Category Archives: Edison Nation

Introducing Edison Nation’s first iOS app, Sparks

Sparks by Edison Nation – the fastest and easiest way for innovators to record new product ideas – now available for free on the Apple App Store

A new iOS app to get people’s great invention ideas out of their heads and onto store shelves now available for download today on iOS devices


John Hetrick, a retired industrial engineer, was driving with his wife and daughter through the Pennsylvania countryside. Suddenly, a boulder appeared in the road ahead causing Hetrick to swerve into a ditch. Hetrick and his wife immediately reached for their daughter, stopping her from hitting the dashboard and possibly saving her life. It was shortly after this accident that Hetrick was struck with the idea for the airbag.

It only takes a split second for the metaphorical light bulb to blink above an imaginative mind. If you happen to be without a pen and paper when struck with an idea, it can take that same split second for your revelation to be lost forever in the web of the mind. The idea for the next iPad or telephone may hit you while shopping, getting dinner with friends or even in the car like John Hetrick.

Never fear forgetful innovators, Edison Nation has created the remedy for the fleeting idea: the Sparks iOS app.

In this modern invention age, what’s likely always with you? Your iPhone or iPad. When inspiration strikes simply use text to type up your idea. Can’t text? Use the voice memo function to record your idea. Even if you’re having trouble putting your idea into words, you can draw a quick design or sketch and use the Sparks app to take a picture.

The average human has more than 60,000 thoughts per day. Why not try to make some money off of a few of them? Users can turn their best “Sparks” into full-fledged product ideas with a single click, syncing their Sparks across all devices and into their own private account on Edison Nation’s online platform is private and secure, and each invention idea submitted is professionally evaluated. The top product ideas are pitched for licensing opportunities, and if a licensing deal is reached, the inventor receives 50% of all royalties.

Edison Nation has been the go-to resource for independent innovators with great invention ideas. The community platform has generated more than $200 million at retail and has licensed dozens of products. Now, Edison Nation is making it easier for independent innovators to record their ideas and get the best ones onto store shelves.

Best of all the Sparks app is free and available for download now!

Visit to learn more and download the app.

 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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We exist to get product ideas out of your head and onto retail shelves, all at no risk to you.

How Edison Nation works to bring new product ideas to market

Hello Edison Nation community!

My name is Todd Stancombe and I am the president of Edison Nation. I wanted to reach out and share a behind the scenes look as to how Edison Nation brings new products to market.

First, and most importantly, no one cares more about your success than we do. You’ve often heard us share that inventing is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve also shared that your success is our success. We mean this wholeheartedly. In fact, our brand promise is to provide anyone’s idea the most opportunities to reach its greatest potential. This is what guides our work day in and day out at Edison Nation HQ. We aren’t committed to a single channel of commercialization. Based on the product and the IP, we attempt to align it with the best commercialization strategy. We can license the IP to a category leader, manufacture and sell products, or produce two minute spots and test them in the ASOTV platform.

If you’ve ever submitted an idea, you are likely well aware of your dashboard and our eight-stage evaluation process. This process is in place so that we can securely and fairly review each idea that’s submitted into our system. As the idea works through the review, our team is thinking about how to connect that idea to a manufacturer and/or retailer who can help commercialize that idea. The Licensing team that reviews these ideas are playing matchmaker, constantly thinking about what contact and what company may have an interest about a great piece of innovation.

Companies partner with Edison Nation to find the next great innovation they can add to their product line. Our jobs would be much easier if all ideas presented to our partners were a perfect fit for them or considered to be home runs by the folks reviewing and selecting them. We both know that’s not realistic. In reality, while an idea may be in fact a great idea, it may not always be an ideal fit for that partner for a number of reasons.

For those ideas that are presented and ultimately not selected by the sponsor, we understand what a letdown that is. It is for us, too. In that moment, it may be easy to forget that your idea was privately shown to industry leaders and given the chance to succeed. We want you to know that for many of these products or ideas, we don’t stop there.

If your product idea is not chosen, you have the opportunity to submit your idea into either the Open Search for all product categories or the Insider Licensing Program for patented or patent-pending ideas in all product categories. In these searches, we do a whole lot more for your idea. Once we’ve selected an idea, a tremendous amount of work is done at our expense, above and beyond the submission fee. Remember, no additional fees will ever be requested of you at any time.

Utilizing the information from your submission, we:

  • Identify the top potential licensing partners in the category
  • Do a deep dive into the category to ensure the Licensing team is armed with research to show how your idea is a great fit for the space
  • Create a pitch to present to category leaders that focus on the features and benefits of your idea
  • These pitches include industrial design work and a demonstrative video that, once presented, will give a potential partner a clear understanding of your idea in 60 seconds or less.
  • Connect with each partner early and often to keep lines of communication open
  • Work with the partner to determine fair and competitive terms and deal structures
  • Ensure confidentiality of all ideas evaluated and presented
  • Handle all patent work required once a deal has been signed at no additional cost to you
  • Manage the complete road to commercialization so that the end result is your idea on the store shelf

We work to find the right commercialization path, the right partner and the right deal structure for your idea. We will continue to run with a great innovation until we find a home for it, no matter how long it takes. If, down the road, it has been determined that a licensed idea is not able to be commercialized, all completed design work and intellectual property are immediately returned to you, the innovator.

Inventing and bringing products to market is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m a marathon runner and am fully aware of what this journey entails. A great example is our partnership with HSN’s Joy Mangano. We met with her team in the spring of 2013 to discuss ways in which we could collaborate on new product innovations. From that point forward, we have been working on three new products that will launch later this year. We are going to be expanding the relationship as Joy’s brand continues to grow. Recently, she shared a link with us for a movie that is opening on Christmas day telling the story of her rise from single mom to successful product marketer.

I want you to know that every member of my team cares. Certainly, we’d like to get more deals done and get all deals done quicker. We work every opportunity as hard as it can be worked, but many of the go-forward decisions lie in the hands of our partners. Their businesses constantly change and we have to be prepared for and live with that reality. My team wouldn’t trade the ups, the downs, the pain and the joy of seeing a sketch on a napkin or a fully-developed prototype come to life for anything. It’s not easy, but nothing that is worth it in life rarely is. That’s been my experience so far.

In closing, I want to say thank you for everything you do. Don’t quit inventing and don’t stop caring. In my opinion, one of Thomas Edison’s best quotes was, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” followed closely by, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Edison Nation won’t give up on your great ideas. We’ll continue to press on and we’ll continue to find successes in the marketplace. We’ll get there together.

Thank you,

Todd Stancombe

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protoTYPING: Podcasts for Inventors

In 2008, I had a design job where I spent most of my days sitting at the computer doing SolidWorks. My office was in a cube farm and the atmosphere had about as much life as a Chernobyl cooling pond. The minutes dragged on, and eventually I started to bring headphones to listen to some music. It helped but then I got bored of listening to the same stuff over and over. It was about this time that podcasting started to tiptoe into the main stream. I was a big fan of the movie Clerks, and was excited to find that the director, Kevin Smith had a podcast called Smodcast. I downloaded every episode and I designed parts while Kevin had heart-to-heart conversations with my favorite Clerks characters. Eventually I had 4-5 podcasts including some from NPR, the BBC, as well as comedy shows like Adam Corolla and Greg Proops. I became their anonymous friends while they talked me through the day. I have been a fiend for podcasts ever since.

Seven years on and podcasts are bigger than ever. Shows like Serial have millions of downloads per episode and have become standard entertainment for commuters and gym goers. Outside the mainstream successes there are podcasts that cover every genre and interest, and plenty that can help inventors too. Here are my 5 favorite podcasts for inventors, prototypers, and product developers.

StartUppodcast for inventors

Due to its great story telling, StartUp has mass appeal, but it is must listening for seasoned or newbie inventors. It is hosted by Alex Blumberg, former producer of This American Life and founder of NPR’s Planet Money. In a style similar to This American Life, Alex chronicles his own journey to found his podcasting company Gimlet Media. It tells the often embarrassing tale of how he approached inventors for funding, refined his pitch, found a partner, and decided on a name for his company. The best parts of the show are the interludes where he discusses the state of his venture with his wife, Nazanin. Their unfiltered moments are a great insight into how starting a company affects a family and a relationship. They have just finished their second season where they follow the startup dating company, Dating Ring. The third season is set to drop in the fall.


Art of the Kickstartpodcast for inventors

Art of the Kickstart is a podcast for inventors about crowdfunding hosted by Matt Ward. He interviews inventors and entrepreneurs that are using the platform to get their products into production and gets them to share their keys to success. Some of his guests are big hitting authors and entrepreneurs like Seth Godin. However, many of them are first time inventors and small business owners that are relatable to the average garage inventor and budding entrepreneur. One of his interviews was Enventys client, Brandon Dierker, inventor of the Collar Perfect travel iron (Episode 62). Matt has an engaging style and gets great details about the often twisty path from lightning bolt moment to manufactured product and reveals great tips to help the journey. With 110 episodes and counting, Matt will keep you informed and inspired for months.


Inventors Mindpodcast for inventors

Chris Hawker, inventor of the Power Squid and President of product development firm Trident Design, is the host of Inventor’s Mind. Chris has been in product development for over 20 years and has brought over 70 products to market. His insights are relevant for inventors of every level. His episodes cover crowdfunding, keys to getting a product licensed, advice for going to tradeshows, and how to get a licensing meeting. In addition to the great advice, he also interviews other product development professionals including a candid chat with Edison Nation CEO, Louis Foreman in episode 5. Many of the episodes are under 10 minutes, but they are packed with great information that will help you get your ideas out of your mind and into reality.

WTFFF?!podcasts for inventors

Not to be confused with comedian Marc Maron’s entertainment interview podcast, WTF, WTFFF?! is a podcast for inventors about 3D printing where FFF stands for “Fused Filament Fabrication”. The hosts are Tracy and Tom Hazzard, married couple and co-owners of Hazz Design Consulting, which has more than 20 years of design experience in consumer products. They use 3D printing as part of their process and their growing pains and a learning curve using the technology led them to starting a podcast about 3D printing for the small business or home user. They cover a plethora of topics from printing issues like clogged extruder heads, where to find good 3D models, and careers in 3D printing. Many of the episodes are less than 10 minutes, providing efficient information to help you get the most from your 3D printer or learn more about the process.

Launchpadpodcasts for inventors

Launchpad is a yet to be released podcast from Josh Springer, the inventor of the Bottom’s Up draft beer filling system. It is due to launch in late summer of 2015, and will feature interviews with entrepreneurs and product developers to hear the gory details of how business are started and products brought to market. Josh has a fascinating journey from working at a sign shop, to almost going to federal prison, to becoming the founder of a successful business. The episodes will be candid and dig deep into the successes and failures on the road to bringing products to market, and I am eagerly anticipating the first episodes.



 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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We exist to get ideas out of your head and onto retail shelves, all at no risk to you.

Two More Ideas Selected for As Seen on TV Testing

The Edison Nation As Seen on TV team is on a roll this summer! We just received news that two more ideas have been selected from the ASOTV Open Search for commercialization. Meet the inventors below and leave a comment to congratulate them as their ideas undergo ideation, product design and development, commercial production and market testing.

Stay tuned for updates! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates as their ideas move through each stage.

jill kelly

Jill Kelly

Jill grew up in Palo Alto California in the heart of Silicon Valley, right around the corner from Steve Jobs. She currently resides just east of Sacramento where she makes a living as a gold miner. Jill says she first stumbled upon Edison Nation after watching a video of Betsy Kaufman talk about Eggies. She was immediately inspired by Betsy’s story and has had many invention ideas come to her in waves ever since, including her recent As Seen on TV selection. Jill says she came up with this particular idea after exploring creative ways to store things in small spaces.

When she’s not gold mining or inventing, she’s a singer and a writer. She has recorded three CD’s and written two books: one one titled The Miracle Miner, which documents her gold mining inventions, and the other titled The Movie Maker: Charles O. Baumann, which is about her great-grandfather who was a silent film pioneer and movie mogul.

Jill’s advice to aspiring inventors: “Find the one thing you love to do in life and do it the best you can!

Fred WherritFred Wherritt

Fred was born and raised in Waterford, Michigan, where he still resides today. After spending many hours researching how to bring inventions to market, he came across Edison Nation. He finally submitted his first idea after a year of observing to confirm it was a company he could really trust. Since then, Fred says submitting ideas to Edison Nation has become a regular part of his lifestyle and the best decision he’s made as an inventor.

This particular As Seen on TV idea came to him after studying successful products and coming up with a new and improved way to solve a widespread problem. Fred also credits Edison Nation’s forums for being a great resource and source of inspiration.

Fred’s advice to aspiring inventors:“For those who score a licensing deal – the journey is measured in years, not months, and usually many years. If this is what you want to do, stay patient, keep learning and learn to deal with the inevitable ups and down (oh, and don’t quit your day job)! “

Congratulations, Jill and Fred!


 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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Even if you don’t have an invention idea right now you can still join Edison Nation for free and learn from our community why we’re the trusted source for bringing product ideas to market.

Inventing 101: Why Your Invention Idea Must have Mass Market Appeal

mass marketWhen an invention idea is submitted to Edison Nation to be considered for commercialization through licensing or As Seen on TV, it is vetted through an eight-stage evaluation process before it is pitched to potential licensing partners or developed.

Once your idea reaches Stage 4, it is evaluated against potential competitors in the market as well as its appeal to potential customers. This is known as mass market appeal.

According to the Cambridge Business English Dictionary, the formal definition of the term mass market is as follows:

“A market of as many people as possible, not just people with a lot of money or particular needs or interests”

When we evaluate an idea, we want to ensure your idea offers a fresh, innovative solution that will really resonate with consumers and has a high degree of mass market appeal.

A truly great idea has the following characteristics:

  • Has mass market appeal
  • Has the ability to move a consumer when they are at the walk/buy position – “I WANT THAT!”

When considering your invention, do the “problems” need to resonate with everyone? Does your idea have to appeal to 100% of the population? The answer is no. But it does have to appeal to the majority of members of a market group.

Some examples different types of market groups:






Office workers


…and the list goes on.

As you can see from the short list above, market groups can be large or niche in nature. When we provide feedback indicating that an idea is not a “mass market item” and advise you to “find ways to widen your audience,” it does not mean you have to figure out a way to make a beauty product that is designed for women, also appeal to men. It means you need to find ways to adjust your product to meet a significant need, problem or pain point identified by a core demographic group. This core demographic group also needs to be large enough in order to generate enough revenue to be profitable. A product that only appeals to a very niche market, such as households that own more than three ferrets, does not have mass market appeal even if it is a totally revolutionary idea that will change the way humans feeds their ferrets.

In summary, before you click “Submit” on your next idea, ask yourself these questions: First, “Who is my audience?” Then, “Will my product appeal to everyone in this group?” And finally, “Is this group big enough to be profitable?”

Remember! If you are an Edison Nation Insider, you have the opportunity to go back to edit and update declined submissions from past searches and opt them into new searches for FREE. Use this information to ensure your submissions are going to make your target audience say, “I want that!”.

 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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Patents 101: When to File for Foreign Patent Protection

foreign patent protectionWhile preparing to file for patent protection, it may be difficult to determine which countries, if any, may be important for an invention’s patent portfolio. While applying for a U.S. patent may be standard, what about Canada, China, or the European Union? There are many considerations to keep in mind when making this decision, and it’s wise to have a basic understanding of foreign patent protection.


Why file for foreign patent protection?

An invention is only protected in the countries in which an inventor files for patent protection.  If a patent is applied for in the U.S. so a product can be sold in the U.S., foreign patent protection may not be necessary. However, if a product is to be sold internationally, or even in just a single country outside of the US, this may be the better route.

It is not uncommon for a seller of goods to find knock-offs, or even their own products, being sold in a foreign jurisdiction.  The product may be offered at a lower cost, undercutting sales. In another example, the sale of counterfeit products made from cheap materials may hurt a brand after unsuspecting purchasers buy a product bearing the brand, which quickly falls apart.  A lack of patent protection in that country can make it difficult, if not impossible, to shut down these unauthorized sellers or counterfeiters.  These issues may become a drain on time and other resources, not to mention revenue.

Discussing the situation with a patent counsel is always a safe bet. Keep in mind, Edison Nation has an in-house legal counsel to address any intellectual property concerns. If seeking an external counsel, he or she can help you decide if, and where, to file for foreign patent protection.  Aside from innovation itself, a patent attorney is arguably the single greatest resource in building your patent portfolio.


How to obtain and maintain foreign patent protection

An important factor in filing for foreign patent protection is priority, which was discussed in a previous installment.  To file a foreign patent application claiming priority on a US. patent application, the application must be filed within 1 year.  This is true of both provisional and non-provisional applications, meaning the filing of a provisional application starts the clock and foreign filing patent applications must be filed by the same deadline as a non-provisional patent application.  Design patent applications have a shorter priority period of 6 months.

Foreign patent protection may be filed at any time, but understand that priority cannot be claimed to an earlier application once outside the statutory period.  The big concern here is that the benefit of the earlier filing date is lost.  While this may not be the ideal approach, there are circumstances in which filing foreign patent protection without a claim a priority may actually be favorable.

A patent counsel can fully advise you as to what course of action is best.  A patent counsel will work with a counsel in the country or countries in which you protection is being sought, as most often foreign applications must be filed by firm within that jurisdiction, with some exceptions.  While the individual patent laws vary, the process is more or less the same as in the U.S..  After a period of formal examination, a patent may or may not issue, depending on the circumstances of the application itself. This process may be shorter or longer than that of the U.S., depending on the individual country.

Another thing to bear in mind is patent maintenance.  Much like the U.S., most foreign jurisdictions have certain fees which are required at various intervals once a patent has issued.  The costs and deadlines vary from country to country, and a patent counsel can advise on the costs in advance of the deadlines.  What is called “maintenance fees” in the U.S., other countries often refer to as “renewals.”  The outcome is the same, however, payment must be completed in the deadline or your patent will lapse.

In sum, foreign patent protection is not for everyone, and individual needs will likely change on a case-by-case basis. The Edison Nation in-house counsel will help determined which countries it is prudent to file foreign patent protection for.  Specific facts surrounding each invention are considered to make this determination.  This is a very complex and nuanced area of patent law, and this low-level overview barely grazes the surface. The good news? Inventors will never need to pay a dime or spend any time on filing patents for ideas selected for commercialization by Edison Nation.



 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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We exist to get product ideas out of your head and onto retail shelves, all at no risk to you.

From G1-G8: Mastering Stage 6 of the Invention Submission Process

Whether you are new to Edison Nation or a seasoned inventor, submitting your idea into our secure system is the first step in bring your idea to market. As you may know, every invention idea submitted is reviewed through a complex, eight-stage process to determine its likelihood of licensing or As Seen on TV success.

So, what is the secret? What do you need to do to achieve a G6 or more? In March, we started a blog series where we give you a look into what happens when your idea is shared with the Edison Nation review team. In this post, we are going to review stage 6 AND provide some hints and tips to get you to your next green check mark and one step closer to successfully getting your idea on store shelves.

Green check button

In this post, I’ve tapped our General Counsel, Katie Foss, to dive into the world of intellectual property (IP). In addition to being the general counsel for Edison Nation, Katie is responsible for vetting submissions’ patentability and leading the IP review process once they reach Stage 6.

edison nation

IP Review Process Overview

Intellectual property is at the heart of what we do here at Edison Nation. Whether or not we can close a licensing deal with a company hinges on the level of IP protection available. Innovation Search sponsors want to know that they are getting a new and innovative product, and that they are the only player in the game. Companies are less likely to pursue a product that has a lot of competition, so we attempt to find that competition ahead of time to ensure we are only delivering to sponsors those submissions that have a real chance at commercialization. For this reason, it is helpful when inventors come to us with IP, but it’s not required. If a submission lists IP, we’ll check the status of the patent or application. If not, we use the following IP review process to help identify existing competition and attempt to find existing IP in the space.


How We Conduct an IP Review

We use a variety of resources during an IP review. If an inventor lists existing IP, we use the Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website to check the status. The issue here, however, is that only published applications are available to search. This is generally true of all websites, as the USPTO will not release the information on its own site prior to publication. As a result, there may be existing IP that we cannot discover prior to that point in the process. Also, provisional patent applications are not published by the USPTO, so these are also unavailable to search. As a result, we request that inventors upload filing receipts or other patent documentation with a submission. This not only helps us understand the product or concept being presented during an IP review, but it also helps us show the value of the product or concept to the search sponsor.

If a submission has reached Stage 6 and it does not have IP, we’ll search a variety of websites listing published applications and issued patents to determine whether or not we think the product has a chance at gaining IP protection. During this search, we often begin with a general Google search to familiarize ourselves with the product. This is especially true of highly specialized or complex concepts, as we want to ensure we understand what is being presented. We will then begin searching existing IP for similar ideas. We use Google Patents, Free Patents Online, and other sites that present published applications and issued patents to the public. During our IP review, we will compare your images, descriptions, and all other available information in your submission to the specifications, claims, drawings, etc. listed in published patents and applications, and we use this information to make a determination as to whether your idea meets patent requirements.


What We Look For in an IP Review

What we look for depends upon the submission itself. We do look at each and every attachment you upload to your submission! These attachments are very useful in helping us understand your idea.

We seek to find the core function or utility of the product or concept to determine what about it, if anything, is novel and unique. Once we understand the nature of the submission, we’ll attempt to find any and all existing products and IP that relates to what the inventor is presenting. We spend considerable time analyzing the results of our search to ensure we aren’t comparing dissimilar ideas. We also filter IP results by country, as our immediate concern is patent protection in the United States.

A very straightforward product is often much easier to compare to existing products, as what you see is what you get. We will generally do an image search in conjunction with a search of published applications and issued patents as part of our IP review. These searches yield different results, and together they are fairly comprehensive. While a basic Google image search may not sound very effective, the fact is that the use of specific keywords will produce thousands of images that can be used to compare the submission to existing products in the marketplace, and these images often provide very useful insight into potential competition. We can view hundreds of products in a matter of minutes, and this helps us narrow down our findings.

Conversely, a complex product utilizing complicated mechanical, engineering, or scientific concepts will require a more in-depth analysis. These types of submissions may require us to spend some time learning about a concept to better understand it. This is crucial in that we never seek to “pass” on a submission simply because it is complicated. We value the education and experience of every inventor, and we understand that not all submissions are easily comprehended at first glance.

We also look for disclosures made to outside parties. Under current US patent statutes, disclosure of a product or concept to third parties, without having filed for patent protection, can start the clock on your idea’s patentability. For this reason, inventors must be cautious prior to filing for patent protection. Inventors are advised to always limit disclosures to third parties, and to do so only under a nondisclosure agreement or after filing a patent application.


IP and Patenting Resources

  • The Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system provides IP customers a safe, simple, and secure way to retrieve and download information regarding patent application status. Please note that an application must be published, and provisional patent applications are unavailable via Public Pair.
  • Google Patents is a very helpful tool in that it allows you to search keywords within published applications and issued patents.


The Goal of Conducting an IP Review

Our ultimate goal is to see your invention commercialized. The best way to get your idea in front of a search sponsor is to have something that matches the search criteria, is new and useful, and is capable of gaining IP protection. We try to deliver to the search sponsor the ideas that most closely match what they are looking for, and those ideas must also be something they can license and protect. Companies are always looking for the next greatest product, and we strive to get those products from our inventors. To have the best chance of success, give the sponsor something exciting that they’ve never seen before.


Common IP Pitfalls

  • Third party disclosures of your unpatented idea, potentially limiting your patent protection.
  • Submitting ideas that are already present in the marketplace.
  • Not maintaining your patent applications or issued patents, causing them to lapse.
  • Not telling Edison Nation about your IP. If we don’t know about it, we can’t use it to your benefit.

Hints and Tips

  • Google your idea!
  • Do a basic patent search.
  • Visual aids are very helpful to us, and we appreciate all the photos, videos, and other media you upload with your submission. We look at everything.
  • Tell us about your IP. Upload all USPTO filing receipts and copies of your patent information with your submission.
  • Be sure to list all third-party disclosures of your unpatented idea. Knowing about it helps us determine whether or not it bars patent protection.


The next post will take a closer look at what happens during our Finalist stage, Stage 7.

We hope this information provides a bit more insight into what we look for and we look forward to reviewing YOUR idea soon! Happy Inventing!



 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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We exist to get product ideas out of your head and onto retail shelves, all at no risk to you.

protoTYPING: Working with Metals

The conveniences of our modern world would not exist without metals. They have properties that are useful to engineers and are the building blocks of many of our most important products. They are tough and hard, conduct heat and electricity, and have a high melting point. Because of these great properties, they have found a place in refrigerators, vehicles, televisions, phones, ovens, and many of life’s essential products.

The only truly life changing invention that does not contain metal in it is the fanny pack. (But even those require tools made of metal to manufacture it.) All kidding aside, metals are really useful for finished products, and are also useful in making prototypes. Due to their versatility, working with metals has become increasingly easy as they can be manipulated in many ways.

Here are a few different ways metals can be processed:


One of the most popular ways to turn a block of raw metal into a finished part for a prototype is by machining. Machining is any process that uses a tool or bit to progressively remove small amounts of material to “whittle” the material to a finished dimension. There are many different machining methods, but the two most popular are milling and turning.

Milling is done on a milling machine and uses a rotating cutting tool to cut a block of material that is fixed to a moving bed. Turning is done on a lathe and has the opposite setup where the raw material is the spinning part, and the tool is slowly moved against it to remove the material. Lathes and mills are available in both manual and CNC versions. Manual versions are great for making quick prototypes and modifications as the material can be fixed in the machine and run in just a minute or less. CNC lathes and mills require a CAD file and additional software to create the instructions for where the machine needs to move. However, they can create complex shapes accurately and quickly for complex parts, and they are much better at making large quantities.

working with metals
The Tormach CNC cutting a detail into a key.



Welding is a process that allows separate pieces of metal to be rigidly attached to each other. There are many different styles of welding and welding machines, but the most common are electric arc welders. They work by using electricity to melt the area around the two adjoining pieces while a filler rod of metal is fed into area to join them.

Once the pieces are cooled, they are very strongly bonded together. One of the biggest caveats to welding is that the materials being welded together need to be of similar metals and similar thickness. Welding can also cause parts to warp. The process dumps a lot of heat into the parts and when they cool they can warp. Parts for prototypes that need accurate features need to be machined after welding to get the required accuracy.

working with metal
Welding some metal parts for a prototype.

CNC Cutting

Working with metals is made easy with CNC cutters such as a laser or water jet. A water jet uses high pressure water mixed with an abrasive aggregate to cut through metals, and laser cutting uses a high power focused laser beam to burn through the material. In either case, the cutting head is mounted to a motion platform that can be driven from a CAD file to make accurate cuts. Most water jet and laser cutters can only cut two-dimensional shapes, but there have been innovations in water jet technology that make angled cuts and cuts on round pieces possible.

Both processes produce parts fast, but they both have shortcomings. Laser cutters introduce a lot of heat into the area around the cut, which can at best cause discoloration and at worst cause a degradation of material properties. Parts cut using a water jet are usually submerged in water so heat buildup is not an issue. However, as the jet of water gets wider the further it is from the exit of the nozzle, the edge of the parts starts to taper. Despite these weaknesses, they are still very useful for making prototype parts.

working with metals
Cutting a gear shaped part for a prototype with the water jet.


3D Printing

3D printing is not just for plastics. Metals, among other types of materials can be 3D printed too. The primary technology used in metal 3D printers is called Direct Metal Laser Sintering or DMLS. DMLS machines have a vat of powdered metal and a laser that solidifies selected areas to build a part. The process is very efficient and the finished parts are over 99% as dense as raw material.

DMLS is great because it uses real engineering metals like aluminum, titanium and stainless steel, and it also allows for intricate shapes to be created that machining processes cannot create, such as internal passageways and undercuts. As amazing as the DMLS technology is, it is still relatively young and is expensive to have done. 3D printing metal is really only viable for small parts that require the material properties of metal.


Photo Etching

Photo etching is a way to create highly detailed, yet thin metal parts. Photo etching is a similar process to making photographic prints in a darkroom. A photosensitive laminate is placed over a thin sheet of metal. Then a mask is placed over the laminate and the sheet is exposed to UV light. The sheet is then put in a developer bath and the exposed areas are dissolved away leaving laminate to protect the metal in certain areas. Then it is placed in an acid bath and the unprotected areas of metal are dissolved away leaving the finished part behind.

Photo etching is only possible when working with metals up to .080” thick, but it can be done on just about any type of metal. It does not require special tooling, so iterations of prototype designs can be made cheaply. One of the most common uses for photo etching is to make copper traces for circuit boards, and other small parts for electronics. Photo etching can also be used to make filter screens, gaskets and springs. While specialist groups typically make production parts, DIY kits are available for the home prototype.

working with metal
A batch of photo etched aluminum parts showing the intricate detail that the technique produces.


Metals are a versatile group of materials and have desirable properties for both prototypes and production products. They can be processed and turned into parts in a variety of ways. Each method has unique equipment requirements, speed and price point, but when properly used can yield robust parts that help make products come to life.



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InvENtor Spotlight: A Q&A with Colleen Noonan

For our June Inventor Spotlight, we’re highlighting one of the ladies of Edison Nation, Colleen Noonan! A social worker and mother of three, Colleen has been an active Edison Nation member since 2013 and is an active participant on our community forums.

We had the opportunity to talk to Colleen and learn how she started inventing, how she comes up with her ideas and any advice for those trying to bring their inventions to market.

EN inventor

Where is your hometown?

Baltimore, Maryland

Where do you currently reside?

I have lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since 2011. Between Baltimore and Pittsburgh we lived in San Antonio, Texas, for four years. I have three kids (7, 10, 13).

What is your professional background?

I received my Bachelor’s degree (West Virginia University) and Master’s degree (University of Maryland) both in Social Work with a healthcare specialization. I have worked in every aspect of Social Work (mental health, children/families, drug/alcohol, etc.), but for the last 12 years I was employed, I worked in the hospital and home health care setting.

When I had my first child 13 years ago, I decided I wanted to stay home with them and put my career on hold. There has been no bigger personal joy for me in this decision. My husband was in dental school at the time so I bartended on the weekends and started a small cookie business called Colleen’s Cookies to help support us. I sold to several speciality coffee and wine/cheese stores, as well as a few law firms in the city. I actually didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t make a lot of money, but I LOVED it and loved how people loved my product. The cookies were very thin, with the perfect balance of chewy AND crisp. Hard one to find IF you are a fan of that kind of cookie. I still make them today (but don’t sell them).

I’m hoping to return to Social Work part-time after my 13 year sabbatical in the Fall.

How did you hear about Edison Nation?

Andrea Zabinski. She and I connected at one point probably three or four years ago. She lives only 40 minutes away from me. I listened to her in an interview and was so impressed I tracked her down and emailed her to learn more about her. She’s a wonderful person, a great inventor and a perfect example of “get ‘er DONE!”

As a Social Worker and a mom of three, how do you approach the inventing process?

Great question because my whole career was about collaboration and communication with other healthcare professionals and families, so inventing, being a solo journey, is/was a little difficult for me. Me talking to me in my mind all day only gets me so far. I use my husband and kids to bounce ideas of of and have a few EN members that I respect and trust that I talk with. They are awesome!

My kids for sure are where I get my ideas from – whether its trends with the older two or difficulty in doing certain tasks with the younger one. There are many things I think of that would make my life a whole lot easier in doing simple tasks with my kids or on the go challenges.

Having worked in healthcare for many years and with the geriatric population for part of that time, you’d think I would have many ideas to send to Edison Nation Medical, but I don’t…at least, not yet.

What new product trends do you see as a mom?

Some of the trends I have noticed include: homemade baby food made simpler, products to make meal time clean-up easier, tween products and accessories, teen boy shoes and kitchen products to make things easier even for the youngest chef.

Do you find that invention ideas come to you or do you have to go to them?

I love this question because I love reading what others write. 98% of the time they have to come to me!!

I wish I could come up with ideas with ease for the searches. The few times I’ve done that I’ve loved the thrill of that ride, waiting in anticipation. I love that there is an end date and a presentation date. My inventing process doesn’t work that way naturally. Big time kudos to those of you who can – I totally admire that. Despite the longer wait, I’m more of an Open Search inventor.

Overall I’ve learned to be true to myself and my process and focus on my inventing strengths and try to improve upon my weaknesses.

What inspired you to start inventing?

My dad was in the building and real estate industry for most of his life. He employed me and my siblings at a very early age having us pick the dead flower buds on the model homes property, clean and supervise the model homes, complete secretarial work, bake cookies for his customers at Christmas, etc. My dad didn’t always make the best decisions, he took risks and some paid off and some for sure didn’t. My dad taught me to LIVE, to grab life and live, to do what you love and take chances, get your hands dirty. So when I thought of my first idea I said to myself “why not?!” and I just started moving on it. My dad lived with Alzheimer’s for 12 years until he died two years ago. He was such a great man :)

When did you come up with your first great idea?

In 2011, I had a babysitter and went out with some friends one night and when I returned, two of my kids were very sick at the very same time, different rooms. I was going back and forth every 10 minutes to care for them. My husband was out of town so I was alone managing them ALL NIGHT.

I immediately thought of a solution and actually a line of products to help kids and their parents when they are sick. I read, and read, and read everything and anything. I joined InventRight and followed along so I could learn HOW to license this myself. I had amazing renderings and a sell sheet and I went through the whole process of cold calling, etc. BUT, what I didn’t have was a product that was proprietary AND would have been very expensive to even start the manufacturing process. Didn’t have a clue that just the MOLDS would be so costly!

In the end I did not get a deal, BUT I did have initial interest and several calls from one of the biggest children’s catalogue companies. It took the wind out of my sails for about a year before I got back on the saddle. I learned so much and don’t regret ALL the time I devoted to that. Learning through failing at something is hard but a must.

I tried a few more on my own a few years back without luck. So, I was VERY happy to find EN!

You have been an EN member since 2013, can you provide us with some details around your experiences and journey to date?

I’ve had a great experience with EN – had a few R8’S which is the next best thing to a G8. I feel like I have a pretty good sense of when to let an idea GO but, lordy, I have maybe four that I just can’t move on entirely from.  And I guess I shouldn’t since some of them have gotten very far. My mind always says “you can make it better Colleen!”

I read books, magazine articles, Facebook postings, internet articles on inventing almost daily. I listen to podcasts and interviews any opportunity I can. I read all the forum postings and, of course, all of Rogers lessons. That is how I learn. I’ve learned so much but still have so much to learn. You know that saying “You don’t know what you don’t know?”  That’s how I feel – so much to learn, always!

Often I have so many ideas flooding my brain I just try and pick the most promising one and start somewhere, which is usually research online and in stores. Thinking of this quote ALWAYS helps me:

“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the first step.”

For inventing, I translate this to KEEP MOVING FORWARD – keep learning, keep reading, keep trying to make it better. Just keep GOING. You’ll get somewhere by doing so – it may be at the end but that’s ok sometimes.

What inspires me more then anything is knowing I know more today then I knew yesterday and that totally excites me to the core and keep me going forward!

What are some of the fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share with the Edison Nation community?

Fun facts hmm…Well, I can whistle with any two fingers probably better and louder then any sailor. It doesn’t matter where my kids are in the neighborhood they can hear my whistle and that means come home. I can also silence any room with it.

I love wine, cooking and opera – preferably all at the same time. Love Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffet too!

The beach is my happy place – lots of memories there. My mind is clearest there and my heart happiest!

I have the most amazing husband who works so hard everyday so I can stay home with our three awesome kids. He’s my best friend and the most dedicated, connected husband and father I could have ever asked for.

I’m a very optimistic person, can usually see the positive in most situations and always generally feel a situation will get better with time and perspective.

I cry super easily and my tears don’t discriminate bad news or happy news. So Edison Nation Licensing Team, when you call me with a deal I will NO DOUBT cry. Tears of joy of course!

I am totally addicted to the PROFIT – I love Marcus’s. I love his motto “trust the process”. That’s how I feel about EN! I love Shark Tank too! We watch all those shows as a family. These shows, of course, make me cry

Thanks for reading I love you guys!


We are so excited to have Colleen as a member of our inventor community, and have our fingers crossed that soon we’ll be sharing tears of JOY for that first G8!


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New ASOTV Selections! Congratulations, Norma and Rachel

More good news from the As Seen on TV (ASOTV) team! Two invention ideas have been selected from our ASOTV Open Search. Meet the inventors below and leave them a comment to congratulate them as their ideas undergo ideation, product design and development, commercial production and market testing.

Stay tuned for updates! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates as their ideas move through each stage.

ASOTV inventor

Norma Haygood

Norma, born in Miami Beach and currently living in Eustis, Florida, has been an Edison Nation member since 2009. Like many current Edison Nation members, she came across our TV show, Everyday Edisons, on PBS and was immediately hooked.

Although Norma says that she is constantly coming up with ideas, this particular one came to her while walking down the aisles of Walmart looking for ways to better organize her bedroom. After searching the Internet, checking existing patents and reviewing products in brick and mortar stores, Norma confirmed that her idea was truly unique and submitted it to Edison Nation.

Norma’s advice to inventors: “It’s crucial to become part of an inventing community.  Be it on EN, Facebook or a local inventors group. I call it “Inventors University” And it’s FREE! … If you have an invention, and no resources to go forward with it on your own, EN is THE place to turn to.”


ASOTV inventorsRachel Fine

Rachel is no stranger to the world of inventing. In fact, her and her husband have successfully brought multiple invention ideas to market. After solely overseeing the overseas manufacturing, shipping, marketing and sales, and learning the intensity and scope involved, they’ve since come to Edison Nation to bring their ideas to market.

The idea for this particular As Seen on TV product was inspired by their very own French Mastiff dog, Priscilla, and can potentially help dogs live longer, healthier lives.

Rachel’s advice to inventors:“For every one great idea we have, there are 20 that don’t fly (and another 20 that, in hindsight, are just terrible). To some extent it’s a numbers game. And keeping yourself in that creative, innovative headspace keeps the juices flowing. “


Congratulations, Norma and Rachel!


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Even if you don’t have an invention idea right now you can still join Edison Nation for free and learn from our community why we’re the trusted source for bringing product ideas to market.