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I have had conversations at Disney's consumer products division about licensing and know a bit about the process/innerworkings of their licensing operations. I doubt that they do much in the way of licensing people's products. They likely do not want to be in the business of manufacturing. I would guess that the vast majority or perhaps all products they sell/feature in their stores, are purchased from contract manufacturers who have licensed their trademarks, etc. I think you may wish to explore licensing your idea to a company that already manufacturers products for disney, and they would in turn produce the product and sell it to Disney. You have a far better chance and an easier path of getting into Disney this way, rather than straight to Disney. Hope this is helpful.
It may be useful to distinguish a bit between product development companies and invention promotion companies. Quality of service will certainly vary between product development companies, but the typical stories of fraud and scams I hear in the industry involve invention promotion companies.
Full disclosure: I am with Global Sourcing Specialists, a product
development and sourcing company, and we assist start-ups to go from
womb-to-tomb, meaning design through manufacturing. If interested, you
can view our website here, www.productgss.com, and view client testimonials
Happy to answer any questions.
A few thoughts...
For a first prototype, is it possible to get the materials off-the-shelf or out of existing products? It sounds like off-the-shelf may not be possible, but if you`ve seen the material you want in existing products and can buy them cost effectively and get the material out of those products, that may be a quick/cheap option. For example, cutting up a gore tex garment and reassemblying the material as you need it. This will also help if you already have a material from an existing product that you know you like--rather than going through the sourcing process to find the same, or similar material, just to create a prototype (you`ll need to do this at the manufacturing development stage as well).
For your first prototype, it doesn`t necessarily need to be pretty--but instead just test the concept. Otherwise, you might spend a good amount of time trying to source a materials supplier, and they may be willing to send you some samples or sell you a small amount of material. But many materials suppliers don`t sell product in small amounts.
I work in product development and sourcing. Feel free to contact me any time about the next stages.
I agree with everyone`s advice regarding staying away from invention promotion companies. My company is on the product development and manufacturing side--but if you`re interested in exploring patenting and licensing the product, I would look at inventorsalliance.org and inventright.com for resources and help. They focus on education, they know their stuff, and are legit.
The circumstances you find yourself in are not uncommon and you`re asking the right questions. If you`re not planning to manufacture and distribute the product yourself (which is an investment of time and resources--although you keep more for your company), then you are looking at the licensing route. I`ve worked numerous inventions and product development start-ups over the last few years, and if you`re interested in exploring the licensing process--I highly recommend these two organizations: InventorsAlliance.org and Inventright.com. The organizations are related and the people that run them are not only experts, but they genuinely look out for the well-being of their constituents. They provide a great number of resources to inventors and start-ups like yours--and I think getting in touch with them will help you understand the next steps to explore.