Q: I have an idea but I don't have the money or the technical skill to build it and promote it. What can I do?
It takes a lot of things to bring a new product to market. It takes recognition of an unmet need and a thought on a possible solution. It takes the technical skill necessary to produce a prototype. It takes the technical skill to figure out how to economically make the product and this often takes different skills from how to make a prototype. Then it takes skill to sort out marketing channels, pricing, and a wide range of business issues.
Very few people have the full set of skills. Many of my clients who had recognition of an unmet need and a possible solution hired technical people at engineering shops to help them make a prototype and think about manufacturing. As they were paying these technical people for their help, the patent rights flowed to the person with the original idea as there was agreements in place to that effect. Other skills were obtained by self study or by hiring consultants with the right skill set.
So not having the technical skill can be overcome with money.
It is a real problem when you do not have either money or the full range of required skills.
You have a few options. None of them perfect, but they are reality not false dreams.
1) Sit on the idea until you have the money or skills to develop it. Do not tell others about the idea unless they are trusted advisors (like your attorney) or under a non-disclosure agreement. You run the risk that someone else will have the same good idea and develop it before you do. Happens all the time.
2) Write a provisional patent application and file it. Then try to shop the idea around to see if anyone is interested. Ideally you have the money to work with a patent attorney but based on the no money concept, I will assume you do not. I have a slide set on what needs to be in a do-it-yourself provisional application at http://bit.ly/Provisional_GBU . Most individual inventors can qualify as a micro-entity and pay only $65 in filing fees for a provisional application. The key thing is that you need to have enough information so that someone with the appropriate skills can make and use your invention. If you do not know enough to build a prototype if you did have the money, then you may not be ready for this step. Provisional patent applications should have all the substance of a non-provisional application. The only differences is the ability to use a less formal and less redundant format. Without substance, you do not have a real provisional patent application and you are wasting your time and money.
What you do NOT want to do is to fall prey to those Invention Promotion Firms on late night TV or in the back of magazines or on the internet. They are extremely good at sweet talking inventors out of money but very very bad at living up to promises and providing any real path for an inventor to make any money. See the United States Patent and Trademark page on this subject. https://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/using-legal-services/scam-prevention/published-complaints/published
and a related page by the Federal Trade Commission https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0184-invention-promotion-firms
I am sorry that I did not have a simple solution that I guaranteed to make you money. I am in the practice of sharing what I know with my inventor clients including the good, bad, and the ugly.
Additional resources like the ones used in this response can be found in the resources pages of my website at www.FLYNNipLAW.com
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.