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I Have My Patent … NOW What Do I Do?

Sep 26, 2001
Andy Gibbs

One or three times a week - some weeks even more often - I'm contacted by inventors who have been issued their patent, wanting to know what to do next (they actually want to know what to do next to make money from their patent).

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One or three times a week - some weeks even more often - I'm contacted by inventors who, having been issued their patent, want to know what to do next (actually, they want to know what to do next in order to make money from their patent).

I tell them what I have preached for years: That the value of a patent is determined even before the invention advances to a prototype phase. In other words, if the inventor doesn't know BEFORE he files for his patent precisely how, and to whom, he will be presenting his invention for possible licensing, chances are that he will never successfully commercialize his invention.

If you are in this "I have a patent - what do I do next" category, don't despair. Before you follow these next steps, you must face the realization that your invention, for all the investment you have made so far, may simply not have any commercial value. Although following my method of "building value into your patent before you invent" is certainly no guarantee of success, it does provide a valuable basis for evaluating whether you should continue to invest in your idea. If your objective business assessment indicates little possibility of success, you should be prepared to walk away from your investment and move on to the next one.

But, you say, you can "sell it on the Internet." If you think that building a Website is the panacea for profiting from your invention, see my "Reality Check" article below. If you're Yahoo - it's possible to make money on the Internet, but if your website is anything less, it's highly improbable that you will make enough to cover your costs, even after a couple of years.

So what do you do if you have your patent and you're trying to find out what to do next? You'll have to go back to the beginning … following the same steps as you would if you were just starting the invention process. Don't worry that you already have your patent. Novelty (a patent requirement) is completely different from Marketability (the ability of the patent to sell).

The market and your potential licensees are exactly the same whether you have a patent on your idea or not. The opportunity to market your invention doesn't change just because you have a patent. The hope, of course, is that once you re-trace your steps, you will still have a marketable invention. If you find out otherwise, there is no better way to put it than you've just taken a big step down the learning curve.

First, map out a business plan. Pretend for a few moments that your product is successful in the marketplace - that you can find it on the store shelves. Then, envision what other competitor's products are on the right and left side of yours. These "competitors" will be your most logical licensees, provided that your invention provides more functionality at lower cost than the competition.

Investigate these competitive companies by conducting a current patent search. See what patents they currently have, whether they are patenting a lot of new inventions lately, and whether they are licensing patents from other inventors (you can begin to get a feeling for this if you contact the inventors on the patent to see whether they work for the company, or are independent inventors such as yourself).

If your investigation suggests that one company is more inclined than the others to license inventions from independent inventors, then this would

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