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Why is the Chinese manufacturer on Alibaba asking me about the purpose of my product? Do I need to disclose?

cookiecat's Avatar

Hi, all, 

I'm new to this site but hoping I will hear from you. 

I have come up with an idea - actually have been developing it for about a year now, since I have been the one needing this particular product. It's a very simple cover that I'm considering using for a very specific purpose. The main thing is, this product requires just a sheet and some stitching. I have made the request on Alibaba and got 4 responses. We have done some back and forth about specifications, and based on their machinery capabilities I have specified what I need. The kind of material, size, stitching. Simple as that. I believe that this product would benefit many people; I have done my research with people with similar issues that I have at home, and realized that no one has the answer how to solve this issue - thus my idea, and my willingness to have it produced. But since I'm worried that the manufacturer would steal my idea, I have decided not to disclose the product's purpose, and to have it made just partially in China, and finalize it myself. But one of the four manufacturers keeps asking me what I will use the product for. I have ignored his question three times already, and I'm wasting energy thinking what I should say so they leave me alone and just do the sheet and send me a few samples. This is sort of me asking "cut me a board 2x2, paint it red with outdoor paint, and send me a sample". Are my worries justified? Does the manufacturer really need to know what my product is for? 

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magurn's Avatar

Hi Betty!

While I cannot advise on Alibaba's practices, if you're interested in submitting your idea to Edison Nation, our submission system is secure, and all ideas submitted to us are protected by the terms and conditions outlined in our Innovator agreement.

You can review details of our process and learn how we work with our innovator community by visiting the Edison Nation Help Page.

I'll let the community advise on Alibaba-specific experiences.

Best of luck whichever path you chose!

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kdc's Avatar

Tell them it's used for something completely different, if you're not under any agreement that states you have to disclose it's purpose. But, if you have three others that are interested and are not asking for details...I'd drop that one and go with one of the others. Did you ask them what their reason is for that information...if they refuse to tell you...I'd walk away from them.

David Pope
Elizabeth Crouch
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betzy's Avatarg8_badge

Kathleen answered with my exact thoughts...

We think alike a lot, lol!

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betzy's Avatarg8_badge

PS. Also, I highly recommend filing a patent application

Ralph Machesky
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allig's Avatarg8_badge

I would imagine they're asking for professional culpability reasons.  If you were asking them to manufacture something that was later used for criminal activities, that's an international dilemma they probably don't want on their hands.  In the current climate, If I were a manufacturer, I wouldn't be comfortable fabricating something that the company/person didn't want to tell me what it's for.

But that does leave you with the other real dilemma of possibly getting ripped off by a cheap manufacturer, so probably what Kathleen said, which is tell them it has a different use.

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keeztan's Avatar

From the manufacturer's side: You may have a specification of a particular component that they may have an alternative that is available to them or as a by-product of an existing project. If they understand the intended use there may be cost savings that they can pass on to you. For example a spec may call for styrofoam which is a branded product, where expanded foam or expanded styrene foam would meet the intended use. (as a point of info, there is no such thing as a styrofoam cup). Find out as much as you can about the manufacturer and the products they are producing for others. Often a look at their gallery of products will give you a reference to help in explaining your needs. ie. "similar to the product you show on your website on page 3, only larger".

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cookiecat's Avatar

I'm impressed by all these responses. Things I never thought about. What a great way to learn. Thank you all!

Michelle, I will definitely read about submitting my idea. I feel helpless at this point, have the idea, but no means of realizing it, without the fear of having my simple product copied by the world. 

Kathleen and Elizabeth, I tried to answer the manufacturer's question in different ways, I came up with different answers, but I guess they want specific, and I'm afraid to answer that. I guess I will ask them why the interest in the specific purpose, and see what they answer. Thank you! As far as the patent, I'm studying that, too. I have a thorough description but get a bit stuck with the claims - that needs to be carefully crafted, and I would need an attorney, which isn't cheap. 

Alli and Mark, never thought about it that way. Those are plausible reasons. I need to slow down and better understand the process and reasoning. 

Thank you all for being here and contributing. 

Michelle Sartori
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cookiecat's Avatar

Thank you, Roger! Excellent input. Definitely something to consider. 

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kimmyk's Avatargold

Just from a personal point of view, I would be more enthusiastic about attention to detail when manufacturing the product piece if I knew what it was for.  Just as an example, if I was asked to make a plastic tube, I would be more cognizant and exacting of the specifications if I knew it was a catheter as opposed to a plumbing item.  I would imagine the folks churning out the same piece day after day would want that satisfaction of seeing the product come together into a complete form.  Random pieces would not excite me.  Guess that's why I don't work in a factory.

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keeztan's Avatar

I agree with Roger on this one. Manufacturers want you to succeed, that's their bread and butter. Think of them as specialists in their field. In many cases they may have already encountered a similar situation or desired effect and can save you the work of overcoming obstacles. Architects and engineers can design great things but it's the guy hammering the nails that knows what will work or not!

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sunto's Avatar

The problem with companies not real specialising in a certain field is poor quality products being supplied. This is no good to nobody and a recipe for disaster. You may pay good dollars and get a bag of crap in return. 

I am looking at more uk supplies as I can control product quality easier .  China seems to be quoting higher prices at the moment . And you may still get a bag of crap.

Sorry guys it is what it is .

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sunto's Avatar

You are dead right Rodger but for a small guy starting up it may not be that simple .

You can receive great samples sign them off a get crap .The thing about returning products and replacement is time and lost sales because you can't products your products. That's why I said use the right company to do the job not some company that says it will have a go. Having your own man in China is the best way but  maybe not as simple as you make out . We had a discussion last night and found that uk manufacturing was not that much more expensive and no extra import tax paper work etc . You guys go for manufacturerd and born in the USA and I should go for Made in the Great Britain and proud of it.

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sunto's Avatar

That happens in the uk and has been going on for a long time . My mum worked for a local sewing factory about 40 years ago that imported cloths etc then they just re-labeled with made in Britain. Probably the label was made in Britain. 

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kimmyk's Avatargold

I guess we all agree then, Betty... answer their questions!!

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en1501's Avatar

In many cases, there is no need to tell your component makers what the final product does, unless you want them to chime in and start re-designing your final product.  I'd bet they are phishing for free IP to borrow.  I have all sorts of custom parts made by laser, waterjet, lathe, etc. and nobody has ever asked what the final assembly does.  All of my parts are make in the USA and many of them are for photography gear.  It is very helpful to make parts nearby so you can quickly and easily verify that everything is being done exactly as needed. 

David
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psinventor's Avatargold

Hi Betty,

I am dealing with China right now importing 250 widgets.  There is a whole lot that they need to know to get the order right especially if you are sending it to Amazon.

   After talking to different suppliers for the last few months about multiple products I realize that some of them are manufacterers and some of them are middle men. 

The conversations usually starts out with a reply by a female face as point of contact and a very kind letter that reads more like a dating website. At the end of the day their job is to sell you the the most widgets as they can for the highest price. 

   That is just dealing with wholesale. As for sending them your invention , you are right to worry. If you had something good you can bet that the guy you had print out 1000 pieces actually made 2000 and is selling them under a different label .

  If I were you I would try and get your product made locally where you might be able to drive to their building and inspects production first hand. 

    

Ralph Machesky
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countofmontecristo's Avatar

^THIS

Spot on Jim!

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chappy75's Avatar

this harkens back to one of Roger's lessons... "Can you say it without saying it?". That is the skill set I used with Chinese  battery supplier. Once I let them know that the application was Marine, they actually sent me to another factory a sister factory that specialized in vehicles not trinkets. They measured in milliamps; the solution I needed measures in amps. If I wasn't able to "say it without sayin it" I may have anxiety over them having too much information or worse gotten sent the wrong product.

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crystaldiane's Avatar

Hi please check out the resources offered by Makers Row here in the USA. For a relatively small fee they can match you with people here, stateside or offshore.  They also have a free set of classes which do a great job of explaining the outsourcing process.   I also recommend you pick up a copy of Rogers ebook, common sense inventing. This is worth the few dollars you will spend - and possibly/probably save you a great deal of frustration and aid you in your decision making.

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