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

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Monday, April 5, 2010

March 2010

Inventors often license their inventions because they understand technology, but not business.  That’s fine if you just want to get paid for inventing.  But what if you also imagine a world transformed by your invention, and want to create that world by using business?  Business professor Mark Motluck of Anderson University offered us some advice on how to get started.

First, realize that not every great technical idea is a great business opportunity.  Not many people will buy a cart if they don’t have a horse to pull it.  So find out whether your invention has, or or can be modified to have, economic value by using a:

     Survey. Ask people whether they would buy your product, and how much they would pay for it. Ask them in person at places where they would buy your product (say at a shopping mall), or indirectly by mail, telephone, or through your website.
     Focus group. Bring people to a neutral site and watch how they react to your product. What do they like or dislike? What changes would they make? A panel from your local Rotary Club might make an effective focus group.
     Personal interview. Ask individuals who represent your potential customer population what they think of your product.
     Observation and field trial. Give your product to potential customers. Let them use your product under real conditions so you can see whether it works and how it can be improved.

Second, plan your business. This forces you to think about profit, to think about whether you can really tap the economic value of your invention. Get help from others - from SCORE (see below) or from books such as “Entrepreneurship : Theory, Process, Practice” by
Donald F. Kuratko (of Indiana University). But write the plan yourself, so that you really understand it.

Third, consider allying yourself temporarily with a business expert. You and the expert want different things from this alliance, but combine your complementary strengths to achieve them all. Before entering into an alliance, ask yourself whether both you and the expert will benefit.

Such experts include:
     Business incubators (e.g., IUETC or Purdue’s Research Park). This is a good starting place for a small business. An incubator improves the economy by providing a promising small business with subsidized rent, reduced cost of duplicated activities (such as document copying, telephone and internet service, and climate control), advice from business professionals, and networking opportunities.
     Venture capital (e.g., Heron Capital) or angel investor (e.g., Stepstone Angels) firms. These firms offer business expertise, networking opportunities, and investment dollars in exchange for partial control of your company.
     University schools of business (e.g. Anderson, Butler; ask any university business professor at any university about these community outreach programs). These schools help your business (e.g., with marketing strategies, or with writing a business plan) in exchange for the real-world experience you give to their students.
     Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). This group improves the economy by helping you succeed with free or low cost advice on all aspects of business.
Small Business Administration (SBA). This government agency improves the economy by providing guaranteed, but hard to get, loans.
     Kauffman Foundation. This organization promotes innovation by offering entrepreneurs money, knowledge, training, and business networks.

Thank you, Mr. Motluck, for sharing your business insights with us and for your efforts to connect inventors and students to reality.

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

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