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).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November 2015



80% of success is showing up.
  Woody Allen

Erik Magner, PhD (president, Meister Cook) and Betsy Magner (marketing manager, Meister Cook) issued a charismatic call to inventorsDon’t be afraid.  Find your passion and use it to start your own business.  Using their own success story to inspire us, Mr. Magner shared a 6-part strategy that helped them create in less than 10 years a 2-person company ranked by Inc. 5000 as the 41st fastest‑growing company (2nd fastest‑growing manufacturer) in the United States.

Identify an important technical problem that you care about.
William Osler (a founder of modern medicine) advised physicians, “Listen to your patient; he is telling you the diagnosis.”  Likewise in industry, listen to the experts; they will tell you what problems are commercially important.  Mr. Magner’s first challenge in the food industry was a client’s request for a more heat-efficient hamburger broiler.  The broiler he invented was so profitable that a second client asked him for a toaster that could toast bread in 10 seconds.  The profit from the sale of thousands of those toasters led others in industry to seek Mr. Magner’s help.  One asked for a food warmer that would preserve the freshly cooked appearance and texture of fried food for 2 hours.  Another asked for a new beverage concept.  The results: inventions that profit both Meister Cook and its business partners.

Be alert.  While on a late night trip home, Mr. Magner stopped at a restaurant and received cold soup that should have been hot.  He learned from the restaurant manager that cold soup was a common problem in restaurants because of inadequate cooking equipment.  The result: a new device for automatically keeping soup hot.

Never give up on finding a technical solution.
While earning a masters degree in mechanical engineering, Mr. Magner became convinced that any technical problem can be solved.  The toaster?  After quickly creating a proof-of-concept prototype showing that the toaster was theoretically possible, Mr. Magner spent 3 years developing the marketable and profitable product.  Invention is usually the result of hard work over time, not a sudden flash of insight.

Share your ideas to get feedback.
Like all innovators, Mr. Magner needs to learn from others.  The feedback he asks for helps him optimize his inventions and form useful business alliances.

A quick and simple way for him to get feedback on an invention is to search for patented inventions similar to one he is developing.  If someone else has independently thought of and patented his idea, finding that patent keeps him from wasting time and money on a patent application.  But even better, Mr. Magner uses the inventions of others as stepping stones that lead him to identify unsolved problems and to discover new and commercially important improvements on existing inventions.

Two methods help Mr. Magner find business allies yet keep control of his inventions.  In general discussions, he talks about the problem his invention solves without disclosing what his invention is or what it does.  When the discussions become specific, he trusts his potential allies but asks them to recognize the importance of his inventions by signing a mutual nondisclosure agreement.

Recognize your needs.
The 4-Hour Workweek (Timothy Ferriss, ISBN-10: 9780307465351) persuaded the Magners to create a virtual company located in their home so that they could focus their efforts on what is most important to their success.  Outsourcing operations such as accounting, legal work, and manufacturing gives Mr. Magner time to create alliances and to invent and gives Mrs. Magner time to market Meister Cook.

Little money was available to hire others to start Meister Cook, so Mr. Magner learned all of the skills he needed to start it himself.  During the first year of the company, he filed with the state of Indiana papers needed to form a limited liability company, wrote business contracts, created a Web site (using WYSIWYG Web Builder; hosted by 1&1), calculated and filed the company’s tax returns, prepared and filed a provisional patent application, recruited business partners, and continued to invent.

      Because he is so busy, Mr. Magner needs time.  He saves time by texting rather than emailing and by flying his own airplane to business meetings and trade shows rather than waiting in airports.

      Mr. Magner also needs to persuade potential business partners to say yes.  The real decision makers are often engineers or other non‑executive personnel within a company.  He finds out who these key individuals are by talking with people who would most directly implement the day-to-day operations of a collaboration.

Form alliances creatively.
Meister Cook has only two employees: Erik, who recruits business partners and invents; and Betsy, who markets Meister Cook.  Business partners do the heavy lifting of financial accounting, legal advising, manufacturing, distribution, and sales.  So finding reliable partners who excel is essential. 

Equally important is creatively combining these partners into alliances that provide Meister Cook with a steady positive cash flow. 

The U.S. patent office usually publishes a nonprovisional patent application 18 months after the filing date, even if the office has not yet decided whether to grant a patent.  By filing a nonpublication request, Mr. Magner prevents release of his ideas unless and until he gets a patent.  That gives him time to corner the market before competitors can introduce knock-offs of his inventions.

Up to 90% of some of Mr. Magner’s patented products are sold outside of the U.S.  So he gets patents covering those products from the European Union and particular countries, as well as from the U.S.

Mr. Magner engenders loyalty by going out of his way to make his business partners look good and by paying them well.

Find success in adversity.
Mr. Magner missed a deadline for patenting a design.  He was disappointed, but rather than curse the darkness, he lit a candle.  He thought of 2 better designs that he would not have otherwise imagined.

Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Magner, for sharing your business acumen with us!

Patents awarded to Mr. Magner:
8076614    Multi-stage cooking system using radiant, convection, and magnetic induction heating, and having a compressed air heat guide
8272320    Broiler, conveyor oven, and toaster system with pressurized air guide for heat and flames
8437627    Apparatus for extending the holding time for food
9027470    Food condition maintaining device

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

Get Involved