Iíve got an idea. Whatís my next step?
Usually the next step is getting partial answers to some of these questions: Will it really work? Does anybody want it? How can I make it or get it made? How can I sell it? Can I keep other people from copying it? Picking just one of these questions and working it to death is usually not a good approach. Get a rough estimate in each area first, and plan to go back and refine your estimates later. In refining the estimate, questions in the same areas might be: Does it work well enough? How much will somebody pay for it? How much will it cost to make? What kind of markup do I need for the chosen distribution channel?
But how do I get answers when my idea is a total secret?
No idea is a total secret. A good idea is usually an improvement on some old, well-known thing. Also, a good idea is almost always a solution to a widely known problem. You can set up questions about what people donít like about the old thing and what kinds of solutions other people have proposed to solve the known problem without letting the cat out of the bag. (TBIC has a handout that addresses this in more detail).
Iím sure thereís nothing like it out there. Now what?
Too bad. If thereís nothing at all like it out there, you can be sure that thereís no market for it yet either. Finding out what is "kind of like it" is usually important. The reference librarian at your local library can help you get started in this area Ė ask about relevant trade magazines and directories. Check out one of the databases on the internet where you can do preliminary patent search (the URLs are http://patents.uspto.gov; and http://www.patents.ibm.com/ibm.html) or, if youíve got a lot of time on your hands, try the local Patent Depository Library (in the Tampa area it is at USF).
Iím sure everybody will want it as soon as they see it. Now what?
Too bad. The only things everybody wants are things that are already known and on the market. What sorts of people might be interested in trying a new and unfamiliar item (and how many of those people there might be) is a question that usually takes a lot of effort to answer. Some of the people at TBIC may be able to share their experiences in this area.
Doesnít somebody market inventions for you?
There has never been a shortage of invention marketing scams. Watch out for people who are ready to tell you nice things about your idea until your money runs out. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true. Remember that the customer is the one who ultimately pays for calls to 800 numbers.
What can Tampa Bay Inventorsí Council do for me?
TBIC can be part of your network. It gives you a chance to discuss topics of mutual interest with other inventors (and to compare battle scars). Joining TBIC gets you a copy of our memberís directory (many member have special skills that you might find of interest) and a subscription to our monthly newsletter. Please note that a TBIC meeting is a public forum where confidential material should not be disclosed.