To sell a tool idea, you need to

  • File a patent
  • Research the market
  • Develop a prototype
  • Create a sell sheet
  • Find investors and licensees

Filing a Patent

A patent legally protects your invention from unauthorized use. Many companies want reassurance that your invention is protected and no one else can sell it.

Patent lawyers are an expensive but worthwhile investment. They will make sure there are no existing similar patents. They also write up the necessary documents in a way that makes sure you are not infringing on someone else's patent.

Market Research

You need to find the right market for your tool.

  • Has someone already patented a similar idea? This is not a showstopper, but you will need to reference it in your patent filing.
  • Are there other tools available to solve the same problem? If so, why should people prefer your tool?
  • How much these other tools cost?
  • Who would use your tool? Construction workers? Mechanics?
  • How would your tool be important or useful to them?
  • How much do you think they would pay for it?

Developing a Prototype

First create technical drawings of your tool. These will show that the tool can be produced using available technology. They will also demonstrate that the tool can be produced at a reasonable cost leaving a good profit margin.

As you develop the drawings, you will be forced to consider

  • The materials used to make the tool
  • The strength of the tool
  • The tool's durability and longevity

For both industrial and commercial tools, these aspects are important as they show both the quality and the reliability of your product.

There are two approaches to developing a prototype.

  • 3D Virtual Modeling. This is a relatively inexpensive way to help your audience visualize your tool. You could even produce an animation that demonstrates the tool in action.
  • Physical Prototype. Nothing sells an invention like being able to use it. Creating a production prototype can be expensive, though.

Creating a Sell Sheet

A sell sheet is a single-sheet document that presents your invention in a professional way. It communicates the most important facts about your invention without disclosing too many details.

A sell sheet, however, is not simply an information document. It sheet is a marketing tool, so it should elicit a positive response from the reader.

To create a sell sheet, start with a list of things you want to include.

  • The tool's name
  • Your name and contact information
  • The problem solved by the tool
  • Special features
  • Professional-looking high-resolution pictures of the tool, CAD drawings, and/or sketches
  • The target audience for the tool
  • The tool's patent status
  • A number to call for further information

You can find lots of help online for creating sell sheets, including templates and examples. Look at examples within your industry.

When you have finally created your sell sheet, get feedback from friends and family members with marketing experience or expertise. Then print your copies. Take them to networking events. Hand them out to family, friends, business associates — anyone you think might be interested.

Finding Investors and Licensees

There are a couple of ways to find investors and licensees.

  • Invention Conventions. These shows are held both nationally and statewide and are a good way to connect inventors with potential investors. You will also find licensing intermediaries who can connect you with companies that may be interested in your invention. They can also help you avoid possible legal issues.
  • Networking. Find an inventor group close to you and ask around.

When you have a list of potential investors:

  • Research them to make sure they are financially stable and able to market your tool.
  • Meet with them either individually or together.
  • Make sure they sign nondisclosure agreements to keep the details of your invention secret.
  • Don't neglect small manufacturers. While Black & Decker and DeWalt may have a large footprint, you may find smaller manufacturers to be more receptive. They might even give you a better deal.

Make sure you hire an attorney to go over all your licensing documents.

If you need help with selling a tool idea, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.