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How to Submit New Product Ideas

Updated on November 30, 2012
Many companies have employees who are tasked with blocking outside ideas from being improperly submitted to the company.
Many companies have employees who are tasked with blocking outside ideas from being improperly submitted to the company. | Source

Imagine you have an idea for a household cleaner that would make a great new product for Proctor & Gamble. Or, you have an idea for a new feature for an Apple iPhone. What are your chances of making money by submitting your new idea to Proctor & Gamble or Apple?

During 10 years working as a patent lawyer for a multi-national company, I managed the review of thousands of product ideas submitted to my company by outsiders. The vast majority of these ideas were rejected after no more than a cursory review. From my experience, below are 10 tips to improve the way you submit a new product idea to a company.

Most companies have a bias against outside ideas

To increase their chance of success, anyone submitting a new product idea to a company should understand most companies are biased against outside ideas.

While some may criticize this bias as part of the "not invented here" syndrome of a company with little imagination, there are good reasons for this bias:

• Most outside ideas aren't worth enough to spend the time needed to review them.

• Accepting outside ideas brings a high risk of being accused of "stealing" them.

• Most outside ideas do not fit in well with the company's existing business plans.

• Many people submitting ideas are hard to work with, and are unrealistic.

Due to this bias, companies set up procedures for reviewing outside ideas which includes a person tasked with acting like a hockey goalie to block outside ideas from being improperly submitted.

From my decade of working like a hockey goalie to protect my company from outside ideas, here are 10 tips for submitting new product ideas to companies:

10 Tips for Submitting New Product Ideas

Use the company's idea submission process
Check the company's Internet site to see if it has an idea submission process. If so, follow it.
Clearly describe the product idea
What is the idea? What are its benefits? How will it make money for the company?
Identify the part of the company that would most likely be interested
Especially for large companies, don't assume the person managing the idea understands it
Wait until you've filed a patent application or received a patent before submitting the idea
Most companies won't pay for an outside idea unless they know their competitors can't use it
Include a short PowerPoint presentation
The person managing the idea will need to communicate the idea to others at the company
Include other things of value
What else can you do to help the company? Could you help them develop the idea? Could they use your name to sell it?
Propose a win-win licensing deal with the company
Don't just ask for $10,000,000 up front. Instead, propose a deal where you'll make money if they make money (e.g., a royalty arrangement)
Make your submission look professional and trustworthy
Make your submission stand out from the hundreds or thousands of worthless submissions the company gets.
Act like a reasonable person they'll want to deal with
Nobody likes to work with a jerk. So act professionally, be courteous, and be helpful
Be persistent, but not annoying
Busy companies may forget to review your idea. Following up after 3 or 4 weeks is persistent. Following up every day is annoying


Disclaimer: The author has retired from the practice of law. This cursory article is for information purposes only, is not legal advice, and does not establish any attorney-client relationship. The author encourages any reader with questions about submitting new product ideas to companies to contact an attorney.


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