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What’s my target audience? Is my concept protectible? U.S. attorney and creator of the Protect for Success course – Stephanie Pottick – looks at some questions new inventors should ask themselves prior to a pitch.
Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, coming up with – and selling or licensing – new toy and game concepts can be a challenge. You may be asking yourself…
“Is my concept viable?”
“Will people like it?”
“How can I bring it to the marketplace?”
“What if I get rejected when I pitch it to a company?”
“What happens if I actually get a deal?”
I get it – I remember what it was like to come up with new products when I worked in the toy business. We would work so hard on creating new concepts and hope our Toys “R” US and Walmart buyers would buy them. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. It was usually a balance between coming up with something we thought customers would like and that retailers would also envision selling. Of course, working as a manufacturer meant we didn’t have to find any companies to license our ideas – we were able to handle production and sales.
But some inventors don’t have that luxury and others aren’t looking to personally manufacture their own products anyway. Instead, they would rather find a company to help produce and sell them.
The great news is that toy and game companies are actively looking for new items and concepts to incorporate into their product lines. Some companies send out wish lists at certain times of the year; other companies let inventors submit ideas all year long.
There are also virtual and in-person pitching events that give inventors the opportunity to connect directly with established companies and retailers. For example, Mojo Nation hosts the Mojo Pitch and Women in Toys has its Empowerment Day, both happening later this year.
So, what do companies typically look for?
The real answer is that it depends on the company. Doing research on the different companies and asking industry professionals may help you figure that out. Sometimes it’s just about being at the right place at the right time, but there are things you can do to help yourself…
• Think about your target audience. Who is your product for? Are you thinking of them as you develop your game or toy? Having a target audience might help you identify the right company to approach.
• Find out if there are any industry standards you need to meet as you develop your product. For example, are there safety requirements for your product or target age group? Are there packaging or marketing requirements you have to comply with? It’s probably still a good idea to familiarise yourself with some of the basic guidelines, but the good news is that if you license your product to a third party manufacturer, they should be familiar with the applicable laws and would be responsible to comply with them.
• Figure out whether you own your product, brand or concept. A company wants to make sure you have the right to enter into a license agreement with them – otherwise, they face potential lawsuits from others, which is something any company wants to avoid. Did you work with anyone else to help create any of the components, the instructions, the artwork, the logo and so on? If so, you’d better figure out whether you own it because that may determine whether you can license out your concept. Give yourself peace of mind that all your hard work is actually yours.
• Make your creation unique and protectible. When I say protectible, I’m referring to intellectual property. After all, what distinguishes games like Monopoly and Uno from one another? The name, game play and so on. I’m pretty sure most companies are looking for something that’s protectible – as opposed to easy to copy. Put yourself in the shoes of the company… Why would you pay for a concept that’s overtly easy to knock off? Unique and protectible intellectual property also helps set your product apart in the marketplace. Have you come up with a cool new game, with unique name, and is it available to protect? If so, you may want to investigate how to protect yourself. If your concept isn’t protectible, this might be a good opportunity to spend some more time to create something that is protectible.
• Identify intellectual property and protect it. It’s important to figure out what intellectual property you have and protect it, ideally before you show it to anyone – that will minimise the risk of someone stealing your idea.
• Don’t sign any agreement until you understand what it says. You may be super excited to get a deal, but don’t overlook the fact that if you don’t know what an agreement says, you might be unknowingly signing away your rights. It’s important to find professionals who understand your industry and will look out for your concerns.
The goal is to get your toy or game out into the marketplace, but in a way that protects your interests and allows you to be confident to enter a pitch or license agreement.
Wishing you much success! You got this!
Our Protect for Success course can help you figure out what intellectual property you have, whether you own your idea and what to look out for in your contracts. Be prepared. Click on the banner above to learn more.
Disclaimers: There are many other issues facing game and toy designers. We are only able to help you spot a few in this short article. Please note that all of the information in this article relates to U.S. laws. Each country has its own unique set of laws, and you should make sure your inquiries are based on the laws where you are located and where you want to sell or license your brands or products. This article is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice.
Note from the Author, Stephanie Pottick: I’m excited to share this article with you! I’m a U.S. attorney & course creator who used to work in the toy industry on the business side so I’ve done my share of product creation, protection and licensing and understand them from both the business & legal perspectives. My passion is to educate creators so they can launch & license with confidence. Thanks to Mojo Nation & Brands Untapped for the opportunity to connect with you.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to hear what you think.
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