Business success is an accomplishment that few obtain, and those that try will certainly endure demanding if not agonizing challenges every day. Sadly, in today’s economic climate the phrase “business success” is almost never heard, even when those striving for it give it everything they’ve got – their savings, their time, even their homes as collateral.
Business success is a relative term and each company has its own idea of what it means. The story of Applied Innovative Technologies (AIT) is a classic tale of a few entrepreneurial spirits struggling to sell their paradigm shifting products to the world. In the end, business success will be reached when their no battery LED flashlights are commonly used in homes, businesses and by military personnel around the planet. After 13 years AIT continues to strive for this goal, so as you can see business success is elusive!
On the path to business success, AIT has faced and survived numerous challenges. Perhaps the most severe was technology theft from China. Few people realize that patents afford little or no protection from technology theft abroad. The unfortunate truth is that if a product is marketable, it will be copied and unless a company has substantial financial resources, a patent alone won’t stop knockoff products from flowing across the border. Another unfortunate truth is that the U.S. government has no laws in place to prevent knockout products from entering the country. Currently, product ideas can be stolen and sold with impunity – ultimately undermining U.S. innovation. In many cases, knockoff products – because of their inferior quality – damage the market’s perception of the product. This is most certainly true with shake and crank flashlight technology
AIT’s technology was copied in 2003, and since then they’ve been powerless to stop Chinese companies from selling their flashlights in the U.S. In fact, AIT spent a tremendous amount of money battling patent infringement. In hindsight, if this money had been spent on marketing and product development and enhancement, it’s quite possible that business success might have been achieved at this point. The lesson then is simple; focus on brand recognition and product superiority; don’t even try to battle them legally.
One might wonder then, why bother getting a patent at all? The answer to this is three fold: First, owning a patent identifies you as the innovator and puts you on the high moral ground – you might be infringed but you will not be the infringer! Second, it adds power to your marketing effort – a patent number or a “Patent Pending” placed on your product, its packaging, and any other marketing material conveys quality to your buying audience. Finally, a patent adds value to your business and can always be licensed to reputable companies who are interested in replicating your product or need the technology as part of some other product they’re developing.
Given the challenges that AIT has faced and continues to face, it’s not uncommon for people to ask “How have you been able to survive?” Often, the founders of AIT wonder this very question. In the end it comes down to perseverance and a commitment to quality and exceptional customer service. They also realize that they will only lose if they give up. As Walt Disney was famous for saying, “Keep moving forward”.