The next several blog posts will be upon “checklist” items for inventors:

Today’s topic: Inventors Checklist: Due Diligence

Imagine you are on an airline flight, lined up at the end of the runway, about to takeoff. The pilot throttles up the engines, releases the brakes and begins to rapidly accelerate down the runway.

Suddenly, the pilot cuts the throttles and jams on the brakes stopping the aircraft just short of the end of the runway. The pilot gets on the PA and sheepishly says to the passengers on board: “Oops, sorry about that everyone. We’ll have to try that again. I forgot to set full flaps and cannot take off without full flaps. We’ll be on our way in about another 20 minutes.”

The above-described scenario is fictional, not reality, for one simple reason: pilots must follow a detailed checklist prior to committing an aircraft for takeoff. One item on the checklist: ensure flaps are fully deployed to the appropriate setting prior to takeoff.

Inventors have no such rigorous checklist prior to committing their business venture to takeoff – in fact, most don’t follow any sort of checklist. But they should.

There are some common sense items that should be on every inventor’s checklist; one of which is today’s topic: due diligence.

Inventors must use due diligence in at least two key aspects of the business: patent research and in selecting a marketing channel for the product.

Patent Research

I believe that the inventor should conduct his or her own patent search and study prior to going to a patent attorney or moving forward with an invention. This can be done on USPTO.gov or on Google.com/patents. I favor the former more than the latter.

There are many benefits to the inventor doing a search:

  • He/she will become aware of relevant “prior art” that is similar to the invention
  • The search may uncover lots of similar products – discouraging further development
  • He/she will learn how to use the search tools effectively
  • It can be used as a validation to the more rigorous search done by a patent attorney

The best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place.

Too many inventors charge forward with an idea merely because they are certain there is “nothing” like it. Thousands of dollars in needless spending later, they may discover there are many things similar to their invention. I provide an approach to doing a detailed patent search as one of my consulting services on www.inventor-center.com.

Selecting a Marketing Channel

The good news is: there are several possible marketing channels for any given inventive product: licensing, selling into retail stores, selling on QVC, selling on Amazon.com, Kickstarter and many others. I have found that inventors sometimes metaphorically shoot from the hip: they select a channel and make detailed plans without having researched the channel in depth.

An inventor client recently told me that QVC was the way he planned to move forward. His product didn’t seem well suited to QVC, so I asked him why he selected QVC. His answer was simply, “I could sell a bunch of product on QVC.” He knew very little about QVC and hadn’t looked at the QVC website or watched the program.

Study the key aspects of a marketing channel in depth. What kinds of products seem to do well there? What are the requirements to use the channel? What are the costs and trade-offs? What are the demographics of the buyers that use the channel? You need to know the answers before you invest time, effort and money into the channel.

Stay tuned!