If you have ever had a sleepless night and decided to turn on the TV at 2.a.m., you have seen them, the famous (or
perhaps infamous) infomercial. While infomercials and the Direct Response Television (DRTV) market was traditionally
only found in the early morning hours, since they first started in the 1950’s, the financial crisis that started in 2008
changed the market by bringing more As Seen On TV marketing to prime-time hours. During that same time, the
traditional lag-time between an As Seen On TV product being available only through the TV ad and seeing it on a store
shelf shrunk dramatically. These changes and more that are coming make it easier for an inventor with an idea to
license their idea to this nearly $250 billion market.
The process of getting your invention idea to be sold through a DRTV company (that is then labeled with As Seen On TV)
is called licensing. Licensing is a process where a company will “rent” your intellectual property (a patent) and send you
a “rent check” or royalty four times a year. While licensing is a preferred method for DRTV, they are not the only ones
to license products; manufacturers and other product companies do to. Licensing is a process that local serial inventor,
Scott Baumann, knows well. He has licensed nearly 30 ideas in the past few years. Scott and I sat down over lunch to
talk about how an inventor can get their idea into this lucrative market.
I started by asking him about his first invention. “It all started with Podium.” He sits back, nods his head and with a smile
launches into the story of his a-ha moment watching Steve Jobs show the first iPhone. “I designed an articulating iPhone
stand, made it look very Apple’esq, it was a really nice product.” But his story didn’t end there, “By the time I went
through the usual route of producing a product from start to finish, I was too late in getting it to market and it soon
became obsolete because it only fit one phone.” Scott explained what happened, “It was a good idea, I just wasn’t fast
enough getting it to market and in the end I nearly lost everything trying.”
Not long after this experience, Scott took another product idea, the Gripgo TM , and used DRTV to get it to market faster
and with greater success. To date Gripgo TM has sold over 3.5 million units. Since then Scott has licensed 28 more
products and wants to educate inventors about licensing. “The beautiful thing about licensing is that you don’t have to
take on all the burdens of doing it yourself.” Scott knows all too well how hard it can be to go it alone, “I have felt the
pain of the other path, it is safer and often times more lucrative to license your concept and move on to the next thing.”
Now that Scott has been successful with licensing, he wants to demystify the process for other inventors and innovators
like him. “Licensing is so nebulous – there are no rules and it can be difficult to grasp. I want to help people understand
that licensing is not only a viable option to consider, but it’s often a better one.”
In order to get more people to consider licensing their ideas, it is important to know what it takes to have a really good
As Seen On TV product. He explained there are many things that make a product really licensable including; mass market
appeal, problem solver, simple, intuitive, demonstrable, and cost-effective. “Also,” he says, “it has to have some magic
to it.” At first I was taken aback by that comment, wondering what he meant by magic, but then I think back to some of
the products I’ve seen like The Perfect Bacon Bowl TM and I think there must have been some kind of magic with that one.
*This piece originally appeared in the Bellingham Herald.