I Have a Patent Number - Now What?
I made prototypes and gave them to a number of people with a list of marketing questions on fit, comfort and how much they would pay for the item... the response was good, so I wrote and illustrated drawings, and submitted a patent application. I have now received a patent number. What do I do now? I am a graphic designer but have no contacts for manufacturing my idea or know what the next steps should be. My intention is not to manufacture this item myself, my intention is to get royalty payments from a company that is a good fit for the product. I also know a corporation would not be interested without some more marketing research behind my invention.
You've been taking the right steps: making a prototype and surveying potential customers to confirm the market before filing for a patent. It sounds like you have a patent application number rather than an issued patent. It's unclear whether the patent is a design patent or a utility patent. A design patent generally offers less protection than a utility patent and this can be a factor in determining how big a royalty you might get. A patent application is not an issued patent - you can't stop someone from copying your idea with a patent application - you must wait until a patent has issued (and then it gets complicated and expensive).
The kind of deal you are seeking is called a licensing deal - you want to give a company the right to manufacture your invention in return for royalty payments. I don't think you need to do any more market research. The reserach you did initially gave you the basis for going forward. Now you have something to show and talk about. Go do it!
My article Inventing 102 covers the next steps in detail. In summary those steps are:
1. Identify & research target companies - Trade shows are the best places to identify possible licensees and to make initial contacts. The #2 company in an industry is a better target than #1 - they need you more.
2. Approach prime targets - You want to find an internal champion in the company (maybe that happened at the trade show). Use Jigsaw to find names and contact info. Go for people in sales and marketing ahead of product development and engineering.
3. Confidentiality agreement - Even with an issued patent this would be a good thing to get in place to cover new information you may bring to the table.
4. Prepare for negotiation - Know what you want before you start. Typical royalties range from 1-5% of wholesale price depending on industry and the details of the invention.
5. Initial presentation - Be ready to say yes before you walk in. Don't go fishing to get offers from multiple companies. Know what you need to say "yes" and when you get it (plus a little)... make a deal.
6. Negotiate - Have a professional advisor.
7. Marriage - Maintain the relationship.
For more than two decades Mike Marks has been active in creating and marketing new products and forming new businesses. As founder of Invention City and co-founder/partner of WorkTools, Inc., Endeavor Products Company, and Accentra Inc., he has managed the design, manufacturing, marketing, patenting and licensing of products such as the Gator-Grip® Universal Socket the Black & Decker PowerShot® staple gun, the Staples One Touch stapler. Over the past ten years products developed by WorkTools have generated over $350 million in retail sales and over $8 million in royalties. Mike has negotiated a wide range of contracts, established manufacturing operations in Taiwan and China, managed national and international sales, run public relations/advertising campaigns and written and produced television commercials and video news releases. Prior to founding WorkTools in 1986, Mike worked as a commercial photographer and photojournalist in New York for clients such as American Express, Nikon and Newsweek Magazine. Mike graduated from UCLA in 1978 with a degree in Economics.
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