Profiting from your own ideas and inventions may take time, money and persistence to turn an idea into reality, but anyone can do it. Here's how. Following in the footsteps of the famous inventors who have made millions from their products is something we all dream about.
"I will invent something........ then I'll become a millionaire!" This is something we've probably all thought about at some point.
All you have to do is come up with an ingenious idea for a new product, patent it, license it to a manufacturer and watch the millions roll in when your invention turns out to be a big seller in the shops. Simple!
In fact, making money from your own invention can be a difficult and drawn out process. Individuals take out some 4,000 patents a year, yet only 2% of these products ever reach the shops. There are plenty of pitfalls for aspiring inventors to watch out for, including the expense of development costs and the arduous process of applying for a patent.
Things may be getting easier - recently the Intellectual Property Office (Previously called the Patent Office) scrapped the initial patent filing fee. You can take heart from the success stories.
Famous Stories of Success
Take Ron Hickman, inventor of the famous Workmate Home DIY Workbench. Sales of his product have run into millions world-wide since Black and Decker picked up on his idea, and he became a multimillionaire years ago thanks to the royalties he receives on each sale.
Then there's James Dyson's legendary bag less vacuum cleaner. Unlike other vacuum cleaners, his does not use waste bags, which are costly and fiddly to replace. While it took years and no little expense to develop the product, Dyson is now able to bask in the fame and fortune his brainwave has brought him.
Inventor's Step-by-Step Guide
If you've got some bright ideas and want to make millions from your own invention, here's what to do.
1. Document Your Idea
Once inspiration has struck, make drawings that show what your invention is, how it works, the design, what materials might be used, and its advantages.
Keep the idea secret until you've filed the patent application. If your idea has already been made public the patent may not be granted.
2. Apply For A Patent
A patent gives you ownership of your invention for up to 20 years, and means that no-one can make, sell or import your invention or make money from it without your permission. You can grant the right to someone else to make, sell or import it. Most inventors make money by licensing their inventions to another company, rather than manufacturing the product themselves.
The Intellectual Property Office (Previously called the Patent Office) will provide the application forms and offer guidance on the patent application procedure. The whole process, from the patent being filed to being granted, takes over two and a half years, but there is now a fast track system available that takes under a year.
You can save money by filing the patent yourself, but this can be tricky and time consuming. Your right to make money from the patent may be jeopardized if it hasn't been properly written up. The alternative is to use a chartered patent agent, who will file a professionally written patent for around £800.
The Chartered Institute of Patent Agents will put you in touch with a reputable agent. Bear in mind that international patents will be required if you intend to sell your invention abroad.
3. Ensure The Invention Is Original
For the patent to be accepted you must prove that your idea is genuinely original and not based upon an existing product. It is possible to check in advance of filing by using a patent agent or search bureau, which will cost around £700.
4. Find A Manufacturer
Once patented, it is time to look for a firm who can sell or license your invention (unless you are in a position to make and sell it yourself).
Seek out manufacturers who make similar products to yours. Approach the largest firms first - they are constantly on the lookout for new patents to buy and may reward you with a hefty check.
To keep costs down, try to find a buyer or licensee within the first year. If you can't find a UK manufacturer try extending your search to include overseas firms.
5. Try Using A Technology Broker
A technology broker can be useful in your search for a manufacturer.
For an upfront fee (typically 2,000 - 4,000) they will assist in marketing your invention, which commonly involves printing promotional materials and approaching firms on your behalf.
You should beware though - many technology brokers offer a poor return on your investment and produce promotional materials that are low quality and/or contain only generalized information. Don't use any broker who cannot supply a reference. The more dubious take out adverts in the press with such headlines as 'Inventions Wanted.' Avoid. The Intellectual Property Office (Previously called the Patent Office) offers advice on finding a reputable broker.
Inventions fairs are a practical - and less expensive - method of meeting interested manufacturers. You can swap tips with fellow inventors too. About 400 is the going rate for your own stand.
6. Get A Confidentiality Agreement Signed
Don't talk to any manufacturer until they have signed a confidentiality agreement. This ensures they won't steal or reveal your idea.
While people commonly pay a solicitor to draw one up, you can do it yourself. Your local libraries small businesses section will have details of model contracts you can use for this purpose.
7. Get The Best Deal Possible
You usually have two options for selling and licensing your invention. You could negotiate a one off fee with the highest bidder. Or more likely, you will be offered a royalty deal combining a small up front payment (usually between 500 and 5,000) with a sales royalty worth around 2% to 7% of either the retail price or the manufacturing cost.
Don't simply accept the first offer that comes along though - shop around for the best deal and check the small print on every contract you sign. A patent agent will advise whether or not a particular deal is fair.
Make Money From Your Brainchild
Remember, having the idea is only the start. Getting your invention from the drawing board to market can take years of effort.
In some cases you may have to spend thousands of pounds of your own money on product development and promotional materials before a manufacturer will take interest.
For most inventors it's worth it, and there are certainly numerous cases of manufacturers offering millions for a single patent. By following these tips you too can follow in the footsteps of James Dyson and Ron Hickman and turn your brainchild into a multimillion pound earner.