Product Licensing Gone Wrong

A tale of invention, greed and bad timing: The Greatest Running Shoe Never Sold by Bob Parks for Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The story shines a light on some of the best and worst of human motivations. It’s not the first time that a seemingly great product idea never quite made it to market and certainly won’t be the last.

This tale exposes the need for inventors to keep their ego in check, and get some unbiased professional advice when negotiating product licensing agreements with manufacturers. It seems to be a common urge for inventors to want to “swing for the fences” when it comes to selling their intellectual property. It’s understandable to have a high opinion of your own invention, perhaps even unrealistically high. But inventors need to ask themselves – is this the last or even best idea I have in me? Does this have to be a home run, or can this be one of several great ideas I bring to market? Can I learn from this one to approach the next from a position of greater experience and confidence?

I don’t mean to discount the difficulty of the process or the the obvious emotional factors that come into play. Indeed, as Lenn Rockford Hann, the inventor profiled in the piece recalls when a deal seemed close:

At that point, I suddenly realized that more people had gone to the moon than had ever licensed running footwear. We were almost there. I was in heaven.

It’s hard and it’s personal for the inventor. But in Hann’s case, unrealistic revenue expectations delayed the securing of a product licensing agreement for so long that changes in the marketplace, in particular a shift toward minimalist shoes, exemplified at the extreme by the Vibram Fivefingers, overtook his great idea. That and probable fatigue on the part of his would-be partners.

As creative people, we need to try hard not to sabotage our own best interests with unrealistic expectations. We all need and deserve fair and reasonable compensation for the benefits that flow from our ideas. But by seeking untenable extremes, we can risk ending up with nothing.

Thanks to @radiuscreatives for passing on the original link.

Lenn Rockford Hann's shoe design
Photograph by Daniel Shea for Bloomberg Businessweek
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Comment (1)

    Just as an FYI, I posted a follow-up to this here: http://www.intublog.com/?p=969 if you’re interested.

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