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TIA: Tennessee Inventors Association in Knoxville Tenn and Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN  

February 2010 Commercial feasibility of ideas

Meeting Date: 
February 20, 2010

The February meeting was a workshop to consider the commercial feasibility of two invention ideas. Carl Papa and Jeff Edwards volunteered to present their ideas and allow the members to discuss if the idea is commercially feasible.

The meeting started with two announcements. First, the local SCORE chapter is sponsoring a So you want to be an entrepreneur? Workshop on February 27 and March 13 and 27.

Second, it is time for all members to pay their 2010 TIA dues. The annual dues are $30. Checks are welcome.

Tom Kulaga gave a recap of the A to Z of Inventing project. He handed out a disclosure sheet to everyone. The disclosure sheet reminded everyone that telling someone about an invention, particularly in a public meeting like the TIA meeting, may be considered a public disclosure. If a patent application has not yet been filed, the public disclosure will start the clock ticking. A patent application must be filed within 12 months of the first public disclosure or an offer to sell a product embodying the invention.

Tom also handed out a checklist of the five questions every inventor should consider to decide if the invention is worth pursuing. The questions are:

  1. What is the product? What is the feature that is being sold?
  2. Who is the customer? What type of person will buy the product?
  3. How will the customer react to the product? Is there a real need for the product and will customers buy it?
  4. How much money is needed for startup and for operational costs? These costs will vary depending upon if the product is to be licensed (a patent will be needed in that case) or if the product will be manufactured, distributed, and marketed under control of the inventor.
  5. Where will the money come from?

Carl Papa presented his golf swing training device to the TIA. Carl is a golfer. One day while practicing at the driving range, he realized that he was swinging with his upper body and not his lower. Golfers call this "dead legs." Carl was able to improve his swing that day by focusing on his downswing. To better enable him to train his body to swing properly, Carl invented his training device. The device monitors the weight on his left foot and provides an alarm to the golfer when his weight distribution is incorrect. Carl demonstrated a prototype of his device.

Carl's invention is patent pending. Originally, he wanted to license his invention and sit back collecting royalties. No one has made an offer he is willing to accept yet, so Carl is no considering manufacturing and marketing the device himself.

Considering the first factor, the product to be sold is a portable, self-contained mat. The golfer stands on the mat and an alarm sounds when the golfer's weight distribution deviates. Another product that can be sold in conjunction with the training mat is advertising. Carl said that the mat could be printed with the name or logo of a golf pro or golf course.

The second factor is who is the customer. Carl identified golfers as the customer, 40 million of them. He said that every golfer is interested in improving his swing and his invention would fill that need. Carl did not have any information on how many of those 40 million golfers would have the disposable income to purchase his invention. Other customers identified included family and friends of a golfer. The training device would be suitable as a gift because it would be useful for almost every golfer. Carl also identified golf pros and golf shops as customers. The golf pro would label or brand the mat and use it as a training tool. The pro's students would, of course, purchase the mats.

The third factor is how the customers would react to the product. Carl has performed some market research and, so far, has received enthusiastic responses from golf pros. Based on his experience as a golfing consumer, be believes that a retail price of between $70 to 100 would be acceptable to most consumers. If it were much lower, it would not gain market acceptance.

The fourth factor is startup and operating costs. Carl originally wanted to license his invention. He is now considering manufacturing and marketing it himself. He did not have any figures with respect to costs, but recognized that tooling may be expensive.

The fifth factor is identifying the source of the funds. We did not discuss this factor with respect to Carl's invention.

Carl was optimistic from the responses and feedback he received from the members in attendance. He is determined to move forward with his invention.

Jeff Edwards presented his invention. He has a liquid dispenser that has a spout on the bottom and a suction cup attachment on the side. The spout has a leak-proof valve that works to keep the fluid in the container from leaking. He attached his prototype to the glass door to illustrate its use as a shampoo or soap dispenser.

The first factor of what is the product was discussed. The product is a container. It is made to hold a liquid for easy dispensing.

The second factor was discussed extensively. Jeff initially identified the consumer of the liquid in the container as his customer. After some discussion, several customers were identified. One customer is a shopper at a dollar store who would buy the empty container to fill with a liquid of their choice. Another customer was identified to be the companies that sell the products that the container would be used with. For example, a shampoo company would be the customer for the container to hold their shampoo. After a bit more discussion, another customer could be the manufacturer of plastic containers. Such companies supply containers to the end product manufacturers, such as the shampoo company.

The third factor is how customers would react to the product. It was pointed out that there may not be enough incentive for the various companies in the distribution chain to change their containers.

The fourth and fifth factors relating to costs and funding were not discussed. Jeff said that he wants to license his invention and is not interested in manufacturing it.

The meeting adjourned and reconvened at Ryan's in Oak Ridge for lunch.