Interview with “Invention Guru” Ronald Docie
Ronald L. Docie Sr is the president of Docie Development, LLC, an international company that provides services for inventors and corporations. His inventions are featured in Wal-Mart, Kmart and thousands of other distribution channels.
As an agent for inventors, Docie has negotiated license deals with many companies including General Motors, and he’s a consultant to Johnson & Johnson on idea submission.
When I first started blogging about two years ago I wrote a book review for the book “The Inventor’s” Bible by Ronald L. Docie Sr. and a couple of months ago Ron found me on the Internet and contacted and thanked me for writing the book review.
When I spoke with him I found out what a gentleman he was and he agreed to answer some questions for this interview. And here are the questions and answers:
Ron can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I am involved in four different entities, all which help inventors:
- Docie Marketing,
- Docie Development,
- DIMWIT – Self Help for Inventors, and i
Docie Marketing performs market research for inventors to help them identify markets, potential licensees, manufacturers, and the market potential for their invention. This is a fee based service.
Docie Development is a commission based service and it works with inventors to seek potential licensing agreements from manufacturers.
What type of company is DIMWIT?
DIMWIT – Self Help for Inventors, has a lot of free information for inventors about how to go through the patent process, the confidential disclosure process and lots of articles and tips for inventors to help them throughout the commercialization process.
How does your company help inventors help themselves?
Inventorinsider.com has a free downloadable e-book that I created to help inventors better understand the invention commercialization process from start to finish. More importantly, it helps inventors to understand the difference between scam artists that are trying to rip off inventors, and legitimate invention companies.
The precursor to this work is from a grant that I received from the US Department of Energy, Inventors Initiative Program to help inventors understand the difference between the good guys and the bad guys with respect to invention service providers. Sadly, there are still more bad guys out there taking money from inventors than there are good and this is a situation that will probably remain. Therefore, it is very important to understand the lay of the land before dumping lots of money into your invention.
Do you have a checklist of things an inventor needs to do once they’ve come up with an idea?
The Inventor’s Bible; How to Market and License Your Brilliant Ideas, is in its third edition and is a book that I wrote that is a complete how-to get through the invention commercialization process and is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, local bookstores, and all three editions are in the reference section of every US Patent Office, Patent Depository Library in the US and its possessions.
There is also a Kindle edition that’s the third edition of the Inventor’s Bible along with a workbook that take an inventor step by step through the process of finding and prequalifying appropriate manufacturers and potential licensees.
Contained in these writings are a checklist of things that inventors should do and the order that they should do them in. This checklist is in the appendix of all three editions of the Inventor’s Bible.
What are the most important things an inventor needs to know?
The most important thing an inventor needs to know is that the world has existed this long without their invention and will continue to exist for quite sometime without it. Most inventions are incremental improvements and not life necessities. Therefore, they fall within a pecking order of millions of other inventions, all which are trying to get the attention of the buying consumer. Obviously only a choice few of these are going to make it to the retail shelf.
Those that make it are not necessarily the most beneficial for mankind, however, they are the products that the consumer wishes to purchase. As such, there is not necessarily a direct relationship between the invention’s benefit to mankind, and its ability to create sales.
This is a very frustrating phenomenon because most of my clients know that they have invented something of great benefit to mankind, and yet while their invention collects dust, they see plastic crap selling like hotcakes.
How does your company compare with a “Patent/invention Submission” company? What knowledge have you gained based upon your first-hand experience with these types of companies?
My company operates under the philosophy that an inventor should spend no more time or money than is necessary to find out that the invention is not worth pursuing. Since we know that 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 inventions ever succeed commercially, the remaining 99 or 999 would be remiss to not realize sooner, rather than later, that they are indeed part of the majority.
For this reason, I have designed a tiered-risk program that takes inventors through the step by step process in a manner where they lay out the least amount of money initially and if the invention continues to make it through the various stages, then all the ingredients are there to also have it be a commercial success. Therefore, the process is a win win regardless of which the direction takes.
How bad are the odds stacked against an independent inventor?
How bad are the odds stacked against an independent inventor? Pretty damn bad.
Do you have any ideas for patent reform that could help the independent inventor?
I really have no ideas regarding patent reform that could help the independent inventor. The patent office is a big animal and is probably doing as well as it can under the circumstances.
Can an inventor get a license for a new product without Patent protection?
An inventor certainly can receive money from their invention without patent protection. In certain fields such as housewares and others, designers are paid royalties not unlike an inventor would be paid a royalty. Instead, the designer is being paid for the ornamental design feature that may even be covered under a copyright, trade dress or simply a design patent.
I have received royalties based on my design improvements because those designs were favored more by the consumer and I realized this through doing independent market research that no one else had done. This was of sufficient value to the companies that they agreed to pay for these design improvements. I happened to have a patent to cover a part of that invention; however the patent did not cover my design improvements so the patent really didn’t totally enter into the equation.
Patents are a tool and you have to look at them as such. Most people think they have patent “protection” when in fact they do not because very few patents are so tight that they cannot be designed around by someone who would come out with a similar product without infringing your patent.
Rarely do you have a slam dunk patent where a person can simply rely on their patent rights and everyone flocks to their door. The odds of this are probably more like 1 in 100,000 or more. Even so, the patent may be of value because it may help to influence a company to pay you to use its rights. These situations vary drastically depending on the product category, the companies involved, and your individual situation.
Can you work a deal with a nondisclosure agreement?
Deals can be negotiated with only a non-disclosure agreement in place, and I have used non-disclosure agreements, or confidential disclosure agreements, to help control circumstances so that I could influence companies to pay a royalty or commission when they otherwise may not.
There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration, however, such as whether the non-disclosure agreement also contains a non-compete clause so it can survive after the public disclosure of the invention and other technical issues to numerous to cover here. However, in today’s world of consolidation of big box retail stores and the consolidation of manufacturers, inventors largely do not have choice with respect to the signing of a non-disclosure agreement.
Many, if not most, Fortune 100 companies will demand that you sign their disclosure agreement which is a non-confidential disclosure agreement, or rely strictly on your US patent rights in order to even submit the invention to them. I am seeing a trend towards this.
On the flip side, there is also a growing number of companies who are so disenchanted about the patent process that they simply invite inventors to submit the invention, and if they use the invention they will pay the inventor a royalty such as 3% or 5% with a standard royalty agreement.
They typically will not sign any type of disclosure or confidentiality agreement, period. This is because these companies find that many inventions last for just a short time on the market, less than the amount of time it would take to have a patent issued. Therefore, they don’t even bother with the patenting expense.
Also, these companies realize that with the average cost per side in a patent infringement case being over a million dollars, many small to medium size companies have products that would even justify pursuing any type of legal action. In most cases it would be more cost effective to simply drop the item from the line and keep on going with the other thousand or ten thousand items that they may have in their product line. An inventor needs to keep these things in perspective when they are getting too overly concerned about disclosure agreements and patents.
Further, some of the companies that are willing to sign disclosure agreements for inventors have a record of not working with outside inventors at all. They simply take whatever information they can glean from your invention submission and use it to the extent they want to without infringing the patent.
Then you have these other companies that will not sign disclosure agreements what-so-ever, and yet they have a rich, positive track record of paying outside inventors. Therefore, using a disclosure agreement as a means of qualifying a company is not always the best indicator.
What type of industries are the hardest/easiest for inventors to break into?
The ability for an inventor to break into an industry is different from industry to industry. I think industries that involve retail consumer products tend to be a bit easier because the proof is on the retailer’s shelf and there is a well-oiled machine for getting product there. It is a matter of just selecting the right company to help get you there.
There are also plenty of companies that are willing to pay inventors in the retail industry. In those industries involving medical products, industrial products, and others that require a great deal of initial time and investment,
I believe there is more chance for a ‘slip between the cup and lip’, and as such it may be harder for the inventor to navigate in those industries, especially since more upfront investment is required before any company knows whether the product will be commercially successful.
Yet, with that being said, if an inventor is knowledgeable in their industry and has conceived a unique product or technology that is desired by those in the industry, it would not be uncommon for a company to pick up that invention and run with it. This would be a very streamline path for the inventor. So, there are exceptions to every rule.
Can you help a small or medium sized companies with new innovation?
The process of helping inventors, or helping companies to commercialize innovative products, particularly through licensing, is a very similar process regardless of the size of the company or the type of customer. The way licensing departments operate in Fortune 100 companies is, in principle, not unlike the way I operate for independent inventors.
If a large company wants to license out the technology or intellectual property t another company, it must go through steps to identify those companies that hold the market position for the part category, they need to determine the potential value of an invention, and they need develop the terms of a licensing agreement. The terms and principles are similar, the number of zeros behind the final figure changes.
I noticed on your website that you advertise the Patent Wizard, are you associated with that company?
I don’t make any money from the Patent Wizard software that is advertised on my website and I am not associated with that company. Michael Neustel, a patent attorney from Fargo, ND, created Patent Wizard as easy and convenient software for inventors to use to file a provisional patent application at very low cost.
Even then, I always suggest that the inventor have a patent attorney review the final patent application before submitting it to the patent office. I normally suggest that inventors work with a patent attorney or patent agent as they go through this process.
Knowing when to use patent attorneys and for which service is part of the key to making no more expenditures than are necessary at any given step. Docie Marketing helps inventors to understand which steps to take and when. The DIMWIT- Self Help for Inventors website also provides information about this, as does the Inventor’s Bible. The free ebook on www.inventorinsider.com is also a compendium of advice regarding steps to take.
Do you refer inventors to patent attorneys like myself?
I do refer inventors to patent attorneys all the time, however I try to avoid advising about specific patent attorneys because I think eventually the inventor needs to have the right chemistry with the patent attorney that they end up working with and this is something they need to determine for themselves.
Do you advise inventors to file a provisional patent application?
I am not an attorney and I do not give legal advice, nor do I give advice regarding patenting. However, I do give business advice as it relates to the patent strategy and how one might go about affecting such a strategy.
For example, lets say it is determined that an inventor wants to elect to not publish their patent after 18 months and keep their patent application secret for as long as possible while they go through development and pre-commercialization. In this case, they could potentially keep their invention a trade secret for five years or more.
In this case, they may want to extend the patent prosecution process as much as possible by not responding to the patent office until the last minute for every deadline that must be meant, filing a provisional application in anticipation of the utility application, filing continuations-in-part and any number of other strategic ploys that may be condoned by the clients patent attorney.
Therefore I work in concert with my clients patent attorneys to help develop a strategy that incorporates the best from both the business perspective and the patenting and legal perspective in order to have a wholistic strategic plan to provide the greatest and most secure benefit for the client. It takes very little extra effort and very little extra cash expenditure on behalf of the inventor in order to do it the right way, versus doing it the wrong way.
The bottom line is, with appropriate knowledge, all inventors can minimize their risk and increase opportunity for financial gain from their invention. Certainly it is best to obtain a wealth of knowledge from those people who have a depth of experience and effective results in this field.
That certainly is what the inventor should be seeking out, and not listening to the numerous flimflam artists who are only stroking the inventor’s ego in one breath and holding their hand out for heavy financial outlay at the next moment.
It is necessary for inventors to spend money at certain junctures whether it be for patent attorneys, invention brokers, prototype makers or any other number of legitimate services that the inventor should hire. The inventor just needs to be prudent in this process and not spend too much, too soon, and for the wrong things.