Two recent issues regarding intellectual property and sewing contractors (include service providers in general) have come up and I’m posting them separately in order to thread the comments appropriately because we need feedback on both.
Follows is a conversation I’m having with Robin. She has designed a product that I don’t want to be too specific in describing other than calling it a bag because I think it’s kind of a cool idea and I don’t think anybody is making them except from a utility aspect. I apologize for being vague but the item is something used in medical context so it has a technical application (health care related) and is used mostly by the elderly. Robin writes:
I have an elderly client that has me make her “designer” bags. I hate making them but they do turn out very well. I found a place in Chicago (I live fairly close) that manufactors these bags already.
I have several questions for you: After I present my idea, why do they need me? (I know, beginner’s paranoia), how do I get an appointment with them? Can I ask them to help me market it?
Why do you need to go to them at all? This is an ideal niche product you can handle on your own while you’re small and developing the potential. Reinvesting your profits, you can handle larger orders as they come along. Get another contractor when you need one. This could be a really fun product if you played with it. About marketing, join the forum. Think, where do these people hang out? Market to them there with a trunk show. Collect the money (or a deposit) to buy the goods. How about samples at doctor’s offices?
I was thinking I needed the contractor because I hate making these things but I still want to profit from my idea. And they can buy the materials (and better materials) and findings for so much cheaper then I can. And they have machinery and employees who already know the product. Plus, I have other clients so I’m thinking I don’t want to spend my time selling. I’m still in the think tank, so I would be happy to hear any further thoughts or advice you have.
It was at this point I decided to bring this topic to you because she brings up some valid points that I think would interest many of you. First of all, I completely understand her point so my first response is moot. I am a firm believer in that you can’t make a go of something however profitable if you’re not passionate about it. However, I also completely understand she wants to profit from her concept, I think she’s entitled to it.
My first response is, in theory it is possible to work something out with the established bag manufacturer. Whether it is an option for this particular company, I can’t know. What I can say is from the perspective of the manufacturer (feel free to disagree). The thing that can represent value to the manufacturer is design and access to a new segment of the market. As this is a utility item, the company is not pursuing the product from a “designer” stand point and I can understand why. In their thinking (and they’d know), their market wants a utility low cost product. However, evidently there is a niche segment of the market that would appreciate more attractive options.
It makes perfect sense that a manufacturer would find a concept like Robin’s attractive because as their focus is utility, their internal infrastructure isn’t set up to maximize creativity. Therefore, the question becomes one of the value of Robin’s contribution to the venture. From the manufacturer’s stand point, Robin could bring design and marketing to the table. Now, I haven’t sent this to Robin so I don’t know how she feels about what I just said, so I don’t know if she is willing to commit some time to designing these bags and working on marketing.
The sum of what I think are the salient points of this topic, is that Robin has more to bargain with if she is willing to provide services to the manufacturer. Often, licensing for products takes on this timbre. I don’t think they’d be interested in buying an “idea”. Licensing payments for unknown, untried products are often based on actual services provided by the innovator because these are services a manufacturer can lack to make a success of the idea.
If Robin decides she’s willing to invest some time in working with/for the manufacturer, it is possible the manufacturer would be interested. Otherwise, they often are not. At such time that she agrees she could be involved to this extent, then I’d recommend getting an attorney to represent her interests. Of course, she’d first have to work on a proposal and a portfolio, highlighting the advantages she represents to the company.
What say all of you?