Outlier Patent Attorneys

Patent Licensing - "One Simple Idea" by Stephen Key


There are a lot of books on patent licensing, but if you've spoken to us, it is no secret that our hands-down favorites is "One Simple Idea" by Stephen Key.

Stephen Key's book is both practical and accessible--it covers the patent licensing process from soup to nuts and tackles mindset challenges, which can be a hurdle for many inventors.

Key positions patent licensing as an alternative to building a business from scratch, which can be a full time job becuase it usually entails manufacturing, packaging, marketing, selling, e-commerce, shipping, and more. Patent licensing, on the other hand, can be more akin to a side hustle.

Below is a summary of Key’s thoughtful insights and sage advice:

The Basics of Licensing

Licensing is essentially the process of renting an idea to a company that then takes on the risk of producing, marketing, and distributing it, usually in exchange for royalties. Key, an inventor who has successfully licensed more than 20 products, offers this approach as a lower-risk alternative to launching an independent business. His main point is that you don't need a finished product or even a complex prototype to get started; you just need one simple idea.

The Advantages of Licensing

  1. Low Financial Risk: Licensing minimizes the amount of money you need to invest.

  2. Speed to Market: Companies with established distribution networks can bring products to market faster.

  3. Expertise: Established companies have marketing, manufacturing, and distribution expertise that individual inventors usually lack.

The Process of Licensing

1. Product Idea and Research

Before you can license an idea, you need to have one. Key advises starting simple. It could be an improvement to an existing product or something entirely new. After coming up with an idea, the next step is market research. You need to assess if there's a demand for such a product and who your competitors would be.

2. Provisional Patent Application (PPA)

One key point in the book is the use of a Provisional Patent Application (PPA). This is a cost-effective way to secure your idea without the immediate need for a full patent, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

3. Create a Sell Sheet

Key emphasizes the importance of a sell sheet – a one-page document that presents your idea in a straightforward and attractive manner. This is essentially your pitch condensed into a single page.

4. Target Companies

Identify companies that are a good fit for your product. Aim for those that have the capacity to bring your product to market but aren't so large that they would overlook your idea.

5. Making Contact and Negotiating

Once you've identified target companies, it's time to reach out. Key offers various strategies, including leveraging LinkedIn or industry events for networking. After making the initial contact, be prepared to negotiate terms, which will largely focus on royalty rates.

Importance of Persistence and Adaptability

One of the core messages of "One Simple Idea" is the importance of persistence. Licensing is not a guaranteed quick win; it requires effort, time, and the ability to adapt and refine your idea based on feedback and market demands.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is not just for seasoned inventors; it's for anyone with a creative spark. Whether you're a stay-at-home parent with an idea for a new type of baby product, a mechanic with an innovation to improve engine efficiency, or a student contemplating a solution for a community problem, "One Simple Idea" offers a roadmap to make your concept a marketable product.

"One Simple Idea" by Stephen Key is an insightful guide into the world of licensing as an alternative route to traditional entrepreneurship. The book deconstructs the complexities of the licensing model into simple, manageable steps, offering the average person a way to capitalize on their creativity with minimal risk. It's a must-read for anyone interested in turning their ideas into income without the burdens that come with starting a business from the ground up.

So, if you have an idea and you're wondering what to do next, consider taking Stephen Key's advice: Keep it simple, protect it smartly, and license it for all it's worth.

Happy inventing!