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Licensing tech for a consumer product. Lessons Learned.

As long time optical design consultants,&nbspOptics For Hire has designed products for hundreds of applications from LIDAR for self-driving cards to ophthalmoscopes to street lights, spectrometers and laser tattoo removal systems. Our modeling work occasionally included toys, for example helping Mattel on the Barbie Photo Fashion Doll which includes a camera and small display, but we never say ourselves as having any special consumer product industry knowledge or insight. That has changed over the past few years, and our company has developed a new relationship with the toy and consumer productions industry, this time as technology licensors and inventors. Moving from ‘for hire’ design consultants has been a learning experience and below I’ll share some of the lesson’s we’ve learned. Our window into licensing started because of a partnership with toy inventor and author Rufus Butler Seder, whose past success include the Scanimation ® book series. With Rufus we developed technology bring animations to life on spinning fan blades. This technology was licensed to Toy Smith initially and then later to Candyrific where it has flourished due to Candyrific’s entertainment industry relationships and broad distribution and Rufus’s animation skills. Once we saw the potential of a licensed success, we started to take more seriously our own ideas and think about how to package those concepts in a way that would attractive to potential licenses. This meant asking ourselves important questions including: How do&nbspwe&nbspexplain and present&nbspour&nbspinventions? What will it cost to manufacture? Do&nbspwe&nbsphave a basis for filing for patents? What kinds of companies did&nbspwe&nbspwant to&nbspwork&nbspwith? What type of agreement should&nbspwe&nbspseek? The technology that seemed to us to have the broadest appeal was a method we developed to determine sharpness of cutting blade. The most common methods measuring sharpness are all subjective, so for more objective inspection we created an optical sensor with LED indicator to take the guesswork out of knife sharpening.&nbsp The basic idea of the sensor was to provide users with a method to determine when they need to sharpen a blade and track their progress as the knife moves from Red (Dull). to Yellow (Needs work), to Green (Sharp). We started working on sharpness measurement- first on hockey skate blades - later on knives in 2018 and it took about year to get to a prototype we were willing to show outsiders. We began with camera based systems with built in image processing, but needed to move away from that to a simpler photo receiver and LED pair to reduce the bill of materials cost. An early prototype is above Our steps: We&nbsphad&nbspworking prototype&nbspby 2019 and spoke to enough factories to be able to make well supported&nbspestimate of production costs,&nbspwe&nbspalso&nbspfiled for&nbsppatent protection,&nbspwe&nbspare almost ready to try to find a partner.&nbspBut&nbspwe&nbspneeded to present the technology in the best way possible. Our&nbspfirst demonstration was a video of signals on an oscilloscope, this might have meaning to readers of this publication but&nbspgot us nowhere with potential licensees. So,&nbspwe&nbsphired a professional video firm in Ukraine to&nbspcreate this video&nbspto use in marketing. Patents: We&nbspfiled&nbspour&nbspfull non provisional application before talking to partners&nbspbut&nbspin many cases a provisional is good enough.&nbspWe&nbspdid come to appreciate the addition time the provisional application allows. Once&nbspwe&nbspfiled for the provisional the clock was running on the international PCT process, and after the PCT was approved a new clock started running for the individual country applications. This forced us to make decisions about investing money in IP protection in multiple countries when&nbspwe&nbspstill didn't have a good idea of the market potential and no sales data. &nbsp Finding partners: With video, pricing, and a patent application in hand&nbspwe&nbspwere ready to find partners in an industry in which&nbspwe&nbsphad no experience. Ideally&nbspour&nbsppartner needed to have excellent distribution and relationships with major retailers, experience at new product launches including strong marketing and industrial design. The great part of licensing is your partner does all the hard&nbspwork&nbspof manufacturing and&nbspselling,&nbspbut&nbspyou need to be confident that they will do a good job. &nbsp LinkedIn was the&nbspmain&nbsptool to find specific people in kitchen and home goods companies to reach out to. Search terms like " open innovation", " new product development" and the company name helped narrow the field of prospects. Then&nbspwe&nbspused cold emails, and cold calls to make the pitch. Many larger companies have an invention submission process and there are submission sites like&nbspMarketBlast®&nbsp,&nbspbut&nbspfor this and other inventions I had more luck finding direct contacts and reaching out to them.&nbsp &nbsp What&nbspwe&nbspasked for: Typical licensing rates are 3%- 10% for consumer products. If your licensee&nbspalso&nbsplicensing a brand name as well as your technology, you would expect a lower rate. For example, you have&nbsplicensed&nbspa toy and your license rate is 5%&nbspbut&nbspnow&nbspyour licensee has a chance to produce the same toy with branded with a Disney character. They might ask you to accept 3% (and you should say yes, because you will be compensated by higher volumes.) &nbsp The rate can&nbspalso&nbspdepend on whether you licensee is&nbspselling&nbspwholesale or direct to consumer, in a wholesale deal where the whole sale price is $10 and the retail price $20, you might reasonably be asked to accept 5% royalty for wholesale and 3% for any direct-to-consumer sales the licensee makes, given their higher&nbspselling&nbspcosts. &nbsp It's been three and a half years from idea to product on the market and the whole process was a great learning experience. Hopefully the product will eventually find a place in the kitchens across the country.&nbspYou can find it on Amazon:&nbspFarberware SmartSharp Knife Sharpener, with sharpness sensor and LED Light Indicator.&nbsp &nbsp If you are interested in learning more of invention licensing, I recommend&nbspInventor Confidential: The Honest Guide to Profitable Inventing,&nbspby&nbspWarren Tuttle. Warren was President of the United Inventors Association and was our&nbspcontact on&nbspthe sharpness sensing&nbsplicensing agreement with&nbspLifetime&nbspBrands. &nbsp About the author: John Ellis is the founder of www.opticsforhire.com&nbspHis company's latest invention is a tool to find the lost edge of a roll of tape. It's called&nbspRoll Ranger

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How Technology Is Changing The Toy and Tabletop Game Industry

Technology has been rapidly transforming various industries over the past few decades, and the toy and tabletop game industry is no exception. With the increasing popularity of digital devices, it's no surprise that more and more traditional toys and games are incorporating technology to enhance gameplay and offer new experiences. &nbsp One of the most notable changes in the toy industry is the rise of smart toys, which are toys that can interact with children through sensors, voice recognition, and artificial intelligence. Smart toys such as robotic pets, interactive dolls, and educational games offer unique and personalized experiences that can adapt to a child's individual learning pace and preference (Check out: FurReal Friends, Sphero Mini, Anki Cozmo, LeapFrog LeapStart) &nbsp Tabletop games, on the other hand, have been transformed by technology in different ways. Digital tabletop games, which are played on a screen or a digital platform, have gained significant popularity in recent years. Games like Tabletop Simulator and Roll20 offer players the ability to play a wide range of games with others from around the world without the need for physical pieces. (Check out: Tabletop Simulator, Roll20, Mansions of Madness) &nbsp Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have also made their way into tabletop gaming, offering immersive and interactive experiences. With AR and VR, players can see the game world come to life before their eyes, providing a new level of excitement and immersion. (Check out: Chronicles of Crime, Jedi Challenges) &nbsp Technology has also made it easier for board game creators to bring their ideas to life. With digital tools and 3D printers, designers can create prototypes and test their game mechanics before investing in physical production. This has led to an explosion of creativity and innovation in the industry, resulting in a wider variety of games for players to choose from. &nbsp Without a doubt, technology has had a significant impact on the toy and tabletop game industry, transforming traditional play experiences and offering new ways to engage with games. Whether it's through smart toys, digital tabletop games, or AR/VR experiences, the industry is constantly evolving and adapting to meet the changing needs and preferences of consumers. What do you predict will be the next big technological impact on the toy and game industry? Share your thoughts and comments.

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MEME OF THE DAY

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Happy Hot Mulled Cider Day!

Word of the Day


"Take That" game

These are highly interactive games where the fun of the game is CENTERED on the emotional highs and lows of doing terrible things to the other players; ie hindering their forward progress in a game. Stealing, forcing discards, losing points, turns or resources, nullifying actions or other reversals of fortunes are all common "Take That" mechanics found in these games.

Submitted by Curt Covert

3 Truths & a Lie Mini-Game

Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!