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Hand in Hand

If you negotiate well, joining forces with a big firm can be the smart way to get your new product to market.

By Jane Easter Bahls

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Your innovative product could be just what a big company needsto boost flagging sales. They have the capital and the marketingexpertise to turn your product into a winner. The secret lies incareful planning and smart negotiation."The perception thesedays is that there's a significant lack of capital for growthfirms, so people are entering into bad deals," says KeithStyles, an attorney with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP inWashington, DC. Styles explains that although venture capitalisn't flow-ing as freely, large companies still have a lot ofmoney to invest in new products and technology. "It'sstill easier for a big company to buy new technology than developit."

Styles contends David and Goliath don't have to fight."The goal isn't to slay Goliath, but to make the giantperceive that he's won." Eventually, you may want to sellyour brainchild to the giant-but not until it's gone furtherthan you could have taken it and you've been fairlycompensated. Rule No. 1, Styles says, is to make sure you controlthe technology. Work with your lawyer to get the patent orcopyright secured. "You're not looking for them to takeover your product," he explains. "You want their marketexpertise and their manufacturing expertise."

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