Inventor Page for Boat Building Industry
Boating Inventor &
Boating Inventions Corner
Commercialization process for independent inventors trying to market or license their inventions in the boat building and boating
industries by Polson Enterprises. This page specifically addresses boating inventions.
Please also see our Invention Information Center which covers inventions
of all types and often contains more recent tips and tools.
RBBI Inventions Page
We've had some ideas ourselves we think could be of benefit to the industry. We are posting them on our
"RBBI Inventions Page." Some firms or individual inventors might want to try developing some of these ideas.
The suggestions below are to be taken at your own risk and are being provided as information,
NOT as professional advice. We encourage you to seek professional advice from several qualified
individuals as you develop your invention.
How to Develop a Boating Invention
- Does the idea/concept belong to your employer?? Many of you work for somebody else. Did you sign some kind of agreement giving them rights to all your ideas? Did you develop it on your employers time and with their resources? Is it okay with them if you pursue the idea on your own?
- Is the idea/concept unique and patentable? Do a preliminary patent search yourself using the online resources and/or a Federal Depository Library. They will have access to U.S. patents and often have some invention / marketing literature. There are some links to help you find the location of your nearest Federal Depository Library in the Library segment of our Other Useful Links Page.
Ideas that are not unique and patentable may still be great ideas. You just have to handle them differently. You need to make sure any existing patents have expired and be aware that if you are successful competition will be on your heels. As we will discuss later, it may not make a lot of difference in the boating industry if your idea is patented or not.
You should learn about the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office "Disclosure Document Program" and how you can file certain records with the government to help prove you are the inventor and when you invented the device. You are still allowed time to decide if you wish to pursue a patent or not. A form for the Disclosure Document Program is available on the U.S. PTO web site. Just go the Forms Area and look for #PTO/SB/08 Disclosure Document Form.
- Identify your customers. Who in the industry would use your product? Who would benefit from it? Are they Drive Manufacturers, Boat Builders. Boat Dealers, Marinas, Mechanics, Boat Accessory Suppliers, Water Toy Manufacturers, PWC Manufacturers, or End Users? Then get more specific such as aluminum boat manufacturers over 24 feet, salt water fishermen, competition ski boat manufacturers, outboard manufacturers over 150HP, marinas in freezing areas, third world wooden boats <20 feet, women pontoon boaters, etc.
Many inventors think their product will be used everywhere. Be more realistic. At least find the best place your product could be used and begin there.
- Learn about your industry, companies in it, and your end user customers. This web site is an excellent place to begin. Also we have a, "How to Learn About an Industry or a Specific Company" page on a sister web site that can help you. We own another business that sells weight lifting products institutionally.It is constantly being approached by inventors with products bound for the consumer market. The business does not deal in the consumer market, we only sell to institutions. They are "barking up the wrong tree" and wasting our time. Don't you make this mistake! Identify your product as an industrial product or a consumer product.
- Identify your product as a durable or a consumable item. It lasts for several boating seasons it is a durable product. An example would be bolt on "whale tails" for drives. If your product is consumed during its use such as corrosion anodes, sunscreen, and gasoline additives it is a consumable product. These two types of products are marketed distinctly differently. You need to be aware of which group you are in. Some products, such as propellers, fall somewhere in between and are marketed both ways.
- Learn how your product would be produced in production quantities. Could it really be made cost effective to replace what it is to replace or to demand the price for its performance. Don't forget their must be money in it for everyone in the distribution chain.
- We are now at the make or sell point. If your idea is not unique and patentable you can forget selling it. There is no reason for them to purchase your idea. You need to decide if you want to produce the product yourself or if you want to license/sell the idea to a firm in the industry.
Tied into this decision, if you decide to produce the product yourself, how will you market it. Don't give me this, "My product is so good it will market itself" stuff either. Marketing takes good ideas and hard work. Be sure you have concrete plans in this area.
This is a good time to point out this is a very brutal industry from the individual inventors perspective. If you look at our Patents Folder you will see a number patent lawsuits filed between the industry and individual inventors or between each other. The big boys can smash you even if you have a patent. They steal your patented product idea and produce it, your lawyer sends them a "cease and desist letter" telling them you think their product infringes on your patent and they should "cease and desist" marketing the product or you will sue them for infringement. They may respond with a "weenie offer" of pennies on the dollar of what a normal license fee for them might be and tell you if you don't sign up they will file a suit against the validity of your patent. If you get in a patent suit you better have over $150,000 in the bank. Since most of us don't you either take the "weenie offer" or just let them alone. They begin mass production and with their large established marketing organization they squash you in a couple months. Not a pretty picture.
I'm not saying all the big players do this, I'm just pointing out that they can do this to you pretty much "at will". If you haven't read, "The Invention of the Stern Drive", yet, this would be a good time. Note how many years it took that product to come to the surface and all of the behind the scenes actions going on the scenes actions going on. As long as you are reading - check out the Steve Lough vs. Brunswick Corp patent suit Court of Appeals final report in the FTP section.For one thing, this case certainly shows the importance of keeping good documents and seriously controlling any experiments.
If your product is a low cost, easy to produce idea, such as "the club" (use in locking automotive steering wheels to prevent car theft) even if you have a patent, every body under a rock overseas will be dumping "knock off" products here. In this particular case the manufacture has a large crew of lawyers, "cease and desist" letters in several languages, and budgets in the hundreds thousands of dollars a year to protect themselves against "knockoffs". You will not have this option. If you have a good idea, they will swarm you and you will be gone.
There is an excellent article titled, "How to Skin a Copycat" in the 1996 Enterprise Edition of Business Week on pages ENT4 to ENT6 in the Legal Affairs section. It contains stories of the efforts of several, including the "club" to reduce losses to copycats. As you read these techniques, image what they cost.
The only people able to protect an idea in this industry are the big boys. They threaten each other and have informal "give and take" agreements to bring stability to their new product operations. Foreign operations can be stopped by them at the ports because they come from a limited number large well known firms.
We might also point out here that a U.S. patent only gives you the right to sue to those who produce the product in the U.S. or sell the product in the U.S. You will be swarmed overseas by everybody and many foreign companies have even less scruples than U.S. companies.
In addition to the competitive problem you will have a very, very difficult or impossible time of trying to get the major players to look at your invention. They have the NIH (Not Invented Here) disease and a history of almost never dealing with individual inventors.
If you do license your great idea to someone, you can't just set back and count your money. They may not actively market your product and cause it to "die on the vine". They may just be busy fighting other fires in their company or just not really be interested in your product. You have the fire and conviction of the idea. They are looking at this weeks shipments vs. last years shipments and whipping people to make quotas. Your new product can get lost in their large system.
These difficulties make it nearly impossible for individuals to profit from boating inventions. I have had a few myself and seeing the difficulties I have just posted them on the RBBI Inventions Page for the world to see. If the ideas are used, hopefully, they will be a minor stimulation to our economy and I will have the knowledge of where they came from. If you would like to do the same, we can group them on this site for all to see.
- You will encounter Invention Submission Firms that will market your idea for a fee. Some better known ones are Kessler Corporation and Invention Submission Corporation. Many firms of this nature advertise in the back of popular magazines and prey on individual inventors. They ask you for a little information, tell you they love your idea, and need payments as they go through various steps of marketing your invention. Ask to see 10 products they have placed with firms and to visit with the submitters. Ask them to put their successful placement ratio on paper (if they promoted 100 inventions how many of them will typically be placed with firms). There are very very few firm of this nature that are on the "up and up." Do not give them any money without some serious promises in writing and visiting with several inventors who have had their inventions successfully placed by them. Find out how long they have been in business and at their present address. How do they select companies to try to market your product to? Several just mail companies listed in your category in the Thomas Register. You can do that yourself, but neither will be very successful. They must have real contacts at these companies and a working relationship with them. Consider that you are working for Mega Corp. Are you going to evaluate every idea sent to Attn: New Products, Mega Corp?? We get hundreds of them at our other business and trash them all.
- If your interested in patenting your device and would like to learn more about the patenting process, there is a Patent FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) file in the Inventor segment of our Other Links Page. Take some time to visit the other links i our Inventors segment as well. They will explain some of the resources available to inventors.
- If you do chose to patent your device, try to learn enough about the patent process to write the patent yourself. Then hire a patent lawyer or agent to do it. The better knowledge you have of the system and your product, the more effective you will be in helping your lawyer or agent to file the best patent possible. Also your costs will be reduced as you will not require so much of their time and you will not have them pursuing things they shouldn't be. Hire a good lawyer or agent with good references, preferably one with experience in patents in the area you are filing in. Those "in the business" can "give and take a little" with the patent examiners. If you file yourself, the patent examiners tend to blow you away. They know they will never see you again and they have no relationship with you. Attorneys that regularly deal with them have a much better rapport with them.
- See if your state or area has an Inventors Club such as:
Oklahoma Inventors Congress
P.O. Box 27850
Tulsa OK 74149-0850
Please do not bother the Oklahoma Group if you are not in Oklahoma.
- See what can be learned from some of the on-line invention forums and news groups (alt.inventors). Remember not to take everything you here in them as truth. They can be a good source of general information, but they are becoming a place for others to market services to inventors.
- Wal-mart has a system set up with South West Missouri State University and a group called the Innovation Institute to evaluate and assess your idea.
Rt. 2 Box 184
Everton MO 64646
- Before approaching component manufacturers or manufacturers for the full device, be sure to get them to sign a Non-Disclosure / Confidentiality Agreement. It is best to visit with a lawyer dealing in intellectual properties to get a form you have confidence in. Some examples are available in our Inventors segment of our Other Useful Links Page. Be sure they know you want them to sign an agreement before they invest time and travel into your project. Also, be sure to prepare and sign two copies of the agreement, one for your records and one for theirs.
Carefully select the companies and individuals you deal with to maintain ownership of your invention. It is possible to become too paranoid. Suppose your invention is some assembly made of metal and plastic parts that is eventually sold through retail outlets. Component suppliers will not have any reason to "steal your invention". They want you to be a success so they can sell you more components. But suppose your device is a fishing lure and you go to a fishing lure company - lookout - if your device is a great idea, they may want to "steal it" because they already have the basic tools to build it and the market connections to sell it. You would want to protect your idea as securely as possible when dealing with firms that are currently making and marketing products similar to yours. While on the other hand, you can generally be less concerned about component manufacturers or service providers (plating, anodizing, painting, chroming, crating, etc.) because they do not currently manufacture products similar to yours, they do not currently have the marketing connections to market your invention, and they have every reason to want you to succeed so they can sell you more components or services.
- If you do try to approach a manufacturing firm with your idea, be sure it actually fits into their product line, could be sold through their current distribution chain, could be used by their existing end customers, and that it is truly novel (we see hundreds of ideas that are like things that we have alrideas that are like things that we have already seen).
- If you are considering forming a small company to produce and market your invention, do you have the money, desire, facilities, and skills to run the operation? Is the capital cost of setting up a site to produce the product beyond your financial capability? Are the production processes and methods something your could do? If it is possible for you to produce the item do you have the skills and time to manage the operation? Is a production facility available for your use? There is an excellent web site about small businesses called SB2000. There is a link to it in the Inventors section of our Other Useful Links Page.
- Try to obtain assistance at your local Vo-Tech school. many provide small business assistance and can guide you to someone who assists inventors.
Some of the very basic problems encountered by all are:
I suggest you do some real soul searching about:
- Where can I have a prototype built?
- Where can I obtain some funding?
- How do I get a patent? Should I get a patent?
- Where can I find a manufacturer?
- How can I explain my device to others and not have them steal my idea?
- What is a disclosure document and how do I file one?
Take the above two groups of questions, think about them, and take them with you when you go somewhere for assistance. You need to find the answers to these questions for your specific situation. Some resources can be found in our Inventor Links in our Other Useful Links section.
- What is the market for this device? (Quantity, Geography, Customer Demographics)
- What will it cost to manufacture?
- What can it be sold for?
- What is my cut?
- Who are my competitors?
- If I was looking at this from the outside, would I invest my mother's retirement fund in this thing?