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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Sunday, March 15, 2015

February 2015



And they asked me how I did it; and I gave 'em the Scripture text,
"You keep your light so shining a little in front o' the next!"
They copied all they could follow, but they couldn't copy my mind,
And I left 'em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.

     Rudyard Kipling, The "Mary Gloster"


Richard McVicker, member of the Indiana Inventors Association for 40 years, patent illustrator at Barnes & Thornburg LLP for 49 years, and patent-holding inventor for 54 years, graciously shared his hard-won insights into innovation with us.

  • Spend money to get a good prototype of your invention, but try to save on everything else.  A good, tested prototype helps you understand your invention and helps you explain it to others (patent attorney, investor, manufacturer, customer, etc.).  For example, Mr. McVicker invented and patented a 10 foot tall yard light, advertised it at the Indiana Home and Garden Show, then installed it in a yard.  Only after the installed light had been exposed to a hot Indiana summer did it become clear that the sun would bend and disfigure the post (made of polyvinyl chloride, PVC).
Don’t get in over your head and spend a lot of money on lawyers and manufacturing during the early days of your invention.  You may think your invention is a great idea, but who else does?  In these days of rapid reverse‑engineering, a patent can be very useful, but does not guarantee a best-seller.  Test your invention under real world conditions and ask members of your target consumer group for their honest opinions.  Which brings us to the next point.

  • You can’t afford to educate the public.  Mr. McVicker developed 3 remarkable thumb picks that solve recognized longstanding problems in the music world.  But the picks don’t sell well in stores.  Benefits become apparent only during use because the picks resemble standard picks.  Yet the picks don’t attract attention because they are more expensive than their look-alikes.  Salesmen would rather spend their time trying to sell a high-profit instrument than to explain the benefits of a low-profit pick.
One exception to this rule is marketing and selling over the internet.  Mr. McVicker’s video and Web site educate the public in an affordable way, 24 hours a day, every day.  As a result, he is selling picks worldwide.

The hardest sale is to a retail consumer because educating the public is so time consuming and expensive.  Sales are much easier if you invent a part or attachment for an existing product that the current seller will sell to an existing market for you.  Or invent a solution to a recognized industrial problem; fewer people to educate, easier sales.


  • Let love motivate you.  If you love some part of the world, you will naturally want to help people there with the hardships they face.  If you love innovation, you will use that path to solve their problems.  Invent to make their lives easier or better and they will join you in your enthusiasm for your invention.  The result can be a little profit for you, jobs for many, and happier lives for even more.
Mr. McVicker fell in love with a woman who became his wife and helped him fall in love with bluegrass music and with playing a banjo.  That love led to his inventing thumb picks which make life more enjoyable for musicians (including those with deformed hands) and their audiences and which provide jobs for a few people.

Inventors tend to fall in love with their inventions.  But, if not totally indifferent, the world will see the flaws.  If only a desire for money motivates you to invent and innovate, you may find that you exagerate the value of your invention and spend all of your money, time, and personal relationships grasping at straws.

  • Don’t give up, but don’t go down a rabbit hole.
Successful innovating requires balance.  On the one hand, like Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”  Most innovators find that successfully marketing their inventions takes all they can give.  So don’t quit just because you must try hard.

On the other hand, weigh the risks and benefits of innovation.  If your invention has a fatal flaw, or if long hours of innovation will result in the loss of your loved ones, the sooner you adapt and improve your invention and your life, the better off you will be.

Mr. McVicker developed his interest in inventing as a child.  He nurtured it as an engineer at PR Mallory, where he thought of the now-famous name “Duracell” and invented the first 3-position snap switch, invented a method of painting names onto batteries, and invented a windshield sun shield having a negator spring.  During his career as a patent illustrator, he continued to invent independently (see below).  Now retired, he recently applied for a patent on the latest improvement to his thumb pick.  Isn’t that a labor of love?

Thank you for your good advice, Mr. McVicker!

Patents held by Mr. 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

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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