Q: On your Christmas radio show, I spoke to you regarding an invention idea I had. You advised me on a couple of options and direction on getting started investigating the patent as well as some marketing suggestions.

Well, after some research, I’ve discovered that a patent does exist, from 2002, on almost my same idea. I have been looking in stores for this item, and it does not exist to my knowledge, on the retail level. I am deflated.

My question to you – is the idea still worth pursuing? Should I pursue this through one of the companies that researches ideas and markets for you?

Any advice at this point will be helpful.

A: I remember your call. I’m sorry that a patent for your idea does exist, but it’s a lot better to find that out now, than down the road.

Is there something you can do to improve on the design? Can you make it different in some meaningful way? And while you can’t find the item in the stores, you should thoroughly use the online search engines to see if this is being made and sold somewhere in the world.

If not, you can always contact the patent holder to find out more information about what happened with the patent. If you feel as though you have a way to make this work, you can offer to partner with the patent holder or ask if you can “license” his or her idea and then go and make your own product.

You should consult with a top patent attorney before you make the patent holder an offer.