Where can I find a partner to help distribute a product under my license for the IP?

Hello, I have a new product that was recently patented by me, and I’m looking to find a partner to develop and distribute it. I am open to selling the legal rights to a buyer and no longer be involved. But I would also be open to finding distribution partners who would distribute the product under my license for the IP. Can anyone assist me with possible companies or directories where I might find a suitable match? The products are a leisure sports activity for use in winter and summer, both for children and adults.  Do you think I would need to make a prototype or could I sell the idea with drawings? Thank you in advance for any assistance you may provide.


Before you do anything, make sure your IP is protected in both the major markets your product may be sold in PLUS China. If you have coverage in US but not in China and somebody knocks off your idea in the PRC, you will need to fight a long uphill battle. Luckily the costs to register your IP are fairly low in China and I would be happy to introduce an English speaking Chinese attorney who has helped me with these issues if you need support.

It looks like there are two fundamental options. Both with pros and cons.

Option one is to sell your IP to an interested party and let them develop the product and market it. You could be paid a one off sum or perhaps an ongoing royalty depending on how you negotiate things.  The interested party could be an entity in your home market or in China. I don’t have a lot of experience connecting inventors with investors, but I suspect that if you will find more success dealing with a buyer/licensee in your market rather than trying to convince a Chinese entity to buy the rights to your product.    While the IP protection is getting better in China, it is still hard to monitor and enforce infringement. If you had to take your idea around on a “dog and pony” show in China to find investors, I would be very worried about getting knocked off.  The potential buyers of your idea who are based in your home market will probably have closer connections to the retail side of things and be in a better position to put a value on your idea, as opposed to the Chinese suppliers who may be very far up the supply chain with not as much visibility about the consumer side of things.

If your invention is not your day job, then the advantage above is obviously the quick pay off on your idea. But if you have the capital and expertise to develop your idea and take it to market, then you may want to consider manufacturing the product and distributing it on your own, especially if you believe it has great potential and the investors don’t offer a number that makes you happy.  But manage your expectations as taking a product from concept to delivery is a time consuming complex and expensive process. There are sourcing agents like the ones listed at http://chinasourcinginfo.org/endorsed-service-providers/ who can help with the development on the China side, but it would be up to you to pioneer the marketing back home.  Unfortunately, most inventors are not also great finance, sales and marketing people. So know where your strengths and weaknesses are and pick a strategy accordingly.

Without knowing a bit more about your concept, it is hard to answer your question about selling the idea based on drawings vs. a sample.  But should you start looking for a Western buyer for your idea, they may be more open to making a decision based on drawings only. But regardless if China or the West, assuming your prototyping process is not expensive (that is a big assumption) then the physical sample in hand is a great selling tool. If you need support with taking the concept from design to prototype, I can introduce some engineers that have done good work for me in the past.

My background is more on the sourcing side rather than distribution and licensing, and I am not familiar with a website where inventors can go to find buyers of their ideas, but if you do find such a website, please let me know as I would like to educate myself in this area too.

Wishing you successful China sourcing!

Question answered by Mike Bellamy, host of “Ask the Experts” at the China Sourcing Information Center.

Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center (www.ChinaSourcingInfo.org). He is also the author of, “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing” (chinasourcinginfo.org/book) and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions (www.PSSchina.com )

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