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).

Friday, November 30, 2007

November 2007 Summary

Inventors in our group gave us insight this month into the real world of innovation. Having a good idea and making a few items is just the start. You need to be creative, take risks, establish personal contacts, and persevere. A little luck helps too! What should you invent? Start with what you know best - the field in which you work. Ron Jackson (Jackson Systems), who works in the field of heating & air conditioning, has invented some 35 products (mostly unpatented) in that field. He believes that if you have a good idea, understand marketing, and beat others to the marketplace, you have a good chance of dominating the market. Protecting that advantage with a patent may be a good idea if your invention is unique and you think someone might infringe. How do you create a place for your invention in the marketplace? Let the public know about your invention. Bob Dunlap (The Cement Solution) brings attention to his Reusable Concrete Mixing Bag in a YouTube video, in holding the Guiness Book World Record of fastest concrete mixer, and by appearing on HGTV coverage of the 2007 National Hardware Show. A video can attract viewers to your website. And website data can surprise you - Bob learned that over 75% of his website customers are women who like the convenience of mixing concrete without creating a mess. How do you finance early stages of innovation? The first sources of funding are often yourself, friends, and family. Matt Thie (Ameriflo) and others helped us understand that a prototype of your invention can:
  • lead you to optimize your invention before you invest in manufacturing
  • help you gain investors - reality is more persuasive than possibility
  • help you test the market - does your invention have the "Gee Whiz! factor" in the eyes of consumers?
You also need to think about manufacturing and distribution. You may pay less for a large order from a manufacturer, but this increases your risk of losing money from unsold items. If you plan to export items, you may need to label your product in various languages. Don't forget about pricing, shipping, taxes, and collecting debt.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

October 2007 Summary

Mr. John Daniluck of the law firm Bingham McHale spoke to us about recent actual and potential changes to the patent system. As of 11/1/2007, there are two major changes to Title 37 - Code of Federal Regulations:
  1. In seeking patent protection for an invention, you are limited to filing one family of 3 patent applications (1 original application and 2 continuation applications) and 1 request for continued examination of an application, unless you make a "showing" of why you need more.
  2. Each of those applications is limited to 5 independent claims and 25 total claims (allowing you 15 independent claims and 75 total claims for the family of applications), unless you present an examination support document for all the claims of that application.
These changes could affect your strategy for best protecting your invention. You may want to consult a patent attorney/agent. More change may be on the way. On 9/7/2007 bill HR 1908 passed the House. If the bill passes the Senate, U.S. patent law will likely change from granting a patent to the "first inventor", to granting a patent to the "first inventor to file" a patent application. Learn more and contact your Senators to make sure they include your interests in their actions. "First inventor" has been a cornerstone of the small inventor's success. Although "first to file" will help harmonize U.S. patent law with the rest of the world (particularly advantageous to big corporations), it may hinder the small inventor's success. We thank Mr. Daniluck for helping us understand these significant changes. Note: On 10/31/2007 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Virginia issued a Preliminary Injunction enjoining the USPTO from implementing the changes in the Claims and Continuations Final Rule. Therefore, the changes to the rules of practice in the Claims and Continuations Final Rule, including the October 10 clarifications, did not go into effect on November 1, 2007. USPTO employees are to continue processing and examining patent applications under the rules and procedures in effect 10/31/2007, until further notice.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

September 2007 Summary

Marketing strategist Ms. Judy Knafel of Element Three helped us understand one of the most challenging topics with which an inventor must deal - the basics of marketing an invention - with a presentation entitled "Marketing in the Mix". Sooner or later, nearly every inventor must learn how to persuade a client to part with hard earned funds for a product that may seem far less valuable to the client than it does to the inventor. As defined by the American Marketing Association, "marketing is the process of planning and then executing the product, pricing, promotion, and place of ideas, goods, or services to create exchanges and satisfy individual and organizational NEEDs." Start with a business plan, which reveals opportunities a marketing plan can then exploit. In developing your marketing plan, think about:
  1. the end users of your product. Who are they? Where are they? How many are they? How will your product benefit them and improve their lives? Realize that most people base their decision to buy on emotion, which they later justify with reason. If you can't answer these questions, you may need to return to your workshop and improve your invention.
  2. your specific marketing goals and strategies. Do you want more customers? Better customers? More loyal customers? More customer awareness of your product? Better employees? Do you want your message to be distributed by radio, TV, newspaper, mail, cell phone, website (becoming more popular, and gives you information about your target group), in person?
  3. your competitors. Who are they? Don't forget about indirect competition.
  4. your marketing budget, based on a sales forecast. Do you have the money for this, or do you need financial help?
  5. your place in the market, based on a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
  6. your product and its life cycle, design, branding, packaging and distribution, production strategies, pricing, and customer service.
If you are short on marketing dollars, imagine ways to attract attention to your company. Become recognized as an expert in your field, network online (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, blogs), do "buzz marketing" (word of mouth), personal canvassing, or put a sign on your truck, car, or T-shirt. Read "Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days" (ISBN-10: 1932531297). When you begin marketing, focus on the one thing you do best. One market, one feature, one message, one audience. If you are successful - great! If not, study and build on your partial successes. How? Get help from: Marketing isn't perfect - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. You can't wait for perfection. We certainly appreciate Ms. Knafel's sharing this informative evening with us.

August 2007 Summary

Joe Palestino from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) guided our discussion. He helped us understand how important a business plan is, not just as a required document which can determine funding, but as an overall guide to the whole business enterprise helping the inventor succeed. SCORE executives offer someone starting a new business a great combination of needed attributes. Each has worked in a managerial capacity for many years in areas unfamiliar to inventors. Unlike operators who view the newcomer as a cash cow, SCORE charges fees that are the minimum consistent with good advice. SCORE is a service group with a genuine personal interest in you and in your success. SCORE offices are distributed widely, so you can meet with an executive within reasonable distance.

Friday, August 10, 2007

July 2007 Summary

Chuck Bower introduced us to Endgame Technologies. He and his colleagues are marketing Zeus, a software tool that helps football coaches make decisions on calling the best plays, to National Football League teams. Zeus correlates data from past games to set up a multivariable simulation of a game in progress. With skilled inputs from several variables, the system provides a coach with an accurate, statistically objective path to maximize a coach's skill with game winning chance. Zeus has generated a lot of interest, but no sales yet. Zeus has a lot of potential and is customizable for poker, NASCAR, military activities, medicine, education, and business. We are eager to see what the next step in Zeus' evolution will be.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

June 2007 Summary

Mr. Matt Thie spoke on the subject of starting a business from an idea. Sometimes a business begins quite informally, with few rules. But as it develops, various points to consider arise. Such as:
  1. Where will the money come from? He who has the gold often makes the rules.
  2. Will the usual business functions be covered? Accounting, purchasing, material control, engineering, sales, supervision, inspection, manufacturing, regulatory compliance, insurance, shipping, etc.
  3. What legal form will the business have? Sole proprietor, partner, corporation? Read up on the various forms and talk to a lawyer.
  4. Will the group work well together?
  5. Does your proposed business have a real chance at success, or is your idea likely to be made obsolete by competitors who simply patent and market a better product than yours?
  6. Is your business legal, or does it inadvertently infringe another's patent?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

April 2007 Summary

Mary Lewis of Marydesigns gave us some insight into the world of the internet. Your website is your ticket to the future of commerce! The internet will be essential to future shoppers and researchers. We learned that everyone in the business of web designs brings a little something different to their client. Mary gives you the right to own her work product. Website costs vary greatly, depending on content and complexity. $500 is about the minimum cost, and an average cost is more like $2350. Changes can increase costs. And recurring costs for a hosting service approximate $120 per year, for a domain name approximate up to $35 per year. Get a domain name you want ASAP, and get many permutations of the name, the suffixes (.net, etc.) and even negatives of the name. This helps you prevent others from associating themselves with your success.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

January 2007 Summary

Mr. James Richardson of the law firm Brinks, Hofer, Gilson & Lione spoke to us about recent developments in patenting and gave us his thoughts on possible future developments. Patent litigation is expensive and should be avoided if possible. Most individuals cannot afford patent litigation. Some legal firms will take a case on a contingency basis, but you must convince them you have a good case. Few firms will take a case that has damages under $10 million. It will cost the firm perhaps $1½ - 2 million to handle the case. Litigation occurs in a federal court, and can last as long as 2 years. The U.S. Supreme Court has final jurisdiction. In response to one of its recent rulings, the patent office is increasing the stringency of the standard of "nonobviousness" - a patentability requirement for the subject matter of a patent application. An increasing number of companies based in Taiwan and China are now seeking U.S. patents. The Congress is considering legislation that would give the public the right to challenge an issued patent in the patent office, and that would grant a patent to the first inventor to file a patent application (rather than our current grant to the first inventor to invent). We certainly thank Mr. Richardson for his presentation and look forward to hearing from him next time.

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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