Archive for May, 2014

Part 2: Research, “Dang, it’s been done before”, and Patents

It feels as though we have never come up with anything truly, truly original.  What an awful confession coming from an inventor, right?  Sure, we have lots of ideas, but I don’t believe that any of them weren’t influenced by something else we saw or heard somewhere else.  With billions and billions of people in the world today, I’m not sure anyone could say they had an absolutely original idea.  What I am saying is, that your really great idea or my next big money maker has most likely been thought of, possibly patented, or, sorry to say, been made before.

So, the next step in the process is RESEARCH.  It’s time consuming and it’s very important.  We Google everything, check the US Patent Office (USPTO) website, search, check, and then search some more.  The internet is our friend and has made it incredibly easy to search the world for evidence of similar ideas.

The Original Etch-A-Sketch Prototype

The Original Etch-A-Sketch Prototype – a TRUE original!!

So, why do we try if it seems that it’s all been done before?  Well, because it hasn’t, that’s why it’s different.  Even if something is similar, it’s NOT the same and we work on making the iteration different and unique, and therefore, original!  Plus, I need the market research so I can be knowledgable to my client.  I need them to know I have done the research, I know what’s out there, what sold and when, and that I know how and why my idea is totally different than what they have seen.  Inventor Relations people are always more than happy to tell you they’ve seen it before!  I have had to defend our designs often.

Discovering it’s been done before happens to us all the time.  Sometimes we see ideas we have come up with, but not made or sold, being advertised on television.  (That’s a REAL stinger!)  Our kids have asked us more times than I care to remember,  “Hey, Mom, didn’t we come up with that idea too?”   Yep, it’s just part of the job.

It’s very difficult to show ideas to Mattel, Hasbro, Spinmaster and other bigger toy and game companies.  Why?  They get the cream of the crop and even the bottom of the barrel of inventors.  In other words, everyone wants to sell to them and they have seen EVERYTHING.  It took awhile, but my skin has finally thickened a bit and I don’t wince now when they say, “Sorry, we have already seen that before…several times.”  The worst was when we were told in a meeting, “I literally saw this same thing from the inventor that came in right before you.”  AAAAARRRRRHHHH!  My piece of advice?  Don’t be an inventor if rejection is a problem for you.  We keep on keepin’ on at Gigglicious because it may not be right for them, but it may be THE perfect item for another company.  (But, honestly, I don’t think it ever becomes easy to hear no…)

Then there is the subject of patents.  We get asked about them a lot.  Do we have them?  Do you patent every idea?  Yes, Ryan has several in his name from previous companies.  Gigglicious does not.  Patenting is expensive and, in our experience, the way toys trend in the marketplace makes it prohibitive.  Trends move too fast and patenting is a long process.  In other words, by the time we would get issued a patent, the toy universe has moved on to something new.  Some inventors patent lots of items, then have the pressure to sell to at least recoup the money they spent getting the patent issued.  That is not to say that we won’t ever choose to patent something we feel would warrant it, but patenting is not in our business model for things we are working on now.

So, if you have an an idea, you’ve done the research to see if it exists already and it doesn’t (don’t stop looking!), then find yourself a patent attorney and get the ball rolling to discuss IP, provisional patents and what is involved with that process.  A patent attorney will be your biggest ally in getting it all done correctly.

“True originality consists not in a new manner, but in a new vision.”  Edith Wharton

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Part 1: The Creative Process and all the Einsteins out there in the Universe

It’s a big world out there with ideas swirling around like crazy.  Just take one trip to a big box store and see the expanding garden hoses and you’ll get what I mean.    Who knew that was a good idea and would sell like hotcakes?!  (That’s not really an endorsement, I’ve never used one, but the commercials are CONVINCING!)  There are lots and lots of Einsteins in the Universe.  The difference is that an inventor stops to make the good idea and tries to figure out how to get it to the public so they can share in the good idea with them! (and tries to make a few bucks in the process…)

When someone finds out we invent for a living, a very popular response is, “Oh, I have an idea for something that everyone will use” or “I come up with ideas for stuff all the time, but I don’t know what to do with it.”  Yep, we all do it.  Something just occurs to you: “I wish that I had a FILL IN THE BLANK to help me FILL IN THE BLANK.”  That’s what makes good ideas.  It just happens that our FILL IN THE BLANK is to help kids and adults BE HAPPY AND HAVE FUN TOGETHER.

Pardon the cliche, but we kinda think ideas are a dime a dozen.  Most aren’t good and few are really, really exceptional.  We have all kinds of ideas all the time and at Gigglicious, but we never hang on just one.  Some inventors do. They come up with one idea and schlep it around to toy companies for years.  That isn’t our business model.  Our logic is that if one didn’t work, we can come up with another one.  We keep the old idea in the arsenal and bring it back out if we see a fit with someone or have something to add on to it.

But, maybe you are curious about HOW we come up with the ideas for toys, games, and novelties?  Inspiration is everywhere and we simply try to stay conscious about keeping an eye out for it.  That’s the secret.  We aren’t geniuses, we just think about toys, games, and mechanisms ALL the time.

Albert-EinsteinInspiration can be found in a trip to the toy section, surfing the internet, our own kids playing a made up game together, a magazine article, a conversation, a vacation, and even a trip to the home improvement store.  Sometimes we sit down and consciously noodle about a particular niche we want to fill for a specific company.  Often, for the measly cost of a Chinese dinner, our kids will sit and draw and think with us.  (Turns out it’s a small cost because they are good at designing!)

I couldn’t sleep the other night, so to fill the time, I figured I’d start ideating.  I generally start by imagining a that I own a toy store.  What toys would I want to see on the shelves?  That gets my brain running.  I came up with four reasonable ideas and another handful of ideas that seemed revolutionary at the time, but not so magical once the sun came up.  (Everything you think of at 3 am always seems to be a stroke of genius, right?)

Inspiration doesn’t always come when you want it to and mostly does when you aren’t paying close attention.  So, we just work to be conscious of the thoughts in the back of our heads.  No magic formula for coming up with ideas, just patience and putting in the time to think and imagine.

So, we came up with an idea!  What’s next?  Stay tuned for Part II!

If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.  ~Albert Einstein

Ideas are like wandering sons.  They show up when you least expect them.  ~Bern Williams