12 January 2015

Alternatives to Invention Promotion Companies

The other day I was asked for my opinion on an invention promotion company. It was not one that I had ever dealt with so I could not answer the enquiry directly but I referred the inventor to the advice that the US Patent and Trademark Office and our own Intellectual Property Office had given on invention promotion companies generally. 

The inventor thanked me for my reply and added:
"My family and friends have given me very positive feedback on my invention but how else do I check if my invention is good ?
What should I do next ?
Where can I find trustworthy contacts ?"
I replied:
"First do some market research. You can get some help with that at the Business and IP Centre of the British Library.
Next you should decide whether to exploit your invention directly by setting up in business to produce and sell it or licensing it out to someone else.
If you decide to license it out you will need to show your licensee how it will make money from the invention which means that you have to do much the same work as you would if you were making and selling it yourself. If you do get it out you will get a licence fee which will typically be a small percentage of the sale price.
I can advise you on the legal issues but not on the financial ones.
I wish you all the best with your invention."
The British Library and its associated libraries in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield have massive resources on market research, business planning and everything else an inventor would need to know to set up in business. If he or she is not clear how to use those resources there are courses from the library staff and its partners.

I also advise the inventor to join an inventors' club if one is nearby. There he or she will meet product development consultants, patent attorneys, business advisers and other professionals who assist individual inventors and, most importantly, other inventors who can share their experience with him or her. I have listed some of the inventors clubs that I know about in the side panel to this blog. The Wessex Round Table of Inventors has a much longer list. I am sure that there will be lots of trustworthy and knowledgeable contacts at any of those associations.

In my email I made clear that I am a lawyer and not a business adviser. Here are some of the things I can do for inventors.

1. Tailoring a non-disclosure agreement to the inventor's needs or reviewing or advising the inventor on somebody else's.
2. Advising the inventor on the optimum intellectual property protection for his or her invention and if that includes patents helping him or her find and instruct patent attorneys in this country and abroad who can apply for them.  As I do not prosecute patent, design or trade mark applications I have no interest in selling the inventor a service though I must stress that every patent attorney I know would try to advise objectively too.
3. Representing the inventor at a hearing in the Intellectual Property Office if the examiner challenges his or her application.
4, Helping the inventor negotiate and draft agreements with collaborators, investors and consultants.
5. Drawing up terms and conditions, manufacturing and distribution agreements if the inventor wishes to make and sell the invention him or herself or licences if he or she doesn't and just about any other agreement the inventor may need.
6. Helping to keep the inventor out of trouble with third parties and resolving difficulties if any arise.

There was a time when barristers could be approached only through solicitors or patent or trade mark attorneys but that rule changed over 10 years ago, Now we can do more or less anything that a solicitor can do and as we don't have offices to maintain our services are often cheaper. You can find out more about instructing us in IP Services from Barristers 6 Apr 2013.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article, invention promotion companies or help to inventors in general they should contact me through my message form or call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours.

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