It was seen that the works of founders of States, law-givers, tyrant-destroyers, and heroes cover
but narrow spaces and endure but for a time; while the work of the inventor, though of less pomp,
is felt everywhere and lasts forever.          - Francis Bacon Preface to a Treatise on Interpreting Nature

The Design of Everyday Things

Every inventor should take this free online course. Learn the basics of design and start observing and applying design principles.

How to Design Breakthrough Inventions

A CBS interview of IDEO founder David Kelley

How to Build a StartUp

In this free online course, learn the key tools and steps for building a successful startup (or at least reducing the risk of failure).

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

February 2019

Dave Zedonis (president, Indiana Inventors Association; principal, Z*Tech; patentee) treated us to a discussion on how to successfully invent and innovate.

Inventing is in our genes.  It gave our ancestors the edge they needed to prosper in hostile environments and gives us hope today for a better tomorrow.  Almost everyone invents to some extent and for a variety of reasons.

If you invent to make money, solve an important, widespread, and widely known problem.  Working or playing in any technical field will acquaint you with such problems.  Chatting with or surveying experts and workers in technical fields (eg, at trade shows) can do the same.  Solving such problems avoids a barrier to entering the market—the need to educate potential customers on the benefits of your invention.

Stick with a problem that interests you.  Solving an important problem can easily take 3 or 4 years.  Developing a working prototype of your invention can help you learn more about the problem and your solution, can help you teach potential investors and clients about your invention, and can help you avoid those Wile E. Coyote moments that all inventors dread.

If you want to change the world, don’t think that discovery ends with your invention.  Now you need to discover how to fit your invention into the marketplace.  Because you and your invention are unique, finding a good place in the market for your invention is up to you.  Either learn what to do or pay others for what they know.  Stephen Key, through his company, InventRight, offers free education and paid coaching on what to do.  Steve Blank offers free education on how to start a small business.  Our blog lists additional resources.  In general, don’t rely on invention companies; most give you no return on your investment.

Make your invention interesting to make others (investors, partners, customers) part of your story.  Some innovators patent their inventions or prevent others from doing so, other innovators forego patents and only build public awareness of their inventions.  Some innovators sell their inventions or license their inventions in exchange for a royalty of 5% of wholesale, others start their own businesses to sell embodiments of their inventions.  Some must cross‑license their inventions to gain the right to make, use, and sell them.  As with most business, negotiation is a must.

To learn more, please join us at our monthly meetings and tap into Mr. Zedonis’ extensive knowledge and experience.

Thank you, Mr. Zedonis, for sharing your expertise and enthusiasm with us!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

December 2018

Kenton Brett (granted 15 U.S. patents, see bottom of this page) displayed one of his inventions for K-5 math education and shared insights he gained from his years of innovation.

Innovation takes a lot of time and money, always more than you expect.

You can make things happen by sticking with an inventive project.

If you think of a good idea, someone else will think of it too.  So get to the patent office and to the market first.

Get unbiased validation of your idea before you spend a lot of time and money on it.

You can sell just an idea, but rarely.

You can get compensated for infringement of your patent by a big company.  License or sell your invention to a mid-sized company that will actively seek compensation from the big company.

Get a recommendation from your potential customers.

Focus on your core idea to get a cash flow that can fund the rest of your ideas.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Mr. Brett!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

October 2018

Michael Stokes (CEO, Waveform Communications; author, The Waveform Model of Vowel Perception and Production) summarized his progress since 2012 in developing a method of using waveforms and spectrograms to identify vowels in human speech.

Mr. Stokes’ model is currently the best for describing how people recognize spoken vowels.  A distinct set of vowels characterizes each language.  For example, English has ten vowels, Spanish five.  Each vowel of a language has a characteristic sound that underlies all dialects and individual pronunciations.  That characteristic sound can be visualized as spectrograms of three sound wave frequencies.  Although unpatentable as is (patent applications 14/223304 and 13/241780), a computer program (Elbow) based on the model accurately predicts spoken vowels from observations of the spectrograms.  A second program (Cobweb), especially useful to athletes, uses speech patterns to diagnose concussions in real time.

The model can be used to rapidly improve speech.  Mr. Stokes analyzes spectrograms of someone whose speech has been impaired by a stroke or by postoperative delirium or who is learning English as a second language.  Then he coaches the person on how to change the way s/he moves lips, tongue, and jaw to pronounce vowels correctly.

This model might also contribute to cross-species communication.  Humpback whales speak with vowels.  Learning how to pronounce their language(s) might help people learn how to warn them of the danger of approaching ships.

Thank you, Mr. Stokes, for sharing your interesting model with us!

Friday, September 7, 2018

September 2018

I knew that a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backways.
—Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

A patent helps to secure a place in the market for an invention.  That is why many inventors take time, make an effort, and pay a significant amount of money to patent their inventions.

Inventors often do not realize that grant of a U.S. patent is always conditional.  Like everyone else, patent examiners make mistakes.  The patent office (Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)) or a federal court can decide at any time during the life of a patent that the patent should never have been granted.  The result is an invalidated patent that provides no benefit to the patent owner.

Truth is often hard to ascertain and reasonable individuals can disagree on what the truth is.  Does our current patent system provide enough certainty for individual inventors and investors to risk innovation?  The recent documentary film, Invalidated: The Shredding of the U.S. Patent System, says no.  The movie argues that the patent office acts with intentional bias against individual inventors and that the office rationalizes, rather than justifies, its final decisions.  The America Invents Act (2011) encourages patent infringement and has significantly weakened our patent system and Constitutional protection of private property.

One focus of this movie is Josh Malone.  He invented and obtained patents for a system and method for quickly filling water balloons (U.S. patents 9051066, 9242749, 9950817, 9527612, 9315282, 9682789, and 9533779).  A company, Telebrands, immediately marketed a product very similar to Mr. Malone’s.  A federal court told Telebrands to stop infringing Mr. Malone’s patents and awarded his partner company $12 M in damages.  PTAB said that the federal court was wrong because several of the claims in Mr. Malone’s first patent were indefinite and therefore invalid.  This year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) told PTAB that it was wrong because the claims were definite and asked PTAB to decide instead whether some of the claims were invalid because they may have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in that technology.  (Remember, Mr. Malone and his partner companies are paying huge legal fees throughout all of this.)  Who knows what the final result will be.

Attempts are being made to rebalance our patent system, for example HR6557 and HR 6264.  Individual inventors would benefit from the proposed changes.

Many thanks to Dave Zedonis and Matt Thie for showing the movie to us!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

August 2018

Need help with designing or with building a prototype of your invention?  Or with preparing drawings for a patent application?

Wade Stallings (owner, D3DTechnologies; (463) 201-1777, in Indianapolis can help.  Using computer-aided design (SolidWorks and other CAD software) and 3-D printing with hard plastics (0.02 mm tolerances, each part as big as 8 inches high with a 7 inch x 7 inch base), Mr. Stallings (a recent graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) provides these services for $60/hour, usually with a maximum of 4 hours/project.  The total price of a project depends on the time/project and on the type and amount of plastic used in building a prototype.  Included in the price are a confidentiality agreement, all project files (CAD, pdf, etc.), and assignment of any and all patent rights to the client.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June 2018

Need help with product development?  Troy Mason (president, CEO, Impulse Product Development) has some good advice.

It’s hard to develop a popular product.  Start by setting a realistic goal for your invention.

Before your spend a lot of time and effort bringing your product to market, do some high quality customer research to see if forecasted sales meet your needs.  Your product might become a best-seller, but there won’t be one in every household.

Product development doesn’t start with a prototype.  Maybe you will eventually need a physical prototype, maybe you won’t.  The essence of some products can be displayed in a drawing or virtual prototype.  If you need a prototype, especially to test your product’s function as its design evolves, realize that the first prototype is never the last.  Professional help with prototyping is available, for example at Realize, Inc.

Product development can be expensive.  Before you decide to develop a product, estimate the total cost of doing so to see if you can afford it.  Mr. Mason’s company charges $150 per hour for design.  A patent typically costs at least $10,000.

If you decide that you need a patent, file a nonprovisional patent application only after you have a good idea of what your marketed product will be.  The general design of the product should be final, but you don’t need to know all of the details (amendment or addition of a picture claim in a well-written application during patent prosecution can take care of that).  In the meantime, filing one or more provisional patent applications can help secure your place as the first inventor-to-file (a requirement for getting a patent).  Remember that if a product developer (such as Mr. Mason) invents a claimed feature of your invention, your patent application must list the developer as an inventor.  (Inventing means thinking of something new and nonobvious that is beyond the ordinary skill of someone working in the technology of your invention.)

Spend at least half of your time and effort on learning how business works.  How will your product fit into the market?  Which business partners will you need?  Will bringing your invention to market be profitable?  Inventing is only a small part of innovating.

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us, Mr. Mason!

Patent Drawings by Richard McVicker

Some inventions patented by our members:

Bob Brand
3,179,907 Tuning system for television receivers
3,219,933 Television tuner switching system
3,241,072 Tuning control system
3,538,466 Television tuner cast housing with integrally cast transmission lines
4,503,740 Optical cutting edge locator for a cutting apparatus
4,503,896 Dog system for veneer slicer
4,601,317 Veneer slicing system
5,511,598 Veneer-slicer with remotely controllable blade angle adjustment
5,562,137 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
5,590,700 Vacuum flitch table with self-cleaning vacuum valve
5,678,619 Method and apparatus for cutting veneer from a tapered flitch
5,680,887 Veneer slicer with timing belt
5,694,995 Method and apparatus for preparing a flitch for cutting
5,701,938 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
5,819,828 Method and apparatus for preparing a flitch for cutting
5,868,187 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
7,395,843 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
7,552,750 Method and apparatus for cutting veneer sheets from a flitch

Kenton Brett
6023685 Computer controlled event ticket auctioning system
6704713 Computer controlled event ticket auctioning system
6907405 Computer controlled priority right auctioning system
7647269 Computer-based right distribution system with reserve pricing
7698210 Computer-based right distribution system
7720746 Computer-based right distribution system with password protection
7747507 Computer controlled auction system
7769673 Computer-based right distribution system with request reallocation
7992631 System and method for seasonal energy storage
8073765 Computer-based right distribution system with password protection
8128407 Method and system for teaching math
8538856 Computer-based right distribution system
8732033 Computer-based right distribution system with temporal variation
9614733 Methods and systems for reducing burst usage of a networked computer system
9900220 Methods and systems for reducing burst usage of a networked computer system

Rick Hanson
6,240,579 Unitary pedal control of brake and fifth wheel deployment via side and end articulation with additional unitary pedal control of height of patient support
6,253,397 Deployable siderails for a wheeled carriage
6,256,812 Wheeled carriage having auxiliary wheel spaced from center of gravity of wheeled base and cam apparatus controlling deployment of auxiliary wheel and deployable side rails for the wheeled carriage
6,264,006 Brake for castered wheels
6,507,964 Surgical table
D474,446 Sterilizable battery component

Bob Humbert
4,281,368 Keyhole illuminating apparatus

Ron Jackson
4,886,110 HVAC zone control system
4,943,039 Adjustable clamp
4,987,409 Level sensor and alarm
5,132,669 Level sensor with alarm
5,381,989 Adjustable spring clamp
5,944,098 Zone control for HVAC system
6,145,752 Temperature monitoring and control system
6,322,443 Duct supported booster fan
D347,596 Audible security alarm
D376,747 Door security device
Jerry McQuinn
D689,343 Universal Nutcracker

Richard McVicker
3,261,937 Three position snap switch utilizing interference blade means
3,319,477 Timer Escapement
3,332,704 Manually propelled treadmill vehicle
4,625,616 Thumb pick
6,309,076 Light barrier, screen or reflector
D240,237 Sculpture or the like
D356,653 Yard light
8389839 Thumb pick

Bill Pangburn
5,943,831 Device for Hauling Objects

Al Robbins
3,882,960 Ride quality control for surface effects craft
3,946,689 Air dynamo pressure regulation and modulation device for surface effect ships and air cushion vehicles
6,588,702 Lighter-than-air device having a flexible usable surface

Matt Thie
4,940,162 Rolled coin dispenser
4,844,446 Multiple-compartment currency stacker-sorter
4,940,162 Rolled coin dispenser
7,298,280 Lighted fluid flow indication apparatus
7,617,826 Conserver
8146592 Method and apparatus for regulating fluid flow or conserving fluid flow
8230859 Method and apparatus for regulating fluid

Richard Tucker
5,833,751 Powder coating booth having smooth internal surfaces
6,840,367 Material handling and manufacturing system and method
6,976,835 Manufacturing system and process
7,018,579 Manufacturing system and process

Don Walls
D707090 Torque key lever
RE36209 Door lock apparatus

Dave Zedonis
5,637,926 Battery powered electronic assembly for wheel attachment

Patent Document of the Month

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