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).

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.

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

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

Patent Document of the Month

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