1. Headline
  1. Headline
By John W. Schoen Senior Producer
msnbc.com

Q: I am the proud owner of a new Design Patent as of May 27,2003, Pat.# D0475090. My question to you is, in your opinion, what would my next step be? I've been receiving all sorts of information from different companies claiming that, if I paid them a fee, they would help find a manufacturer, and some prospective buyers for my product. Is this a scam versus being legit or what? I have obtained various targets for this product that's already in production as we speak, and I'm not sure what's in store next. I welcome your input.Bennie M., Houston

  1. Stories from
    1. Which Pro Is Preparing to Leave Dancing with the Stars?
    2. See Who Got Booted from Dancing with the Stars
    3. Psychology Professor Pleads Guilty in Killing of Alleged Rapist
    4. California's First Cat Café to Open in October
    5. The Ultimate Guide to Every Pumpkin Spice Flavored Food

A: My father, who spent much of his career running manufacturing companies, used to say that a consultant is a guy who asks to borrow your watch, tells you the time and then sends you a bill.

There are plenty of companies that troll for business using public databases like the U.S. Patent Office, and some of them may be reputable. So are some of the attorneys who chase ambulances. Or "mortgage insurance" companies that flooded my mailbox after I refinanced.

The question you're asking, which I would be too, is: If these people are so good, why do they need to troll for unsolicited business using mass mailings? (Sounds a lot like e-mail spam, doesn't it?)

You did all the hard work: You came up with the idea (for a new ornamental design for signs, if I read the Patent Office database correctly); you invested in developing it, filing the paperwork, paying an attorney, etc. Now someone is offering you -- what, exactly?

Sure, you may need to hire someone with marketing skills you don't have to expand your patent's use. You may even want to hire a patent lawyer who specializes in licensing ideas like yours. But the old, reliable method of finding these people is best: Word of mouth, networking, maybe even a want ad in the paper.

And, if I'm reading this right, and your patent is already in production, shouldn't you be collecting royalties from the people already using it?

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Warren Toda / EPA file

    Hey girl! Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes welcome baby

    9/16/2014 11:17:41 PM +00:00 2014-09-16T23:17:41
  1. TVNorge via YouTube

    Forget the fox, new Ylvis song ties us in knots

    9/16/2014 11:18:29 PM +00:00 2014-09-16T23:18:29
  1. via @ProfKeefe

    Woman in '9/11 wedding photo' had no idea she was part of a mystery

    9/16/2014 8:21:46 PM +00:00 2014-09-16T20:21:46
  1. Everett Collection, Getty Images

    'Facts of Life' stars reunite after 35 years, talk Clooney kiss and Blair brawl

    9/16/2014 3:16:38 PM +00:00 2014-09-16T15:16:38
  1. ‘This is a global threat’: Obama reveals plan for Ebola outbreak 

    The White House says it will involve up to 3,000 troops and more than $500 million to combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

    9/16/2014 9:08:41 PM +00:00 2014-09-16T21:08:41