Here at Websticker we often get contacted by people with a “great idea” for a sticker product. They don’t want to tell us what the idea is as we may be overly tempted to steal it, begin production immediately, and make a million dollars. Though, we are certainly willing to sign a non-disclosure form, it really isn’t necessary – we don’t have an interest in launching a new business or product based on other peoples ideas. Websticker (and most creative companies) have our business to focus on and piles of great custom sticker ideas we’d pursue if we needed to go a new direction or had the time.
So, how do you protect your great sticker idea? We hear this question a lot and although we focus on production and not distribution I can perhaps help point you in the right direction and share my opinion.
Protecting sticker ideas –
Your original graphics and phrases are covered by a copyright the moment they are written or created. You can use the “C” symbol without registering the work. Officially registering with the Library of Congress costs about $30 and is necessary if you were ever going to need to take legal action. In most cases with stickers, legal action would never be worthwhile. We suggest adding the “C” symbol on original material (it’s free) to discourage copying. We also recommend you do thorough internet searches yourself to determine how original and strong your idea is and that you are not infringing on someone else.
If you are using an original graphic, logo, or phrase that is integral to your business, you may need trademark protection. You can find much more information, forms, and answers to questions on copyrights and trademarks at: www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm
Selling sticker ideas –
As with any product idea, it is very difficult to sell sticker ideas. You could target a specific company with what you believe would be profitable products (stickers) but these companies usually have plenty of their own ideas. It makes more sense to initially create them and sell them your self. If it is properly protected and a huge hit you could then look, perhaps, towards distribution partnerships, licensing, etc. But these arrangements are rare.
Selling stickers yourself –
Many of our clients sell or distribute their stickers online. Selling directly to the public is always the most profitable. But, if you want to sell stickers off-line through retailers there are a few options. You can drive around pushing your wares to whoever will listen or you can find a sales rep to do it for you. We recommend finding a sales rep already selling to the stores you want to target with your product(s). They cover much more ground then you could on our own and are connected with other rep networks to cover even more ground. Sales Reps usually get a percentage of the sales they make. 15% is what one of our clients pays. Reps also will probably not be interested in one product. They want to represent a full line of desirable stickers and perhaps have display options – whatever helps promote and sell the products. As a general rule, retailers like having a 100% mark up.
If it sells to the end customer for $5, sell it to the store for $2.50. If stickers sell for $2 sell them to the store for $1.00. It is also desirable to sell them in quantity. You don’t want to deal with selling 10 stickers at a time (unless you are selling direct). Sell them to resellers/retailers in batches, perhaps 50, 100, 150, 200 with larger quantities having a better price. Encourage stores to buy more and make it worth their while. You also don’t want to deal with consignment – it’s a nightmare to keep track of. If anything, offer to buy back unsold merchandise after a certain amount of time has passed. But again, why encourage people buying larger quantities if you are going to buy it back (perhaps damaged). They then have paid less for the product.
Currently, there is no shortage of people with ideas. But, there will always be a shortage of people who care about the idea. Everyone thinks they have great ideas – I’ve had at least 3 great ones today. Executing the idea… distributing the idea… profiting from the idea – that is the difficult part. If you’ve got a great idea for a sticker product Websticker would love to help flesh it out into the best copy, design and product it can be. But we can’t help sell or distribute that product for you. Spreading the stickers (products) is your job.
Don’t worry about sharing ideas or protecting them. Share the idea, flush it out, and if it seems to resonate with people, get help making it the best it can be.
In a blog post Seth Godin (marketing guru) stated:
“So, how to protect your ideas in a world where ideas spread? Don’t. Instead, spread them. Build a reputation as someone who creates great ideas, sometimes on demand. Or as someone who can manipulate or build on your ideas better than a copycat can. Or use your ideas to earn a permission asset so you can build a relationship with people who are interested. Focus on being the best tailor with the sharpest scissors, not the litigant who sues any tailor who deigns to use a pair of scissors.”
I recommend you read Seth’s whole post, How To Protect Your Ideas In The Digital Age as it has some good information to think about regarding trademarks and copyrights.
Share your ideas freely, get feedback, do your homework on similar ideas or products, and if you decide to start a small business based on your idea be prepared to do the work. If an image or name is essential to success, trademark it.