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Testing Your Wings

Doing Their Homework

WISC mailed me its results in 30 days. I received a 100-page Research Report specific to my product and a well-written 100-page Innovation Guidebook full of answers to first-time inventors' common questions.

WISC's approach is to evaluate your product using three criteria: competition, demand and industry trends. To identify the Halo's competition, the staff investigated a wide variety of retailers and mail order companies to find out what competing products were on the market. While none of the hats they found had all the same features as the Halo, some shared one or more of the Halo's characteristics. WISC provided photos of these hats, along with verified prices and contact numbers. It also included a list of retail stores and catalogs that didn't carry competing products; these would be good leads to approach when selling my product.

To evaluate the patent potential of an idea, WISC does a preliminary online search to see what patents may already exist. This search is not an official patent search; however, it's a great tool to help you decide whether to pursue a patent. WISC's search on the Halo uncovered my existing patent. It also identified 11 other patents it thought I should be aware of. With the cost of a patent search at more than $200, I felt this information was very valuable.

The third research area is industry trends. WISC identified the market for the Halo to be retail hats. It contacted the Millinery Information Bureau and collected statistics on the retail hat market that showed a steady increase in sales over the past five years. It also summarized eight recent articles about the industry and provided copies of the articles with relevant areas highlighted.

A nine-page synopsis was included with its findings, in which WISC concluded, "The Halo appears to be a unique, useful and feasible product." I was impressed with the fact that without judging the product to be good or bad, WISC simply provided a concise explanation of its findings. For $495, I felt this research was absolutely worth the money.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Testing Your Wings.

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