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          Advice for Inventors

          October 21, 2005

          Do you have a great idea? Dr. Phil, who worked in litigation for years and has experience with patents and intellectual property, offers this advice:

          • Keep it a secret.
            “If you tell everyone, someone will take your idea and go do it.”
          • Be very specific in your design.
            “It’s got to be very precise.”
          • Get a lawyer.
            If you’re reluctant to spend the $5,000-10,000 a lawyer may cost, then you may not be ready to fully pursue your idea. Bringing your product to the market will cost a lot more than that.
          • Do a thorough search.
            Is the product a novel idea? Is there anything else out there that will “knock you out of the box?”
          • Develop a business plan.
            Without a plan, your dream is just a dream.
          • Apply for a patent.
            “Unless you’ve got it patented, you can’t protect it,” Dr. Phil explains.

          Dr. Phil suggests that any inventor ask himself/herself these questions before pursuing an idea:

          • Do you have the money to really sustain the project across time?
          • Do you have the time?
          • Do you have the patience?
          • Do you have the support?
          • Are you willing to make the sacrifice and commitment?

          A.J. Khubani, CEO and founder of Telebrands, a leading direct-response consumer products company, who has made millions of dollars selling products on TV, shares the biggest mistakes inventors make.

          • Spending too much money
            “What people need is a plan. They need a budget, and time and money,” he says, echoing Dr. Phil’s advice.
          • Not doing enough research
            Is there a market out there for your product?
          • Premature Patent Investment
            “Patents are the best way to protect your idea, but they take a lot of money,” A.J. explains, noting that a patent can cost $10-30,000. “The smarter way to do it is go online ” ” and file for a provisional patent. It cost $105, and that’s it. You’ve protected your idea.”

          Invention Statistics

          • Only 7 percent of inventions reach the market.
          • Once they reach the market, the mean survival time is approximately 10 years.
          • Sixty percent of inventions that reach the market get negative returns.

          Innovation Exit: Why Entrepreneurs Pull the Plug on their Innovations


          U.S. Patents and Women Inventors

          • General rule of thumb suggests that of 100 patents granted, approximately 10 actually hit the market and one succeeds financially.

          — Fred Amram, professor, University of Minnesota

          • Patents are proof of “ownership” of an invention and only the inventor can apply for a patent. Early in U.S. history, women were not allowed equal rights of property ownership and many women patented their inventions under their husband’s or father’s names.
          • In 1809, Mary Dixon Kies became the first woman to receive a U.S. patent. She invented a process for weaving straw with silk or thread. First Lady Dolley Madison praised her for boosting the nation’s hat industry.
          • Until about 1840, only 20 other U.S. patents were issued to women.
          • The percentage of women inventor patents rose from 2.6 percent in 1977 to 10.3 percent in 1998.
          • Today, hundreds of thousands of women apply for and receive a patent every year. About 20 all current inventors are female and that number should quickly rise to 50ver the next generation.

          — From “How Many Women Inventors Are There?” by Mary Bellis,

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