The phrase “rushing blindly ahead” often describes what happens to inventors when they come up with their first big invention. You run out and spend money and time building prototypes, hiring patent attorneys, and creating sales sheets without ever checking to see if something similar already exists.
Just because you haven’t seen it at Wal-Mart doesn’t mean it isn’t out there. Before impulsively spending your time, energy and money, you must thoroughly explore your market. Two good resources are visiting actual stores, as well as looking online using every search description you can think of.
Even if you discover a product that’s like yours, there are ways to figure out how to position your invention and stand out from the competition. The more significant your improvement is, the better your chance for licensing success. You also have to find out if the other product is patented, and if so you’ll need to make sure your invention doesn’t infringe on it.
One trick I use is visiting trade shows, which are one of the fastest ways to see what’s out there. One of my clients invented a new patented product for hair care accessories. The first thing we did was visit a beauty industry show. After spotting a number of similar products, we discovered none of them were waterproof. That’s what set her product apart from the competition, and made it attractive to licensing partners.
Don’t get blindsided in your licensing deals. Nothing kills a deal faster than telling a licensing partner your IP is the only one of its kind, and they find out later it’s not. Before investing too much in your IP, make sure you’ve done your homework. Learn what other similar or competitive IP is already in the market. Most importantly, make sure you know what makes your IP unique and that it doesn’t step on someone else’s IP toes.