Friday, June 19, 2009

Idea to 'Monetize' Large Asset

Dear Rich: There is a company that owns a large asset they have been trying to monetize for some time now. I recently came up with, what I believe is, a process that they can use to to do just that. After speaking with a few trusted friends who are consultants and non-IP lawyers they told me I should figure out how to protect the idea then try to strike a deal with the company. Is there some standard way to proceed in these situations? I have heard everything from contact an IP lawyer, send him two written outlines certified mail etc... to don't talk to the company about the idea over the phone. Thanks for any advice. As David Mamet explained in The Spanish Prisoner, there's no protecting a business idea if somebody is intent on conning you out of it. Start with the most important questions: What do you know about the company and what do you know about the people associated with the company? If they have a dubious reputation -- usually documented by lawsuits (and occasionally by movie scripts) -- save your time and money by moving on to your next big idea. If you do decide to pitch your idea, you can: (1) treat the idea as a trade secret and submit it only after a nondisclosure agreement is signed, (2) seek patent protection or 'patent pending' status (or at least have the idea reviewed by a patent attorney) or (3) submit the idea under the terms of an evaluation agreement in which case if the company later decides to pursue it, they'll grant a license in return for royalties. None of these will stop theft; they all provide remedies if your idea is stolen. 
What If They Won't Answer Your Emails?
Be prepared for the fact that most companies are wary of signing an agreement with someone they don't know -- or they may make you sign an agreement waiving any claims. This doesn't mean you can't trust them; just that they're suspicious of strangers. The best chance for success is to find a person at the company who will speak with you, or find a person who knows someone at the company, or find an agent who represents people in your position. It's only through these people-to-people contacts that any business will get done. There are some suggestions on how to pitch, an evaluation agreement, and an agent agreement in the book, Profit From Your Idea. As for the homemade protective measures like mailing copies to yourself, don't bother unless you enjoy the thrill of getting mail. Finally, the Dear Rich staff understands your desire to speak in current biznez lingo but 'monetizing' is inappropriate slang for making a profit. (Its actual meaning is more specific.) When making a pitch, we recommend plain English.