Kenneth Johnson, inventor of the popular "Phase 10" card game, discusses the invention process.

Kenneth Johnson, inventor of the popular “Phase 10” card game, discusses the invention process.

Ken Johnson, a long-time inventor of card games, described four steps to bring products to market at the Feb. 25 meeting of the Jackson Inventors Network at its new meeting place: the Jackson College north campus. Johnson, who began his career with a business started in his parents’ Detroit basement, began selling to Michigan-based retailers Kmart and Meijer in early 1980s. He hit it big with “Phase 10,” which is today licensed to Mattel and has had numerous spinoffs. There is even a “Phase 10” app.

Johnson’s four recommendations include:

  • Evaluate the product or service, beyond just your own perceptions and those of friends and family. He play-tested “Phase 10” by asking people to read the instructions, and learn to play it, without any help from Johnson. He also recommended reviewing the industry you are entering, taking note of what the competition is doing
  • Prototype your product to test packaging among potential customers, but don’t spend too much money.
  • Evaluate the prototype and, if necessary, file for a provisional patent application (PPA). In some cases, it may make sense to get the PPA before evaluating the product, but it depends on the situation.
  • Licensing or venturing the product. Johnson produced “Phase 10” with his own company before licensing it to an established game maker. Once the track record of “Phase 10” was established, he was able to negotiate favorable licensing terms. He provided many suggestions and tips for avoiding licensing pitfalls.

Johnson is now also supporting inventors with the launch of The Inventors Academy, a provider of education, resources and community for inventors.


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