Can I Sell a Product Without a Patent?

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When you innovate something or you have a product idea, the first thought is to protect the idea by getting a patent from the patent office. The patent provides legal protection to your idea/ invention. Once an idea or an invention is patented, no one can use that invention without your permission. However, getting a patent is draining process. The conventional patenting process will require a lot of documentation, time, patience and money. Trust me! It’s not an easy process! Here you face a difficult conundrum that, can you sell your product without a patent, or do you really need a patent? 

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The answer to this is Yes! You can sell your product without a patent.  In fact, many of products that you buy on daily basis are not patented i.e., many of the products that are sold in the market are not patent protected. A patent gives you the right to restrict others from making, marketing, selling your invention. However, you can make and sell your invention even without getting a patent. There are several ways to sell your product or a product idea without a patent. Let’s see some alternatives for selling your product idea without a patent. 

Licensing

Licensing a product/ invention means acquiring the rights to manufacture and sell products. The licensor of the product must pay a royalty fee to the person who originally had the rights or the inventor. Product licensing includes an agreement between a licensor (owner of an Intellectual Property) and a licensee (company). 

There are ample number of companies that have money, and they are ready to collaborate with you. If you have strong invention, you can license your invention to such companies to make money. Many people approach such companies for licensing their innovation. Some have good ideas, while some don’t. To be assured that your idea gets selected, you must have good presenting, marketing, and negotiation skills.  

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You can also contact intermediary firm which act as the “middlemen” to license your products to companies in lieu of a percentage of the license or a fee. They have good inside knowledge and connections. They can present your idea to the right audience.  

There are various steps that you must take for licensing your product. First, you will require your product physically which you can showcase to companies. Although you can get good quality drawing/ images of your product/ invention with a confidentiality agreement, a real physical product is preferred because it is more presentable. The second step for licensing is getting your product protected such as with a patent-pending. You can licence your product without a patent pending status, but your chances of selection get increased if you have one. Next, once your idea gets evaluated you need to have a high-quality summary of your idea/ product for presentation. 

Provisional Patent Application

It is a simple, faster, and cheaper process than classic patenting process. Instead of applying for a full patent you can simply apply for a provisional application. It provides the same legal protection but for shorter time i.e., 12 months. In this period, you can try to sell your invention or product idea to larger companies and can make money or otherwise raise funding. You can show your product idea to possible buyers, and mention “patent pending” on it. This way, you will not have to face the complicated process of getting a patent and you will still be able to protect your invention from getting stolen. 

If you are interested in filing an Indian patent application, you must submit some forms and documents which includes: 

  • Form 1: To apply for a patent. It includes a duly signed document containing inventor’s name and the type of invention. 
  • Form 2: It contains provisional/non-provisional specifications in which you describe your invention in detail. 
  • Form 3: Corresponding foreign patent applications. 
  • Form 5: Declaration of your invention 
  • Form 26: It is required when the application is filed through a patent agent.  
  • Form 28: To claim your business/ company as a small entity. This form is optional. 

Many inventors do not apply for patent proception for their invention. Instead, they sell their provisional patent applications to a company or seek investment. By selling the provisional application, the company can test the product and can determine that is it worth to purchase a patent. 

Classic sales

If you want avoid licensing or patenting completely, you can simply sell your product idea or product though online or offline channels. Just believe in yourself and the strengths you have in terms of your marketing advantage or selling channels. Selling a product is not complicated. You should be clear about what you are selling, who you are selling your product to and how you are selling. You will also need good marketing skills and good presentation skills for selling your product to target audience. 

However, anyone or a company can steal your idea and you will be left behind without your invention and without money. For example, if you disclose your idea with a manufacturer, or an investor, or so, they can take your idea and use the same. You can avoid such situation by: 

You can sell your idea online to a company. While, you won't be making the product, you'll sell your idea that the company will use. If you chose this option, you'll need to sign a document that states you were the one who gave them the idea or has a provisional patent. This will keep you protected if the company wants to sell the idea later. 

Signing of an agreement obliges the company to abide by it such as signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This can prevent the company from stealing your product idea. If you have signed an NDA agreement with a company, the company cannot use your idea/invention without paying you. If they do so, they legally break the contract by leaking out your idea. In such situation you can sue the company for breach of contract and ask for your money. 

When you seek support from a company immediately asks them to sign a Data Confidentiality Agreement, before disclosing your idea or invention. Some companies will sign a NDA, but unfortunately, most of the sophisticated companies will not enter NDA. So, the number of potential buyers of your idea are limited if you don’t get a patent. You can pitch your ideas to buyers that can sign NDA with you. You can investigate the idea submission policy by searching on the webpage of a company to find out that they would sign the Data Confidentiality Agreement or not. If webpage is not available, you can find people that work for that company through LinkedIn, etc. and ask them if they can sign an NDA agreement or not to listen your product idea. Companies have idea submission policies for e.g., Coca-Cola’s idea submission policy says that you have to make your submission without confidentiality. They ask you to submit non-confidential summary of your idea.

You can maintain a logbook which documents everything in detail including the steps taken for developing your invention. Also, it should include date information for each record. The inventor’s logbook is used to record all the progress of the invention. You should start using the logbook as soon as you get any idea for your invention. Regardless of the approach, you must record the details of all concepts, tests, results, and other information related to your invention. This will help you to show that you developed the invention. So that, in future if somebody applies for a patent with same idea, you can prove that you were the one who first developed the invention. 

Sell Your Idea to Companies

Another way to sell a product without getting a patent is to work with an invention submission company. These companies are willing to pay you for an idea. Before choosing the company, just make sure, that it has a strong track record. You can submit your idea online, as many websites have programs that let you send your idea for customers who need it. If your idea gets selected, you can earn money. Listed below are some tips for selling your idea to such companies: 

  • Create a novel idea belonging to specific niche. Product R&D is important to ensure that your idea is unique and interesting. 
  • Look for a suitable company that match your product or idea.  
  • Take legal advice from a patent lawyer to know how you can protect your idea before selling it. 

You can communicate with different companies through social media and give them a glimpse of your invention. If they are interested, they will contact you and you can ask them for the process to submit your idea. You can also pitch investors such as angel investor, wherein rich private individuals may also be interested in your idea. You can also set-up virtual meeting to present your idea. 

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