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

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How to Design Breakthrough Inventions

A CBS interview of IDEO founder David Kelley

How to Build a StartUp

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

January 2010

Although each independent innovator's path to market success is unique, successful innovators tend to share 2 complementary traits - the ability to act on incomplete or inconsistent information, and resilience.  We help manage risks to our market success by learning from other innovators and participants in the innovative process, by networking at trade shows with representatives who can open doors for us, and by thinking carefully.  But we can never eliminate risk.  For example, the timing of getting a new product to market is important to market success.  The market's rule often is "first come, first served."  In order to synchronize our innovative efforts with market demand, sometimes we must act before we have a perfect plan, before we have all the answers.  So we sometimes hit unexpected bumps in our path.  When that happens, resilience (keeping our eyes on the prize) helps us to learn from our mistakes, to recover, and to continue on our path.

Mr. Robert Dunlap (founder of The Cement Solution LLC; inventor of a reusable bag for mixing concrete; holder of the world record for fastest cement mixing) exemplifies those 2 traits.  Based on what he learned while traveling his bumpy path, he recommended 5 ways to help us manage our product distribution risks.

1.  Trust, but verify.
If a distributor places a large order with you, dig for the details.  Know what you are getting into.  Is the order subject to any unstated conditions, such as a particular kind of packaging or a variable price?

2.  Get it in writing.
Conversations are a necessary and helpful part of negotiating a deal, but an agreement is not usually final until all parties sign a written, binding contract.  So don't spend any money on manufacturing an ordered product until you receive a signed purchase order from the distributor.

3.  Show me the money.
What net income does your distributor guarantee to you?  Are there any unstated conditions on receiving that income?  For example, a distributor may intend to pay you only after it recovers all of its distribution costs.

4.  Don't get in a hurry.
Business deals can take time to negotiate, especially if the company you are dealing with is undergoing internal changes.  Developing a strong distribution network for your product might easily take 6 years.

5.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  Don't forget that you are the little guy.

Mr. Dunlap also recommended investing in a good patentability search before starting work on any nonprovisional patent application.  It's usually better to spend $2-3,000 on a search and find out that some other genius already thought of your invention than to find out the same thing by spending up to $20,000 on a denied patent application.

Thank you for sharing your hard-won knowledge with us, Mr. Dunlap.  Good luck with your product distribution!

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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