I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


6 April 2013

Inventors and their myths

OK, I'm not an inventor. But I've had lots of dealings with them -- face to face, on the phone, e-mails, you name it -- where I was offering advice or, more often, listening to their statements.

With a few exceptions I omit trained engineers from these comments. Again and again, I heard from people who had no skills or experience at all comments like (these are all real):

-- I will make at least £700 million from this (if it's that lucrative a product, competition will spring up
-- My friends all say that they would pay £30 for it (well, they would say it, or they're not friends)
-- I've committed too much to stop now, it's my dream (this is a fallacy, thinking that yet more money and time will retrieve a bad situation)
-- Do I need a business plan if I want financial backers (yes, and a good one too !)

Again and again people who only have an idea and have nothing else going for them, such as, oh, a knowledge of the sector, marketing, finance, engineering... think that they will have no problems competing with veterans in the area. Someone exceptionally able may be able to win through, but most people should try applying a SWOT analysis to themselves and the product niche.

For a start the product niche itself is very often tiny and overcrowded. They may be hoping to sell an idea which will mean tearing up assembly lines for a tiny advantage, and are amazed at the thought that they won't, perhaps, be welcomed.

Or they are unable to see what the person on the other side of the table -- the negotiator -- might think.

I have been called negative, but I think that the real word is realistic. Advising inventors about the basics of IP and about what issues ought to be in their business plan was fun, but particularly if the idea was a good one with a good chance of success with the inventor and his or her team having strong talents and experience. Lacking that doesn't make it impossible to succeed, but it's a lot harder.

It's far more work and risky getting an inventor through to success than most novices ever dream.