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Topic Title: Award-Winning Solar Lighting Design
Topic Summary: Help/Advice with IP and moving forward
Created On: 30 November 2010 11:22 AM
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 30 November 2010 11:22 AM
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GrayNicholasd

Posts: 4
Joined: 30 November 2010

In my last accademic year i completed a design project on sustainable street futniture, one design i came up with was for solar powere street lighting, having discussed this briefly with a number of companys and prospective customers i have seen there is a demnd for a product like this. Of the companies that i have had discussions with one is a multinational blue-chip, while the other supplies the majority of uk street lighting. While i am currently seeking protection of my intellectual property i am becoming out of my depth with dealing with companies such as these and knowing how to move this forward.
Any advice/help/suggestions would be welcomed
Thanks
Nick
 30 November 2010 04:53 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

First you need to take a really long, hard look at the market. Is there really a need for your product? Can it actually be made cheap enough to fill that need? Why has no-one else done it before? Can it be manufactured in volume?

Then IPR. Have you given it away already? If you have told anyone about the details of your idea then you have probably already lost it. If you have not told anyone about the details then don't! Copyight and Design Right law gives you a tiny amount of protection, but because it only works against more-or-less exact copies of your design they are straightforward for major comapnies to work around.

If you still think it is a genuine marketable design and is still secret then you need to employ an IPR lawyer before you do anything else. (They are easy to find through google.) This will cost quite a lot of money (relative to student finance!). Unfortunately of course this is where "put your money where your mouth is" comes into play! If you have a really good idea then this is an investment, it does also make you do your preparation properly to be sure that you are spending it wisely.

Then the hard part comes - convincing companies that they have missed a good idea. Forget everything they may have said at informal presentations, it costs nothing to say that an idea is interesting. To actually get them to invest in it (and you) means that you have to show a good analysis of the market, the costs, the risks, and the opportunities. It may not be 100% right, but it does need to be thorough. And you will suddenly find that the questioning gets much tougher once they have to spend money.

There are millions of ideas every year that fall by the wayside because they are either not actually new or not practical. But there is always the possiblity that your idea is the new one, so it's always worth looking. Just don't forget how much cost and effort companies spend on coming up with new ideas - they will expect you to do the same.

If all else fails, it shoudl at least give you some excellent contacts to get a job!

Good luck,

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 01 December 2010 10:40 AM
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GrayNicholasd

Posts: 4
Joined: 30 November 2010

When i was creating concepts from which to draw my final design i consulted a wide range of companies who would be able to employ the final design so that it would suite their requirements for a lighting system, many of these companies have since got back to me enquiring whether it would be manufactured so they could purchase an ammount. Companies that are interested range from a multi-natioinal business/utilities park supplier to nation-wide shopping centre groups and lighting manufacturers.

A friend on a product design course has created me a series of mould toolings for a selection of manufacturing processes so that i could prove that the design can be made to the correct british standards that are relevant. the moulds that have been created were for specific processes already used by external lighting manufacturers so the costs would be about the same as a producing a lighting fitting for a standard external post-top light.

I have been in touch with a patent attourney with regard to the details of the design, to patent how it does certain things rather than seeking design protection as anyone could re-design a housing and avoid a design patent. but the problem is making the financial commitment to a patent without a guaranteed return from it isn't logical from my point of view.

I have a full costing and analysis of finances created by an accountant, and part of the original project is an appendix which covers the entire market as well as how the costs are recovered by the operation and instalation of the street lighitng shown on a timeline and in comparission to a grid run lighting system, showing dramatic savings over the lifetime of the prouct.

Regards

Nick
 05 December 2010 01:49 PM
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joeduddy

Posts: 4
Joined: 21 August 2002

Have you researched and differentiated your idea from similar products already available e.g.

http://www.eets.co.uk/solarand...ybrolight/default.htm

Lots more examples from a Google search on "solar street lights"

Regards,

Joe
 05 December 2010 02:35 PM
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GrayNicholasd

Posts: 4
Joined: 30 November 2010

The first thing i did when i started project was to search for all the existing permutations of lighting and power generation to be sure i didn't copy whay anyone else had already done. After completing the project i have searched the IPO patents database, the results of these show there is no product currently available that can match the output possible from my design, there is also no patent either in force or pending that can cover my design.

Regards

Nick
 06 December 2010 11:48 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

It sounds like you're doing most of the right things.

Don't get too excited about patents. If a major comany copied your design, could you actually afford to take them to court over it? If you're worried about the patent cost then probably not. The only value of a patent to you is likely to be that you can sell the patent rights to a company that could afford to defend them. It depends how innovative your idea is and how many different solutions there are to a similar problem.

Regarding other companies, it appears that what they are saying is that if you start manucturing that they will (or may?) buy them from you. So that leaves you taking the financial risk of setting up the manufacturing business. It reads as if your cost analysis may be on the wrong basis - for your problem the cost savings to the user are (sorry!) irrelevent, the question is simply: Can you sell enough units in the first year to cover your manufacturing start-up costs? Now you are in Catch-22: it is unlikely that suppliers will legally commit to buying products unless you have a product to supply, and you can't fund making products unless you have - at the very least - that binding commitment. Without it no financial institution is going to invest in you.

Probably your options are:
1. To persuade rich family and friends to invest in you (for most of us a fanciful dream) or
2. To persuade one of the interested potential customers to fund the business - but they will want to see a full breakdown of manufacturing costs, end product cost and when the first units will be delivered, they will also want to own most or (most likely) all the business.

Have you been advised on Non-Disclosure Agreements? Do you have one that you know is watertight?

Also, do you have a good understading of cashflow? It's the nightmare for start-ups: for several months you have to spend surprisingly large amounts of money with nothing coming in.

I've found that some of the best books for advice on start-ups around at the moment are tie-ins to the Dragon's Den series, for example "Your Idea Can Make You Rich" ISBN 0091909155. You may have to wade through some celebrity waffle but I've found the actual advice is much more clearly laid out than in many more up-market books.

Is your Private Messages turned on (doesn't seem to be)? If you turn it on I have a contact that may be of use that I can send you.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 06 December 2010 12:21 PM
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GrayNicholasd

Posts: 4
Joined: 30 November 2010

I was not intending on manufacturing my own design, as my brother who is an accounting technician did the costs, and profit/loss etc. for a previous university project about starting a business from scratch advised me that it would be impractical to setup a manufacturing facility even by using soft tooling to reduce initial costs without ateast a declaration intent/signed order from a customer to purchase them. On this basis i believed it would be more applicable to give the designs to an existing company that already has the infrastructure inplace so the only outlay on their behalf would be for new tooling. Although someone has suggested going on Dragons Dens at one point, to gain financial backing.

I don't think the design is particularly innovative however it is a better solution to solar powered street lighting than anything that is available on the market at this moment in time, using a different approach rather than the standard sort of design that is seen at present.

Selling to an existing comapny would leave the design open to being modified to get away from having to follow design legislation where i could no longer prove the design was my own, hence the reason for seeking protection of my intelectual property.

Regards
Nicholas Gray
 06 December 2010 09:12 PM
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virnik

Posts: 24
Joined: 06 April 2009

Don't forget that you can outsource component manufacture so the set-up cost for final assembly may not be that bad, but if you haven't got the business experience you'll need a lot of help.

I've recently gone through the process of helping a company, set up in research and development, getting a patent, and manufacturing so if you need any hints, drop me an email.
 29 March 2011 05:25 AM
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cloke4

Posts: 7
Joined: 04 January 2010

Did you also try to tap into University commercialization resources. I gotta know that many Higher learning institutions provide that fascility
 29 March 2011 05:25 AM
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cloke4

Posts: 7
Joined: 04 January 2010

Did you also try to tap into University commercialization resources. I gotta know that many Higher learning institutions provide that fascility
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