How do you market something that could be copied?
I have a product that I fear will be copied. I haven't even made a website or shown it to anyone. It will have wide appeal, anyone who carries a handbag needs it. I have done my research and development, but am at a standstill. How do I move forward with my business?
If your product is really good, it will stand out on its own merit, branding is key for this, build a brand and showcase your product. Copies will always exist, and they are a good indicator of how good the product is. The software industry is a good example of thriving in a "copy left" world, its more a case of end product/service quality than monopoly/greed that builds success. Its normal being protective of your own ideas, but you have to dare to win.
I more than understand your concerns as I faced them quite often in the recent past. By reading all the answers you have received I noticed many suggestions I can either agree or not, but, unfortunately, very few of them are actionable and some are driving you into directions that are at least disputable. No more comments on this, my perspective is the following, although not conclusive (please consider it as a word of advice since it is NOT intended to be a hiring offer).
1) Patenting is an issue in terms of complexity and money, so, unless you find good money out of the blue, try to put as many barriers that at least can delay big companies to steal your invention. The idea behind it being, buying time would get you more chances to find an Investor. Brainstorming examples are: exclusivity agreements with your manufacturer, include a raw material in the product that could be difficult to be replicated, enter the market softly via niche channels possibly below the radar screen of competitors and so on (I can't be more precise for obvious reasons).
2) Find a "low-cost/for-free" business partner that strongly believes into your project and has at least a general overview on how to handle the make-it-happen part of the execution. It may sound silly, but, believe me, it is plenty of smart young executives that would pay a fortune to be in your shoes and would be prepared to share the earnings of your success, without a compensation upfront. Ça va sans dire that you must lock him in a vault in terms of confidentiality, non disclosure and all the other legal aspect to protect you at 360°.
3) Try to build a comprehensive case to be presented to CVF's by creating a document containing all the relevant marketing aspects (mentioned in many answers), but more importantly, via showing the prototyping to a few customers, also their declaration of buying intent the minute after the product is available. In an ideal world real sales figures, even if in a very restricted number of POS, would instantly upgrade the interest of a potential Investor in your presentation.
4) Do NOT go Fast & Furious, just VERY FAST.
All that said, should you consider the above meaningful, I'd be more than happy to have a discussion with you on the next steps of your project, without any compensation expected, as I'm not supposed to enter the details, but provide you with a few guidelines on the basis of my previous (tough) experiences, hence no dedicated extra work from my side.
Good Luck & All the Best,
Regarding protecting your product - you need to file a provisional patent application as soon as possible and before you share it with others. If you wait too long, you might not be able to patent it at all.
As other commenters have said, it is best to speak with a patent attorney. If you are unable to, e.g. budget is an issue, then do the first provisional application yourself - put together a good description of what it is and some drawings of it so the reader can understand what you have invented and how to use it. Even hand sketched drawings will suffice. Then submit the description and drawings with the USPTO as soon as possible. This will at least document what you have invented and give you patent pending status if only for a year.
I wish you luck!
1. Almost all products can be copied. A patent does not protect ideas, just HOW they are achieved. There are typically many ways to bring an idea to life. If its a particularly difficult thing, the competition will use reverse engineering. Apple spent millions on iPhone patents but Samsung still copied them.
2. Business success does not depend on having patent protection. Your success depends on your business and marketing skills. If someone says they lost because they were copied, what they are really saying the competition was better at business. The biggest disadvantage is a lack of funding. But even there, fund raising is a critical entrepreneurial business skill.
3. Copycats for new products are ALWAYS a good thing. They legitimize the idea for faster market acceptance. There is typically room for many players. Should the twenty top car makers have not gone into business because of Ford?
Hello Deborah , You need to get patent for your product , dont market your product any how before that - they will copy it , for sure . then you will gain big loss , I have seen many suffering .
IT WILL BE...get over that and think about what can you do that would be wildly different and unique from anyone else who did the same thing. You are in a commodity business and so it is going to be copied. Accept it and start thinking beyond your product and into what you can do that would differentiate YOU...not the product. Products are easily copied...you aren't.
Here's the secret sauce...create an experience so incredible that they want to always buy the same commodity product from you...now you are different. That works today...everything else is a commodity with the same features and benefits and can be easily copied.
Start with developing a business plan and visit a Score Counselor for a face to face mentoring session in your area. For a business plan go to BeResource.com
You can market it the way you want, but keep the efficiency of how you operate your core competencies, core strategies a secret, your approach for innovation, managing the value chain, people can copy, but they can't copy a full lifestyle and good model!
Your chief enemy is not competition but obscurity. And frankly, if your idea is so easily copied, you probably cannot easily defend it. Success comes primarily from the execution of the idea, not the idea itself.
You can still test your idea in the market by setting up a web site and sharing it with a small number of potential customers and investors. It's truly unlikely that potential competitors will stumble across your site.
So, the sooner you can develop and deliver your idea, the sooner you can start building a market presence.
In my mind, you need to determine:
1. Do you have a product people will buy?
2. Will customers buy from you?
3. Can you afford to deliver the product at a profit?
Look beyond the product to promotion, selling, and services. Focus on building a business that is largely automated so you personally do not have to be involved in every step of manufacturing and delivery.
As others have mentioned, if you can get a patent on your idea - that would protect it from it getting copied. But - the product needs to be truly novel, unique and relevant to the market place. You will also need to do a search to make sure no one else has submitted that similar patent.
Another way to make your product unique - is to market it directly to a unique target market. Without knowing what your product is - "anyone who carries a handbag needs it" - is a wide niche. Consider narrowing your target market a little. Maybe focus on young mothers with a busy life: someone with a toddler, a job, a husband and an extremely busy life. Maybe add some novel features and marketing that focuses on their specific issues.
Add something service-oriented option. Maybe a subscription to a Young Mother Tips newsletter or ebook that comes with the handbag. Include a replacement guarantee if the handbag breaks within 3 years. or a 30-day money back guarantee.
Add some customization on the product that individualizes their item - so that they can make it their own.
These are just some ideas - without knowing about the specific product. Narrowing your "niche" or target market may give you other ideas.
Get a patent pending for as long as you can without getting the full patent. While it is pending they will not release the designs. You will also need to find a company who can take advantage and dominate the market before big companies find it and copy (and they will if it is a good idea). If it is not patentable then you just have to hit it with a big splash from the beginning so you will have market share and coin the name/product before someone else does. Note: in this case you will be looking for a royalty of maybe 5% to 7% but you won't be able to build a company on it, you will have to use an existing company with the distribution channels already in place.
If the product can be patented, then start the process of patenting it. If it cannot be patented, then you have to get to market as fast and as broad as possible. While anyone can copy the product, the key is to get to market faster and broader than anyone else so you become the name associated with it. Trademark the product name.
I would start by speaking to a patent attorney. If it is not patentable, then you need to determine if the best way to deal with marketing the product is by going to the consumer directly or to retail outlets, or by contacting a company that makes similar kinds of products, a Direct Marketing Organization or a Handbag company directly.
There are some great answers here, yet there's so much more to consider, like how easily can your idea be copied, how long might that take, how long will it take for you to create it, what does that leave you in terms of runway to build a brand? This is really a product development issue, not just a marketing communications problem. There's no way to provide real advice without knowing what it is. Before spending a dime on a patent attorney or anything else, I'd suggest you seek out professional business advice, showing them your idea and business plan. If you can't afford a consultant, I'd suggest starting with Score.org.
If you googled multiple word names and included patent searches in your R&D, then make a prototype. Either make it yourself or have it made. Use non-disclosure forms to protect your patent and manufacturing if you need an outside source. Someone with more money can always copy in some form so always shoot to be the least cost of goods producer, adding value where you can. Hate to plug my book, (The Complete Guide To Inexpensive Ideaing) but it should be a near perfect fit for you to get this going and includes the forms. Good luck and pursue your dreams! Putting it in a file cabinet will only lead to regret.
How about copyright the product/service? You can then run a pilot while working on getting a patent.
If it is good, it will be copied. You won't be able to prevent that. But...don't let it stop you. Because most people are way too lazy to copy something well. You will always have to keep doing better to stay at the top, but honestly, I have found that excellence can't easily be duplicated.
Deborah, about to go thru this myself as we are developing a web application that will most certainly be copied as it's almost impossible to guard against. If you have something that can be patented, I would definitely consult with a patent lawyer because trying to so yourself will be a tall task. So unless you can patent something, you will just need to make sure you are the best and if possible, the first to the market. But being the best is more important so don't rush things as this was the advice given to me from a super smart expert that I consult with. Best of luck and sorry for not having better news for you.
Unless you just want to sell out to someone who "gets" marketing, you have to be Fast & Furious about getting exposure and creating buzz. Anything that can be copied, will. You have to create the greatest foot print with your introduction to create you brand and take as much money out of your initial offer.
All answers well and good. Product differentiation will help at any stage, but one thing makes good sense; MVP - Minimum Viable Product. Google this term and you'll learn a lot
Say Deborah I am with Craig Cherlet on all levels. Adding on, how can YOU make your delivery (the provision) and/or development of this block-buster unique and special? Assuming for the moment that this idea is not already out there (have you done thorough diligence?) you are not likely to protect it in its entirety no matter what you do. From the patent perspective your best bet is to identify a component of your "widget" that makes your version better than anyone else (patent that component) and then build your campaign around that.