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Is it better to sell your invention idea(s) to a company or raise money to patent it yourself?

I have a lot of invention ideas and I am not sure how to get help. There are a lot of website that say they help people who have invention ideas but I am afraid they will steal my ideas and I will not have any legal ownership of them.

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4 answers

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Chris’s Answer

So some people see the universe as it is. Some look and see the holes. I've always been one to see the holes, the things that dont exist and COULD exist. The problem is, does the rest of the universe care? I've spent my whole life seeing the holes and I've tried filling many of them. Most of the time the universe didn't care but on a few, I've had great success. The key to seeing a hole in the universe and filling it with your idea is the brand, the marketing and a lot of dumb luck. So if you're starting out, try to get someone to take your idea and run with it. You'll likely come across some greedy bastards who will steal it, but if the well is deep enough you'll come up with more. The odds of you knowing enough now to make it successful are pretty low. You'll need 20 years of dealing with greedy bastards to know how to do it all on your own.

Chris recommends the following next steps:

Test your idea with a lot of people who dont know you that well and will give you an honest answer. Your friends wont help you here. You need The Brutal Sword of Truth.
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Jacob’s Answer

It really depends on the idea, and how you think the idea can be a viable business.

A patent is a government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention. Utility patents give you the sole right to that invention or process for 20 years from the date the patent application is filed, with periodic fees in order to maintain the enforceability of the patent. The rule of thumb is the first one to successfully file and get a patent approve has the right to that invention, even if another person can prove that they developed the invention being patented first. So it's not first to invent, but the first to file a successful patent.

An alternative to a patent, is trade secret. A trade secret is any practice or process that is generally not known outside of the company or individual. Information considered a trade secret gives the company or individual an economic advantage over its competitors and is often a product of internal research and development. So, as long as you take reasonable measures to keep it secret, and do not disclose your trade secret to people (without a disclosure agreement), then it is your property. That means if someone attempts to steal it, you have the property rights and can enforce your trade secret.

The benefits of a trade secret over a patent are (i) it does not cost anything since there is no filing and (ii) it never expires so long as a it remains a secret. The Coca-Cola formula is one of the most famous examples of a trade secret. There is no patent for the Coca-Cola formula. The cons of a trade secret compared to a patent are (i) if someone independent discovers the exact same invention as yours, you have no protections unlike a patent which again enforces rights for only that patent holder and (ii) it is on file, so people are put on notice that the invention is your property right for 20 years.

In my humble opinion, if you have the resources to file a patent and consult an attorney, I believe you are better to patent whether you decide to sell the invention later or start your own business (unless you believe the invention is unique enough like the Coca-Cola formula that you can keep it as a trade secret. The reason is because if your patent the idea, again it is your right, enforceable because it is filed with the patent and trademark office. If you decide to sell without a patent, the buyer may later say they have a similar idea that they have patented and (either intentionally or unintentionally) steal your idea/invention. So it would be an extra layer of protection to patent you idea if you plan on selling your idea/invention (or selling the use of your idea/invention).

Again, you should do some research to see if your idea is a viable business solution that would have people wanting to purchase your invention or that would lead towards a business generating money before you invest the time and money to file a patent.

Jacob recommends the following next steps:

Test your idea with a lot of people who do not know you that well and will give you an honest answer.
Do some research to see if any invention similar to yours has been patented before starting the patent process.
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Zachary’s Answer


You have an excellent question. As with most excellent questions, the answer is - it depends. What does it depend on? A couple things:

1) Could your invention be a business? - Not all inventions can. Some inventions might solve a problem in a way that's superior to any other, but if it can't be scaled (e.g. can't be manufactured in a way that brings cost below price by a sustainable margin, is not sufficiently differentiated from competition to attract customers, market of potential customers is not large enough to justify start-up costs, etc.) then there's no business. Keep in mind though - just because one person may not be able to turn an invention into a business doesn't mean it doesn't have value. An invention could be patented and then sold (or licensed) to a company with complementary characteristics from which value could be derived from synergies between the invention and their existing product (e.g. the company already has an established presence in the target market of the invention, the company manufactures their existing product in a similar way such that existing infrastructure could be utilized).

2) Do you want to be an entrepreneur? - If your invention could be a business that you could start yourself, the next question to ask is whether you want to be an entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurs often work long hours for long periods of time trying to get their businesses off the ground, and even then success is scarce. Read about successful entrepreneurs (and unsuccessful entrepreneurs) to learn more about the sheer size of the risks and rewards involved, and whether such a lifestyle works for you (one insightful resource from an experienced entrepreneur -

After careful reflection, if you're leaning toward 'yes' to both questions, then starting down the path of launching a business is next. If not, then selling (or licensing) your inventions to another individual or company with the means to bring it to market might be the best path. Whether you decide to start your own business or sell / license your invention as is, you'll likely want to apply for a patent. Patenting a product is not cheap (, but it's likely much cheaper than costs needed to launch a business. Here's a good article I stumbled across that may be helpful on the topic of applying for patents (

I'm far from an expert on this topic, but hopefully these thoughts help you find a path to more relevant resources. Best of luck to you!

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Kelly’s Answer

A patent  is a government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.(got this from BING) So you only get paid if you own the idea or license. So you would need to find a patent attorney to patent your idea so that you have the right to sell it.  So you can not sell it to a company until you have the patent which gives you ownership of the idea. IF  you go to a company and share the idea with them they have no obligation to pay you for it unless you own the patent for that idea.