Matt, I thank you for your post, Ive gone down the 'IP and patent' road several times, twice on my own and once with the Australian government who chose to patent a medical invention of mine. In each case it was a very long and winding road of applications, reviews,meetings and objections but the bottom line is that formal legal protection is very expensive. Its not only the cost of establishing and securing a patent (nationally or internationally) but the cost of defending it when and if its allegedly infringed. And several companies dont recognise patents at all.
Informal protection in the form of Non disclosure forms/agreements is cheap to establish but similarly expensive to defend if a company chooses to dishonour the agreement. In my experience, one manufacturer wouldnt sign but wanted to see what I had ( he said he wouldnt sign just in case they were already developing an identical product. Yeah sure..)
The other company signed, made the product, accepted full payment and never gave me a cent. So a signed agreement is poor protection. And understandably, why would a company start sharing their income if they are currently making easy money without you ?
As for the inventions themselves Ive recognised that any hand made goods are poor profit unless theyre extremely high priced. Staff can be a joy or a miserable curse and thats just because of all the government paperwork, so the less man-hours it takes to make something , the better and cheaper. Thus anything that is injection moulded or similar method, is likely to be the best money spinner because its so quick. Get a mould made and then you can pop out 10 000 widgets. But the moulds can cost $5 000- $30 000 for each part before you even start production, so something smaller is better. Cheaper overseas too but more chance of misunderstandings/ inaccuracies.
Both entity and mule have identified plastic as the most profitable material and I too agree that a million bits of inert plastic have more profit attached to them than a hundred boards made with love and soul. Its a great pity but its business reality.
So it seems the bottom line to making a profit is to make it plastic, small and make it overseas. Fins, fin systems, grip pads, eyewear, CD's, accessories, that sort of thing.
My questions to Matt are,
Does an inventor need an agreement with a contract manufacturer regarding IP ?
Knowing that without a patent theres no protection for the product but what sort of other legal steps should be taken to protect a business? eg business name registration ?
What sort of business type has the lowest liability ?
Should the inventor get liability insurance or is it the actual overseas manufacturers responsibility ?
Any help is most grateful.