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Businesses Patents The Almighty Buck Technology

Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Approach Big Companies With Your Product? 174

New submitter ily2013 writes: My family have invented a product that will prevent electrical related fires for homes and businesses. A patent has been filed and approved worldwide, which includes the United States. Now I would like to take this product, and ask Apple/Microsoft/Big vendors to see if they would be willing to integrate our product into their existing and future products, because we believe the product will truly change the way safety of electric/electrical devices are viewed. What is the best way to approach this? Should I start by cold-calling Apple/Microsoft/Big vendors? or send them a mail/email?
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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Approach Big Companies With Your Product?

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  • by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:28PM (#51053573)

    and one of us will send it up the chain if it looks useful

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @10:31PM (#51054537)

      and one of us will send it up the chain if it looks useful

      Many corporations have policies that ban employees from looking at patents. If you look at the patent, you can later be found liable for intentional infringement. It is better to just ignore existing patents, and document your research, so you can latter show it was independently developed, and maybe invalidate the patent by claiming it was "obvious". If you really need to check existing patents, it is best to do it through a patent attorney who is not involved in R&D.

      Many corporations will also refuse to talk to independent inventors. Most of their "inventions" are crap, and it just leaves the corporation open to a lawsuit if they do, or are already doing, something similar.

      • by Garridan ( 597129 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @11:47PM (#51054813)
        This!

        You're just knocking on doors asking companies to expose themselves to lawsuits for the dubious reward of paying you to sit on your ass and do nothing while they dump buckets of money into turning your patent into a product. Not attractive.

        If you want a big company to pay for your idea, start a business. Succeed with your idea. Then get your company bought out. You'll get money for effort. Y'know, money you deserve, for putting in the effort.
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Yip. It takes work and effort - beyond that of developing a product or coming up with an idea. Those are just the first steps. You'll probably need to show that it's not only useful but that it is profitable. You may need to demonstrate a need. If you can, for instance, reduce traffic congestion by just a few percentage points then that's nice but not remarkable. When you can improve throughput by a double-digit percentage - that's something that matters.

          You prove a value and then capitalize and grow your b

      • by necro81 ( 917438 )

        Many corporations have policies that ban employees from looking at patents. If you look at the patent, you can later be found liable for intentional infringement. It is better to just ignore existing patents, and document your research, so you can latter show it was independently developed

        Which is unfortunate, since the theory behind patents is that they should be read by others, and used as a springboard for further innovation and development. The reality is far from this ideal, alas. Most patents make

      • I worked for Canon. This was their exact policy about patents and unsolicited product suggestions.
  • If you're cheap, start by posting about it to an online forum.

    Oh, wait...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:31PM (#51053595)

    You wait N years for them to independently come up with your same invention, achieve market penetration, and sustain profitability. Then you sue them for $700 trillion.

    • Re:Obvious Answer (Score:4, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @10:39PM (#51054559)

      You wait N years for them to independently come up with your same invention, achieve market penetration, and sustain profitability. Then you sue them for $700 trillion.

      I don't know why this is moderated "funny". This is actually a big money maker for independent inventors. Jerome Lemelson [wikipedia.org] used submarine patents [wikipedia.org] and other legal tricks, to extort billions from companies that independently developed the same ideas.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's funny because it's an immoral way of making money. The companies didn't need the inventor's help to do something, and somehow they're forced to pay the inventor because of a loophole in patent law.

  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:33PM (#51053605)

    As the topic says: first get a lawyer.

    Suppose some company does take an interest, they'll want to craft a contract that could potentially screw you.
    If they decide to simply buy you out, you'll need one there too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      +1 make sure the lawyer isn't in the pocket of the manufacturers.

      And perhaps: approach the people that stand the most to gain: insurers. Rate reductions tied to risk reduction practices are commonplace, so get them to promulgate use of your product.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mileshigh ( 963980 )

        Insurers are the *last* people who want to see global risk diminish. Their business model is to figure out how much they'll have to pay out & mark that up by x%. The last thing they want is to have claims go down, since that would eventually cause the industry to reduce premiums, thus reducing the $ profit. Notice the % stays the same, but the $ go down.

        Sometimes insurance companies will offer you ways to reduce risk, but that's either PR spin or they figure they can gain a short-term advantage over the

        • "Insurers are the *last* people who want to see global risk diminish. "

          That is exactly what I was thinking when I wrote this [slashdot.org]

        • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @10:32PM (#51054539) Journal

          Insurers are in fact a major, major source of funding for safety initiatives of various kinds, because reducing -their- customers' claims reduces their costs. You may have noticed your home insurance company sends you stuff about fire safety and burglary prevention on a regular basis. This month, they probably sent you something about Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and fires. If you haven't seen this because you don't yet have your own home and car, perhaps go upstairs and ask your mom if they insurance bill is around somewhere. In the envelope you'll see safety tips.

          You've probably heard of Underwriters Laboratories, the #1 organization in the US for ensuring products meet safety standards. "Underwriters" in the name means insurance underwriters.

          So how does this all work with profits? Suppose in 2014 you bill $350 million in premiums, spend $270 million paying claims, $40 million on marketing, $10 million on customer service and overhead. You end up with a net profit of $30 million. With me so far?

          Now suppose your customer outreach, telling YOUR CUSTOMERS how to be safer, reduces their claims by 5%. A 10% reduction in claims is $13.5 million. You've just increased your profit from $30 million to $43.5 million. So a modest 5% reduction in claims from your customers increased your profit by 45%.

          Companies generally like to increase their profit by 45%, so that's why insurance companies are in fact a primary driver of safety in the US.

          • Even more directly, do you know who writes the National Electric Code that is generally adopted in toto by every state and local government? The NFPA [wikipedia.org] - a group founded by insurance companies to get fire suppression sprinklers included in buildings to prevent fire deaths and property loss. They have over 300 standards now that are generally accepted as one of the gold standards in safety.

        • BTW here are two more reasons. First, 48% of property and auto insurance in the US is provided by coops, called mutual insurance companies. These include Nationwide, Mutual Of Omaha, State Farm, etc., and of course the 100 or so other insurance companies with "mutual" in the name.

          Mutual insurance companies don't make a profit. Any excess money is refunded to customers, who are the owners. So for half the insurance companies, keeping the customers safe is keeping the owners safe, and saving the customer mone

      • "And perhaps: approach the people that stand the most to gain: insurers. Rate reductions tied to risk reduction practices are commonplace, so get them to promulgate use of your product."

        How do insurers stand to gain from this?

        • How do insurers stand to gain from this?

          Because fewer fires means fewer insurance claims. Duh.

          • "Because fewer fires means fewer insurance claims. Duh"

            ... and that means the risk is lower so the amount they can charge diminishes. Taken to its logical conclusion, solely for the purpose of Reductio Absurdum, if there is no risk they can't charge anything at all. Comprandres Vous?

            • by narcc ( 412956 )

              ... and that means the risk is lower so the amount they can charge diminishes

              +5 Funny!

            • As each risk is reduced, humans become more concerned about other risks that are either new, or were less important in the shadow of the old risk. Insurance earns a lot more money when risks are being cycled and reduced than if it was steady-state. Price reductions are guaranteed to lag behind risk reductions, because insurance purchasers don't have fresh data. And not only is the data a couple years old, they certainly can't see the risk reductions that will happen during the life of the policy. And polici

        • Liability insurance cost reductions for manufacturers would lag many years behind a major fire safety improvement. That is why insurance has always been a big funder of fire prevention using noxious chemicals. Simplistic analysis shows that insurers love risk, which is true, but they love reducing existing risk even more, because (information theory).

    • "As the topic says"

      It's called a subject, actually.

  • I think you are on the wrong page. Try here: http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-... [go.com]
    • Re: Wrong site. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      World wilde patents do not exist. You may have succesfully filed an International patent, which can be converted to one or more patent applications. Get professional advice to see what your chances of actually getting a patent are.

    • I think you are the typical douchebag, who, having nothing of value to offer, tries to spin it that the question has no value, because you don't want to admit that you have nothing to add to the discussion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:40PM (#51053661)

    Make competing products using your patent. When you overtake Apple and Microsoft in marketshare, they'll investigate why this is happening. When they realize that they're uncompetitive because of all the electrical-fire-related expenses that they have and that you don't, they'll have no choice but to license your patent.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please tell me you've invented the fuse. Or the circuit breaker! (I'd make a quip about an AFCI, but how many would get it?)

  • by Idou ( 572394 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:41PM (#51053675) Journal
    Just some observational evidence, but big companies do not seem to buy ideas or technologies. . . they do seem to buy customers, though. Of course, you probably are wanting to sell the idea so that you do not have to worry about the annoying customer part of product development. . . Interested to see what stories of such an elusive thing will pop up here. . .

    However, if I were you, I would just go ahead and hit up kickstarter [kickstarter.com] at this point. . .
    • by juancn ( 596002 )

      Just some observational evidence, but big companies do not seem to buy ideas or technologies. . . they do seem to buy customers, though.

      You're right. Ideas are dime a dozen, execution is what's hard. Unless you have proven to be able to execute, the idea from a third party is just potential liability.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        They will buy up startups who have a product that they desperately need or complements their existing range of products. Maybe it's a piece of glue software that allows files to be converted from one application to another. Maybe it allows data to be visualized in real time on a mobile device - that's a great deal for engineers working on site.

        • by Idou ( 572394 )
          Not saying it NEVER happens. Just saying that I, personally, have never seen it.

          I work for a start up. We have ideas that we probably could sell to a big company. After talking around to quite a lot of knowledgable people in the biz, the consensus was:

          Approach a big company without customers = get ready to be destroyed
          Approach a big company with customers = you just might have a positive experience
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Big companies buy smaller companies. If you want to sell your idea, form a start-up company (even if it's just you) and start hawking around for investors to develop it. If it attracts enough money for you to work on the idea full time and hire some staff, you can then start looking to get bought out.

      Sadly companies don't want to develop good ideas, they want someone else to take that risk and then pay billions over the real value to buy a working product.

      • by Idou ( 572394 )
        Yeah, but if you approach a big company without having your own customers, your only negotiation angle is stealing THEIR customers. Many big companies are programmed to destroy when approached like this.

        If you have customers, the negotiation is likely to remain more positive, and the big company is less likely to try to destroy you. . . since they may anger potential customers (your customers).
  • If not, forget it. Your solution won't work. If you want to know why it won't work, hire an electrical engineer to explain.
    • Pretty much this. If it actually does work and is safe then you should just start selling it and if it is good then those companies will find you in a heartbeat. Chances are that it is crap so you can go back to watching youtube videos about home invention and beating off in the garage.
    • But they have a patent that was approved worldwide! This sounds totally legit!

      • Except you can get patents with minimally-functional claims, patents that are easy to design around & patents on something that requires buying or licensing other prior art patents.

        IANAL, but you need a good one in both contracts w/SEC experience and patents for a 'real read.'

        As someone else said, F500 companies buy customers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Are you a member of an association of computing professionals? If not, forget it. Your software won't work."

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Awww how cute. You think writing software is real engineering.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Even if it does work, there is probably a host of other solutions that do the same thing. They might have re-invented the GFCI, AFCI or an automatic fuse or a number of other things. There is nothing an end-device (which seems to be what they're targeting given the list of manufacturers) can do to prevent wiring problems/electric fires within a home (those are caused by bad wiring jobs, wire nuts hanging in a wall, shared neutral/ground wires, a mouse chewing through a cable etc). The end-devices are typica

    • You are an idiot. To hear you tell it, if I create something that is fairly intricate it won't work until I get a degree in EE. It might surprise you to know that there isn't a single design on the planet that knows if it was designed by an Engineer or not.
  • Like a typical start-up nowadays: start a company, get your name out, wait for the take-over offers to come in.

    And stop writing introductions like the above if you want some real interest. Like that it'll end up with the rest of the "I'm interested in your product, please open the attachment" scams I get every day.

  • Patent Link? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crow_t_robot ( 528562 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:52PM (#51053757)

    A patent has been filed and approved worldwide, which includes the United States

    Post a link to the patent application or design docs since it is already protected under the patent approval process and I'll tell you why it's a really fucking dumb idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No one wants your shitty LUDDITE product. If you app it into an app, modern app appers will app it with other apps!

    Apps!

  • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:53PM (#51053769)

    Engineers tend to find devices to include in their designs via salesmen and distributors. If you have a product, partner up with a sales rep who sells things similar to your product. If he's any good he knows who to approach to get new ideas through, and can get you visibility.

    The odds of you approaching a company like that any other way are not easy. You can call the front desk but you'll never find the right people. You want to find system and hardware engineers I imagine. But be prepared for a tough sell, these guys (and i know from personal experience) have tight deadlines and very directed tasks and aren't appreciative of disruption, particularly if you have product and it's not the right form factor or your supply chain isn't sorted out. A good sales rep knows how to make this happen and get their attention.

  • Sometimes having the best product in the world is not enough. You need to learn to sell or get someone who know how to do this. Give this a read: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse... [linkedin.com]
  • Do it yourself (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @07:59PM (#51053799) Journal

    First off, there is no such thing as an international patent. You file a patent in one country, and then can file for a PCT which - if it's granted in the first country - means other PCT signatories will agree to "respect" the patent. But you really still need to file in those other countries to get true protection (I recommend filing in the US, Germany, Japan, and China - you'll cover the biggest markets in the world, ones counterfeiters will not ignore, and you will cover the source of most counterfeit goods - and China is very protective of their own filed IP).

    Next, roll it yourself. Prove it's capable of actually making money. So you invented something - big deal. Unless you can make money with it, it's worthless. So start your own small business, show that there is a market for it. You don't have to sell tens of millions or make millions in revenue. Just a small stream will show it's commercially viable.

    THEN pitch the idea of licensing or buying the company to bigger players. Target contract manufacturers, not direct end-customers. I've had a LOT better success getting factories to license my patents, then they reuse them with their bigger clients. Going straight to the end customer (Microsoft, Apple, Dell, etc) is very hard to do; getting their CM to accept it (the Foxconns, Flextronics, Fosters, and Quantas of the world) would be more receptive.

    • Next, roll it yourself. Prove it's capable of actually making money. So you invented something - big deal. Unless you can make money with it, it's worthless. So start your own small business, show that there is a market for it. You don't have to sell tens of millions or make millions in revenue. Just a small stream will show it's commercially viable.

      Some ideas/patents do not lend themselves for making a commercially viable standalone product. His invention sounds like one of them.

      A famous example is the intermittent windshield wiper. How do you sell that yourself as a standalone product? It has to be integrated into the electrical system of a car. Start your own automobile company?

  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @08:02PM (#51053825) Journal

    You need to do several things, not just the "best" one.

    They may include:
    - renting a booth and presenting at a trade show
    - advertising in trade journals
    - establishing an online presence, so people can find you via Google, etc.
    - contacting companies that specialize in marketing a product like this to other companies (for a cut)

  • There are a couple of methods of marketing your product. But the method which requires the least amount of up front capital is to pick up the phone and speak to the people who would have the power to decide whether to buy your product or not. This is the most difficult method but it is also the method most likely to work for you. And by difficult I don't mean technically hard, it will be emotionally hard as you will be told no over and over and over and over and over again.

    Step 1 is to identify who would

  • Start a business that sells your idea. You can sell schematics, or something. Once you start having decent sales, contacting large companies will be easier. If you make enough, you won't have to contact them, they will contact you.

    The reality is Apple and Microsoft are not likely to be interested in paying you if it doesn't increase their own profits. And lets be honest, the way most people view electrical-related fires is "not at all." You're not going to revolutionize it. So in your case, you may have
  • Why would two software companies be interested in a building wiring issue in the first place?

    • Apple sells these things called Macs, iPhones and iPads. Microsoft sells these things called Xboxes, Lumias and Surfaces. I know these products were just recently released which is why you may have never heard of any of them.

      • they try to sell lumias and surfaces, but never has one been seen in the wild.

      • In the overall scheme of things both Microsoft and Apple are small time players in electrical device volume. It is like claiming you want to talk to the big players in software and rocking up at Blackberry. players like Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, LG et al manufacture and distribute 10 times what either MS or Apple do. What more I would say the article poster needs to find someone that actually knows what they are talking about. there is no such thing as a world wide patent, you need to separately file in oth
  • by stabiesoft ( 733417 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:13PM (#51054241) Homepage

    Fires from the products you mentioned are pretty rare compared to say space heaters, stoves, toaster ovens etc.

  • And thus find out there is no such thing as a worldwide patent.

  • by hambone142 ( 2551854 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:22PM (#51054267)

    I worked for a "very large computer company" (retired). I interviewed and hired many engineers.

    I know of zero situations where we bought a design from an individual and developed the product. We bought companies but not individual patents from a person.

    You may want to try Kickstarter or something similar. Or, attend a trade show and demonstrate the product and attempt to get a venture capital firm interested in the product.

  • Unless you get that thin ready made, with all certifications, descriptions, and cheap, distributed by standard suppliers, your product will remain a niche.

    (Hint here: It competes with fuses, NTC current limiters and safe regulators)

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:48PM (#51054385)

    Don't worry, if they really like the idea they'll steal it and then sue you for infringing on their vaporware product.

  • I think HP has a process you can follow, but that may only be for chopsticks with in-built soy sauce dispensers.
  • You invented the fuse! Good for you!

  • This question sure got a ton of really crappy answers. The fact is big companies buy stuff from and cut deals with little guys all day long. I got a good tip for a basic script from a guy who makes those calls for a living, and cuts deals worth millions of dollars all the time. Right now I don't particularly feel like posting it here, though.

    If you want to let me know how to get in touch with you I'll tell you what the pro told me. I had posted my GPG key so you can encrypt your contact info if you chose t

  • Preferably a PE in EE. Even if you have the start of an idea, anything dealing with safety and electricity will need to go through UL and or CSA. The specifications for anything that touches hazardous voltages is not easy to digest and apply if you don't have experience with it. Without approval, your device will sit.. Also, patents for actual electronics are HARD to enforce. They nature of circuitry is not obvious by just looking at it. You have to spend a lot of investigation just to know if somebody has
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @10:49PM (#51054601)

    Five steps will do you.

    (1) Get a patent

    (2) Find an adorable blond little girl or baby who was horribly burned and scarred (living is required, as that means they can appear on camera a lot), preferrably on one side, so you can pan around from the "isn't she cute" to the "OMG!" side at any photo op, on 20/20, on 60 Minutes, and so on

    (3) Get the parents to sue the shit out of the company that made whatever product was the culprit in the fire for not including your safety device (doesn't matter if it wasn't invented at the time)

    (4) Get it written into the regulations that your device is required

    (5) Profit!

  • If you want the justice system to protect you for nothing, get arrested for a crime and show you're broke. Absent that, laws and courts are for those who can afford to pay for them.

    After the matter is closed, contact your old high school teachers and tell them how good a job they did in preparing you for life.

  • ...smaller companies. Seriously. People talk. Especially the tech wonks who deal with this stuff. Make a good product, give your customers what they want, under-promise and over-deliver. Do all that, and if your product is really revolutionary and a good value, the big companies will come calling.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
    Don't.
    The big guys are happy with things just rolling along most of the time. It's the small guys that want a game changer so that they can get somewhere. After they have built it up to the point where it is selling the big guys may condescend to notice.
  • A fairly old example but a product that you are probably using.
    After Netscape's web browser got popular Microsoft decided they wanted one too.

    They bought what became Internet Explorer from a company called Spyglass. As part of the deal they offered a fairly high percentage of sales royalties and Spyglass jumped at the deal despite it being not a great deal of money up front.
    Microsoft gave it away for free so the royalties were zero.
  • "prevent" is a very strong statement. How has this been tested?
  • An idea by itself is almost worthless, unless you can turn it into a business. THEN try to sell it to a big company if you still want to.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/am... [forbes.com]

  • Be an Entrepreneur (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iamwahoo2 ( 594922 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @03:21AM (#51055367)

    You either need to find an entrepreneur or be an entrepreneur. Seriously, the hard work is just getting started. You may have a technology, but you don't have a product, a market, a business model, or a customer. So start learning about how you build companies. There are plenty of online classes or books at the library. And forget about starting with big companies just because they are big, you need to find the companies that are hurting the most from the problem you are solving - electrical fires.

    • I'd concur with that. Someone has to have the entrepreneur work ethic, proven track record and secret sauce in order to have a chance. Asking how to get from idea to paycheck in an online forum is about like asking how to get your horse to finish law school. How to get from idea to paycheck is like asking the meaning of life. There are many answers that seem plausible, but no one answer that works for everyone.
  • Dear [name of CEO],

    I have developed a small application that will discreetly install itself on computers and encrypt all data in the filesystems. You are currently enjoying the benefits, as you will soon hear from your emlpoyees; please gather $[huge number] in used bank notes and await further instructions.

    Yours sincerely ...

  • ... invented a product that will prevent electrical related fires ...

    I think you have either:

    A very large ego
    A very poor understanding of electrical engineering
    Poor language skills (and thus haven't described your invention well)

    Regardless of which is true, all paths lead to most certain disappointment.
  • Given the amount of Hoverboards that are spontaneously combusting at the moment have you thought about approaching them? http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]
  • A product that stops electrical fires, you say? Well if you want big companies to buy it, then all you have to do is "think of the children." Get politicians at the local or national level to pass laws and regulations that require electrical products to have your kind of product. And then, gasp, look at what is in the market - your product.

    Crony capitalism at its best. It's amoral and filthy, but it works.

  • Step 1: Hire a lawyer.
    Step 2: Hire a product development company Here is one [ideacenternd.org] I'm sure there are many.
    Step 3: ???
    Step 4: Profit.
  • I have tried what you are attempting. Same thing will likely happen. You will run into the attitude that if the idea has any merit they would have thought of it. At least you have a patent.

    Your best bet, partner with a good lawyer ( otherwise you won't be able to afford the subsequent legal costs ). Send proposals to lots of companies. If you idea is really useful and can be made profitable then sooner or later someone will put it into a product, forgetting where the idea came from. File your lawsuit(s) and

There is hardly a thing in the world that some man can not make a little worse and sell a little cheaper.

Working...