One last thing, TigerTaco -- there is no easy way to quantify whether it is worth investing money to protect your idea. Only you can decide, and everyone`s situation is different. You can`t take that out of the equation. Stephen Key from InventRight www.inventright.com has licensed more than a few products without patents, and I assume Harvey Reese explains how to do this in his books, too. While I`ve spoken with both, I don`t endorse either of these people, as I don`t have personal experience with either of them, however I would tend to place them on the "good guy" side of the line. I already mentioned Big Idea Group (www.bigideagroup.net) as someone we tend to recommend -- they`ll do the evaluation for free.
Ahh - the battle legitimate businesses and organizations have to face when dealing with inventions. First - TigerTaco, our evaluations ARE free -- members get the full benefits of membership for their $49.00. If it WAS only the evaluation, frankly it`s still a hell of a deal to get to talk face-to-face with 8 - 14 evaluators. Our time is donated, and if you take a cheap consulting rate for 20-plus-year experienced attorneys, engineers, and entrepreneurs, 1/2 hour for 12 people at $75.00/ hour = $450.00 (the attorneys typically charge $250 - $400/hr). If it was a 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 idea, we provide advice, and in some cases, personal guidance for free. It reflects well on us if we help someone, so we do what we can, when we`re excited about an idea. (see the link : http://philadelphia.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2009/03/23/focus3.html?b=1237780800%5E1796316&t=printable ) Even with our encouragement, few people ever take their inventions to fruition. When you look at enough ideas (and yes, there are new ideas), and read enough patents, and see people who visit us after they`ve wasted tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you understand there aren`t too many inventions that are exciting, meaningfully patentable, and within the resources of the inventors presenting them to actually deliver to the market without significant risk. The low percentage of "hits" is why inventors frequently get a negative response from legitimate folks. Access to the "resources" is the main reason people like Harvey Reese are important, and whatever they offer is better than if the invention never launches --- they`re saddling the risk. If you present a crappy idea (or even a previously patented idea) to a scammer, they`ll still like the idea, and slowly suck all the money out of your wallet! Saying no to something is actually a sign of legitimacy. The price of entry is $185 or $0 or $350 or $1,500 (typical evaluation prices) -- just to separate the believers from the casually interested.
Raj --- There are always people who will steal your idea, and there are ways to protect yourself without a patent, prior to a public unveiling of your product. An Inventors Notebook is essential --- after all, we`re a "first to invent" country --- for now at least. If they make a slight change and copy your idea, then it gets tougher. Documentation is key. Action is essential.
Gary - good question. The key point was making sure the idea is worth pursuing before patenting. That`s where independent inventor organizations like ours (American Society of Inventors -- asoi.org) and others, potentially including Harvey Reese, come in handy. For instance a few weeks ago we had a young lady join our group and she was convinced she had a million-dollar idea. She was so excited she couldn`t sleep, and was about to pursue a patent. Fortunately she joined our group first, and I suggested she wait for an invention evaluation before jumping in (we had an opening the next week). In the end, while it was a novel idea, the development costs would have been steep (and she didn`t have the money herself), with multiple technical challenges resulting in a high price. The current item that it would replace was meeting the needs perfectly well for a few dollars, and it`s a small market (maybe 10,000 of these sold per year). In the course of a half-hour face-to-face review, we discussed different revenue models, different variations, and broader markets, but we couldn`t make the numbers work. We encouraged her to keep thinking of additional ideas. She was disappointed, but understood the challenges and the unrealistic expectations she had with that product. She could have spent $6,000 - $10,000 on a patent, and very likely would have gotten a patent, and then paid the filing fees, and possibly maintenance fees down the road as she burned through her savings trying to make a loser product profitable. She joined our group for $49.00 and saved herself thousands. Maybe there is some other use of this concept that would work if it was sold in quantities of millions, but depending upon the patent wording, another use might not be covered.
I`m somewhat miffed at some of the misinformation provided here --- there are few absolutes in inventing. Yes, Harvey should be more forthcoming with his references --- not for his acceptance rate, but for the satisfaction with his invention reviews. But to spend money on a patent or even patent pending is irresponsible if you haven`t established marketability. Fewer than 3% of patents make more money than was spent on obtaining the patent, and I know a number of inventors that let their patents lapse because they aren`t providing value, because they`ve either captured the market or missed it. I do believe in patents, but not as a first step, and not without knowing what`s worth patenting. The inventors group I`m the president of evaluates inventions for our members, and I`ve seen patents that were obtained through the scam organizations (check out the many fraud sites and the USPTO site) that didn`t even cover the inventor`s prototype, or ones that ONLY covered the prototype. You absolutely can license something without a patent (gsamed - please note), but a patent will open more opportunities. Patents only allow you to pursue an infringer --- said another way --- they only allow YOU to protect your invention, and that takes more money. While I don`t know Harvey personally, I`ve heard reasonably good things about him, and his web site and books do provide valuable information. I know Mike Collins from Big Idea Group (a group we recommend) says they take maybe 1 in 100 inventions they`re presented with, and for some types it`s 1 in 1000. Everybody thinks they have that 1 in 100, but 99 are wrong. I suggest having 100 ideas if you want to increase your odds. As a venture capitalist once said to me, good ideas are a dime a dozen, and chances are someone has already invented what you`re thinking of, or something close. I find this to generally be true, and discourage anyone from spending a lot of money on something unless they have the money. Successful inventors don`t have ideas --- they have inventions ---- ideas put into action. Nobody will be 100% correct with evaluating the odds of an invention being successful --- there are too many variables. But hard work is one component that will always be essential, and you need to stick with it. If you truly believe in it, go for it!