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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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 2010

Abby Appelt (president of BlingToGo and owner of Out Of The Box Thinking, LLC) helps heal people by lifting their spirits.  Her ornamental wraps return to ailing people some control of their lives, by helping them turn their institutional medical equipment into a fashion statement.
     The Need
Finding herself on crutches for the fourth time, Ms. Appelt decided to cheer up herself and her commiserating friends by decorating her crutches.  The warm response and good feeling she received led her to explore ways of extending that benefit to others.  Why settle for decorating crutches when you can also beautify bed rails, canes, IV poles, hospital tables and trays, and walkers?

     The Solution
A nurse told Ms. Appelt that any ornamental wrap used in a hospital would have to be sanitizable and removable, easily and without leaving a residue on the equipment.  So she looked for and found a suitable commercially available fabric coated with pressure-sensitive adhesive.  She hired a graphic artist to design decorative patterns based on ClipArt and found two printers to print chemical-resistant designs on the fabric – one to manufacture up to 2,000 items per week, and another to fulfill larger orders.  The nurse tested the wraps in a hospital for free and found that patients liked them.  The wraps made medical equipment uniquely attractive and less frightening.

Product Development can be costly, but Ms. Appelt showed us how to save money.
Even though her designs, like all eligible works, automatically received copyright protection the moment they were created and fixed in a tangible form, Ms. Appelt decided to register them as a group with the Copyright Office.  She read a simple tutorial, filled out a registration form, and filed it with a $50 fee payment.  Registration gave her the option of suing any infringer and became prima facie evidence of her copyright.  Although no international copyright exists that could protect her designs throughout the world, the U.S. has reciprocal agreements with most countries (Canada, for example) for enforcing copyrights.

Ms. Appelt hired an attorney to file a provisional patent application for her invention.  That bought her time to identify her market and to determine whether that market would likely return enough profit to justify a more expensive nonprovisional patent application and patent.  Her attorney also helped her to increase her business assets by creating a legal entity that will own any patent that issues.

          Trademark offers an economical way to get a trademark, but be sure to closely monitor your application.

          Elevator Pitch
You have to be your own champion if you want your business to succeed.  A workshop at Eureka Ranch helped Ms. Appelt realize the value of an elevator pitch (a 30 second explanation of her wrap for people she meets).  A pitch doesn’t cost anything and can open unexpected windows of opportunity.  She suggested preparing slightly different variations for different audiences and trying out the pitches on strangers.

          Public Relations
Starting a business requires a lot of work (12 hour days in Ms. Appelt’s case) and lasts about 3 years.  Rather than spend time learning and practicing the intricacies of public relations (press releases, magazine and newspaper articles, social networking, radio interviews, etc.), she hired a professional (Rachel Jackson) to start and maintain a lively public conversation about her wrap.

          Web Site
Likewise, Ms. Appelt delegated the design and maintenance of her profitable commercial website to a professional (Jerri Coverstone).  Why spend your time worrying about domain names, keywords, and Google’s 200 factors for ranking a website when so much else needs to be done?  She noted that meaningful links to and from a website contribute to its rank.  So find websites related to yours by typing key words into the Alexa website, and then ask the website owners to exchange website links with you.

          Revenue Sharing
Revenue sharing (rewarding another business for bringing you sales) helps Ms. Appelt turn potential competitors into partners.  This form of marketing is efficient – its cost is directly related to resulting sales.  She displays her wraps on medical equipment sold by another, and that person displays her medical equipment wrapped in Ms. Appelt’s designs.  Each pays the other for referred customers.  She also uses affiliate marketing (an internet version of revenue sharing) to increase her profits.  She earns a commission each time someone follows a link from her website to a partner’s website and buys there.  In turn, she pays a commission for sales on her website that originate at a partner’s website.  Win/Win – how great is that?

Ms. Appelt bought barcodes (patterns of bars and spaces of varying width that represent data and can be read by machines) to help track her inventory and to show the business world that she manufactures and sells.  She paid only $20 apiece by buying the barcodes from a reseller who has no annual barcode renewal fees (because the UCC, now GS1 US, assigned the barcodes to the reseller before 8/28/02).

     Sales helped Ms. Appelt create a national network of professional salespeople who sell her wraps in return for only a commission (15% of the wholesale price; this percentage is high because the price of her wrap is low).  Job advertizements on this website cost her $30 per month.

Wrap on, Ms. Appelt!  Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and methods with us.  Best of luck with BlingToGo.

Note:    Our secretary, Mr. Robert Brand, recommends the book Inventing for Dummies to new inventors.

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

James Dougherty
8622039 Rockerless desmodromic valve system
9488074 Rockerless desmodromic valve system
9366158 Unitary cam follower and valve preload spring for a desmodromic valve mechanism

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

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

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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