Questions to Consider Before Licensing

Got a great idea that you think others will pay you to use? Before offering it up for licensing, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Can you prove ownership?
You can't license your idea unless you can guarantee your ownership. Ownership may be challenged by your employer, a coworker, a contractor, or another inventor. For more information, see Profiting From Your Patent FAQ.

2. Is your idea protected by law?
You will have little luck licensing your idea if it can't be protected under a legal principle such as a utility patent, design patent, trade secret, trademark, or copyright. Without such protection, any competitor can freely copy your work. For more information, see Qualifying for a Patent FAQ,Copyright Basics FAQ, or Qualifying for Trademark Protection FAQ.

3. Have you researched prospective licensees?
Learn about the industry and the companies you are considering licensing your invention to. One of the worst mistakes you can make as an inventor is to solicit a company blindly, without knowledge of that company or the overall industry.

4. Can you demonstrate your idea?
A licensee is unlikely to sign an agreement unless he or she is convinced thatyour idea works. Do you have a prototype? Can you provide a convincing demonstration? If you don't have a prototype, can you make a convincing presentation using sketches or computer models?

5. Do you have a nondisclosure agreement?
Unless a patent has issued for your idea, it's best not to disclose it without a nondisclosure agreement. For more information, seeHow to Protect Your Invention When Pitching It.

6. Can you sell your idea effectively?
Business people are oriented towards the bottom line, so review the costs and commercial potential of your invention before pitching it. Your invention may be your baby, but to someone at a large company, it's just another unsolicited product.If you can't pitch your invention aggressively, find someone who can. If you are not a persuasive salesperson, consider affiliating with a business person or an agent.

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