THE ONLINE INVENTOR -- February 2002

(c) 2001 Market Launchers, Inc.


Publisher: Paul Niemann



"Who the hell wants to watch movies with sound?"
-- Harry Warner, President of Warner Brothers Studios, 1902.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,"
-- Lord Kelvin, President Royal Society, 1895


Article #1:    "Will Your Product Ever Get Off the Ground?" by Jim Tilberry of CatalogRep.com 

Here are 14 criteria to judge whether your product has potential to be a catalog winner. Although it's not necessary to meet all of these criteria, the more it meets, the greater the likelihood it will be successful in mail order. 

1.    It makes sense. Upon seeing your product for the first time, most people would understand the value or usefulness of it.

2.    It's new. Ideally the product should be fairly new with limited or no exposure at trade shows or in stores.

3.    It solves a problem. Your product solves a common everyday problem that's never been addressed before. Or it solves a problem in a unique way or a much less expensive way.

4.    It's unique. There's absolutely nothing like it on the market.

5.    It looks good. Your product photographs well. An attractive eye-catching photo works wonders for sales.

6.    It's simple. Your product has just one main function and solves just one problem. It takes less copy to explain a simple gadget than one with lots of "bells and whistles."

7.    There's a widespread market. Naturally the larger the catalog market for your product, the larger the opportunity. Unfortunately, certain consumer markets, although big, are not necessarily big catalog markets.

8.    There's a year-round market. The bigger the window of opportunity for your item, the better. It's usually more profitable to get steady sales throughout the year than to be limited to a short seasonal market.

9.    It's safe. Ideally your product should not be dangerous in any way. There's no risk, or at least limited risk of injury to the customer. There are no small breakable parts for children to swallow.

10.    It's durable. Your product will easily ship without breaking.

11.    It's easy to supply. There's an adequate inventory with a short lead time (less than 4 weeks) on production. Plus, you have backup suppliers lined up, in case you need them.

12.    It's priced between $5 and $100. Ideally the perceived value is over $5, unless the product can be sold in sets. Although there is no upper-limit price, generally products selling for over $100 have slower sales through catalogs.

13.    It's easy to mail Your product is UPS-shippable. If it's particularly long or odd-shaped, you can provide the product in a re-shipper box. Preferably the product should also be lightweight. Naturally the higher the price/weight ratio, the better.

14.    It's patented. Although it's not absolutely necessary that your product be patented, with a patent you can ward off "knockoffs." The catalogs will also feel better about advertising your product if they know you are the rightful owner of the idea.

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Jim Tilberry has been putting inventors' new products into major catalogs for over 12 years now, and has more than 80 major catalog accounts. If you have a product which you think would sell well in catalogs, then contact Jim Tilberry at: 

Tilberry Direct Marketing
1749 Golf Rd.; Suite # 310
Mt. Prospect, IL 60056

Phone: 847-690-0670
Fax: 847-690-0671
E-mail: [email protected] 
Web site at www.catalogrep.com or www.tilberry.com


Article #2:    Not Patentable? So What!" by Jim White, author of "Will It Sell?"

If you get a patent in the future, of course you have a good marketing edge that will certainly help you achieve the projected profits you computed in earlier steps-and, of course, still assuming that the market WANTS your product. But what if you won't be able to get a patent? Or what if a patent could be easily engineered around? If your initial market analysis and cost projections done in earlier steps are still valid then your answer should be "So what!"

If you still stand to make a profit, and Mr. Merrick and Mr. Tripp both cite examples of unpatented product ideas that do, there is no reason you shouldn't succeed. All a patent does is provide a temporary roadblock to knockoff competition anyway -- it does not block competition from others with different embodiments of solutions to the same problem. Do you want the "Inventor:" designation on an approved patent or do you want the money?

You must make your own decision but as a marketer I have already made mine -- I'll only help inventors who are interested in making money by providing products the market wants and that can beat competitive products. If it's done right, just being first to market with a product that sells can discourage your potential competitors.

A big caveat to the "So what!" point above is that, without the patent, you will be vulnerable to near-exact knockoffs. This should worry you significantly only when your market is huge enough to be attractive to someone who only gets say 5 or 10 percent of it or when you will find it virtually impossible to be the low-cost producer over the long term. This is where having a simple product but relying on subcontractor-manufacturing (with the required double profit mark ups, one for the subcontractor and one for you) can kill your product's attractiveness to consumers and retailers. In other words you need to understand your customers' price sensitivity and be able to pare costs to the bone after your product is off and running if knockoffs can be easily introduced.

On the other hand, even a good broad patent isn't a guarantee. Take the case of the television camera / picture tube (Image Dissector / Image Oscillite). The patents (note the plural) were solid and broad and essentially guaranteed that anyone wanting to make and market what we now call televisions, or to electronically capture and send video images to them, had to license rights to do so.

Unfortunately the market for TV's didn't become huge till after the patents expired. Fortunately the technology was complex enough to lend itself to many novel and unobvious patentable improvements. Unfortunately the original inventor didn't invent all the improvements but he did invent over I 00 of them and was still a smashing financial success for the more than I 5 years he put into the television development effort. Television, by the way, while instantly and wildly popular, got a fairly slow start because a TV is useless by itself. The infrastructure of broadcasters and News/Entertainment Programming also had to be created to support consumer TVs.

Patent or not, you can and should provide yourself with trademark and copyright protections. A good trademark can be a pile of gold and yet be very inexpensive to get and defend (more later).

Remember, at this point all we have is a working prototype, we still haven't proven it will sell, so all money spent so far, including patent or consultation expenses incurred, are still at risk. You can still keep your financial risk down by not yet submitting a patent application so you might want to talk the pros and cons of that over with your patent attorney before proceeding with the next crucial marketing step.

# # # #

This information is from Jim's book, "Will It Sell?" To purchase "Will It Sell?" for 19.95 plus $5 S/H, please go to www.willitsell.com 


Article #3:    "Web Sites for Inventors," by Paul Niemann of MarketLaunchers.com
(reprinted from my most recent Inventors' Digest article) 

If you've spent time surfing the Internet for invention-related sites, then you've probably seen "Links" pages -- those pages that contain links to other similar web sites. There are now over 113 million web users in the United States alone and that number is expected to continue to grow. It seems that there are about as many web SITES as there are web USERS, so it's no wonder that most people feel overwhelmed and often lost while navigating their way through the vast World Wide Web.

Think of the information on these two pages as the ultimate links page, and we've categorized the links to make it easy to follow. While this is by no means a complete list, surfing the web just got a lot easier for you. 

www.uspto.gov/web/forms/index -- Forms page of the US Patent Office web site 

www.americainvents.com -- Ken Tarlow. Services include evaluation, design, prototyping, patent searches, patent writing & drawings and licensing. 

www.inventorhelp.com -- Jack Lander, Mechanical Engineer, Prototyper (28 years experience) and Inventors' Digest columnist. Offers prototype consulting. 

www.4patpro.com -- Patent Pro® software guides you through a series of steps that let you describe your invention. Patent Pro then processes this information and produces a printed patent application suitable for submission to the U.S. Patent Office. 

www.patentwizard.com -- Michael Neustel, the patent lawyer who founded InventorFraud.com. PatentWizard is designed for use during the early stages of the invention process, when inventors are still determining the marketability of their invention. PatentWizard will only assist you with drafting a "provisional" patent application.

www.catalogrep.com -- Jim Tilberry. Catalog sales.

www.docie.com -- Ron Docie 

www.money4ideas.com -- Harvey Reese, successful inventor and author of "How to License Your Million Dollar Idea,"  Money4Ideas.com is an international licensing company, searching for exciting new products for their established clients and contacts.

www.solve-itmarketing.com -- HaroldWestbrook. Marketing company specializing in inventor services and invention distribution. 

www.inventorservices.com -- Jack Carik. Evaluates inventions.

www.uiausa.org -- United Inventors Association.

www.inventioncity.com -- Invention City lists sources that can help you protect, develop and market your invention, and they commercialize approximately 1% of the products submitted to them by inventors.

www.oit.doe.gov/inventions/ii.shtml -- The Inventions & Innovation (I&I) program provides financial assistance to inventors with energy-saving ideas and inventions.

www.inventnet.com/patattn.html -- Victor Lavrov: This page on the InventNet site has listings for patent attorneys and agents categorized by zip codes, for both American and foreign patent attorneys and agents. 

www.patentsearchinternational.com -- Ron Brown. Patent Search International provides low cost patent and trademark searches with legal patentability opinions.

www.aas-world.org/sparks/sparkscurrent.html -- Academy of Applied Science newsletter.

www.affiliatedinventors.com -- Helps independent inventors convert their ideas from dreams to patented products. In-house professional resources provide services including consultation, product evaluation, publicity and marketing guidance.

www.fplc.edu/tfield/ipbasics.htm -- Part of the Franklin Pierce Law Center web site. This page has lots of useful articles for inventors on patents, trademarks and copyrights. 

www.innovationcentre.ca -- Canadian Industrial Innovation Centre: invention evaluation, technology due diligence, market research and education programs.

www.inventionuniversity.com -- Lisa Lloyd: Run by a successful inventor, Invention University™ helps you learn how to save time and money on inventing, patenting, marketing and licensing. Offers a home study course, licensing assistance for a fee and also conducts TeleClass seminars for inventors.

www.inventnet.com -- Victor Lavrov: InventNet helps innovators develop and market inventions and provides information on all areas of the inventing process, such as patenting, prototyping and finding a patent attorney. The site also offers the "Inventor's Chat Café," a listing of inventions for sale; online editions of The Inventors' Network News newsletter; and an opportunity for inventors to post their own web site. Also has a message board.

www.inventored.org -- Ronald Riley. Education and news for inventors

www.inventions.org -- The Inventors Assistance League, a non-profit organization. 

www.inventors.about.com -- For the student: historical information on famous inventors and inventions and history timelines. For the professional: patents, new technology, manufacturing resources, interviews with successful independent and industrial inventors. The business of inventing explained. 

www.inventorshq.com -- Randy Moyse. A free informational site for the novice inventor, offering help with developing prototypes and obtaining licensing, patents and royalty agreements. Can even help you locate manufacturers to help you develop your inventions. Also has a message board.

www.les.org -- Licensing Executives Society.

www.marketlaunchers.com - Paul Niemann, author of this article. Offers free monthly newsletter for inventors. Specializes in building web pages for inventors; companies search their Invention Database looking for new products.

www.members.aol.com/mikinvent/index.html -- A British site, this non-profit Voluntary Inventor's Club is run by Engineer Inventors.

www.patentcafe.com -- Andy Gibbs: Network of Intellectual Property web sites for professoinals, inventors and educators

www.patentdesk.com -- Gene Scott. Includes basic information for inventors as well as resources.

www.sbaonline.sba.gov -- Small Business Administration.

www.score.org -- Service Core of Retired Executives. Provides small business mentoring and advice on the full range of business topics. 

www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/iip/index.htm -- A special web site for independent inventors which gives basic information on a number of frequently asked questions. Prepared by the Office of Independent Inventor Programs (OIPP) of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

http://web.mit.edu/invent -- The Invention Dimension: Contains biographical sketches, invention archives, and a wealth of resources for aspiring inventors. Site also contains info on the Lemelson-MIT Awards.

www.ipbookstore.com/books.asp -- Patent Cafe's bookstore for inventors.

www.uiausa.org -- The Inventor's Bookstore.

www.ipo.org -- Current IP news & information.


www.inventorfraud.com -- A wealth of information regarding fraudulent invention marketing companies.

www.invention-ifia.ch -- International groups. 

www.inventorsdigest.com -- Inventors' Digest magazine.

www.uiausa.org -- United Inventors Association

www.invent1.org -- The Minnesota Inventors Congress presents a 3-day conference every year in Redwood Falls, MN

www.yankeeinventionexpo.org -- The Yankee Invention Exposition provides a forum for inventors, businesses and manufacturers to bring new products to market. Held in October in Waterbury, CT.

www.tsnn.com -- Trade Show News Network

LISTINGS OF U.S. PATENT DEPOSITORY LIBRARIES: www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/ptdl/ptdlib_1.html

www.manaonline.org -- Association of manufacturers' sales reps, listed by industry and product line. Great place to find sales reps for your product.

www.harrisinfo.com -- Harris Info has detailed information about companies in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors.

www.mfginfo.com -- Manufacturing Info has their own searchable database on their site, which lets you locate information on manufacturers (and decision makers), suppliers, professional services and many more resources.

www.nam.org -- National Association of Manufaturers represents 14,000 members (including 10,000 small and mid-sized companies) and 350 member associations serving 
manufacturers and employees in every industrial sector and all 50 states.

www.thomasregional.com -- ThomasRegional.com gives you free access to a searchable database of more than 550,000 distributors, manufacturers and service companies in all key U.S. industrial markets - includes brochures, catalogs, linecards, videos and links to suppliers' web sites.

www.thomasregister.com -- The Thomas Register has a searchable database of more than 173,000 U.S. and Canadian manufacturers. 

www.delphion.com -- formerly the IBM patent site

www.uspto.gov/patft/index.html -- US Patent Office web site. It is updated weekly and includes patents granted (full-text since 1976, full-page images, as well as full-page images since 1790). 

www.patent.gov.uk/links/international.htm -- International Intellectual Property Organisations: Direct links to more than 70 foreign patent offices.

www.cipo.gc.ca -- Canadian Intellectual Property Office

www.european-patent-office.org -- European Patent Office

http://www.surfip.gov.sg -- The SurfIP site, hosted by the Singapore Intellectual Property Office: (Singapore, US, CA, EP, PCT, JP, CN, KR and a bunch of others)


Sources:    Innovation Centre, InventNet, InventorsDigest.com, MarketLaunchers.com, PatentCafe.com, various search engines and directories

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Paul Niemann runs MarketLaunchers.com, which specializes in creating web 
pages for inventors, and their Invention Database lists new inventions 
available for licensing. You can learn more about getting your own web site 
or web page by visiting www.MarketLaunchers.com or by calling (800) 337-5758. 


Feel free to forward "THE ONLINE INVENTOR" to your local inventor group, as well as your fellow inventors. If you change your e-mail address, please subscribe with the new address in order to continue receiving it each month.



Copyright 1999 -- 2002 
Market Launchers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved


Click here to read the January 2002 issue.