The Power of Licensing With Stephen Key, Co-founder of Inventright

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Stephen Key is the Co-Founder of inventRight and the world’s leading expert on how to license a consumer product idea. He has licensed more than 20 products on his own and was a 2018-2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science-Lemelson Invention Ambassador. He has also published several best-selling books, including One Simple Idea and his latest, Become a Professional Inventor: The Insider’s Guide to Companies Looking for Ideas. 

Stephen’s inventRight coaching program has helped product developers from more than 65 countries learn how to license their ideas. He co-founded Inventors Groups of America to educate and empower inventors and inventing group leaders and inventYES, a free global program for high schoolers.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The first idea Stephen licensed and why he loves inventing products
  • How Stephen helps companies come up with new ideas and make improvements on existing products
  • The invention that changed Stephen’s life and what he learned from the experience
  • Why don’t most inventors find success in their first ideas?
  • The power of patents, their limitations, and what they can be used for
  • Stephen explains how he adds value to his patents (and why) and the benefits of looking at patents from a business perspective
  • The successful strategies Stephen uses to license ideas without a patent
  • How technology has improved the work of inventors
  • Stephen’s advice to new inventors
  • Stephen’s coaching program and his target audience

In this episode…

Any inventor who wants to protect their idea and their rights should consider one thing: getting a patent.

As an inventor, you should learn as much as you can about patents—and some professional advice from a good patent attorney wouldn’t hurt along the way. You’ll also need to find relevant and up-to-date resources about patent protection from experienced individuals and organizations.

However, the power of a patent lies in the value it provides to the holder. A valid patent can be used for licensing and provide good royalties to the holder, but only if done right. The language used in the patent is also essential and can cause different interpretations of the patent by patent examiners, a jury, licensee, and investors.

Stephen Key, Co-Founder of inventRight, is Rich Goldstein’s guest in this week’s episode of the Innovations and Breakthroughs Podcast, where he talks about the power of patents and licensing. They discuss Stephen’s strategies for coming up with new business ideas, his licensing tips, and how technology has impacted the work of inventors.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Goldstein Patent Law, a firm that helps protect inventors’ ideas and products. They have advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 25 years. So if you’re a company that has a software, product, or design you want protected, you can go to https://goldsteinpatentlaw.com/. They have amazing free resources for learning more about the patent process.

You can email their team at welcome@goldsteinpc.com to explore if it’s a match to work together. Rich Goldstein has also written a book for the American Bar Association that explains in plain English how patents work, which is called ‘The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.’

Intro (00:09):
Welcome to innovations and breakthroughs with your host Rich Goldstein, talking about the evolutionary, the revolutionary, the inspiration and the perspiration and those aha moments that change everything. And now here’s your host, Rich Goldstein

Rich (00:33):
Rich Goldstein here, host of the innovations and breakthroughs podcast, where we feature top leaders and the path they took to create change past guests include Rick’s is Ari Bob Serling, Louis Foreman, and Joe Polish. This episode is brought to you by my company, Goldstein patent law, where we help you to protect your ideas and products we’ve advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 26 years. So if you’re a company that has software, a product or a design, you want protected go to Goldstein, pamela.com, where there are amazing free resources for learning about the patent process. And you could email my team@welcomeatgoldsteinpc.com to explore if it’s a match to work together. You can also check out the book I wrote for the American bar association that explains in plain English, how patents work it’s called the ABA consumer guide to obtaining a patent I have here today. Stephen Key, Stephen Key is the world’s leading expert on how to license a consumer product idea. He’s licensed more than 20 products on his own. He’s also published a number of best-selling books, including one simple idea, and his latest become a professional inventor. The insider’s guide to companies looking for ideas. His invent ride coaching program has helped product developers from more than 65 countries. Learn how to license their invention ideas. It’s my honor to welcome here today. Stephen Key. Welcome Steven.

Stephen (01:50):
Well, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure being here.

Rich (01:53):
Great. So to date, you’ve licensed more than 20 ideas of your own. Tell me about the first idea that you licensed.

Stephen (02:02):
Well, um, let’s think let’s well, first of all, I was at, um, I was working at a startup company called worlds of wonder in the late eighties and I was manager of design and there were two hip products were Teddy Ruxpin and laser tag. And I was working for a company rich and I didn’t want to work for anybody else. So I left and started my own company, Stephen Key design, and I was a plush designer designing stuffed animals, which is kind of an electing to do. And I licensed a little airplane, uh, that the wings would come apart to a company called applause. And it was a very simple plush puppet. And from that point on, I think I was hooked. It was so easy to do. I was surprised.

Rich (02:52):
Right. That’s amazing. And so just like, like the title says one simple idea, it’s really, all it took was one simple idea that that created value for this company. And so it was something that they, they wanted to follow up on.

Stephen (03:08):
Well, I started my career selling things on street corners of street fairs and County fairs. And they were, um, plush animals because they were easy to make and I could test them very, very quickly to see if anybody would purchase them. So I started in the toy industry and then eventually ended up in the novelty gift industry and then the packaging industry, and I applied the same principles to license ideas and all the industries. It was fairly simple. It wasn’t complicated, it was simple.

Rich (03:42):
Got it. So w what do you think it is about UC even that that makes you want to be an inventor, makes you a good inventor and also makes you stick with being an inventor when it’s, it’s far from the easiest path.

Stephen (03:55):
I didn’t want to work for anybody else. Right. And I didn’t think anybody would hire me because technically I don’t think I had any skills. So I just started to make things and test them. And I was very naive at the very beginning. I would just, um, show companies ideas. And I just thought if they liked them, they would pay me. I didn’t worry. At that time, at the very beginning, I didn’t worry about intellectual property. I didn’t worry about, um, ownership because I thought ideas were, they were a diamond desert. I wasn’t married to any of my ideas, and it was really easy for me to come up with ideas. So I would just show companies that embrace inventors. There you go. That’s a, that’s one thing I just kind of fell into and they would just pay me for my ideas. Hmm.

Rich (04:48):
Oh, that’s, that’s amazing. And so part of, I guess, what, um, what made you well-suited to being an inventor is, um, having an abundance of ideas. Like there’s no shortage of ideas. I mean, there are many people that feel that this is their one idea and they’ll never have another great one, but, um, and, and as, as a result of that, I think they get very attached to their ideas. Uh, they get maybe a little bit too overzealous about patenting, which as a patent attorney, you might not expect me to say, but I think a lot of times inventors just put too much stock in the patent and they put too much focus on the patent in the beginning. Um, and so I guess what really worked for you is that you didn’t feel so attached to any one of your ideas that you felt I need to spend all of my money on patenting that one. Um, and then feel crushed. If that idea didn’t work out.

Stephen (05:45):
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I looked at ideas a little bit differently. I was, I was able to find, I played games basically to come up with different ideas and my ideas at the very beginning, they weren’t inventions. They were just ideas. And I would look at a company’s product line and knew that they were going to come up with something new for the next year. So my, my goal was to look at the product line and come up with that next item that they would come out with. So I looked at it differently. I didn’t wait for inspiration, the strike. I didn’t wait for that great idea that to happen. And, and so I would design for companies and it was very easy to do that because like I said, I knew they were going to come up with something new fairly soon. So I would make small improvements on their existing ideas.

Rich (06:43):
So you look for the opportunity you would look for like, where’s the gap? Like what, what might the progression be towards something else that’s cool. And that really founded what the solution was. You created a what? The improvement you came up with.

Stephen (06:58):
Yeah. It made it easy to hit the target, right? Because if I could make a small improvement on one, another existing products, we knew there was a market for it. Cause they were currently selling it. We knew it could be manufactured. So there was no risk for companies to take those small improvements on. So it was, it was actually, um, fairly fast and fairly easy. And then eventually I came up with an invention and then my whole life change.

Rich (07:26):
Hmm. Okay. Tell me about that one. Now you’ve got me curious.

Stephen (07:30):
Well, I had read an article in the, I was living in Modesto, California, and I read an article in the Modesto bee where, um, Al Gore was talking about, there was never enough information on labels. And because that space was so limited, um, people weren’t dosing themselves correctly. Some of the warnings were not staying with the container. And the whole article was just about how dangerous that was. And if someone could come up with a solution to add more space or label space, to a container, that would be a winner. So that challenge was, um, actually looking back. I remember I said to my wife, I was reading this article. I got the greatest idea. She was like, what are you talking about? I said, well, I had this one product I was selling and all the Disney stores and all the theme parks around the world.

Stephen (08:28):
And it was a, a two, it was a double wall container that if we were to spin the outside, there was a little window. You can look inside and see that the inner wall. And so it provided more information. So I thought to myself, why not two labels instead of one, you have a base label. In fact, I have a sample here. You probably can’t see it, but near it is I have a sample and you spin it and got it. So based. So really what it was, was two labels on a container. The top label had a window. The base label had additional information. When you spun the top label, it would reveal that extra information through the window. And now I had an invention finally, and I remember calling my a bypass attorney. He knew me. He was a good friend. I had met. And he said, Steve, uh, this is pretty unique. He said, uh, I said, well, I think I’m in a mentor now. And he said, I don’t think so. He said, I know you. And I know you’re right. There’s a very simple, this has a large application. Let’s do a prior art search. And that’s what we did.

Stephen (09:42):
And, uh, and how did it turn out? Well, I remember right before I called my patent attorney, let me step back a minute. I had made that sample. I went down to Walmart, grabbed a container off the shelf, went to Kinko’s, a little coffee place and made this, this spin formation label. And I loved it. And I went home. I told my wife, I’m going to call this company. She said, which one are you going to call? I said, I’m going to call Johnson and Johnson. And she goes, well, I’ll never take that call. And I did. And I actually got someone in the graphic department and I said, I have this label that adds 75% more space. Can I send it to you? He said, sure. And when I sent the label to him, I called him up the next day I was very impatient and vendor, like most inventors are. And the first thing out of his mouth, do you have a patent on that? That’s when the fear hit me, probably the same fear most inventors have. What do I do now? How do I protect? Especially with the large company. That’s when I called, um, my patent attorney, which I still work with after over 20 years. Cause he gave me great business advice. That’s what it is.

Speaker 4 (10:58):
That’s rare. That’s rare from a patent attorney. He’s great business advice.

Stephen (11:02):
Yeah. And that’s why I think I’ve been successful at this. He said, Steve, uh, right, right of his mostly look like we can protect anything. He says, protection is easy. Selling is hard, go sell. And that’s exactly what I did, but they did a prior art search, uh, third party, Washington DC. And it came back. I spent $1,800. It came back and I remember getting the call from my patent. Attorney says, guess what? You’re an inventor. We, we didn’t find any other prior patents. Nice. And that’s when I was like, well, this is getting really exciting. So we filed two patents and I was pretty excited. Not, not about how much it cost. I wasn’t about that. But when you have an idea and you have a customer such as J and J or big customers say, Hey, do you have a patent on this?

Stephen (12:02):
You, you know, there’s some interest, right? So I went ahead, filed two patents and sooner, you know, it wasn’t a couple months later I got a call from the CEO of Procter and gamble. It seemed the label and the office from Dirk Yeager, the CEO, his office called and said, could you come out to Cincinnati and show our technical group, this labeled innovation. And I’m pretty darn excited. And I told my wife, and at the time my wife, she was a marketing eye. She was vice president of marketing for gala winery, the largest winery in the world. And she said, Steve, this is not going to go. Well, you don’t know. You really don’t know who you’re dealing with. But as an inventor, I’m just excited. I’ve got this great idea. This is it. This is my big one. So sure enough, we went out to Cincinnati.

Stephen (12:55):
I brought my wife. I told her, wear a red dress. Let’s go get them. And before the big meeting and their technical center, we went out to lunch on the campus, Cincinnati, Procter and gamble. And after lunch, I was walking across the grass to go to the meeting and my contact person there said, I said to him, I thanked him for lunch. He says, Steve, remember one thing. There’s no such thing. As a free lunch. My wife looked at me like now you get it. So fast forward went into the meeting. 30 people showed up. There was myself, my wife, and gave the quick little demo and not one smile on anybody’s face. I knew something was going, something was definitely wrong. And that’s when the gentleman slid a piece of paper across the table and said, Mr. Key, we’re not going to pay you one penny for this idea. And they all walked out and sure enough, on that piece of paper, we’re just numbers went back numbers, patent numbers. And I sent that over to my patent attorney and he gave me a call on Friday and said, Steve, we have bad news. They found your invention.

Stephen (14:14):
I was like, what do you mean? They found the invention. You did a priority search. And I spent $1,800. I filed two patents. He said, I’m sorry. It was, they found it. It was like a leaf on a tree. And at that point I knew something was wrong because why would a big company call me out to embarrass me and why wasn’t this technology on the market? So something was wrong, but they did find two patents. Those two patents were over 50 years old. And it was, it was my invention. Exactly. Not a modification of it. No, it was the exact invention. So after a couple of weeks of being pretty upset, I read it over and over again. And I realized something was missing. There was no method of manufacturing so fast forward.

Rich (15:12):
So it was a, so basically it was like an impractical example of how it could be, but it wasn’t thought through and how it would actually be manufactured.

Stephen (15:22):
I think there was two claims and not one of them was anything that to do with manufacturing. Fast forward, we sold over 500 million labels was on Nescafe coffee in Japan, Jim being here in the States and many others still sells in some places in colleges. It’s that Yellowstone national park. And I collected royalties for over 20 years. Amazing.

Rich (15:45):
Amazing. And did Proctor and gamble ever become one of those licensees of

Stephen (15:50):
No, they did not. All their containers are not round. Hmm.

Rich (15:55):
Okay. Basically they did you a favor? Yes. They brought you out there. They did some research for you to show you that you were slightly in the wrong direction and you were able to course correct. And it didn’t matter to them anyway, because they didn’t pursue it.

Stephen (16:11):
They gave me the keys to the kingdom.

Rich (16:17):
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And, uh, um, and it’s also amazing though, how you could turn the situation around how you manage to kind of pick yourself up by your bootstraps and, and turn, turn it around. And I think it’s granted that, um, most inventors are not successful with their first idea. It’s might be the second or the third, but the value of the first idea is if they have a good experience with the process, then they will try the second and the third to give them that chance for success.

Stephen (16:53):
So, you know, they’re not going to have that good experience with the first, you know, that

Rich (16:58):
Yeah. Well, it’s up to them if they have a good experience of it. And that’s, I think the point is it might not go well, but they could still have a good experience with it.

Stephen (17:09):
Yeah. I’m glad we’re having this conversation because I really believe that it requires education to, to determine if you have a marketable idea and what happens because of our excitement, which we need to be excited and maybe a little fearful too, maybe maybe less fearful, but maybe we should be a little bit more careful. We, we rush and we, we do things, um, without, I mean, there’s so many unknowns, we know that. Okay. But, but because of the lack of education, I think we’re doing things, um, that just don’t pan out. I’m a big believer in patents. Okay. I’m a big believer in all the tools that the U S PTO, but they’re not for every project, either a hundred percent. Okay. And I think intellectual property is not, in my opinion. It’s not just that it’s not being used correctly today. If you think that you’re just going to stop people because you have a patent, that’s the most situations is going to be difficult.

Stephen (18:17):
And I know that I sued a little toy company a couple of years ago, and I ended up in federal court. I sued LIGO and a little toilet, a little one, and it took three years. Um, we settled two weeks before it went to, um, the trial and they thought they were going to kind of beat me up, but I was pretty determined and the technology was selling around the world. So they kind of, um, I think they picked the wrong fight and they thought it would give up too early. Most people probably would. But, so I learned that patents are just words and those words can be interpreted differently from patent examiners, judge, jury, to a licensee, to investors. So pants are powerful, but I don’t know if they’re just, they should be used to fend off your competition. I think they could be used to give yourself that perceived ownership, maybe investors there’s a lot of things that could be used for

Rich (19:20):
Yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, I’ll just, um, inject my, my notion of it is, is first of all, um, as you said, patents, so just words, and sometimes there could be a broad definition of what your invention is, and that could be a valuable patent, but a lot of patents are very limited and a lot of patents are limited to things that don’t matter to the market. And so you get a patent that is limited in a way to a certain feature that your competition doesn’t care about. They know they can make it with, or without that feature. Um, your customers don’t care about that feature. And, uh, particularly, so then it’s not a valuable patent. That’s, that’s, that’s part one of, of what you’re saying. I agree with you. And the second part is I feel that you don’t get a patent for the privilege of spending three years in federal court, um, fighting off, um, infringers you get it because it keeps 80% of the others away. Um, and it gives you the leverage that you need to make those licensing deals to, to, um, to have those joint venture situations come around and, and to, um, um, to get the investors on board by the fact that you have rights to something. So it has its value and it has its place. Um, and, and, and it’s all in context. It’s not, you know, it’s not a magic sword or shield. And I, like you said about,

Stephen (20:48):
I think you, you really have to look at your business objectives and make sure that IP aligns up with those pretty much, you know, exactly to tell you the truth, because what I’ll do when I will provide my patent attorney, no, I’ll write a provisional patent application, but I will make sure that I include variations of work arounds. I will make sure I include things like manufacturing knowledge, right? I’ll include really information. That’s very useful for someone to see it. Cause then I think it has value, but I will try to match my claims with things I really need in the market. So I will go to my condo train. He said, look, this is what I, these are five things that I need and I need these claims to line up perfectly. And then when I read the claims and it comes back, I make sure it protects me. And I don’t know if a lot of inventors are looking at it that way, but I think if they did, it would have more value.

Rich (21:50):
Absolutely. Which goes back to what you said a moment ago, about the value of education. Um, I think inventors ought to be knowledgeable about the process as they go into it. I mean, um, you know, when they, when they look to do a patent that they’re focused on the cost, like what’s this going to cost, but I think what they ought to be focused on is what are they going to get? Are you going to be able to get claims which embrace the important parts of the invention or does the prior art preclude that? Because it’s not really, um, these, this basic combination of features is not new. So I think that’s what, um, it’s important to focus on it. And so you have to understand what claims are, and you have to understand how patents work with claims.

Stephen (22:38):
I think most inventors kind of just hand it off and say, all right, protect this without looking at it from a business perspective. And I think if they did, they would supply their patent attorney with the right information to do a great job. I think they’ve, they fall short a little bit. So I always would send my patent attorney. Here’s my cell sheet. This is what I’m going to license so they can see my marketing material. Um, also any prototypes that I built, even the ones that don’t work, I really want him to know what works and what does not work that I discovered that I’m a big believer in prior art now, too, that those obstacles are going to be there. And you need to know where those potholes are. Those, those roadblocks along the way, you need to know what they are to the best of your ability, that way you can navigate around them. And that way, when they do come up, maybe from a patent examiner, or maybe from a, a licensee, you, you know, your point of difference. So clearly it’s now a selling tool. It’s not like, you know, this is why you should pay me. It’s more like, this is why my product is different. This is my point of difference.

Rich (23:58):
Absolutely. So, so in essence, it can be a selling tool and also it can, can provide that leverage of why they’re doing business with you. Um, now you, you wrote, I mean, when we both get from this conversation, that patents have their role and they can provide the leverage for making a licensing deal, but not always. And you wrote a book, um, sell your ideas with, or without a patent. So I’m just curious, what are some of the successful strategies that you’ve used for pursuing an idea without a patent?

Stephen (24:28):
Well, most of the ideas that I see that, um, I have a organization called a bit, right? Where are students in 65 different countries? I would say the majority, probably 90%. There’s no patents, but those ideas still get licensed, but they get licensed because there’s a well-written provisional patent application to get licensed because there’s an opportunity that, that is, that is available for the licensee or for you. So you keep the door open. Uh, I remember when the U S PTO asked me to come out to give a talk and he said, Steve, can you bring some of your books? So of course I brought that new one, you know, and it was really, I had a really big smile on my face when they sold that book,

Rich (25:08):
Walking into a path into the patent office, with a book that’s licensed to sell your idea with, or without a patent,

Stephen (25:15):
The things that they like to sell. I’m like saying you don’t need it, but what was really great, they, they understood where I was coming from of how to write a provisional patent application that truly has value. And that’s what I was saying that the title was intriguing enough for people, right. But it was really about being prepared and they still invite me back rich all the time. So I didn’t do anything. You know, it’s really kind of funny. I’m not, anti-patent, I’m pro patents, but it’s just a timing issue. It’s not, you have to look at the customer, the situation, the landscape of similar products, the landscape in the IP landscape, you have to look at all of it and make sure you’re, you’re smart about your business. Um, so that’s, that’s my perspective on it, but what’s in the book is really how to negotiate a licensing agreement that takes away fear and also takes away the main component of a licensing agreement.

Stephen (26:14):
That’s that grant of license? What are you granting me? And most licensees want to put a patent number, a claim, an application. And my strategy is to get rid of all of that licensed the product. That way it’s not tied to IP or better yet, if you cannot negotiate that lice, make sure you can include improvements because there’s always going to be improvements. And if you can do that, and in case your IP does not get issued, you can file an improvement and get, and still get paid along the way. It’s just a slight twisting of the game a little bit to keep that door open. So you keep getting paid. And so that’s what the book is about, is how to do a win-win licensing agreement.

Rich (27:01):
Got it. And, um, I mean, I, I imagined that one thing that, that kind of fits into there that that helps when you don’t have the rights established is relationships, right? Is like, I know some people that are, um, what’s the word like serial inventors that basically have relationships with certain toy companies and certain other manufacturers where it’s the relationship that has the company take them seriously enough to license multiple ideas from them.

Stephen (27:34):
I think a lot of companies do realize today there’s a lot of online sellers, so hard to stop, right? And in some very large companies, they love intellectual property because they’re strong enough to force the retailers to take the knockouts off. And they love to chase people around. I think there’s a lot of companies out there that realize selling first and selling fast. It’s probably the best approach. I think some of those mid-sized companies that have that approach also like intellectual property, who does it, everybody wants a monopoly. Okay.

Rich (28:03):
And once, once it hits the street and once your brand is established and it’s growing, you want to have the IP because you want to be the only game in town.

Stephen (28:12):
Well, you, you, you want that, but yeah, but it’s hard, you know, it’s difficult. But that being said, it keeps the honest people honest. Right? So, and maybe a couple of the other ones, maybe

Rich (28:25):
That’s funny, that’s the phrase I use all the time with regard to NDAs. Like what’s the value of an MDA is it keeps honest people, honest. It reminds them, it reminds them that this is supposed to be a confidential circumstance, as opposed to, if someone wants to do you harm, you know, nothing’s going to stop them from doing that. But those people need to be most honest, people just need to be reminded when to be honest,

Stephen (28:51):
I think the game’s changed a little bit because of social media now, too. Um, it used to be, if a company had a poor product or service, you’d call the 800 number and no one would ever answer right. Today you go on their Facebook page and post something. And 10 minutes later you get a telephone call. Right? Yeah. So I think the power has actually shifted a little bit and most inventors don’t feel that way. They feel like I’m small and they’re big and they’re gonna take advantage of me. I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s some reality to that, but I do think if you’re small, you can be fast. You can be quick, you can use all the tools. You can be their original, you could be the person on social media. You could be, create an army of raging fans. So you have a voice now that you didn’t have before you have to be able use it. So I don’t think the fight is in P tab or federal court. I think the fight is on social media.

Rich (29:48):
So interesting. Yeah. And so, and with regard, um, with regard to technology and, um, I mean, you’ve been at this for the last few decades and how has technology improved, available options and the outlook for inventors?

Stephen (30:05):
Well, back in the day, when I was very active in this space, you know, everything was by mail, right? And you know, you didn’t have the internet or email today. I mean, look how fast everything’s become. I can reach out to companies on LinkedIn. I can find those open innovation companies. Those venture-funded companies make connections on LinkedIn. There’s no gatekeepers anymore. I can file. [inaudible] you know, that didn’t exist until the mid nineties. Um, there’s open innovation where more and more industries are opening their doors. You have to be a professional though. Don’t drive him crazy. Like we usually do. You can build those relationships with all those industries as well. Uh, it’s changed. It’s easier than ever to be an inventor and you got crowdfunding, right? Oh, there’s crowds, but all that. Well, the shark cake too. Um, I think today I’m seeing an explosion, uh, especially even doing, you know, the situation that we’re in today, I’m seeing more ideas get licensed in more different industries. More companies are opening their doors, but you have to be a professional at this. And that’s what I’m trying to teach through. Some of the things that we’re doing is it’s really be an asset. And so those companies bring you in, they feel comfortable bringing you in because they know you’re part of the team.

Rich (31:32):
Hmm. Yeah. Let’s talk about that. I mean, um, what do you think that inventors need when they’re starting out and not sure what to do next, or don’t have the confidence to take that first step?

Stephen (31:45):
I, I just think they need to find those resources that, that are very current because most of the things I read today, some of the books on this, they’re just not current and they’re from a different perspective. Um, I know you’re for more the, the, the legal perspective, but I think, you know, I write for Forbes on intellectual property from a business perspective, how to really use it. So I think you need to know what the tools are, but, but those are just tools. I mean, it’s not, everything is just one tool, so know what the tools are and how to, how to really use them and use them well. Okay. Number two. Um, I think it’s also important to find your community somehow, to define like-minded individuals that can help you on your journey. You know, you might find prototypers or maybe, uh, people that know how do manufacturing over in China or whatever, find your network that you trust.

Stephen (32:45):
Uh, and don’t rush. I don’t think you have to rush. Um, I, I think it’s a long road. I think it’s going to take quite a few ideas, but you want to be frugal and smart. So you stay in the game the long term, and that’s why it comes down to having good people around you. And even your patent attorney that has your best interest to say, look, if, if, if I give you good advice, you’re going to come back a hundred percent. Yeah. And if you keep on coming back, you know, we’re going to be working together. I’m going to help you grow your business. So that’s what I want to see. I want to see more and more inventors to not be fearful, but to be careful and grab that good information and listen to these podcasts and, and, and get in the game.

Stephen (33:28):
Don’t sit on the couch. I can guarantee you, if you sit on the couch, nothing’s going to happen. If you sit on the couch, you have a great idea. You will see it sooner or later, don’t let that happen and stop watching things that aren’t correct. Right. We, we like shark tank. I love shark tank. It’s great. It’s not real. It’s a TV show. Okay. We get that. And it’s fun to watch. It’s exciting to watch, right. But what’s reality. What’s, what’s real find the guys are in the trenches. They do it day in and day out. They know what’s real and what’s not real. And, and try to grab some of that information.

Rich (34:01):
So information and maybe some mentorship, right?

Stephen (34:05):
I believe this is really interesting because I do have a coaching program, but I give everything away for free. Um, I’ve written a thousand articles on this topic, a million words in the last decade, uh, 620 videos. How to do it for free books, you can get at the library. Uh, I believe in education, but I also know this. Have I ever had, will you ever meet a professional football player? That’s watching YouTube or read a book? I don’t think so. How about, uh, how about, uh, a licensed plumber? Has he watched YouTube read a book? No. Any professional needs to be educated, maybe a mentor or maybe a coach or something learning along the way is painful. So people that want to learn it along the way, I think they don’t value their time. Right. And, and they think they’re maybe going to find a shortcut, or maybe they’re going to save themselves some time or money, but it’s going to end up costing them more.

Rich (35:17):
So, as opposed to learning along the way you, you, um, suggest that they learn as much as they can upfront, or what, what do you think is the better approach?

Stephen (35:26):
I think if you educate yourself on certain topics, your questions are going to be different. Right. I mean, I don’t want to call up my patent attorney and ask them about copyright, you know, how to file a copy. Right. And what does that protect? I don’t want to do that. I get that on the internet. Right, right. I don’t want to call my patent attorney and say, look, you know, how do I follow up PPA? Or what about my drawings? Is that fine? Those are basic things you can learn along the way. Right? You want to ask your patent attorney for instance, Hey, look, there’s some, there’s a, uh, some prior art here and I need to work around it because you really could. I really understand what those claims are. Can you help me with that good value or, or if I’m going to, um, if I need good marketing material to get into companies, to license an idea what works and what doesn’t work, where some of the problems are, or if I’m going to reach out to a company, do I go in there and start asking about royalty rates right out of the gate?

Stephen (36:26):
No, you, you know, there’s just things you don’t do. There’s a sequence, right. Uh, and they can tell when you’re an amateur right away, and the kind people will kind of help you a little bit, but a lot of companies won’t, they just stop connecting the conversation just stops. And you’re wondering what just happened. And they, you don’t realize that you’re not presenting yourself in such a way that they’re willing to bring you in. So you have to be, you have to be that professional. So lets companies reach out to you. They see, they see the value and they’re willing to bring you in to have a conversation. But if you’re doing stuff up front that shows them that you’re a little too new at this, uh, they tend to disengage.

Rich (37:10):
Yep. Yep. Makes total sense. So, I mean, what’s the right stage at which someone would, um, be appropriate to work with you and your coaching program?

Stephen (37:20):
Well, that’s a great question. Thank you for asking that. Um, we don’t take everybody because it’s just too much work. I hate to say it. Um, we like people that have read our material. What’s your YouTube videos and financially and emotionally, the rate of go right there. They’re not financially strapped. They don’t think there’s a lottery ticket. No. Um, that

Rich (37:46):
The right mindset and the right kind of, um, basically physical preparations in terms of having some knowledge and having some, um, resources.

Stephen (37:59):
Yeah. They have not read our material, watch your videos. We don’t take them because it’s like starting from scratch and we don’t have the time. They don’t have the time. So if they, if, and that’s one reason why we give all this free information. So when they do come to us and they’re ready, we know they’re ready and we’re ready. And their work ethic is going to be, you know, we also want to make sure they’re willing to work. If they’re not willing to work, we’re not right, because we’re not going to do it for you. If anybody says, we’re going to do the work for you, I would run for the Hills. Um, I think you, and only you need to be the expert and you need to do the work because no, one’s going to work as hard as you

Rich (38:42):
A hundred percent completely agree. All of that, including providing information to people, to help find the right clients. I mean, that’s one of the things that I do too, is I put all the information out there so that the people that understand the process and it still fits. And those are ideal clients.

Stephen (39:04):
No, they’re there. They’re ready to go. And the ones that aren’t still need to educate themselves a little bit more, well, we’re not going anywhere. Yep.

Rich (39:15):
All right. Um, final piece of advice for inventors, for someone who’s looking, who’s just starting out. What, what would be that, um, that one piece of advice that you would give?

Stephen (39:26):
Well, this is gonna sound funny for me because we give a lot of free information. Having free information can be very costly. Okay. So make sure whoever you’re listening to, or whoever’s going to coach you and mentor, you really has the most current information and has done it repeatedly. Not just once or twice. Uh, I tell, you know, I’ve done this for a living my whole life. You know, the only paycheck I ever got was a royalty payment. So I know what’s real and what’s not right. So there’s a, got to be practical about this. And I also know it’s going to take more work than you think it’s going to take. So just make sure you get some good advice from someone that’s done it repeatedly and make sure they’re a lifelong inventor. Yeah.

Rich (40:17):
That’s awesome advice. So if someone wants to learn more about you again and talk with you, how do they go about doing so?

Stephen (40:24):
Well? I think the best way start with, um, my YouTube channel, watching a YouTube video series. We have, we have over 620 videos. We put two or three up a week and there’s 44,000 subscribers. It’s gross all the time. It’s all free. They’re like potato chips. Once you, you try one, you want to watch another one. And then if you’re still kind of intrigued by it, go to my website and vent, right. R a G H D a.com. There’s a lot of free stuff there too. And take a look around and kick the tires. And, um, if you want more information, give us a go everything’s there.

Rich (40:59):
And, uh, the YouTube channel is that on the Steven Key,

Stephen (41:02):
Uh, it’s invent right. TV invented, right. TV or something. And I had mentioned that we’ve been writing for for a few years. So if you type in my name, you’ll find me pretty easy, easy, probably too much stuff too, but you’ll find me there.

Rich (41:18):
And that’s Stephen with a pH pH. Yes. Great. Awesome. Well, Steven, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Stephen (41:27):
Well, thank you. I appreciate you. You’re willing to, to educate inventors, do the right thing and get them ready because when they’re ready, they’re ready to go. And I think, um, by doing that, you’re going to have, uh, better inventors and they’re going to come back to you over and over again. So thank you.

Outro (41:45):
I agree. Thanks so much, Steven. Thanks for listening to innovations and breakthroughs with your host. Rich Goldstein. Be sure to click, subscribe, check us out on the web@innovationsandbreakthroughs.com and we’ll see you next time.

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