I love simple ideas. The first book I wrote about licensing is even entitled One Simple Idea. So when someone asked me if an idea could be too simple for licensing in a comment on my YouTube channel, I had to laugh. I love this question.
First, what is licensing? If you have an idea for a new product, licensing is an alternative to starting a business on your own to bring it to market. Ideas that are too revolutionary aren't a great fit for licensing. Some industries present unique challenges, which I've touched on before. But at the end of the day, simple is a good thing... a great thing, actually.
So can an idea be too simple to license? No -- absolutely not.
I think you can license anything. I don't think success ultimately has anything to do with patents or ownership. A good idea is a good idea. If you can show a company how they can make money, they're going to love you.
That sounds trite, but it's true. It's always true.
But many of us have a tendency to overthink things. Bringing a product to market is never easy. There's beauty and brilliance in simplicity. Trust me. If you can describe your product or service in such a way that everyone immediately understands, that's crazy powerful. And you very well may be on to something.
Need proof? You can license multiple of your ideas for new travel pillows, like inventor Howie Busch did. (Full disclosure: I mentored Busch after he had already licensed two of his ideas, and now he's an inventRight coach.)
Last week, I had the good fortune of catching up with my friend Gene Luoma, who has had a lot of success licensing his ideas for new products. His most successful licensed product, the plastic drain cleaner Zip-It, has sold more than 32 million units to date. The first Zip-It prototype he created, by putting notches in a zip tie, looks remarkably like the product that is still on the market today 10 years later. It's incredibly simple. But that didn't stop him from patenting his design and profiting from it.
Luoma summed up his experience with licensing in a diverse array of industries like this: What's actually always the most difficult is keeping things simple.
Keep that in mind.
Don't come at the licensing process backwards by focusing on whether or not an idea is new or complicated enough to be patentable. Focus on designing a product the market wants. Our patent system is in a state of upheaval right now, from the perspective of many of the intellectual property experts and inventor advocates who write for the popular website IPWatchDog.com. Patents are important, but they're not a starting point.
But there's another takeaway here I want to touch on as well.
In so many ways, it's an incredible time to be an entrepreneur and a small business owner. One thing I absolutely cannot get over is the degree to which I can speak to, interact with, and ultimately serve my community. As an author and the co-founder of a one-on-one coaching program, I think of education as my specialty. So for me, the opportunities that are available today to communicate with one's audience are truly unbeatable.
Take YouTube. There is so much knowledge to be gained there. So much expertise and so much care has been extended, for our benefit! And what I really want you to realize is that it's not a one-way street. Anyone who is creating content on the Internet for you to benefit from, like I am, wants to hear from you. So don't be afraid to engage. Ask questions. We have more ways of holding the brands we love accountable. Good ones -- ones that value transparency -- can embrace social media because they have nothing to hide.
What am I saying?
As a consumer, you can make an impact. More of one than you realize, even. Never forget that. I'm absolutely affected by the feedback I get from not only my customers -- which is obviously important -- but also anyone who is listening and is thoughtful.