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Are Licensing Agents Incognito?
By Stephen Paul Gnass
I hope you enjoy this article about licensing agents who go "incognito", and find it useful with your inventing path. Wishing you success with your invention.
Sincerely, Stephen Paul Gnass
Executive Director, National Congress of Inventor Organizations (NCIO)
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"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."
ARE LICENSING AGENTS INCOGNITO?By Stephen Paul Gnass
I get many requests from people, asking for a "list of legitimate companies". This question usually implies that they are looking for a single company that will take their raw idea and make it a market success.
I explain that in my experience of many years in business and 16 years working exclusively with inventors, that I have found that there is no such thing as an "invention promotion firm" or an "invention marketing firm" that takes an idea completely from idea concept to the market - except for the scams, that is.
INVENTING - IT'S AN A-LA-CARTE PROCESS
Inventing is basically an "a-la-carte" process, meaning that you will be picking and using independent specialized vendors for the different jobs you will need performed as you go along. This may come as a shock to many budding inventors - but I don't believe that there is any magic company that can competently and completely handle the whole process from A through Z.
Until proven otherwise, we have not seen success from any invention development "factories". In reality, there is no single magic contact that will "do it all for you" when you're in the idea stage. Oh yes, you will find many companies that **claim** that they will do it all for you for fees - and these are precisely the companies that are the scams.
WHAT ABOUT LICENSING AGENTS AND PRODUCT SCOUTS?
In actuality, what many people are looking for are one of the following types of legitimate contacts:
1) LICENSING AGENTS: they represent inventors products, and find a company that will license the invention and pay royalties to the inventor.
2) PRODUCT SCOUTS: they seek new products for their corporate clients, sometimes they are on the staff of just one corporation.
3) LICENSEES: they are companies that are directly looking to license products
But while it's true that there are licensing agents and product scouts that help inventors get licensing deals and DO NOT charge any upfront fees, and only take a percentage of any deal that is successfully negotiated, this next point should be taken to heart if you are in the early idea stages right now.
Before getting to the point where an idea can be presented to, and represented [taken on] by one of these people in order to be licensed or sold, there are MANY PRELIMINARY things that the inventor needs to do "first" before approaching these licensing agents or product scouts. Otherwise, the invention will not be seriously considered.
Products scouts, licensing agents, and licensees rarely get involved with raw idea concepts that are un-researched, unprotected, untested. They feel that these product ideas are still basically figments of the individual's imagination, like "Flash, I've got a great idea and I just know it must be worth millions". Instead, the VIP is usually looking for ready-to-go, protected products that have substantiated research to back up its true value.
If you're in the idea stage, this is the wrong time to seek out a licensing agent, product scout or licensing deal. These idea concepts are initially worth "squat", they have zero value. That's where the phrase "ideas are a dime a dozen" came from. Anybody can have an idea, but it's only when someone does something with the idea that it becomes valuable.
A legitimate licensing agent or product scout who will be investing his time, energy and money into an invention, doesn't want to deal with someone who just has a raw concept where the potential is based on only a gut feeling and wishful thinking.
Like when an entrepreneur is seeking venture capital, there is a well known phrase used among venture capitalists, "oh yeah, that business plan has been shopped around for years". Showing your invention too early in the premature stages when it may not be ready for months, if not years, could end up getting this kind of response.
So remember, like the late Actor/Producer/Director Orson Welles used to say,
So initially, in the early stages, the inventor needs to do the research and development work, like making sure that the idea is properly protected, making sure that the product has a market, making sure the product works, etc., testing and perfecting the design and function of the invention, and gathering all the needed statistics and proof to present to potential licensees or investors.
Until this work has been done, you're not only wasting your own time in hunting down product scouts or licensing agents, but their time as well.
So now you know one of the main reasons why legitimate product scouts, licensing agents, licensees, and business angels do not usually advertise their services openly, and why they can be so hard to find.
Also the specific type of contacts that an inventor needs depends on this research and
on which path the inventor decides to take in launching his product. There are two main paths to inventing, entrepreneurial or licensing, what I call paths "A" & "B".
Each of these paths dictates what kinds of contacts an inventor should be searching for. For example, if an inventor is going down path "A", looking to find a licensee for his product, he will need to learn about licensing, maybe find an agent, and find the right target markets, etc.
If he's going down "B", the entrepreneurial route, then depending on what stage he is currently at, he may be looking for venture capital funding, angels, investors, manufacturers, distribution, wholesalers, etc.
Our term for all of these types of contacts is "VIPs", and "VIPs" are the companies and people that we been targeting and who make up the majority of the demographics that come to our web site, the Invention Connection® Cyber-show.
VIPS WHO GO "INCOGNITO"
[Note: Incognito: In a nonofficial capacity or under a name or title intended to elude public notice. The anonymity assumed by one who is incognito.]
In fact, while producing the Invention Convention [IC] trade show and consulting 1,000s of inventors for over a decade (prior to converting the IC into the online trade show), we discovered a very interesting phenomenon. True legitimate professionals involved with licensing new products, most often didn't even like to publicize this fact at the shows either.
VIPs often refused to purchase or wear the special VIP badges that gave them extra privileges and recognition. Instead, they preferred to come as ordinary people incognito by buying a "consumer visitor" sticker, often wearing blue jeans and t-shirts, and walking up and down the aisles of the exhibit hall, chatting with exhibitors, yet not being recognizable as being executives involved with licensing new products.
How did we know this? Because I knew many of these VIPs personally and they asked me not to let the exhibitors know who they were. Over the years exhibitors reported surprising tales of "incognito" VIPs who had revealed their secret identities after expressing interest in their products.
Why would VIPs choose to go incognito? Well, quite frankly, if exhibitors knew that the president or product scout from the Target Store or the Sharper Image Catalog was at the show, they would literally pounce on them, trying to monopolize their time and attention. Think of it in relation to Hollywood actors and the paparazzi, where the actors get followed around by eager photographers and reporters, getting no privacy or peace wherever they go.
The VIPs just wanted to take a leisurely look at all the products without any pressure. They didn't want to be spotted because they didn't want to be pitched or sold on any products they were interested in, they just wanted to be able to review and analyze the products themselves. They found that they were able to do this when they were perceived to be regular consumer attendees.
For the exhibitors, I felt that this trend presented a problem because I knew that many times the inventor's input and explanation was essential for the VIPs, since it wasn't always obvious how the inventions worked at first glance.
So we started giving the exhibitors special training on how to deal with any prospects that came by their booth. We told them about the incognito VIPs, and coached them on how to explain the benefits and features of their product in brief phrases to "anyone" who stopped by their booth.
This worked to help ensure that the VIPs received the official version of how the invention functioned. Over the years, I received many compliments including from a reporter, and the product scout from Target Stores, who told me that we had trained the exhibitors very well.
GOING INCOGNITO ON THE INTERNET
With the development of the internet as a worldwide communications vehicle, in 1999 we evolved the physical trade show into the Invention Connection® online trade show [what we often call the cyber-show]. This cut participation costs for exhibitors considerably by eliminating travel, exhibiting, and booth staffing costs while preserving the spirit and function of the showcase. It also provided a year-long vehicle, versus just 3-4 days, to showcase new products to VIPs.
In regards to the incognito VIP, the online trade show is a perfect medium for them. They are able to seek inventions right from their desktop 24/7. Yet they can easily remain anonymous without fearing that their email boxes, voice mails, and mail boxes will become flooded with unrelated, un-requested , and often unqualified solicitations from inventors with a raw idea i.e. a totally undeveloped idea or concept.
I often explain to my clients that while showcasing an invention is essential in order to be seen by the incognito VIPs that are actively looking for new products, that it's important that inventors use as many means as possible to find VIPs. In other words, the cyber-show shouldn't be the only marketing activity that an inventor does to find the needed VIPs.
IS THERE A LIST OF VIPS?
There is no ready-made list that you can just buy, because each person's invention is in a different industry which has its own nuances and subtleties.
The VIP list that you come up with will be determined specifically by which industry your product falls into, as well as the quality of your research. In the one-on-one phone consultations that are included with a cyber-booth on the InventionConnection.com, I help my cyber-exhibiting clients develop a strategy based on their business experience, the level of their invention's development, their product's industry, etc.
Ultimately, the quality of the list inventors find will depend on their due diligence which is the real work, and following up on my recommended courses of action for finding targeted VIPs.
Once you have your list, you've just started and you'll be contacting them and introducing yourself and your product. You're going to find that it's an ongoing process that requires dedication and persistence.
I wish you good luck and Godspeed.
Stephen Paul Gnass is founder of InventionConvention.com, Executive Director of the National Congress of Inventor Organizations [NCIO] and an inventors advocate. Mr. Gnass speaks on the subject of the "Business of Inventing" [tm] and has had his articles reprinted in various magazines. As Senior Consultant with the Gnass Group, he consults independent inventors and small businesses. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.businessofinventing.com
A SPECIAL NOTE: Complimentary Brainstorm:
A World of InventingTM: InventionConvention.Com
The INVENTION CONNECTION[r] is the Official CyberShow of NCIO
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Stephen Paul Gnass. All rights reserved.
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