So I have (what I think) is a good improvement for an existing pet product that I use daily. There are also many people who use the same product that I think would like the modification I've thought of. The problem is that I don't know where to begin. I'm glad I came across this forum because I am constantly running into the "where do I begin" problem and when I don't find an answer, I just get sidetracked by something else and forget about it. This happens to me all the time.
Ok, I know it would be stupid to try to contact the company that makes the existing product. What if I designed a new product that was exactly like theirs (which I already think is well designed) and just add the modification that I think would improve on their product. Am I infringing on their patent?
Secondly, once I have the design (assuming it's legal to produce), how do I go about getting the thing made? Do I need an actual prototype first or is the design good enough? How do I even locate manufacturing companies?
Third, would a scenario ever come up when a company (such as the one that makes the product I use and enjoy - well my pets enjoy) is presented with such a prototype or design and then offers to buy that design from the creator (i.e. me)? In other words, do things like this ever happen in the real business world?
I really appreciate any input as I am one of those people perpetually coming up with ideas but never knowing how to get them off the ground. I am really grateful to whoever (or whom...whatever) came up with this site. What a great place for all of us whose wheels never stop turning.
Step 1. Build a prototype of the product you want to develop. You can modify a competitors product for this. Just make sure that someone would understand what the new product does, and try to get as much functionality as possible.
Step 2. Figure out how much capital you can raise. Chances are you will have to raise a signifigant amount to actually produce and sell the product. The good news is Pet products have very high profit margins, and the right investor would know this. Hopefully the right investor will be yourself, or close family members.
Step 3. Take a trip to china. Chances are almost all pet products are manufactured in china, there is a reason for this, low cost labor, low overhead, and a culture of manufacturing. Find an agent or translator in china to give you a tour. Every city focuses on different manufacturing, but chances are if you find one company that makes any pet product they can do it. If they cannot, they will tell you they can and then outsoure it to who can. Try to get a partnerd manufactured deal for say 5000 items. They will give you price break downs, usually the 1st item is the most expensive, and they will have miniums.
Step 4. Ship them to the USA. Start selling them through ebay, your own store. Call small privately owned pet stores and sell the product to them. Drop ship the product for other online retailors. Create an infomercial. Promote it on the web.
Step 5. Sell it to competitor and exit! :)
I would like to address your issue of ideas with no action. You should build a prototype if it won't be too expensive. You'll be able to refine your idea. Create better designs, etc. Most of all it should get you in the habit of doing something to move towards making an idea a reality.
Your answer sort of indicates that you can't separate the improvement from the original product is this correct?
Because you have two options: an add-on type product which sits side-by-side with the existing product or a whole new product which incorporates the modification.
In the second case you would need a legal expert to help determine if this infringes on the original product.
As mentioned above, it's quite easy to find someone in China to help you do this at a reasonable price. There are plenty of places geared up to help you with this.
Yes, this does happen, but make sure that you protect yourself before you approach the company.
I also suggest that you try and hook up with a local start-ups group, you will find people with similar problems as yourself and be able to find people who have already overcome similar issues.