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, November 4, 2013

October 2013

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
- Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Putting your new product or service on the market is a thrill.  Rachel Jackson (owner, Peacock Publicity) told us how to make that thrill last – look before you leap.

First, decide what result you want (e.g., financial profit, prestige, societal change) from applying your product/service to the market.  Then find out if you can make your product/service fit the market well enough for the market machine to produce the result you want.  See if you can get the right tools (e.g., advisors; identification and understanding of potential competitors, customers, manufacturers, and distributors; money; patents; place of business; professional relationships; time) and skills (business strategy, energy, heart, spirit, technical knowledge) you need to create that fit.  Writing a business plan (see how: booklet, workshop) and getting free advice from SCORE and online courses will help you ask the hard questions you must ask: who can benefit from your offering; will you have to teach potential customers to want your offering; are those customers likely to buy what you offer more than what your competitors offer; will enough customers buy your offering at a price high enough for you to profit; can you find an affordable, reliable manufacturer or distributor.  When you can answer those questions, test your answers on your harshest critics.

Once you know who your potential customers are, impress them.  Not all customers are alike, so give different kinds of customers different messages.  Get a Web site (made by a professional graphic designer; your own internet address ending with .com) and email address (ending in .com) that inspires confidence in you and your offering.  Develop a high quality brand (created by a marketing professional) and a polished resume that will give people a reason to trust you.  Create a set of 30 second elevator speeches (for different kinds of potential customers) and keep up with your industry’s news so you can educate potential customers and have an intelligent conversation about your business.

If you want investment capital or sales leads, learn (from sources like Inventor’s Bible, eBay, ecommerce, KickStarter, or the SBA ) which groups can offer you the most, but be realistic.  Learn ahead of time what each specific audience wants from you (e.g., letters of reference, sales records, slide presentation, video) and show them with your business plan and statistics that you can give them value (e.g., enough paying customers) in exchange for their support.  If it becomes clear during your presentation that you can’t provide what they want, bow out gracefully.  But even with rejections, stay focused, be patient, and don’t flit from shiny object to shiny object.  It may take you months or years to build a sufficient customer base if your sales cycle is long.  Or you might have better luck licensing your invention. 

Plan for the long run.  Tools for customerrelationship management will help you reach people quickly.  Financial and marketing records (worksheets and other programs ) will help you figure out what works and will make your business more attractive to someone who might want to buy it.

Thank you for paving our roads to success, Ms. Jackson.  Ms. Jackson specializes in helping entrepreneurs, business startups, and small businesses with marketing/publicity and can be reached by email (, mail (P.O. Box 39070 Indianapolis, IN 46239), or telephone (815-404-9920).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

September 2013

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  – Proverb

Teach someone to grow fish locally and you sustain a community and the environment.  Mr. Rob Wibbeler (secretary and treasurer of the nonprofit Indiana Aquaculture Association [IAA]) described fish farming in Indiana and the industry’s need for inventors.

The human population is growing exponentially and simple natural food sources can’t keep up.  As a result, the oceans are over-fished and the U.S. imports 91% of its seafood.  Innovators are solving this problem with aquaculturefarming fish, shellfish, and water plants.

Two popular aquacultural tools are cages and tanks.  Time magazine named the Velella Mariculture Project one of the best inventions of 2012 because, in 6 months and with almost no effect on the ocean, it turned 2,000 kampuchi (yellowtail) fingerlings into 5 tons of healthy fish.  The fish were kept and fed soybean products in 20-foot cages that were allowed to drift in the ocean near Hawaii.  The final food conversion ratio (FCR) was 1.6 lbs feed per 1 lb fish, compared to 1.9:1 for chicken and 6.5:1 for beef.  Mortality rate was less than 2%, compared to 15% for typical tank aquaculture.

Although mostly landlocked, Hoosiers can benefit from other forms of aquaculture, such as seasonal pond culture, indoor recirculating tank aquaculture, and indoor aquaponic tank culture (combines fish with water plants).  Pond culture in cages supports the farming of a variety of fish (bass, bluegill, carp, perch, tilapia, and trout; the largest yellow perch farm in the world is in Albany, IN.)

Fish farming works in Indiana, directly providing 169 jobs and adding $12 million annually to Indiana’s economy.  All 34 Hoosier farmers sell all the fish and shrimp they can produce.  All of them benefit from low transportation costs because fish can be sold locally and fish feed consists largely of two Hoosier crops – soybeans and corn.  But to become more profitable to farmers and more beneficial to consumers, aquaculture, especially tank culture, needs inventors who think outside the box.  Few tank systems have been tested because, so far, they have all originated in waste water treatment technology.  The industry needs: new modular designs that can be scaled to different sizes; less expensive and more efficient equipment; more efficient pumping, oxygenating, and cleaning water; and methods of preventing disease transmission among fish.

The Indiana Aquaculture Association helps fish farmers and those they serve by educating and bringing together chefs, consumers, educators, engineers, farmers, and manufacturers to improve the industry.  For more information about fish farm tours, aquaculture, and how it can benefit you, contact the Indiana Aquaculture Association (; 317-417-0090).  Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Wibbeler!

Monday, June 24, 2013

April 2013

The interpretation of dreams is a great art. - Paracelsus

Where would we be without both imagination and experience?  As inventors, we dream of a better world and interpret our dreams as ideas that can make our world better.  As innovators, we translate those ideas into products and services that make the lives of our customers and investors better.  Experience guides us in both roles.  An inventor learns how to test and refine an idea by building and experiencing a working prototype (model) of the idea.  An innovator teaches initial customers and investors how to benefit from the idea by helping them experience the prototype.  Members of the Indiana Inventors Association met to discuss how to create a memorable experience, for inventors and for those they serve.

With 3D printing (additive manufacturing), a copy machine instructed by a computer program (digital design) makes a variety of things (art, batteries, body parts, clothing, jewelry, machine parts, medical devices, toys, etc.) from a variety of materials (ceramic, chocolate, glass, human cells, metal, plastic, resin, rubber, wood, etc.) quickly by progressively depositing layers of material.  Different kinds of 3D printing (e.g., selective laser sintering, fused depostion modeling, and stereolithograhpy) build the layers in different ways.  If you think you might enjoy working with this technology, consider using an affordable (from $397) low-resolution printer (or build your own), free or commercial software, and free digital designs.  Several online printing services (Quickparts, SolidConcepts, Tech, Inc, ) are also available.

eMachineShop is a convenient online machine shop that quickly prepares custom-designed parts by a variety of computer-controlled (CNC) methods (e.g., blanking, pressure die casting, extrusion, laser cutting, milling, compression and injection molding, honing, 3D printing, turning, welding, etc.) and provides free, easy-to-use CAD software for designing parts.

Several resources are available for building electronic features of inventions.  Companies like Digi-Key and Mouser, and Radio Shack sell inexpensive parts (e.g., meter boxes, printed circuit boards).  Texas Instruments sells a MSP430 microprocessor development kit for $4.30.

If you would like for a local company to build a prototype for you, consider contacting Wes Bickers (; account executive for the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, Inc.), who acts as a liaison between state agencies and work centers providing products and services for sale.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

February 2013

Patent attorney Michael Hood (Brinks, Hofer, Gilson, & Lione) helped us understand what the new patent law means to inventors.  This law applies to patents and patent applications that contain a claim to an invention effectively filed on or after March 16, 2013.  United States Patent Office (USPTO) rules on how to implement the law are now available.
  • First Inventor to File   The date of invention no longer matters.  What matters now is the date a patent application is effectively filed at a patent office.  The inventor who files first anywhere in the world gets the first opportunity to get a patent.  So a reasonable strategy is to file provisional applications early and often as you develop your invention.
You may ask the USPTO to cancel or reject claims in a patent or patent application that are to your claimed invention if the named inventor did not invent, but derived from you knowledge of, the invention.
  •  Prior Art   The USPTO issues patents only for inventions that are new worldwide. Prior art (i.e., public disclosure of an invention before the effective filing date of a patent application claiming that invention) is evidence that an invention is not new.  Examples of prior art include a patent, published patent application, public use, and an offer to sell. 
 There are exceptions; not all prior art matters.  The law helps you avoid working against yourself.  Prior art by you, your co-inventors, or someone who learned of your invention (directly or indirectly) from you or your co-inventors, doesn’t matter for your patent application if the prior art first became available within 1 year of the effective filing date of the application.  Likewise, prior art by an inventor not named in your application doesn’t matter if,  before the effective filing date of the patent application claiming your invention, the invention disclosed both in the prior art and in your patent application were both owned by, or obligated to be assigned to, the same entity.  This feature lets an inventor file without penalty a patent application for an unfinished invention.  Realize that the law rigorously defines an invention.  Changing one small feature of your claimed invention during patent prosecution can change prior art that doesn’t matter into prior art that does matter.
  •  Filing a Patent Application       Many individual inventors will now pay 75% lower USPTO fees.  For example, the basic patent application filing fee for an inventor qualifying for the new micro entity status is $70, in contrast to the standard $280 fee or to the $140 fee for small entity status.
A company to whom an inventor assigns rights to an invention may now file a patent application for the invention.

If you need to get a patent quickly, a Track One prioritized examination will give you a decision on your application within about 12 months.  Fee: $2,400 for a small entity.
  •  Third Party Submissions   A third party may now anonymously submit documents relevant to examination of a patent application while the examination is in progress.  The party may also ask the USPTO to cancel claims of an issued patent.
Some additional advice:  Don’t submit pages of a lab notebook as a provisional application for a patent.  Such submissions will likely be challenged under 35 CFR 112 if the validity of your patent is ever challenged in court.

Thank you for this excellent presentation, Mr. Hood!

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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