When an idea is discovered, a lot of dreams and hopes of building innovative products and successful businesses are also born along with. As an inventor, you think you achieved something big, and your idea will help solve many daily life problems. But, what if you discover that the idea is already patented? It feels like you are hit by a brick wall, and all your money and efforts go in vain. What to do now? But, don’t worry! You still have many IP monetization options which I have tried to cover in this article.
First, do as much research on your idea as you can, identify all the patents related to it, and check how many are active now. This is because most of the inventors and large corporations only focus on getting patents, but don’t know the right commercialization strategy. Some of them try, but fail. As a result, they end up abandoning their patents. There is a good example of this below:
Catherine Hettinger invented a small toy for her daughter 2 decades ago, and obtained a patent for it. She took her idea to many toy manufacturers, but couldn’t find a commercialization partner. As a result, she abandoned her patent. Later, the idea was picked by many Chinese companies, which developed its modern versions, and earned a lot of money. The name of the product is “Fidget Spinner”, which become popular among children and even adults in 2017. You might have heard about it.
What if your idea has active patents? You still don’t have to worry. Check the IP protection area, and there can be two scenarios:
1. Idea has active patents in a foreign country/region
A patent is a territorial right applicable in the country/region in which it is granted. If you find patents on your idea in a foreign country/region only, you are free to use their technologies, build commercialization strategy, manufacture, market and distribute products in your country/region. But, when the patent holders expand the protection areas to your region, you must obtain license for the patent family you are using.
2. Idea has active patents in your country/region
If you discovered active patents for your idea exist in your country/region, don’t throw up your hands! You still have chances to utilize your idea. May be your idea has some advanced features, which are absent in the patented ones. May be the patents are not brought in the market you want to target or the inventors tried, but failed. Thus, you can turn those unused patents into successful products using an exclusive IP strategy.
Do a comprehensive study on all the elements of your idea, and different segments and market verticals of the claims of the patents. If you get some unique elements, do market research, develop them further, and file the IP application.
What if the patents are successful, and inventors are selling products. That still doesn’t stop you. Do a deep study on the products and technologies behind them, and see what extra features you can add. Prepare models of the modified versions of the products, set up meetings with the inventors, and you can have the opportunity to become part of successful businesses.