How to Sell an Idea to an Existing Company

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New ideas are key in a competitive business environment. You may feel you have the next big thing, but are unsure how to execute your idea. Sometimes you can sell your idea to a company that already has the mechanism in place to bring your idea to market. Do your due diligence before heading out there. Protect yourself and your idea, and most importantly, discuss your plans in confidence with a trained professional, such as a lawyer, who can help you protect your interests. You do not want a potentially great deal to turn into a dud.

  • Research the uses of your idea. This will help you later decide who to approach with your proposal, and will aid in the patent process. Make notes of your ideas and then tweak them into something clear and marketable.

  • Patent your idea. You cannot sell something you don't own, and having a patent will give you much stronger leverage when you begin negotiations. Discovering if someone else has already patented your idea is another benefit of the patent process, which will save you time and money if it turns out your idea was not as original as you thought. Hire a lawyer to help you through the process and ask the lawyer what rights you gain after having the patent approved.

  • Make a list of potential buyers. Arrange them in order of preference, with a "Top 3" of major players in the relevant industry. Call company headquarters and ask with whom you should meet to discuss your idea. Obtain a contact in each company. Do not discuss the specific details of your product until you meet with the actual individual who can make a deal.

  • Know what you are asking for and what you would be willing to give up. Consider the possible deals that could arise. For example, the company could ask to purchase your patent outright for a set fee. The company could also offer a licensing agreement where you would receive a percentage of product sales for a set period or for perpetuity. Discuss all the possibilities with a qualified adviser like a lawyer.

  • Arrange meetings with your "Top 3" and make your presentations. Be professional. Ensure that you demonstrate the value of your idea and how it can profit the company. Enter into any negotiation with your wits about you and don't rush into any deal. Before you sign anything, know not only the plain meaning of the words in the contract, but also their implications. It is always advisable to have an attorney negotiate any potential contract, or at least review the document.

Tips & Warnings

  • Before hiring an attorney, establish that his expertise is in patents, contracts or both.

References

  • Photo Credit Yuji Kotani/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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