I have developed a nifty jig/add-on system to a piece of equipment in the shop. I have spent about a year fine tuning it, and it works great. This system is by far more innovative than the one sold by the manufacturer of the machine, and there is no doubt others would consider purchasing it.
My question is - should I pitch the idea to the machinery manufacturer, or to the public? Have any of you tried this before? I know if I pitch it to the machinery manufacturer, I would have to have non disclosure/complete papers drawn up and accepted before the presentation. That might be a turn-off for them. If I sell to the public, I would have to go through the patent process, or take my chances without, and label it "the original". I just don't want to end up like the guy that invented the windshield wiper motor and never benefit from this idea.
To give you a little more information - the machine this is for is a staple for small and mid-sized shops (almost every shop owner I know has one). There are knock-off imports of this machine that my system could easily be modified to fit. The concept of the system is so great that the original design of the machine should be altered to make it even better and more versatile - turning it into virtually the same machine that costs 25x more.
What would you do - pitch it to the machine manufacturer? Sell to the public? Keep it a secret and reap the rewards in your own shop?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor G:
A few years ago I had an idea for a tool enhancement and contacted Stanley. Their response? We won't even talk to you unless the idea is patented. Of course, once you have your patent (not cheap to acquire to begin with) the idea is out there to be copied and you'll have to defend it in court if it is infringed upon.
Successfully bringing a product to market requires capital, usually lots of it. Assuming that your idea is patentable and has a serious market, there are venture capital funds out there looking for exactly that. A VC deal will cost you a big piece of the ultimate action, but it's better to have 50% of a big pile of money than 100% of nothing.
Upon hearing that, I decided to try to sell it myself. This machine is not in every shop, itís quite a small market actually. I was able to promote it a little through some woodworking forums, and sold a number of them. Without a large order of the materials to produce them, I couldn't make much money doing it. I ended up just providing a parts list to people who were interested. Not what you want to hear, but that was my experience.
The previous post was on the mark about needing a lot of cash to get started. Taking the idea to market is expensive. Think about the cost to produce brochures, web site, train people, videos on how it works, patents, and working samples. Now think about it on a national basis. We have over 100 sales reps in our group. Each would need to show your item to several prospects. They in turn would want literature or samples.
My best advice is to start with a patent - if you don't you will be copied. You might be copied anyway, but the patent has some legal threat. Next, contact the tooling folks or FastCap. FastCap has a great history of helping and also of refining ideas. The only other way is to start small and local and sell it your self, but still get it patented.