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).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 2009

Want to realize the market value of your invention?  Create an image of your invention that attracts the market (people willing to buy and invest in your invention, products and services that embody your invention, and a small business that connects your invention to the market).  Rachel Jackson (of Peacock Publicity & Marketing Services) offered us practical advice on how to develop and manage relationships with credible reporters (bloggers, broadcasters, and journalists) who can help us to create forceful meaningful images of our inventions and to relate those images to the public.

Start with a business that gives meaning to your image.
Stock enough service capacity and products for expected sales, provide a convenient ordering system based on current technology, and use a robust customer service plan.  Predict risks and plan solutions for them.  Most importantly, communicate!  Tell your customers what to expect from you (and tell them if you are temporarily overwhelmed), ask them how they heard about you and what their thoughts are about your business.  Treat every link to a new customer as if it were gold.

"It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much." - Yogi Berra
There are advantages in hiring a public relations professional to design and build your image.  A professional knows what images attract the market, has credibility with reporters, and knows how to get things done - like how to start and maintain an interesting conversation with the market.

With patience and hard work, you can create your own image.
Help yourself by collecting and organizing all of your public relations information in a binder divided into 8 sections:
  • Goals     Relevant, newsworthy, timely.  Tie them to economic or demographic trends. 
  • The industry and its potential press outlets  
    • Who is your market and where are they?  
    • Who can help you communicate with your market?  
      • Bacon's radio directory: directory of radio stations programming contacts.  Indianapolis library call number 384.54025 BAC.  
      • Bacon's business media directory: directory of print and broadcast business media.  Indianapolis library call number 659.2025 BAC.  
      • Gale directory of publications and broadcast media.  Indianapolis library call number 071.3025 GAL.  
      • http://www.helpareporter.com/ 
      • Magazine mastheads that identify editors and circulation size  
  • Angles     Give them a reason to care.  Reporters are credible because they care about their audience, not about you.  Tell a story that will interest a particular reporter’s audience.  Is your business new, selling a new product, helping to solve an important problem, the focus of a large group’s attention, or part of a popular trend?  Find out what interests audiences by searching a library subscription database (such as EBSCOhost), http://blogsearch.google.com/, or http://technorati.com/ for terms related to your product or service.  
  • Press materials     Just the facts.  A reporter, not you, decides whether your business is interesting.  Fit your facts to each reporter and audience.  Describe an interesting problem that the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your business solves.  Back up your claims with case studies and testimonials.  Consider giving reporters easy access to this information by putting it on your website.  
  • Calendars  
    • General  
      • Chase's annual events. Indianapolis library call number 394.26.  
      • Trade show dates, holidays, and events that help or hurt promotion of your business.  
    • Strategic  
      • Time your press releases to help reporters.  Maybe John Doe publishes an article about noteworthy inventors on the third Monday of each month.  
  • Contacts     Create a directory of reporters and record your communications with them - who, what, when, where, why, and how.  
  • Tracked clips and media     Know where you have been.  Record all of your publicity.  
  • Plans for enhancing a placement     Maximize return on your investment in public relations.  
    • Quantify queries and sales from your website, and figure out why people visit your website but don’t buy.  
    • Help your customers, investors, vendors, media, website viewers, and Twitter followers believe in your business by telling them about any publicity you receive. Others like your business; they should too.  
    • Give your publicity momentum.  
Thank you Ms. Jackson for sharing your expertise in public relations with us!

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 2009

Ms. Christine Best Perkins, inventor of FidoRido, a car seat for dogs (see video in left panel), shared with us some of her ongoing experiences as an innovator.  Her presentation and the ensuing discussion offered practical insights into the world of the inventor. 

The need.  Ms. Perkins got a puppy and immediately realized that she needed to protect both her dog and herself during car rides together.  How could she make the ride fun for her dog while keeping her dog off of her face, from between her foot and the brake pedal, and from falling out of the window? 

The solution – a car seat for dogs – included a molded container (originally a cat litter box), a dog harness that could be strapped to different areas of the container, a cushion that elevated the dog high enough to see out the window, and a removable pouch for carrying small items.  At home, her dog could use the car seat as a bed or (frown) as a bathtub. Mr. Craig Thompson suggested that she focus on finalizing the development of her core car seat before developing accessories such as a leash for independent sale. 

Legal protection.  Ms. Perkins obtained the legal benefit of a patent which gave her the right to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell or selling, or importing her invention in the United States.  This patent lets her protect dog owners and their dogs while earning enough profit to grow her business to protect more dog owners and more dogs. 

Manufacturing.  All FidoRido parts are made by companies located within a few hours drive of Indianapolis, allowing Ms. Perkins to remain directly involved in the manufacturing process. Nevertheless she constantly evaluates new opportunities to reduce manufacturing costs.  Current manufacturing costs are too high for her to profit by selling retail, so she sells directly to consumers over the internet.  The audience suggested that she consider offering both her current product, and a new product that could be manufactured at lower cost for profitable retail sales. 

Financing.  Ms. Perkins found that funding growth of a small business can be difficult.  An accountant (her husband) improved her financial situation by helping her to efficiently direct the use of her funds.  Mr. Thompson solved the chicken and the egg problem (which came first?) by suggesting that, even though a loan is hard to get, a bank might offer a loan based on the collateral of one purchase order from one major retailer. 

Marketing and Sales 
     - Attention by association is a great way to market a product. Give your product to a celebrity who will use it publicly and inquiring minds will want to know where they can buy it. 
     - A professional web site developer benefits Ms. Perkins, who sells her invention only on the internet. 
     - Marketing to targeted audiences (such as bazaars that emphasize novelty, the Humane Society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and to pet store chains) can efficiently increases sales. 
     - And, of course, public praise of a good product is a wonderful marketing tool. Ms. Perkins and FidoRido have been featured by MSNBC, Dr. Laura, Inside INdiana Business, and Rainmakers; she was named Indianapolis Small Business Development Center 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year; and she won the first Entrepreneurs’ Alliance of Indiana “Entrepreneurs Challenge Award”. 

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Ms. Perkins. Best of luck with FidoRido!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 2009

Mr. Marcelo Copat and Mr. Dan Lechleiter, patent attorneys from Baker & Daniels LLP, treated us to a very useful discussion of patent fundamentals.  Here are just a few of the highlights (you should'a been there ...).

In exchange for disclosing your invention to the public in an issued patent the U.S. government gives you a set of negative property rights.  You don't get the right to benefit from your invention, but you do get the right to stop others from benefiting for the duration of the patent.  What good is that? Many inventors cast their inventions upon the waters of the market, and a patent helps prevent dilution of any profit the market might return.  By excluding others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing your invention in the U.S. you:
      • may dominate (or at least position yourself well in) the market, by eliminating most competitors and by persuading most of the rest to cooperate with you;
      • in so doing, increase the desire of companies to license (rent) or buy your invention;
      • add the value of your patent (which, like most other property, can be bought, sold, and taxed) to your company's assets;
     • increase your reputation as an inventor or innovator. 

The U.S. grants a patent to the first inventor of an invention, not necessarily to the first person to file a patent application for that invention.  How do you show you invented first?
      • Record your thoughts and actions in detail, in a bound notebook.  Just the facts; no opinions.  Test results are what they are; don't comment on them.  You, and a non-inventor witness who understands what you are doing and who signs a nondisclosure agreement, sign and date every page.
      • Record the event and date of conception - the date you think of the final detailed idea of your complete working invention, as it will be sold and used.  Also, you might send via the post office a letter to yourself that includes all the details needed to enable someone like yourself to make and use your invention.  Don't open the letter; just save it as evidence.
     • Record the event and date of reduction to practice (the last step of inventing) - the date you finish building and testing (if necessary) a physical working model of your invention, or the date you file a patent application. 
     • Keep working on your invention between the date of conception and the date of reduction to practice, and record what you do.  For example, record and date your order of materials that will take 6 months to arrive.  This is evidence of your diligence, of your one continuous act of inventing. 

Be careful about publicly disclosing your invention.  Once you do, you have 1 year to file a patent application.  Wait an extra day to file, and you are out of luck.  So how can you find out whether the cost and effort of patenting your invention is likely worthwhile?  One way is to ask people if they would be interested in buying an unspecified product that could provide a specific benefit.   If you need to disclose any enabling details about your invention to a particular person, avoid public disclosure by having that person sign a sound confidentiality agreement.  Realize that many so-called nondisclosure agreements won't protect you from anything.

Many inventors like the idea of filing an inexpensive ($110 for a small entity) provisional patent application.  The patent office doesn't examine the content of a provisional application, and you don't gain anything from a provisional application unless you follow through by filing a later nonprovisional patent application.  A poorly constructed provisional application is like a bad haircut - some can be fixed, some can't - and it can dissuade an otherwise interested company from licensing your invention.  So why file a provisional application? 
     • Get a file date for whatever enabling disclosure you include.  This is evidence of your interest in patenting your invention, and helps prove you invented before someone else. 
     • Label your product "patent pending" and operate without fear of post-filing public disclosure preventing a patent. 
     • Delay the cost and formality of filing a nonprovisional patent application by 1 year.
     • During that 1 year, continue to file other provisional applications as you improve your invention, and combine them into one nonprovisional application at the end of the year. 
     • If at the end of the year you decide not to file a nonprovisional application, and you haven't publicly disclosed your invention, your invention remains a secret. 

Draft your patent claims to impale an infringer you would take to court.  If two parties would collaborate to infringe one of your claims, which party would you sue? 

How much does a U.S. nonprovisional utility patent cost a small entity? 
     • Minimum application fees: $462. If you get the patent, add publication and patent issue fees: $1055. 
     • To keep your patent, add $490 at 3½ years, $1240 at 7½ years, and $2055 at 11½ years. 
     • If you have to enforce your patent in court, plan on spending from $650,000 (less than $1 million at risk) to $5.5 million (more than $25 million at risk). 

Enforcing your patent rights against infringement usually involves three steps: 
     1. Evaluate a potentially infringing product to see if it really conflicts with your patent claims. 
     2. If it does, tell the infringer. You could: 
          • simply state that the infringer's product conflicts with your claims;
          • ask the infringer to stop infringing; 
          • file a complaint with the court, but before serving it, tell the infringer a suit is pending (this is good incentive for the infringer to reach an agreement with you); 
          • file and serve the complaint. 
     3. If the infringer stops infringing, case closed.   If the infringer wants to continue to benefit from your invention, maybe you can agree on a licensing deal.  If necessary, take legal action to stop the infringement. 

Thank you for this great presentation, Mr. Copat and Mr. Lechleiter!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 2009

A prototype can help you to see whether your invention works, to identify ways to improve its appearance and function, and to communicate it to the world of business and law. A prototype made of plastic is attractive and affordable, and can be made quickly. Mr. Andrew Nehrt (812-522-4433, proformplastics@verizon.net) of Pro-Form Plastics, Inc. (manufacturer of heavy-gauge [.03-.5" thick] molded plastics, non-metallic material [foam, felt, plastic, etc.] cut by steel-rule die, and customized wood shipping containers) spoke to us about the different designs, methods, plastics, and tools he uses to build prototypes. The method of thermoforming uses a vacuum to fit a rectangular sheet of heated plastic (3x4' to 5x9') to a mold of a product part (remember the Vac-u-form toy from years ago?). Before being fit to a deep mold, the plastic is stretched with a felt-covered plug. Plastic shrinks while cooling on the mold, so designing the mold with at least 2 degrees of draft angle makes separation of the plastic from the mold easier and less expensive. Several kinds of plastic, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, can be thermoformed.
  • HDPE/LDPE/PP (high density polyethylene/low density polyethylene/polypropylene) can be used to make things like a gasoline tank. It is tough, resists chemicals and weather, and is relatively inexpensive. However it is dull and pliable.
  • ABS (acetonitrile butadiene styrene) is durable, stiff, glossy, and can be used for detailed parts However it cracks under stress, does not resist chemicals, and is expensive.
  • HIPS (high impact polystyrene) provides good detail, stiffness, and formability, and is the least expensive of these plastics. However it is brittle, unsuited for stress, and does not resist chemicals.
  • Polycarbonate (Lexan) is clear, stiff, tough, and resists scratching. However it is amorphous (needs to dry), hard to form, and expensive.
  • Acrylic (Plexiglass) is easy to form, somewhat clear, and relatively inexpensive (half the cost of polycarbonate). However it is brittle, scratches easily, and can't be used for detail.
The mold can be made from different materials, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
  • Wood (especially mahogany, which lasts and doesn't leave an imprint of its grain in the plastic product) is good for prototypes and small production runs of products made of ABS/styrene.
  • Aluminum (machined or cast) allows temperature control during cooling, is an inexpensive (~ 30% the cost of an injection mold) way to make a long-lasting tool, and is good for making prototypes out of any of the listed plastics.
  • Epoxy/Ren/Gypsum performs a little better than wood, is significantly more expensive than wood, and is good for limited production using ABS/styrene.
Mr. Nehrt generously offered to act as a resource for inventors. So don't hesitate to contact him about your planned prototypes. Thank you for all of this useful information, Mr. Nehrt!

Monday, August 3, 2009

SPECIAL EVENT

Please join us Saturday August 15, 2009 for a free Innovation Roadshow workshop! This is a great opportunity for those who are ready to get their ideas out to the world. 

The workshop will be held with the Cincinnati inventors group at Eureka Ranch, near Cincinnati, OH from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  If you would like to join a carpool, please contact Dave Zedonis (dzedonis@comcast.net). 

What will happen
In the morning, an instructor sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce╩╝s NIST/MEP organization will help you become a persuasive salesperson for your product.  The instructor will help you express your ideas in language that excites business buyers, licensees, investors, distributors, manufacturers, etc (i.e., “buyers”). In the afternoon, you have the option of submitting your invention online to the USA National Innovation Marketplace.  (You will need a laptop computer to do this. If you don't have a laptop, you may be able to share another's laptop.)  Your invention will be advertised online for at least 6 months through the NIST/MEP Network.  You will also get a free market research report (worth $2,000) that provides an annual sales forecast, development & protection status, probability of success, fair market royalty, and more.

Get the Most Out of This Workshop 
Before the workshop, go to PlanetEureka and look at a few Market Research Reports and at the questions that will help you submit your invention online. Patent protection of your invention is desirable, but not mandatory. If you don't have patent protection, you can say what your invention is, discuss its benefits, and even provide testimonials. But do not divulge HOW your invention achieves its benefits or results. 

See you there!

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 2009

Inventors solve problems.  What kind of problem do you want to solve?
     You might decide to solve a technical problem.  The benefit of your better mousetrap might be that it traps every mouse in the house overnight.  You would be pleasantly surprised if the world beat a path to your door, but your goal is to trap mice.
     Or you might decide to solve a financial problem, by inventing a machine that moves money from the market to you.  Your mousetrap is an important, novel, and personalizing part of that machine.  But other parts are important too, such as those that help you replicate, package, communicate, distribute, and sell your mousetrap to the world.     Mousetraps vary in design and effectiveness; so do money moving machines.  This month the Indiana Inventors Association met to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of some parts that you can combine with your mousetrap to build your money moving machine. 

Who has the money you want? 
Choosing to solve an industrial problem can make the rest of your work easier.  An industrial, more than an individual, consumer is likely to recognize the value of a good technical invention.  So a money moving machine (focused on manufacturing and distribution) for an industrial consumer is simpler than for an individual consumer.  You can develop an entire money moving machine, or you might opt for plug-and-play.   Licensing your technical invention to a company lets you plug it into that company’s established money moving machine.  You get less profit, but you don’t have to develop and use a money moving machine. 

How can you tell the world about your technical invention? 
A licensee can be your spokesman. But first, you need to get a licensee.  Contact companies that sell a product similar to yours.  If they are not interested in licensing your technical invention, contact their competitors, their manufacturers, their suppliers, etc.  If you can’t walk in through the door, climb in through a window.  That’s what inventors do.   Two tools can help you persuade a company to license your technical invention: 

  • Product sales sheet   One 8.5x11” piece of paper (usually one page) that displays:
    • a good picture or drawing of your invention
    • a big one-sentence benefit statement (more benefit = more persuasion).  This benefit is a solution to a problem, not your invention itself. 
      • Ex. New mousetrap catches every mouse in the house overnight.
    • maybe a statement of several sub-benefits, in smaller font.
      • Ex. Competitive advantage: why a consumer would buy this, instead of a competing, product. 
      • Ex. Cross-selling: why selling this product will increase sales of the licensee’s products.
    • a notice of patent pending (if you filed a patent application)
    • your contact information 
  • Prototype of your invention  Seeing is believing.  Help your potential licensee imagine sales within six months by showing it your product.  For a first meeting with a potential licensee, your prototype’s appearance is often more important than its function.  If the company is interested, it will ask you for a functional prototype. 
What good is a business plan? 
As with any invention, seeing your money moving invention will help you decide if it is likely to work.  SCORE can help you develop a business plan that will show you what your money moving machine looks like.   Identify your product in detail, and who will make, package, distribute, market, and sell it.  Prepare your budget and an appropriate timeline.  Answer questions such as:

  • Who will your customers be? How many do you need to make a profit?
  • What do they want? If they want a product that lasts only a few years, don’t manufacture an expensive product that will last a lifetime.
  • What benefits can you provide to them?
  • What will they pay to acquire those benefits?
  • How can you reach your customers? Advertising simple inventions in small, specialty magazines can be effective.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May 2009

Ken Rainbolt’s display of his award-winning Segway lock sparked a general discussion of how to profit from a good invention. Inventors who want to focus on inventing rather than on running a business often license (rent) their inventions to one or more companies. Let a company make and sell the product of your invention, and in exchange, the company typically gives you 3-5% of its wholesale profit from your invention. How do you find an interested company? Start by looking for products similar to yours in stores, on the internet, and at trade shows. Learn about the companies that sell those products, using the library or internet, and focus on companies that look most promising to you. Ron Jackson especially recommends a company whose net sales are less than $50 million per year, because you may be able to meet with the CEO. Find out where your invention fits into the market (do market research), and what your production costs will be (get estimates from manufacturers), so you can forecast how much profit your invention is likely to generate. Then contact the CEO or sales manager, explain that you are a product developer who can benefit the company, and sell the benefits (profits, market share, etc.; not your invention) you can provide. Protect your rights to your invention when discussing details of the invention with someone in a company. Having that person sign a nondisclosure agreement may be enough protection. Filing an inexpensive provisional patent application prior to the meeting can supplement that protection. If you will market your invention for only a few years, because you want only a quick profit or because your invention is a fad, then you probably don’t need a patent. But for longer lasting interests, your strongest protection is to enter the discussion owning a patent for your invention. A patent not only protects your idea from theft, it also lets the company know that you can protect the company’s market share by preventing others from making, importing, selling, or using your invention in the United States. Realize that a patent does not give you the right to benefit from your invention; it only gives you the right to prevent others from doing so.

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 2009

Inventors are so creative, and so important to our economy and way of life, that our government offers them four main ways to protect their new ideas. Attorneys Dr. C. John Brannon and Mr. Tony A. Gibbens of Brannon & Associates PC explained these forms of protection and offered practical advice on how to use them. 1. Three kinds of patents protect technology (an idea of a physical means to a useful end). A utility patent (for a machine, manufactured article, method, composition of matter, or an improvement of one of these) or a plant patent (for an asexually reproduced plant) protects technology itself. A design patent protects the nonfunctional ornamental appearance of a useful thing. A patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing the invention in the United States. But a patent does not give the owner the right to perform those acts (some patents interfere with other patents). Our government grants a patent to an applicant who is the first and original inventor of a technology. So be sure to document the date your idea is well-defined and complete. A good way to do this is to enter a written description of your inventive activities (ideas, test results, date a prototype is built, etc.) in a bound notebook that you and a noninventor witness (who understands what you write) date and sign regularly. 2. A trademark (brand name) protects a sign (hologram, name, picture, smell, sound, symbol, word, etc.) indicating the origin of a product. It must be distinctive and not deceptive. A trademark is an adjective, not a noun. You can lose a trademark if it becomes a noun (ex. if people think Band-Aid means “bandage” rather than “a brand of bandage”). 3. A copyright protects an expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Such expressions can be artistic (ex. music, painting, photograph, sculpture) or literary (ex. book, computer program, electronic database). The good news is that you merit copyright protection just by expressing an idea (but you need to register your expression with the Copyright Office in order to seek damages in a federal court). The bad news is that someone you hire (ad writer, marketer, photographer, web page designer, etc.) to express an idea for you owns the copyright to that expression. So get a written assignment of copyright ownership before an expression is created. 4. A trade secret (governed by state law) protects a commercially valuable idea you work to keep secret (ex. mark secret documents “confidential” and restrict access to those documents). A trade secret effectively protects recipes (ex. Coca Cola) which are hard to reverse-engineer, and technical expertise needed to use an invention (especially an unpatentable invention) effectively. Use your intellectual property most effectively by integrating it into your long-term business strategy. For example, barrier to market entry (i.e. intellectual property) is one force that shapes your business environment (“Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors” by Michael E. Porter). Thank you John and Tony for your very helpful presentation!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March 2009

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the THINKS you can think up if only you try!” - Dr. Seuss Oh, the THINKS You Can Think! Members met for informal discussion of various aspects of innovation. We discussed how the government is helping to finance inventors. 1. The state of Indiana supplements, and helps inventors obtain, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. Rich Boling (rboling@techshot.com) of Techshot told us that the state of Indiana will pay someone, such as Elizabeth Brooke Pyne (bpyne@iedc.in.gov) of the IEDC SBIR/STTR Program Office or Heidi Platt of Platinum Grants & Proposals, LLC, up to $6,500 to help a first time SBIR grant applicant prepare an application. Contact Mr. Boling or the IEDC for more details. And consider attending the SBIR workshops offered by the IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Corporation). 2. Matt Thie mentioned that the state of Indiana encourages patent activity by allowing a tax exemption on patent income. Small companies (no more than 500 employees) are eligible for an exemption of 50% of patent income for each of the first 5 years of a utility or plant patent. The percentage decreases over the next 5 years to 10% in the 10th year. The total exemption amount claimed may not exceed $5 million/year. 3. The federal government offers low interest loans to qualified inventors (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA] Sec. 1301. Temporary expansion of availability of industrial development bonds to facilities manufacturing intangible property). This Act changes the Internal Revenue Code (section 197(d)(1)(C)(iii)) to give, for a limited time, companies in the business of creating intellectual property a new financing option. Tax-exempt small issue bonds issued by a state or local government during 2009 and 2010 may be used to finance a manufacturing facility (such as a building, equipment, or land) used to create or produce intangible property (patent, copyright, formula, process, design, pattern, know-how, format, or similar item). Generally, the maximum amount of bonds that can be issued for one manufacturer is $30 million. Rich Boling also let us know about Techshot, a technology development company which designs and builds practical solutions to engineering and scientific problems. About 20% of their business is devoted to 1- or 2-person entrepreneur entities. Mr. Boling plans to visit us again in May, so plan to attend our May meeting if you have questions about Techshot. You might enjoy watching “Flash of Genius” (now on DVD; soon to be available at the Indianapolis public library). The movie, based on the true story of Bob Kearns (inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper), shows the potential value of patents to an inventor, and shows an enthusiastic inventor’s association.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January 2009

In developing a product from an invention (see the April 2008 post) you need to find an affordable, efficient, reliable manufacturer. Mr. Ron Read (Global Consulting Partners, Inc. ) shared with us his decades of experience in helping U.S. inventors find and work with manufacturers and suppliers located in China. He also connects inventors with those located in India, Turkey, and Indonesia. Consider manufacturing in China if labor accounts for at least 20% of your manufacturing costs. The quality can be as good as you’ll find anywhere. The more you order, the better your price. For low cost items, plan on ordering at least 5,000 items/month; for items that cost $30 to manufacture, plan on at least 1,000/month. Items that cost at least $150 to manufacture can be ordered in less quantity. Savings can be considerable, with manufacturing costs often 10% of costs in the U.S. Before approaching a manufacturer, have an engineering firm prepare precise drawings of your invention, and create a final exact prototype of your invention. Chinese manufacturers need both. Respect Chinese culture. Never cause a manufacturer or supplier to lose face in front of you or their peers. Don’t necessarily interpret a “yes” response as agreement; it may just indicate a desire for harmony. Be very specific about points of agreement. Try to have manufacturing orders fulfilled before the Chinese New Year’s holiday; the plant may be understaffed after the holiday. Because personal relationships are important to business relationships, consider using a conduit like Mr. Read who knows the factory owners and suppliers. Conduct due diligence. Examine a factory you might hire. If it doesn’t allow visitors, look for another factory. Work directly with the manufacturer, not with a middle man. Consider shipping too. Shipping charges are based on weight and volume. Shipment from Hong Kong to Los Angeles typically takes 2 weeks. If your shipment would arrive during the Christmas rush, consider shipping to Seattle instead. Thanks for sharing your insights with us Mr. Read!

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
4,844,446 Multiple-compartment currency stacker-sorter
4,940,162 Rolled coin dispenser
7,298,280 Lighted fluid flow indication apparatus
7,617,826 Conserver

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

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