs over the competitor.

When I invented the Sunglass Visor Clip I knew exactly why mine is better. Yes it is another sunglass holder in a market full of different versions. But all those versions had the same basic flaw in them that mine didn’t. Theirs took two hands to operate, had a small tab/button you have to push in order to open the jaw. Once the jaw is open you have to insert the arms of the glasses, push the jaw shut in order for it to lock and hold the glasses. And most of time you are doing this you are driving. The locking tab broke easily and the jaw could not hold large framed glasses like Oakleys.

My design requires one hand to operate. You simply slide the arms of the glasses between the upper and lower jaw and they are held in place by the jaw spring. To take them out you simply grab the glasses arms and slide forward. No jaw to break, one hand operation, will hold any size glasses. You can operate it with one hand while driving and don’t even have to look up at your visor to operate it. And mine cost the same price as the inferior model that breaks, is harder to use and won’t hold any size glasses. As a consumer which would you choose?

So as a company if you found a product that worked better, was more user friendly, held any size glasses and was going to cost you the same to produce and market and beat out your competitor isn’t that exactly what you would be looking for?

That is how you need to approach your ideas. Don’t just focus on your idea and ignore the competition. You need to know your competition so you can out do them. My Uncle had a saying I always liked. “If you are going to do it halfway, don’t expect to get full pay.”

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williamj's Avatargold

Roger,

If there are a number of products on the market that all operate within a certain degree of acceptability, would being able to produce an equally acceptable product cheaper be a viable submission?

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dljinnovations's Avatargold

Wow, that was a great read Roger. Thanks for posting it.

I just looked up the link you provide Roger, the Super Sleever sounds pretty cool.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

William, that is a hard question to answer because it depends on what you bring to the table. First, cheaper is not always better. If you get it cheaper but the quality suffers is it really a bargain? If you get it cheaper because you found a factory that can keep the same quality and has a lower margin of profit that allows them to undercut the competitors that can be attractive.

As an Inventor what are you bringing to the table to effect this change in price? Because remember you are wanting to get a licensing deal with them. If all you are saying is switch from heavy wood to a light composite material, is there anything to license? Unless you own the formula for that lighter composite material.

Taking the product I mention above as an example. I brought to the table a better product, didn’t raise their costs, stood out from the competitor and did not effect quality. That what made it attractive. I hear Inventors all the time say “yeah mine looks like theirs, but is a different color”, Is that really an improvement? Is that really something you can license to them?

If you know how a certain industry produces a certain product and can streamline their process and make it more efficient to a point they can cut production costs by a significant amount a year that would be a bargaining chip. The issue would be how much is the cost of the change to get the better process and will it pay for itself immediately or over how many years and does is make sense to do it? If it costs me $100,000 to make the change and my return is $1,000 a year would you do it?

That is why I am saying a lot of factors go into a question such as that. It all comes down to cost and time and loss or gain.

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jkp's Avatar

Sir you are so amazingly kind and compassionate to allow your knowledge to flow through you to all of us downstream that are just beginning this journey. I thank you.

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jkp's Avatar

Roger, if I may ask you…
When submitting and filling out the fields for EN, is it necessary to go into every little detail about money saving for the manufacturer and so on? At the risk of losing attention of EN…
Or do you recommend doing this greatly detailed report along with sell sheets and charts etc for every submission? Please feel free not to answer if these questions are too intrusive. I will understand. , thanks

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

JP, I will answer your question, but hope we can keep this thread on topic so it does not lose its value by going off on a number of tangents.
In order to assess your submission we need you to be as accurate with your information as possible. The better the information the clearer picture we get of your submission. We understand that you may or may not have the information for some of the questions such as the manufacturing cost of your product.
But remember this form is filled out by all Inventors that submit into our system. Because we have Inventors submit that have finished products with a sales history. So they can fill out those fields. Hope that helps.

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jkp's Avatar

Yes sir…good info..thank you.
Have a great day.

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davidpope2002's Avatargold

Great post Roger, I have always love hearing what you got to say! Thank you Roger!

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aubreyavila's Avatarg8_badge

Great post Roger! Thank you. :-)

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chicagoinventor's Avatarg8_badge

Thank you, Roger.
A specific example like The Sunglasses Clip is very helpful. I would add another reason for its success, how it works is intuitive. You look at it and you immediately know that it connects to your visor and only takes one hand. No need for an expensive educational marketing campaign, no need for the customer to read everything on the packaging. That makes the purchase decision easy.

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hunco007's Avatar

Thanks Roger for sharing that, and Daniel loved your last post analogy of the sunglass clip holder , :)

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Daniel, You bring up a very good point. Look at how many products you see on the shelf that hang from those cardboard backed packaging. There is no explanation of the the products features/benefits. They hope the consumer seeing the product can recognize the features/benefits.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank you are very correct. If Inventors would take the time to search these forums for various topics they would find a wealth of information so they would better understand the industry and lower their anxiety level.
You have done a great job of pointing out a number of threads that have information and lessons everyone can learn from to improve how they should go forward. I always encourage Inventors to look at more than just the first page of threads in these forums, otherwise you are missing a lot of helpful material.

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williamj's Avatargold

You literally “nailed” this one Frank ! LOL

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank your graphic above is an excellent depiction of the struggle we face daily as we try to inform Inventors of exactly how the industry really works versus how the Inventor wants the Industry to work.
Companies such as Mattel, Stanley, Staples, RubberMaid and others all have their own internal policies that they have structured to fit their business model for dealing with innovation. Just because you as the Inventor don’t like it doesn’t mean you can ignore it and just tell them to forget their policies because you don’t feel they should apply to you.

I have companies I have dealt with for years. I am on a first name basis with them and I still have to fill out necessary forms in order for certain processes to take affect. I deal with companies that have 32 subsidiary companies under one main company. Everything has to go through the main company to get to one of the other 32. If I were to go to the company I wanted directly they would tell me I have to contact the main company first. Whether I like it or not that is their system. To be successful I follow their policy.
As an Inventor thinking outside the box is an awesome trait and can help you be successful. Showing a company you don’t respect them enough to follow their policies can lead you straight down the road to failure.

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nusouth1's Avatar

I am new to EN but I can tell I am in Good Company. This was an excellent article and I agree that it’s content should be included in the orientation material or FAQ under REALITY CHECK. I am truly interested in learning more from everyone and contributing to this community.

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magurn's Avataren_staff_badge

Hi Michelle,

Glad to have you here – and, duly noted on including a “wise words by Roger Brown” section in the forums!

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pappy137's Avatar

I really like this thought the verrry best!!!
" look at the world around you and seek out problems looking for a solution"

I realize there are times whens an idea does not solve a current problem, but creates a new desire or need. The Pong video game is an example. I also believe those situations are very rare, especially in comparison to ideas that solve an existing problem.

My first submission went G4 in 3 weeks. I INTENDED to purchase a product that I was certain was available somewhere, but could not find it anywhere. I looked at the patent office and found no comparable patents. So, I put together a prototype and went from there. Even if my idea isn’t commercialized, it is still a GOOD idea, AND, more importantly to me, an original invention that works. Sure, I hope like the dickens it makes me filthy rich, but if it makes me nothing at all, I still won, because it solved one of MY problems.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Being an Inventor means you need to wear more than one hat.

Because you need to be able to think outside the box to come up with your solution solving idea/product.

You need to think like a consumer to understand the market you are going after and make sure your idea/product is actually better than what is out there.

You need to be able to convey your idea/product to others so that they “GET” your idea/product and see its value.

You need to be able to take criticism and use it to learn and improve your idea/product.

You have treat your idea/product as a project, not a family member.

All of these pieces have to work together to make the picture come into focus.

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wendybialek's Avatargold

Roger,
Thanks for sharing your insights! I realize that it all takes time and realize that so much more goes into the process than we realize and rarely ever at a pace we would like it to be.
Patience, I have learned from my Autistic son and it has made me be able to just go with flow on so many things! Sure, I get excited but I know if it will be, it will be! So, for each idea I have, I know it may not be the right fit for certain reasons and it may for another, or it just does not make sense at the time. I try to do as much research as I can, but I can miss things. I realize that just because I don’t know or don’t see it , does not mean it’s not out there already.
I can learn from each and every one of you and I am open to suggestions from EN on my products, in fact, I hope they help me improve the idea. I am not an expert, nor do I know exactly what a company is looking for.
I just think of things and try to get really creative but as simple as possible. Sometimes I have an idea but not sure technically how to put it together or I am not sure what the best way is to do a certain feature. Anyway, this is why I like this community…many have nice insights to share and the fact that we are all rooting for one another, even through the disappointments we receive with our own ideas. I just know it’s a journey and if I keep at it, it will happen!
Believe and you will receive! ( I just made that up! I think! ;) )
Thanks again Roger!
See you at the finish line soon! :)

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Most Inventors find it surprising that companies that license your product may not reach every market you think it should be in and that every company does not sell to every market. I have seen Inventors provide a laundry list of markets they believe their product will sell in and it just doesn’t match the reality of the market. Do you want to have your product in as many markets as possible, yes. But to expect a company to hit 100% of all markets is just not going to happen.

Example: Just because you came up with a new type of bicycle hand pump does not mean that it will not only sell in the bicycle market, but that it will also sell in the hospital bed market. Your reason for thinking this is, the hospital beds have air filled tires so they can use your pump to keep them filled with air, which means the company that licensed your product needs to market it to the hospital bed companies. If they don’t they are missing an opportunity and costing you money.
Using that same thinking the companies that make cars should also make carseats for babies, because they are used in cars and they are called CARseats, right? Granted some companies do diversify and make a number of products in a number of markets. But to expect every company to sell to every market is unreasonable.

This also goes with a post I made in (How To Improve Your Chances in the EN Searches)
http://www.edisonnation.com/forums/other/topics...
Where I wrote:
“One thing I caution Inventors about when they make claims on the users of their product they forget to account that you are not going to get all of those customers and drive everyone else off the market.
I use the story of an Inventor that came to me and claimed that he invented a better toilet. He told me that with all the toilets in the U.S. he had a billion dollar product. What he failed to consider is that even if his toilet was better than everyone’s on the market was he going to get everyone in the U.S. to take their perfectly good functioning toilet out of their house and replace it immediately with his?
Take the same issue with sodas. Just because you come up with a great carbonated drink is Coca Cola suddenly going out of business? You may gain a portion of the market, but you will not completely eliminate everyone else.

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kdc's Avatargold

Very good points, Roger!

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

I want to make sure Inventors understand that having a domain name secured that you like for your idea/product or a trademark is not a bad thing. But, just because you like the name you gave you idea/product does not mean the company licensing your idea/product has to use it.
They may decide to name it something completely different that they feel fits their target market. The same goes for the color or material that you originally thought would work best.

A good example would be a toy I originally called “Toss and Score” I also had the domain name for it. When the company decided to license it and we had revamped the product to something totally different they decided to call it " Power Pitch Horseshoes" That was their choice to make.

Another example of changes that can be made was with a product I invented and licensed called Pizza Scissors. They used the name I originally gave it. When the product came out it was red with a highlight of a light orange around the edges. A year later I saw the exact same product as mine in White and Black. My first thought was that someone was knocking it off until I read the description below it. It was from the same company I originally licensed the product. When I asked them why the new color they said that the Red one was for the U.S. market because red was the hot color at that time for kitchen items. The White and black one was for the European market and the White and black color was the trend there.
So you never know what to expect when you license a product. You just hope the consumers like it and it does well in the market.

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davidpope2002's Avatargold

Thank Roger! Again I like to say, I love hearing what you got to say!!!

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williamj's Avatargold

There are so many things in play that it’s virtually impossible for any one person to know them all. Thanks for the continuing education Roger.

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