I've had an interesting career as a musician/entrepreneur. I’ve worked as a drummer for Lionel Richie, Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, and a ton of other pop stars. I invented something, got on the tv show Shark Tank, and got a deal with a billionaire. As a creative person, I spent a lot of time going from gig to gig, living hand to mouth. I also accidentally discovered licensing, which helped me create a nice passive income stream. Despite what you've heard, you don't need to sell a kidney or remortgage your house to patent your creative work, and this article will show you how.
In 2005 I made an instructional music DVD. I licensed it to an American company, who then sold it all over the world. They sent me royalty cheques for years for my product. I owned the copyright for all the music and audio. I didn't need to file a patent on this type IP as it was audio/visual. They paid me a 5% royalty off wholesale which worked out to around $1.50 per unit. I wasn't making millions of dollars, but it was nice to know I could take a day off, sit on the couch eating fruit loops in my pyjamas, and get still get paid. I was certain that the lifestyle of licensing products was for me.
Most artists are fearful that someone will steal their ideas, and I’m no different. I wanted to know how to protect my intellectual property for any future creations I might innovate. I noticed copyrights weren't respected and were a lot harder to police than patents. An example would be if you release a CD then someone puts it online, literally millions of people could download it for free even if it was copyrighted. There is no way to stop this. Now, if you made an innovative dog bowl and patented it rather than registering copyright, you have a much stronger chance of enforcing ownership of your intellectual property. For example, if you saw someone copy your design and sell it on Amazon you would have the rights to send a cease and desist letter.
So I met with a Patent Attorney, and told him I had invented something and wanted to patent it. He told me that a patent would cost 10 thousand dollars. Ah. The fee was astronomical and completely unreachable for me. The attorney did, however, break down the exact costs that this whopping fee would account for:
A DESIGN PATENT is for how something looks, for example if you made a guitar in the shape of a pineapple and patented it, nobody else would be legally allowed to copy that design.
A UTILITY PATENT is sometimes referred to as ‘the invention patent’. Utility patents are complex in nature due to the specific references around particular invented products they need to refer to. Utility patents give the owner the exclusive rights to a product, process or machine for the following 20 years.
A PROVISIONAL PATENT is a 'stake in the ground' for intellectual property. The filing date on a provisional patent application is what gives it so much power. It does need to be followed up by a non-provisional patent, but can help your case if you invent something and want to lay claim to the invention existing on a certain date. Let's say you found an innovative way to put an image onto a t-shirt that had never been done before, you file a provisional patent on this process to protect your intellectual property.
But the $10,000 fee was still a huge barrier. After many hours of googling, I came across a book by legendary inventor Stephen Key, who has licensed over 20 of his ideas using provisional patents. Key’s written extensively about how to patent something for under $200, with the central idea being that you can fill out all the paperwork yourself instead of going via a lawyer or attorney.
So, I went to the USPTO site and completed the SB16 form. It was easy for me to fill out and upload drawings of my invention. The whole process took about 45 minutes. People who file for the first time are considered a 'micro-entity. The cost is $75 USD.
With this knowledge, I was able to go on the tv show Shark Tank and get a deal. It's important you know I didn't have a small business, I didn't have a website or a business card. All I had was a homemade prototype that cost me 5 bucks to make, a provisional patent, and a pocket full of dreams. If you are a creative person thinking about licensing your work please check out these cool links.
Of course, not everybody will be able to “go on Shark Tank and get a deal”, but everybody should heed this advice: If you create something original and of value, you should protect it. Whether it is a new formula for make-up, a process of how to apply photographs to products, or an innovative phone case, Licensing is the best way to have someone else take care of manufacturing and marketing. At the same time, you keep doing what you do best, creating.
If you're working on a project that needs protection, or you need help getting it over the line, check out Talenthouse Media Foundry and see how our expert team can help you make your work and dreams a reality!