Getting a new product on the market is not easy. It is a long process and will need
a good deal of thought and planning. Many people who come up with ideas for new products believe that others will immediately see the benefits of their product and offer financial and other support. This is unlikely - a product will not "sell itself".
Protecting your product
Before making details of your product public you need to think about whether you intend to protect any aspects of it. Familiarise yourself with what is involved in applying for a patent, trade mark, registered design or asserting copyright protection.
Even if you do not intend to protect what you have it is advisable to carry out some thorough searching to try to determine whether anyone else has already done so. A search may enable you to avoid infringing someone else's existing rights. Don't assume that just because a product is not on the market it has not been protected.
In relation to this, If someone offers to carry out some searching for you (particularly for a charge) make sure that they provide you with details of what they have searched and also the strategy they have used. You should never just accept someone's word that there is nothing like your product without evidence of how they have come to this conclusion.
If you are intending to apply for a patent it is vital that you do not disclose details of your product to a potential manufacturer or investor (or make those details public in any other way) before filing your patent application. Using a confidentiality agreement (also known as a non-disclosure agreement or NDA) is one way of avoiding potentially damaging disclosures.
The Business Case
Just because you have a patent granted on your product does not guarantee that there will be a market for it. Just because the product is new does not guarantee that anyone will want to buy it. It is often the case that if a particular product is not on the market it is because nobody wants it rather than because nobody has thought of it.
You need to determine the commercial advantage or benefit of your product. If you can show that it is faster, better or cheaper than similar products already on the market then manufacturers and retailers are more likely to be interested. Different companies will have different views on which of these features are most important. Similarly, customers tend to buy products they are familiar with. You need to give them a good reason to turn to your product.
Knowing your market
In order to determine whether there will be a demand for your product you need to be familiar with your market and your potential customers. The more you know about them the more you can target your product at them. It's also important to be aware of any companies you will be competing with. Particularly if you are competing with large companies who have more substantial budgets than yours it will be more difficult to break into the market. The Information for Business and Starting a Business sections of our website may provide you with a starting point for your research.
You also need to think about how you will promote the product. Image, quality and price are all part of this. In deciding on the price you will have to include the cut which you have agreed with any manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer.
Manufacturing the product yourself
If you have the necessary skills and facilities to produce the product yourself this may be the best option particularly if the market for it is not particularly large. You are likely to have more control in this situation. However if the product sells well you may not be able to meet demand.
Approaching a manufacturer
A manufacturer will only be interested in becoming involved in a new product if they are convinced of the product's potential. Just as importantly they will want to be sure that the creator of the product is reliable and not someone simply hoping for a big pay-off in return for some vague ideas.
Manufacturers and retailers often prefer to deal with people they are already familiar with and inventors, in particular, often don't help their cause by making basic mistakes. The following are typical reasons for a manufacturer turning down a new product:
- The inventor has not bothered to carry out searches to try to determine if it is original.
- The product is too expensive to make.
If you do reach an agreement with a company this does not necessarily mean that your product will be manufactured. It takes time to test and get into production, and in that time the market can change and the company's priorities can change.
If you are hoping to attract a manufacturer or investor you will need to be able to demonstrate that your product works. A good quality working prototype is likely to be essential and it can be costly. As the company you present it to may want to spend some time testing the prototype it may be advantageous to have more than one.
Obtaining financial assistance for a new product is not easy and there is no set route by which you can do so. Depending upon your geographical location and the subject area of your product there may be grant schemes to which you could apply. Your local Business Link may be able to advise on what schemes are available.
A number of companies offer a service whereby they promise to evaluate a new product and promote it to potential manufacturers. This can seem very attractive particularly to inventors wanting someone else to do the work for them. However you should take great care. Some companies charge large amounts of money for work which you could do yourself for little or no cost. Any claims by such a company that your product has huge potential or is likely to make significant profits should be treated very warily. If you do intend to use an invention promotion company the following points may be helpful:
- Be wary of any company wanting large amounts of money "up-front".
- There is a lot of information available for little or no cost. Is the company offering something extra or are they charging over the odds?
- Don't give details of how your product works without using a confidentiality agreement.
- Before paying for a service look around and compare prices. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting before you pay for it.
- Ask for details of their success rate and find out what you can about the company. What sort of reputation do they have?
- If a company offers to do a search for you ask them what the coverage of the search will be (which countries and what time period) and what databases are being used. When the search is complete make sure that they provide a printout indicating clearly what search strategy was used and a list of everything which the search found. If literally nothing is found this usually indicates that there is something wrong with the search - it rarely means that there is nothing there!
Always remember that there is no easy way to get a new product on to the market and make it a success. It takes a lot of hard work, good advice and a bit of luck. Don't believe anyone who tells you that it's straightforward - no matter how good the product may be. Further tips and suggestions can be found on the blog of the Leeds Inventors Group.
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