How to Sell Your Invention Ideas to a Manufacturer for Money
Does This Describe You?
- You tend to think of innovative ideas for new products or improvements to existing products.
- You modify the way existing products work to make them serve your own needs.
That makes you an inventor!
Most inventions are the result of products we envision to solve problems we encounter in life.
If no one else has thought of your idea, and you have not shared it publicly, and no one else has a patent on it, then you own the rights to your design, and you can sell those rights.
Don’t underestimate the power of your imagination.— Barbara Corcoran (Investor: ABC's Shark Tank)
Beware of Companies Who Sell Patent Protection
I’m not saying patents are not necessary. They are. They protect your rights to your claims on your invention. However, you have to know when, and if, you need one.
Many people make the mistake of paying expensive attorney fees to do a patent search and for filing an application before they even investigate how marketable their idea is. Besides, patents are only helpful if you have the money to bring a lawsuit against a plagiarist.
Did you know that Coca Cola never patented their soda? If they had, they would have given away the secret recipe, because the information would have been publicly available on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
Many companies will be glad to take your money and help you get a patent. They aren’t crooks. They're just selling you what you wanted. They won’t bother to tell you that your product won’t sell, or how to improve it to make it marketable. That’s not their business.
You need someone on your side that will tell you the honest truth. Inventing new ideas is not a quick way to become rich. You’re lucky if you even succeed in getting an idea on store shelves.
Doing it on your own might be the worst way to attempt this. You may have a vision for a useful invention, but it's helpful to have a team of professionals who know how to plan for your success.
Invention Representation With a Team on Your Side
I found a company called Edison Nation that will work for you to get your product into the hands of a manufacturer that wants to license it. They will even build a prototype, if needed, and do research with your product in the lab to make improvements.
They will do this at their expense if they determine that it's patentable and marketable. They will also protect you with a Non-Disclosure Agreement on every idea you submit.
You both need to agree not to disclose your idea. If you already told anyone about it or showed it to anyone, you may lose your rights. You need to verify that you had not done that when you submit an idea. They can’t waste time on an idea that you already disclosed to the public.
Their objective is to commercialize your idea. They will evaluate your idea through several stages, and you can follow the process online (on your account Dashboard).
If it’s not marketable, they’ll tell you what's wrong with your idea and how to improve it. If it makes it to the final stage of evaluation, their team will pitch your product idea to manufacturers who partner with Edison Nation for product licensing opportunities.
The goal is to license it to a partner who would ultimately manufacture, market, and distribute the product. Edison Nation will handle all patent work, and you will be listed on the patent as the inventor.
My Due Diligence Checking Out Edison Nation
I’m sure you’ve seen ads on TV by companies offering to help you get your idea created. We never know how legitimate these companies are. Friends have asked me how I knew I wouldn’t get screwed.
Well, I reviewed the background of Edison Nation, and I trust them for several reasons:
- First of all, I found out about Edison Nation from their founder, Louis Forman, when I read his book “Independent Inventors Handbook.” He is also the founder and CEO of Enventys that is in partnership with Edison Nation. Enventys has a team that creates prototypes and helps bring products to the market.
- In addition, Daymond John, one of the investors on ABC's Shark Tank, had done business with them. See his video below.
- Lastly, I’ve seen products on TV that were a result of licensing deals acquired by Edison Nation. I even see products in Walmart that were profitable Edison Nation endeavors, like the Perfect Bacon Bowl. I listed a few more below the video.
Raymond John's Idea Search With Edison Nation
Edison Nation Products
Some Edison Nation products may be familiar to you. You may have seen them on store shelves or television. All those listed below are also on Amazon. Just think for a moment what ideas you might have imagined.
- Eggies® (Hard-boiled egg cooker)
- Emery Cat® (Cat toy with a claw duller)
- Gyro Bowl® (Non-spill cereal bowl for kids)
- Slice-O-Matic™ (Effortlessly slices fruits and vegetables)
- Mister Steamy® (Amazon's Choice of highly rated products)
- Perfect Bacon Bowl™ (Makes edible bowls out of bacon)
Your Invention Is Your Intellectual Property
Your idea is legally your Intellectual Property (IP). If it's a novel idea that's non-obvious and is patentable and marketable, then it's worth something.
You don’t necessarily have to build your idea yourself. You don’t even need to spend money to make a prototype. You can license your idea to a manufacturer who will develop and sell the product.
Letting Edison Nation Do It For You
I prefer letting Edison Nation handle the legalities of negotiating with a potential manufacturer and procuring a patent.
They will see to it that your name is included on the patent and that the manufacturer accepts the responsibility of registering a trademark for a nifty product name and defending the patent.
How Much Does All This Cost?
Edison Nation doesn't charge you for this work. They make their money when they succeed with licensing your idea to a manufacturer who will bring your product to market. Then they share the royalties with you 50/50.
Working with Edison Nation is not entirely without cost. They need to protect themselves from wasting time with zillions of silly ideas that people want to submit. For this reason, they charge a submission fee of $25 for every design you submit.
The Intellectual Property rights continue to remain yours, and you can pull out and go your own way anytime during the process, as long as it didn’t get to the finalist stage.
I'll discuss those stages in a moment.
How You Submit Your Ideas to Edison Nation
Some people just draw an idea on a napkin and submit it. That's all they require, but the more you give them to work with, there will be a better chance that they understand your idea.
At the very least, it's necessary to explain how it works, its benefits, and why it's better than any competing product.
When I had submitted my ideas, I did the following:
- In some cases, I just wrote up a simple explanation of my idea, but with as much detail as I could imagine.
- In other cases, I drew design specs and images of my idea.
- In one case, I created a prototype to show my idea in action. I made a video of it functioning that I took with my iPhone.
Anything can be uploaded when you submit an idea: text, images, and videos. Once you upload your description and all the files that go along with it, your submission will be at stage 1.
Regular submissions for all categories continue through eight stages of evaluation. There is also a special evaluation process of six stages for "As Seen On TV" type products.
Stages of Evaluation Process for "All Category Search"
Stage / Description
- Submission Received.
- Pre-Screen to determine if it can be licensed.
- Initial Review and patent search.
- Research and Design to determine mass-market appeal.
- Final Consideration to match licensees and consider competition and pricing.
- Final IP Review to determine if it meets patent requirements.
- Finalists: Product will be presented to licensing partners for consideration.
- Success: Product has been selected by a manufacturer for licensing.
If your idea is something that might sell well on late-night infomercials, you can submit to the category for “As Seen On TV” where Edison Nation does their own development and production to create a marketable product for television sales.
Stages of Evaluation Process for “As Seen On TV” Search
Stage / Description
- Initial Design with 3D renderings to determine market interest.
- Multiple industry experts vote if it should proceed.
- Survey by a focus group to gauge market interest.
- Web Testing using prototypes made with 3D printers and laser cutters to determine purchasing intent.
- TV Production of a commercial for media airing and analysis to decide if the product is profitable.
- Launch: If success up to this stage, a worldwide TV campaign begins.
You’ve Got a Whole Team On Your Side with Edison Nation
Edison Nation has a team experienced with negotiating deals with manufacturers.
They already have their foot in the door, because they partner with many well-known development companies such as Fisher-Price, General Mills, Mattel, Petsmart, Proctor & Gamble, Pyrex, and Skil Tools, to name a few.
They also partner with retailers such as Amazon, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Home Shopping Network, Target, Toys R Us, and Walmart.
Can you imagine the legwork you’d have to do if you tried to get an interview with these companies? Besides, do you even have the resources to protect your idea?
From time to time, these companies, and others, come to Edison Nation in search of new product ideas. That gives you another opportunity. You may have an idea that fits a specific search request, or you may think of one as a result of a new search request.
Besides specific search categories, you can always submit your idea to the “All Category Search” that I mentioned above.
You Can Be an Insider With Edison Nation
There's no membership fee for having an account with Edison Nation, and you can submit your ideas any time you dream up something new. However, I highly recommend becoming an insider. That costs just $99 annually or $9.25 monthly.
I find that insider status is paramount to success because it includes all the following:
- The product submission fee is reduced from $25 to $20, and free submissions can be earned.
- Weekly access to a private online forum where they share inside information and preliminary announcements.
- Early access to search requests by manufacturing partners looking for new products to license.
- Subscription to Inventors Digest Magazine mailed to your home monthly.
- Detailed feedback with constructive criticism when an invention is determined not to be marketable.
Why Constructive Criticism Is So Beneficial
Item 5 above is extremely useful. When you’re not an insider, you don’t get a personal response telling you why they turned down your product idea.
Only insiders get personal attention, such as the following examples:
Existing Patent Was Found
I had a case where I received feedback telling me that they found an existing patent that described my idea. I had missed that when I did my own patent search.
There are many people in the world, and we think alike. That’s why you need to move fast on an idea. With the ease of submitting ideas to Edison Nation, I don’t procrastinate.
Too Large for Store Shelves at Price Point
Another time they explained that a product I invented would be too large and take up too much retail space for the low selling price that it would require. For that reason, no retail store would be interested in it.
That’s good to know. You may feel upset if this happened to you, but the truth is that you now would have the opportunity to either redesign it, and resubmit it, or move on to envisioning something else and not waste your time on something that may never sell.
Resubmitting an idea is free after you make changes. They only charge the submission fee for the first time per idea.
Constructive Criticism for Improvement
As an insider, I also received constructive criticism that gave me ideas for improvement.
If you’re on your own, you might be spinning your wheels, never getting anywhere. All because you have no one honest enough to tell you what you need to hear.
Are You Serious About Your Success?
If you're serious about getting your product on store shelves, then the ability to accept constructive criticism is crucial. I find that to be a gold mine.
Unfortunately, some inventors think their idea is the best thing since sliced bread, and they can’t understand why no one wants it. You need to be able to take constructive criticism.
If this bothers you, then the business of marketing your innovations is not for you.
How To Bring Your Ideas Into Reality and Sold in Retail Stores
Edison Nation focuses on doing the heavy lifting so you can concentrate on just dreaming up your ideas. They will build a prototype, if necessary. They will experiment with your idea in their lab to determine how well it will work and how well it will provide a solution for the problem it was meant to solve.
If your idea passes all the preliminary stages as I listed earlier, Edison Nation will work at finding a manufacturer who will license the idea. They even work out the legal arrangements.
None of this costs you anything, except for the small submission fee, which, as I mentioned, is meant to keep people from submitting any old stupid idea.
In return, you agree to share the royalties 50/50 with Edison Nation.
Of course, if you want to keep all the money yourself, you can do all that heavy lifting yourself. However, be ready to spend a lot of money building prototypes and traveling across the country, visiting manufacturers to make sales pitches. That’s assuming you even get through the front door.
When you work with Edison Nation, you avoid the risks involved with doing everything yourself, since they find a licensee who assumes the cost of development, distribution, and legal protection.
Meanwhile, you free up your time to work on your next invention. I think that’s worth sharing the income 50/50, so Edison Nation does all the risky and time-consuming things for you.
Not All Ideas Are Successful
Thomas Edison tried hundreds of methods to get a filament to burn for an extended period before he made the light bulb function well. He never really found the best solution, even though he patented his idea in 1879.
Patent laws only protect claims one makes. If you file for a patent and don’t include all the claims you can think of for an invention, then someone else can get a patent on additional claims that may improve upon the idea.
Edison had competition with his light bulb. Another innovator, Joseph Swan, had also successfully filed a patent for a light bulb in the same year, claiming a better filament idea. In addition, Swan’s light bulb was the first to be used in homes and public buildings.
Who got the credit? Well, you know the answer, and that’s another story.
Examples of My Failures
I’ve had my failures, and I’m glad Edison Nation was there to give me detailed reasons. I can’t tell you about the ideas I have in the works, but I can give you two examples of failures because there’s no loss with making it public.
Unique Cat Playing Apparatus
I designed a cat toy where cats can run through and around, discovering exciting locations in a maze-type apparatus.
Without going into any detail about this idea, I just need to tell you that Edison Nation determined it might not have much mass-market appeal. They explained that based on the low selling price and with it being a large footprint product, there would be concerns by resellers about large shipping and shelf space requirements.
Drip Coffee Maker with Oscillator
I envisioned this idea would force more flavor out of the coffee beans. I even made a video showing a working prototype that I built using an electrodynamic vibrator attached to an existing coffee maker.
I thought I did my due diligence with research to try to find any preexisting patent claims, but I missed one. Edison Nation found a patent that claimed: “a coffee maker wherein the drive includes an electromechanical solenoid, a linear motor or a linear actuator.”
Notice how the claim covered every possibility of creating oscillation. That’s what makes a good patent—listing all possible claims. But for me, it killed my chances.
Am I disappointed?
No. For a cost of $20 each, I received detailed reports on the research Edison Nation did in-house at their expense.
They did a lot of work. Both product ideas went through acceptance appraisal, pre-screening, and initial IP review stages before being caught up in the “Research & Design” stage with the findings I mentioned.
I consider that a team effort of people working on my behalf to move forward with a successful product or to save me the time I would have wasted going any further on my own.
Where I Stand So Far
I joined Edison Nation in 2016 and spent my first few months getting to know other innovators in their forum. I decided to become an insider before submitting my first invention.
I already had submitted several ideas and received tremendously helpful feedback. I submitted most of my ideas to the "All Category Search." However, I actually dreamed up a couple of my ideas when Edison Nation notified us of manufacturers who were looking for product ideas in specific categories. That got me thinking.
I had resubmitted a couple of my ideas with design changes when they were rejected after getting as far as stage 3 the first time. It’s a learning process, in my opinion.
The feedback provided to insiders is priceless. That information is useful to help make changes to my invention and resubmit, or to apply to other ideas. Insiders can resubmit free, as I previously mentioned. Therefore every failure can go on to possible success.
Do I Really Believe In Edison Nation?
I’m a pragmatist. I’m always hoping for success, and I do my best to achieve it. I learn all I can find about anything new with which I get involved.
Having said that, I do trust Edison Nation. I’ve done my due diligence. However, I am also aware of the odds against me, and you should understand that too.
I learned that there are roughly 9,000 idea submissions a year. I came to that conclusion based on the numerical indexing of my submissions over six months. I might be wrong with my assumption of the numerical indexing they use. Other data I found online by other researchers claim roughly 150,000 idea submissions per year!
Edison Nation has filed well over 600 patents as of 2015, according to an article in The Motley Fool. Each of these is an idea that has been licensed to a manufacturer. But not all of them lead to commercial success.
That may seem like not good odds. However, the way I see it, those odds are no better if you go at it alone. For that matter, there are a lot of mistakes you can make that lead to failure when you don’t have a team of professionals on your side who know the ropes.
I recommend that you review Edison Nation's terms and conditions, as you should do with any company with whom you work. Also, you should contact a patent attorney when necessary.
Considering everything, I’d prefer to let Edison Nation do the heavy lifting for me. You never know what can come of it.
Video: Edison Nation Turns Ideas Into Sellable Products
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 1
What if the licensee wants to buy your invention out or make a deal where you receive a cash advance upfront with royalties?
Edison Nation will negotiate on your behalf if you make it to the finalist stage (stage 7) as I explained in my article. If it is selected by a manufacture (stage 8), then you will be notified of the progress and you will know exactly what is being offered.
Generally Edison Nation works out a deal where you receive royalty payments, shared with Edison Nation.
I can’t comment on a buyout or cash advance, but if you want to know if that happens and how it’s handled, I suggest you join Edison Nation. Then you will be able to ask questions in their forum about those types of issues.
See my article again in case you missed anything. See the section on “You Can Be an Insider With Edison Nation” – I have a lot of information there about membership.Helpful 10
Do I need a non-disclosure agreement form sent to me when I sign up with Edison Nation?
Every time you submit an idea online, you digitally sign a non-discloser agreement for that item. You do not do it when you sign up as a member.
You have to agree that you have the rights to the idea and that you never shared it with anyone in any form – in person, in a video, or written description.
Once you show it to anyone without having that party sign a non-disclosure agreement, you lose your rights and Edison Nation can no longer accept the idea for review.Helpful 7
When do we fill out the non-disclosure form with Edison Nation when selling an invention idea?
You digitally sign the non-disclosure each time you submit an idea for review.
First, of course, you have to sign up as a member. It's free. You only pay a small fee when you submit an idea. This fee helps avoid people submitting silly things that waste the time of the reviewers.
The non-disclosure agreement attests that you have not disclosed any information about your idea to anyone, and they agree not to share it with anyone either.
Exceptions are internal employees who review the idea, test it, and prepare prototypes, but they are also under strict non-disclosure agreements.Helpful 6
What if the idea has already been patented, prototyped, tested, and demonstrated to potential investors, but has not hit the market yet. Does it still qualify for Edison Nation to look into it?
If you already had patented your idea and demonstrated it to potential investors, without a non-disclosure agreement, then your idea no longer qualifies for Edison Nation to handle it. However, if you do have a non-disclosure agreement, then they may still legally take over continuing the process for you. It’ll be their decision after reviewing your case.
On the other hand, if you came up with the idea, but you discovered that someone else already had a patent on it, and already had a prototype and showed it to potential investors, then it might be too late for you.
The only exception might be if your idea has additional features that serve the potential user, and those features are missing in the other person’s patent description. It would help if you scrutinized their patent. Having it reviewed by a patent attorney would be crucial in that case.
If their patent has been written well by a good patent attorney and includes claims for every possible configuration of the idea, with claims for all possible features and modifications, then it’s best to move on and try to work on another idea.Helpful 1
© 2017 Glenn Stok