I have an invention that i am interested in selling (a hydraulic/direct drive continuously variable transmission, which can be used as a quasi-clutch/torque converter), and wonder what ways are possible to get the invention graded by prospective buyers without having filed a provisional? I have considered putting an NDA on ebay, and sharing the idea with anyone who buys the NDA (and completes it).
I can't be sure of the invention's viability or desirability. I am not a hydraulics expert, or even a trained engineer. Nobody has been willing to bid on what else I have for sale (cryptography-related), though there are people who keep track of the auctions. That's kind of understandable, since most online commerce would be insecure for some period of time if I'm correct. Also, most of my customers would likely be intelligence agencies, and probably don't want to bid for it on ebay. It occurred to me that maybe I could leverage ebay to sell some of the other things lying around in my head. The reason for not filing provisional first is to avoid abandoning it, and thereby giving it away for nothing. Made that mistake before.

  • Remember that the money is in the building of the object, not in the invention. Ideas have very low value until they are built into something.
    – David R
    Commented Feb 8 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


Saw the earlier discussion at the engineering stack, where we referred you here. Didn't want to get into the topic on that forum, but honestly, ebay or any online forum at all is totally unlikely to succeed here, since you're starting from 0. You need to have at least a bare minimum of trust, like at least belonging to some common activity or organization.

If your potential counterparty has a financial interest in the technical field, they may very well have more to lose than you signing an NDA, and they would from experience anticipate an investment in time fine-tuning the terms of an NDA. Would they even bother if it's a rando on ebay? no. But they might if they connect with you in a forum that has at least some minimal filtering function.

So typically the inventor needs to contrive a way to have something socially in common with the buyer. Perhaps belonging to some enterpreneurship networking situation (most universities run such orgs and are open to both random inventors and random investors). Perhaps a mutual acquaintance to act as an introduction - in your case a professional in the field. I'd follow those two lines to start with.

Secondly, when it's a prospective investor vs a small-time inventor, the power balance is such that they're pretty much doing you a favor if they sign anything at all. For that reason it's better to have some demonstration, however sketchy, of whatever advantage your tech is proposing to deliver. (i.e. without revealing the patentable secrets, or if that isn't possible, unfortunately you'd have to start the clock on the provisional patent,) Once again, partnering with someone in the field might be a good idea.

As to investing the work in a patent, or a provisional patent - while it's a risk, it has several huge benefits. Firstly, it's relatively straightforward to sell a patent. It's hard to sell an idea on a napkin. A provisional patent is probably closer to the napkin, they'd effectively have to contract you to complete the patent application process, they'd have no way to know whether they get it, or how much they spend by the time it's done, and it could take a couple years.

More immediately, having at least a provisional signals that you are serious about the project.

Lastly, it's a longshot and the odds are stacked against you, and even if you patent your invention, you and/or your buyer or licensee can still get screwed by the competition in a variety of ways (e.g. lets say you forgot to make your device resistant to soprano opera singers, which your market universally loves to listen to, and the experienced IP department at Volkswagen files a patent of {your thing + immunity vs opera} ... so now they blocked you) - and any buyer would be looking for such traps, so the whole thing might take a long time to work out, if at all.

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