Is it possible to make money from a modification to an existing product if it is your idea?
I have an idea for a product that I use everyday that consists of a simple modification. The modification is more or less for convenience. I made a prototype of the product to see if the modification would work, and I was not suprised that it did. It makes no sense to me why any of the companies that make this product have not come up with this idea. I would like to present this modification to the company to see if they would be interested, but I'm not sure how to go about doing so. I am also curious if I could make any money should the company, or any company that makes this product decides to use this idea. What can I do to make this idea a reality?
It might be possible but it's extremely unlikely. There is no easy way to legally protect and own an idea. Laws protect inventions with patents and creative works with copyright but not ideas. Can you patent it? Probably not if it's based on an existing product that somebody else owns.
While in theory you can get a manufacturer to grant you rights before you tell them the idea, they almost never agree to signing anything like that, because that would rule out possibilities for them if for some reason they had the same idea.
It's much better to build a business of your own than try to sell an idea to enhance somebody else's business.
ps: for background, I have a multimedia presentation about the problem of ideas on my website at timberry.com
Tim Berry is the chairman of Eugene, Ore.-Palo Alto Software
, which produces business-planning software,