Tuesday, December 23, 2008

InventHelp Goes Open Innovation


Look who’s joining the open innovation game … controversial invention submission company InventHelp.

The Pittsburgh-based company with the checkered past in the inventor industry announced this week that it is offering a Web portal to help companies find new products from inventors.

It joins a growing roster of open innovation players, including Inventors Digest partner Edison Nation, InventBay, MatchProduct.com and Big Idea Group, among others.

“For just minutes a month and at no cost, companies can tap into a new source of ideas, creativity and innovation,” InventHelp said in a press release.

Its InventHelp Open Innovation Resource Web site gives corporations access to business resources (white papers, testimonials, and interviews) and to register to receive new product announcements.

Companies may register in the InventHelp Data Bank at no charge and receive submissions of inventions that are matched to the companies' areas of new product development interest.

Gene Quinn, patent attorney, blogger and founder of intellectual property Web site ipwatchdog.com, found the announcement interesting.

"It seems like a good idea, although it coming from InventHelp makes me think there is an angle somewhere," he told me in an e-mail. "The only way it makes sense to do this is to have patent applications filed, and they would need to be strong ones otherwise the inventor would be giving away the keys to the kingdom for no benefit in return."

InventHelp made news recently when it said it was canceling INPEX in 2009 due to low corporate commitment. The company bills INPEX as the largest inventor trade show in the country. Next year was to be its 25th anniversary. InventHelp officials said they’ll resume the show in 2010.

InventHelp has no shortage of possible products for companies. Between 2005 and 2007 it signed submission agreements with 5,959 clients. Most of those never made any money, according to InventHelp.

As a result of its services, 98 clients have received license agreements for their products, and 20 clients have received more money than they paid InventHelp, the company has reported. In other words, inventor clients had a 0.3 percent chance of making more money than they paid InventHelp.

InventHelp is a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also known as Western Invention Submission Corp. and a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp is among the major invention submission companies critics call a scam. Complaints essentially accuse InventHelp of not doing enough to get inventors’ products to market. InventHelp, the accusations continue, lures inventors to spend more money on marketing and other services of dubious value.

In 1994, without admitting guilt, the company settled allegations of fraud with the Federal Trade Commission. InventHelp has been the target of lawsuits and consumer complaints. Entire Web sites are devoted to warning inventors to stay away from the company.

An Inventors Digest LexisNexis search of court records shows that InventHelp has never been convicted of fraud or wrongdoing.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cranky During Christmas


Must be something in the water, but some folks seem really cranky lately.

Last week I received an e-mail from an angry fellow who took umbrage with the recent announcement about our new redesign.

I mentioned global warming in that notice, and that lit his fuse.

He cited a Fox News report indicating press reports about global warming amounted to uninformed hysteria.

“What a bunch of blind mice your really are at ID! I’ll be cancelling my subscription.”

Ouch, dude.

I wrote him back, saying I don’t think there’s any debate whether the planet is actually warming – it’s heated and cooled many times over the eons. The debate is whether this warming cycle is caused by human-produced CO2.

I haven’t heard back, but I wished him a Merry Christmas anyway.

Another subscriber sent me a link to an interesting British film debunking human-caused global warming.

And then I saw this story today about an inventor who purportedly has invented some system that would cool the planet.

I don’t know that we want to be proactively tinkering with this kind of thing. Nonetheless, when it comes to this issue, I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2009 calendar of events


InventorsDigest.com is filling out its Events calendar for 2009. If you have an invention, engineering, science, math, intellectual property, do-it-yourself or industry trade show or event that you know of or would like to have listed on our Web site, please submit the following to info@inventorsdigest.com and put “events” in the subject line:

Event name:
Date(s):
Where:
What: (please define what the event is in a sentence or two)
Cost: (if any)
Contact: (at least a Web site)

One Laptop At A Time


One Laptop Per Child folks asked me to pass this along. The organization has shipped more than 500,000 connected, solar-capable laptops to children in some of the poorest, most rural places on Earth.


Deployments are underway in dozens of countries, including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Nepal.

These children learn, play, program, and have access to thousands of books in their language, as well as millions on the Internet.

One Laptop Per Child is asking people all over the world to give a laptop, or give and get a laptop, to transform the lives of children, and - one connected child at a time - change the world.

OLPC is a non-profit, humanitarian organization with a real story and success in the field.

Videos:
Skills - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPC2rbQG--U
Zimi's story - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4dNaXzSlgk

===
About OLPC: http://laptop.org/en/vision

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Makeover Announcement


In an era of downsizing, Inventors Digest is growing subscribers, increasing ad revenue, adding staff, launching new features … and it’s launching a bold new redesign.

January 2009 marks the makeover of the nation’s longest-running magazine in the invention industry. The redesign includes playful and explosive use of graphics and text presentation – garage fonts, grid-paper backgrounds and duct-taped call-out boxes. Even page numbering gets an Edisonian touch.

The publication’s award-winning production staff also is offering to design for free an ad for those who buy full-page ads with the magazine.

“The word we use to describe our new look is ‘organic,’” says newly hired creative director Ted Pate.

Indeed, the redesign reflects the lab experiment, coffee-spill, work-in-progress aspect of inventing and innovation.

“More people are turning to inventing and entrepreneurial pursuits in the face of massive downsizing and disillusion with 9-to-5 jobs,” says Mike Drummond, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. “And then you’ve got the overwhelming desire to wean ourselves from oil. We’re on the cusp of an energy and transportation renaissance. Inventors Digest is steeped in this cauldron of experimentation.”

To meet demand, Charlotte, N.C.-based Inventors Digest has brought aboard two new editors-at-large on the West Coast – Jennipher Adkins and Eva Winger.

Winger will be shepherding a new feature called Spark, which each month will chronicle the journey of three women entrepreneurs in different stages of their businesses.

The magazine also lured Kelly Blinson to head its Radar section, which features new products, off-beat innovations and other news from the inventing world.

“We’re going to add a new subsection for early-stage inventions called 'Under the Radar,'” Blinson says. “A place where newbies can get exposure.”

Inventors Digest also will be making a cameo in the upcoming Ben Stiller movie, Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian. Planned cover luminaries in 2009 include former Microsoft chief technology officer and gourmand Nathan Myhrvold, former Good Morning America host-turned-entrepreneur Joan Lunden, and famous researcher and Segway scooter inventor Dean Kamen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ford Loses Another Patent Battle


It’s not been a good year for Ford Motor Company.

Not only did Ford and its Detroit cousins fail to secure a multibillion-dollar bailout last week, Ford also lost a $23 million patent-infringement case against independent inventor Jacob Krippelz Sr.

Krippelz invented a small light mounted to side rear view mirrors. Last Friday, a jury awarded Krippelz the payout. The case has shades of Flash of Genius, the movie released this year of intermittent windshield inventor Robert Kearns, who eventually won a patent-infringement case against Ford and other car makers.

"I can tell you we’re disappointed," Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans told Inventors Digest. "We believe the side view mirrors we purchased don’t infringe this patent and we intend to appeal."

Jake Krippelz, Jacob’s son, was happy with the initial victory. “The little guy prevailed,” he wrote me in an e-mail. “I think (this) will give hope to all the inventors out there.”

The verdict came 10 years after Krippelz Sr. first sued Ford in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Krippelz is the 77-year-old Chief Executive Officer of Jake's, Inc., a machining and heavy equipment component manufacturing company in Aurora, Ill.

Krippelz was represented in the trial by Mark Ferguson, Adam Mortara and Hamilton Hill, all of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP of Chicago and James Ryndak and Mark Suri of the patent firm Ryndak & Suri LLP also of Chicago.

"This is the culmination of a very long fight for Jake Krippelz," Ferguson said in a prepared statement, "and we are pleased to have been able to help him finally vindicate his patent rights."

"It is an especially gratifying result," said Ryndak, "because it shows that a hard-working individual like Jake Krippelz with a patented invention can prevail against even one of the largest corporations of America."

The family is gearing up for a “willfulness trail” in a few weeks to seek triple damages.

“Many other automotive manufactures also are infringing,” Jake added in his e-mail to Inventors Digest, “which we will go after in ‘09.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today from Reuters:

"China has greatly stepped up its applications for new patents and will pass Japan, the current leader in new patents, by 2012, according to a report released on Wednesday by Thomson Reuters Scientific.

The report found that China is moving away from traditional agriculture and manufacturing industry and concentrating more on innovation, especially in areas such as chemical engineering."

This is curious, as I recently read that the United States had surpassed Japan as of 2008 (?) as the leading nation for patent applications.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Code Red

American fourth and eighth grade students made solid achievement gains in math in recent years, according to an international survey of student achievement, released Tuesday. But in science, fourth graders eked out only small gains, and eighth grade performance fell.

The results showed that several Asian countries continue to greatly outperform the United States in science and math, subjects that are key to economic competitiveness and research.

The survey, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or Timss, found that fourth grade students in Hong Kong and eighth grade students in Taiwan were the world’s top scorers in math, while Singapore dominated in science at both grade levels.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Young Inventor Contest

Our friends at By Kids For Kids have teamed up with Best Buy and Electronic Arts to present The Invent A Game Challenge, also supported by the United Inventors Association.

A national competition, it offers America's young people a unique chance to design an online downloadable game.

The grand prize winner will win $10,000 (face value) U.S. Savings Bond and an opportunity to have his or her game produced by EA for the world to play! Learn more here.

Game Active
Game Active, an additional call for content, asks youth to consider how active gaming could improve ones' life. For example, could a video game be used in an active way to promote a healthier lifestyle, or stimulate interest in and help track an exercise regime? Ideas submitted may be celebrated on BestBuy.com and BKFK.com

Friday, December 5, 2008

They're Out There

Had a good conversation with serial inventor and Edison Nation regular Roger Brown this morning. I interviewed him for a cover piece we’re doing on kitchen innovations in March. He’s got four new products licensed for later in ’09.

He also mentioned that a Canadian firm asked him if he had any camping products, a new line for him. What was interesting was the fact this company saw his postings on Edison Nation and quietly sought him out.

“Companies are there looking for new products, but you won’t necessarily know they’re there,” he said.

So, be professional – you never know who’s lurking.

As for kitchen gadgets, Roger noted that many companies are looking for well-designed, low-cost, space-saving items … things that don’t require batteries or electricity. This is an ideal genre for independent inventors.

Another takeaway from my morning conversation with Roger: Despite the down economy (and today’s job-loss figures should give you shivers), now is a great time to be inventing.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Writer Wanted

I'm looking for an East Coast writer to do a profile on a Florida inventor. The writer doesn't have to live in Florida, but should be comfortable with digital technology.

Ping me at mike.drummond@inventorsdigest.com if you fit the bill or know someone who does.

Boomers Can Win $100K

A Wilmington, N.C., inventor who came up with “the Holy Grail of sustainable agriculture” has received a $100,000 prize from a nonprofit seeking to encourage seniors and baby boomers to take up “encore careers” in public service.

Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based think tank focused on boomers, work and social purpose, announced yesterday that Jock Brandis is one of the winners of its Purpose Prize “for people over 60 who are taking on society’s biggest challenges.”

Brandis, a 63-year-old former lighting director in the film industry, will receive the award Saturday in a ceremony on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif.

For more information on the Purpose Prize, see www.purposeprize.org and www.encore.org.
For more information on the Full Belly Project, see www.fullbellyproject.org.

Monday, December 1, 2008

INPEX Nixed


A dour economy has added another casualty.

INPEX, billed as the nation’s biggest and longest-running trade show for inventors, has been canceled for 2009.

InventHelp, the company behind INPEX, decided to pull the plug in the face of worsening economic conditions, which include mounting job losses, increasing home foreclosures and the nation’s auto industry teetering on collapse.

The 2009 show would mark the 25th year of INPEX, held in Pittsburgh. As of Monday afternoon, InventHelp’s Web site had the 2009 show listed for June 24-26.

“Join us in celebrating our 25th year!” read a registration announcement on the site, adorned with a spent champagne cork.

The site’s brochure said representatives from Direct Response – the As Seen On TV company that places products on infomercials and home shopping shows – were scheduled to conduct product reviews at the 2009 event.

INPEX spokeswoman Nicole Hait said the show is merely postponed and will return between April and June 2010.

Hait said INPEX staff is contacting exhibitors who have registered for 2009. They are invited to be a part of INPEX’s pavilion at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, March 22-24, roll over their deposits for the 2010 INPEX show, or request a refund.

“Our goal is to have the 25th anniversary be the best show we’ve ever had,” she told Inventors Digest. “But it’s been harder to get companies to commit with the economy the way it is.”

Postponing, she added, is “the right thing to do for inventors.”

The news is a dramatic turnaround from the festive glow of success at the 24th annual show earlier this year. More than 300 exhibitors and some 1,500 attendees from around the world flocked to the event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. INPEX moved to this larger venue from one in the outskirts of Pittsburgh in 2008 to accommodate growing attendance.

The 2008 show drew product-review buyers from Robert Bosch Tool Corp., Everlast, Hasbro, Tupperware and Irwin. A camera crew from The Tonight Show With Jay Leno also held court at the entrance of the massive exhibit hall.

While INPEX has generated largely positive reviews for its ample networking opportunities and inventor access to corporate buyers, many remain wary of its parent InventHelp, a controversial invention-submission company that has been the target of lawsuits and consumer complaints.

In 1994, without admitting guilt, the company settled allegations of fraud with the Federal Trade Commission.

Bonnie Griffin Kaake, former executive director of the United Inventors Association and owner of Innovative Consulting Group in Golden, Colo., has been a critic of INPEX because of its ties to InventHelp.

When told INPEX was canceled for 2009, her reaction echoed that of others in the inventor community. "Wow. Are you serious?"

Despite her criticism of InventHelp, she said INPEX, “like all inventor trade shows, gives inventors a chance to feel what it’s like to show their inventions in public and to do a 30-second elevator pitch.”

There will be one less opportunity to make such a pitch, with INPEX out of the picture in 2009.

INPEX’s Hait said she’s optimistic the economy will rebound. And the extra time to prepare for the 2010 show will help INPEX stage a big silver anniversary.

“The last thing you want,” she said, “is a show without visitors and floor traffic.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thoughts

I just got this note from a reader. As I told him, I love what I do and for whom I do it. Thank you all and here's to better days:

"Mike,

The upcoming holiday reaffirms how thankful I am for the encouragement and support of my friends and colleagues. Much of my joy is found in friendships where we share similar interests, desires and mutual support.

I appreciate all the help and encouragement you have shown me.

Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving.

Many Happy Returns,

Robert"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Collegiate Winners

I’m a big fan of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and its Collegiate Inventors Competition. They recently announced this year’s winners, who included Timothy Lu, whom we’ve featured in the magazine.

Lu pocketed the competition’s $25,000 grand prize.

Lu, 27, created a sustainable source of antimicrobial therapies – a better way of fighting germs. The tools Lu developed may see broad use such as attacking superbugs, treating diseases like cystic fibrosis, and preventing food contamination.

Graduate winner: Paul Podsiadlo, 30, of the University of Michigan for his Ultra Strong and Stiff, Optically Transparent Plastic Nanocomposite. His invention could be used for body armor to biomedical coatings. He won $15,000.

Undergraduate winner, Greg Schroll, 22, of MIT, for his spherical robot. Potential uses include surveillance, reconnaissance and disaster zone assessment.

Visit www.invent.org/collegiate

Friday, November 21, 2008

Exposure

Do you have a new product or idea that you'd like us to feature? Inventor's Digest is looking for new products or ideas that haven't hit the market or have just hit and could use a little exposure. Just make sure your products and ideas are patented and that you can supply high-res photos and you could be well on your way to become an Inventor's Digest star!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kid Contest

Attention elementary, middle and high schoolers … The Ad Council, with the support of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, has launched an advertising contest.

It’s inviting school-age teams to come up with an “Inspiring Invention” public service advertisement to motivate a new generation of children in innovation.

For more info, go to www.InspiringInvention.org.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Help for a Father


Jeff Howe, a contributing editor at Wired magazine who coined the term "crowdsourcing" and will be featured in the January issue of Inventors Digest, recently revealed on his blog,crowdsourcing.com, that his toddler son, Finn, is developmentally delayed.

It's a stirring confessional and a departure from his usual posts that deal strictly with crowdsourcing - the concept that disparate Web users from across the globe can help companies find solutions to business problems and help with new product ideas. But he tied his son's developmental issues to crowdsourcing - he basically asked his network for advice, support and help.

If you have any insights or experiences that might help him and his family, I invite you to visit his blog and weigh in. If you do, make sure to tell him Edison Nation sent ya.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Leno Is Featuring Inventors


Hey all you Jay Leno fans,
This evening the Tonight Show is featuring inventions Leno’s team saw at last month’s InventBay trade show. Visit the InventBay folks at www.inventbay.com
I heard on the radio this morning that the guy who invented the vibrating toilet seat will be on. So will Tami and Denny Palmer, inventors of something called the Thigh Glider, www.ThighGlider.com
Have a great weekend, y’all!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trademark Infringement


I’m pursuing trademark action against some guy who recently launched a Web site with a similar sounding name as my magazine.

I don’t blame the guy for riding the Inventors Digest coattails. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.

But it also can be the sincerest form of infringement. I’m not going to disclose the site. Why drive traffic there? But the potential imbroglio is a good reminder to all inventors, entrepreneurs and companies. Our attorneys will be contacting the offending party. Here’s what one of our legal hounds had to say to me yesterday:

“Failure by a trademark owner to police its trademarks can result in a loss of certain rights, so we think something should be done, probably along the lines of sending a cease-and-desist letter.”

Got that? If you believe someone is infringing on your trademark, you better do something about it or risk losing your rights.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adieu Libby Lu

Saks Inc. says it’s closing all of its 98 Club Libby Lu locations, laying off 1,700 employees. Libby Lu caters to girls ages 4-12, allowing them to dress up like celebrities and princesses.

We wrote earlier this year about Patricia Breggia, an inventor who pitched girl beauty products under the name "Gidgi Lu" to Mary Drolet, then at Claire’s Stores. Drolet bolted from Claire’s and founded Libby Lu shortly thereafter.

We left it to readers to decide whether Drolet stole the idea.

I never like to see people lose their jobs. But Libby Lu seemed rather dated by the time Saks bought it in 2003. Girls have a better chance of becoming scientists, engineers, technologists and even astronauts than they do becoming celebrities or princesses.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ready, Steady, Build


Wanna build a cheap steady cam? Young genius Johnny Chung Lee shows you how on his Web site and $14 in parts. Steady cams usually start at $200.
Visit www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/steadycam/
The guy also developed do-it-yourself software for the Nintendo Wii. It transforms a normal video screen into an interactive whiteboard. Thousands, including teachers, have downloaded his software, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Visit www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/projects/wii/
He’s on our radar for a profile in 2009.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cut the Trade Deficit

Food for thought from professor Peter Morici at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business:

"Many U.S. manufacturers find it easier to locate production in China and other Asia locations than add jobs in the United States to produce goods.

"But U.S. made goods must scale considerable trade barriers and compete against subsidies provided by undervalued currencies in China, India and elsewhere in Asia. Those areas also have regulated fuel prices.

"U.S. manufacturers have received little encouragement from the Bush Administration, and in particular Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, that it will do much to level the playing field in Asia.

"Were the trade deficit cut in half, manufacturing would recoup at least 2 million of the 3.9 million jobs lost since 2000. U.S. GDP growth would be in the range of 3.5 to 4.0 percent a year instead of 2.5 to 3 percent expected as the economy resumes growth the latter half of 2009. Real wages would rise briskly."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Editor On the Block


There's been a staffing change here at Inventors Digest. Kelly Blinson is our new Radar editor. If you have a product you'd like her to review and consider publicizing or an upcoming event you want to announce, give her a shout. Her e-mail is Kelly.Blinson@InventorsDigest.com.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hungover and happy

Little hungover this morning after last night's celebration (Matt Spangard's in mourning, so if he's grumpy today, give him a break). I'll make this quick. Got an e-mail from a guy who asked me how to go about defending patent infringement. Have you, or do you know anyone, who has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit? Let me know. ... I'm gonna go get some coffee and a greasy breakfast. Damn, I'm feelin' good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Attorney as Investor

We've got a story in the January issue from a patent attorney who offers clients the option of paying up front or, in certain cases, the opportunity to pay nothing initially in exchange for his firm owning a stake in the invention.

In tight economic times, I thought the article was timely as well as timeless. If you have a really solid idea, it might be worth pursuing an equity agreement with your patent attorney. That's money saved for product development and/or marketing, and demonstrates commitment on the part of the attorney.

Damn, I love this magazine.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Georgia on my mind, redux

Here’s an update on the inventor networking and educational opportunities that
Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and The Creative Coast Alliance have cooking.

The workshops – which last from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. – are free and include lunch.

Inventors Digest’s own Jim DeBetta is hosting one about the fundamentals of marketing. Other topics include financing and prototyping. If anyone attends, I’d like to know what you thought.

Interested participants may register online for workshops at www.tagonline.org, under “Calendar of Events.” For additional information, contact Jamie Wolf at jwolf@thecreativecoast.org or Orjan Isacson or Orjan.Isacson@innovate.gatech.edu.

You Need a Team


A reporter from a business journal phoned me the other day and asked if it were true that only 1 in 8,000 inventors who get patents actually make money on their products. The answer is yes, but with a caveat. That's for independent inventors who try to do everything solo. To increase your chances for success, you need to enlist key partners. These can include designers, marketers, attorneys, business/investor types. Jack Lander writes a lot about this in our magazine.

Friday, October 31, 2008

When in China


China remains controversial - tainted milk, eggs, toys, bogus military parts and deplorable working conditions...

I see a lot of discussions on Edison Nation forums urging inventor-entrepreneurs to make their stuff in the U.S.A. Until domestic manufacturing returns to these shores, it pays to know some of the ground rules in China. Here's an excerpt from our December issue of Inventors Digest:

Protecting intellectual property in China is a different ballgame, say the lawyers at Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., a Boston law firm specializing in protecting intellectual property in the United States and worldwide.

Trademark Protection

Avoid “whoppers,” file early. U.S. companies registering their trademarks in China need a basic understanding of Chinese law, language and culture, says Edward Perlman, co-chair of Wolf Greenfield’s trademark group.

Transliterate, make sure to avoid embarrassing gaffes. Translating English into Chinese characters rarely works, so use transliteration to mimic the sound of English, Perlman advises.

Transliterate means to change letters, words, etc. into corresponding characters of another alphabet or language. Use Chinese words that sound like your trademark or that have that meaning. That takes creativity. Because there are multiple dialects in China, you’ll probably need more than one transliteration if you do business in different regions.

Your U.S. trademark law firm will need to hire a competent Chinese law firm, otherwise your transliteration could be nonsensical or downright embarrassing.

When Coca-Cola first entered China, it printed thousands of signs that rendered its name as ke-ke-ken-la, which translated to “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. The company shifted course and found a close phonetic equivalent pronounced ko-kou-ko-le, loosely translated as “happiness in the mouth.”

KFC didn’t fare any better with its initial foray. It quickly discovered its slogan “finger lickin' good” came out as “eat your fingers off.” ...

Read the full story in the December issue of Inventors Digest.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Got ADD?




I got a request to post this announcement from inventor Pal Mahal in Connecticut.

I don’t know whether he’s crazy or enlightened. Pal calls his own sanity into question. Here’s how his e-mail to me started:

“Even at the risk of sounding like an everyday garden variety crackpot, I think the prevailing paradigm of science & reality is no longer defensible.”

I asked Pal to clarify. Here’s his follow-up:

“The prevailing powerful paradigm of science instead of bringing us closer to reality is taking us away from reality.”

Not sure what to make of that. In any case, the Futurists and Inventors group meeting is 3 pm, Nov. 8, 7 Woonsocket Ave., Shelton, Conn., 06484. For more info, contact PAL@OurPal.com, 1-203-924-9538 or Fax 1-203-924-9956.

I can’t make the meeting. But Pal’s request reminded me of a story idea we’ve kicked around here. Is it just us, or do a lot of inventors have attention deficit disorder (ADD)? Is that something we should write about?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Collegiate Inventors




I'm a big fan of our nation's youth and their creative spirit continues to inspire me - to wit the 2008 Collegiate Inventors finalists, announced recently.

The following would be a bit dated by the time we could fit it in our print edition:

The National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation recently announced the 2008 finalists of its Collegiate Inventors Competition.

In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 17–23), the 12 finalist teams will be hosted by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., for the final round of judging and an awards ceremony on Nov. 19, 2008.

Prizes of $15,000 each will be awarded to the top undergraduate and graduate finalists, and the Grand Prize winner will receive $25,000.

Meet the 2008 finalists:
Undergraduates
Patrick Delaney, Matthew Beckler & Caleb Braff, University of Minnesota (Advisor: Paul Imbertson)
Solar-LED Lighting Innovation – A low-powered, economical device that provides many hours of light to areas without electricity.

Joshua Lerman, Hanlin Wan, & Swarnali Sengupta, Johns Hopkins University (Advisor: Dale
Needham) ICU Mover Aid – A device that integrates Intensive Care Unit life support systems with a wheeled walker and wheelchair to give mobility to ICU patients, which may help speed recovery.

Joshua Liu, Gayathree Murugappan, Kevin Yeh, & Vicki Zhou, Johns Hopkins University (Advisor: Robert Allen) SurgyPack – A Novel Means for Bowel Packing – A device that can be inserted by a surgeon to keep the patient’s intestines away from an abdominal surgery site.

Greg Schroll, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Advisor: Alexander Slocum) Spherical Vehicle with Flywheel Momentum Storage for High Torque Capabilities – A spherical robot that uses a control moment gyroscope to store momentum for going up inclines and over obstacles.

THE NATIONAL INVENTORS HALL OF FAME FOUNDATION
Graduates
Curtis Chong, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Advisor: Jun Liu) Identification of the Antifungal Drug Itraconazole as an Antiangiogenic Agent Useful for Treating Cancer and Diabetic Retinopathy – Potential to treat cancer and common issues associated with diabetes with Itraconazole, a drug typically used to treat fungal infections.

Nathan Clack & Khalid Salaita
, University of California at Berkeley (Advisor: Jay Groves)
Electrostatic Readout of Microarrays – Potential to detect DNA sequences and identify diseases and
pathogens using a rapid test without need for high tech resources.

Heejin Lee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Advisor: Michael Cima) Drug Delivery Device for Bladder Disorders – A device that can be inserted nonsurgically into the bladder via the urethra, releasing a controlled dosage of a drug into the bladder through osmosis.

Harvey Liu, University of Texas at Dallas (Advisor: Kenneth Balkus, Jr.) Smart Textiles for the Preservation of Tissues and Organs – A bandage that releases nitric oxide — a gas that promotes vasodilation in blood vessels to keep them relaxed and flexible—in a controlled
manner as it degrades.

Timothy Lu, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Advisor: J.J. Collins) Combating Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria and Bacterial Biofilms with Engineered Bacteriophage and Synthetic Gene Sensors – An engineered bacteriophage — a virus that infects bacteria—that works in conjunction with antibiotics, making them much more effective.

Parthasarathy Madurantakam, Virginia Commonwealth University (Advisor: Gary Bowlin) Hemostatic Mineral Bandage – An ultra-light bandage that has the ability to stop high-pressure bleeding.

Brandon McNaughton & Paivo Kinnunen
, University of Michigan (Advisor: Raoul Kopelman) Rapid Detection and Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing of Bacteria – A device capable of quickly
detecting the presence of bacteria, allowing quicker administration of appropriate antibiotics.

Paul Podsiadlo, University of Michigan (Advisor: Nicholas Kotov) Ultra-strong and Stiff, Optically Transparent Plastic Nanocomposite – An ultra-strong, transparent plastic sheet with properties approaching the values of steel and its alloys.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Here's another tip on hot product categories for 2009. We'll feature a full list and companion stories in the January '09 issue.

• Low Cost/High Value – Buyers are hungry for low-priced items that have a high perceived value. This can range from apparel to gardening tools. Buyers can’t resist a product that looks upscale and trendy but comes with a lower than expected price tag.

The photo shows the work of Gulten Dye, a Las Vegas jewelry inventor I met at the Chicago Everyday Edisons casting call. Her work is amazing - high-end looks at beer-budget prices. And the magnetic clasps make it easy to customize. You can have one long necklace, or break it up to a choker/bracelet combo. I'm getting one for my daughter. www.gultendye.com

Monday, October 27, 2008


We contacted leading retail chain buyers and conducted extensive research to show you where the hot areas of product innovation are in 2009. The full story is in our January issue. Here's another teaser:

• Consumer Electronics – According to the Consumer Electronics Association, sleek multimedia cell phones, digital cameras, novel watches, tablet PCs and flat-screen TVs will continue to be popular while decreasing in price. Retail buyers tell us they’re interested in computer accessories and organizational products such as unique furniture and media storage devices.

Thursday, October 23, 2008




India launched its first unmanned moon mission on Wednesday following in the footsteps of rival China, as the emerging Asian power celebrated its space ambitions and scientific prowess.

Meanwhile, America is fixated with Joe the Plumber. I remember when the U.S. made global headlines for space exploration. I can't wait for transformational change come November. It's time we get off our collective asses and start massively innovating again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Innovation awards for college types

Olympus just announced the Olympus Innovation Awards Program for 2009 in partnership with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).

The awards will be given to faculty nominees chosen from among the nearly 200 member institutions of NCIIA, a national network of colleges and universities fostering invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in U.S. higher education. Olympus will present the awards at the NCIIA’s 13th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on March 20, 2009.

Olympus and the NCIIA are currently soliciting nominations for the awards. Students, faculty, and others at NCIIA institutions of higher learning in
the U.S. may nominate qualified educators by logging in at www.nciia.org/login until Nov. 21, 2008. For more information about the Olympus Innovation Award Program, visit www.nciia.org.

Prototype This


Discovery Channel Puts Fun in Functionality

ID editor-at-large Jennipher Adkins recently spent some time on the set of Prototype This, a new series on the Discovery Channel. The show escorts viewers from the drafting table and on through the design process to see how inventions come to life.

“I was scheduled to be there for one hour,” she says. “Not surprisingly, the interview easily took almost three hours.”

The show debuted Oct. 15, airs at 10 p.m. each Wednesday, and will run for 13 episodes (check local listings). The team told Inventors Digest it was tough to select 13 inventions from hundreds of ideas that they initially kicked around. And these guys are building things you’ve never seen before, from mind-controlled cars to wearable airbags.

Each prototype has to be functional, solve a real-world problem and possess potential commercial value.

The four-member team is composed of robotics engineer Zoz Brooks, electrical engineer and triple patent holder Joe Grand, nanotechnologist and materials/mechanical engineer Mike North, and special effects technician Terry Sandin, who has worked on more than 25 Hollywood films.

Asked what advice he has for inventors, Sandin says, “Collaboration through brainstorming is key … don’t be afraid to bring others in.”

Some of the prototypes include a fire-proof backpack, legged vehicles (yes, a walking car), flying life guards, adhesive that allows humans to climb walls, boxing robots, road-rage proof cars and a water slide you could fit in your backyard.

“I can picture a 21st century amusement park full of simulated rides” like the one based on their perpetual water slide design, says Adkins. “It’s cool to imagine a roller coaster that gets you white-knuckled without the risk of bodily harm.

“You should watch these guys in action,” she adds. “It’ll inspire you to take their own ideas to the next level.”

www.facebook.com/wall.php?id=39941202222&edit=#/pages/Inventors-Digest/39941202222

www.edisonnation.com/forums/18/topics/977


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Georgia on my mind

Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute and the Technology Association of Georgia has done some amazing work helping inventors lately. After conducting a first-ever examination of inventor needs and economic impact, they recently started hosting inventor workshops in that state.
Interested participants may register online for workshops at www.tagonline.org, under “Calendar of Events.” For additional information, contact Jason Chernock (404-385-0829); e-mail (jason.chernock@innovate.g
atech.edu).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Davison To Pay $10 Million

Invention Promoters Will Pay $10 Million to Settle FTC Charges

The owners of an invention promotion operation have agreed to pay $10 million in consumer redress to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceived consumers across the country. The settlement includes a cash payment of $6.9 million, plus other property valued at $3.1 million.

According to the FTC, the defendants charged up to $12,000 to evaluate and promote consumers’ inventions. The defendants enticed consumers with false claims about their selectivity in choosing products to promote, their track record in turning inventions into profitable products, and their relationships with manufacturers. They also deceptively claimed that their income came from sharing royalties with inventors, rather than from the fees consumers paid.

Under the proposed settlement, in connection with providing research, patent, marketing, and/or invention promotion services, the defendants cannot misrepresent that they’re selective in accepting inventors, and that they have a stake in an invention because they “work for free” and/or receive significant income from royalties. They also can’t misrepresent how many consumers have contracted with them, how many of those consumers realized a net profit, or how many product licenses they obtained for consumers.

The settlement also bans the defendants from misrepresenting that they’ve helped inventions become products without disclosing whether consumers have profited from the product, and that they have a vast network of corporations with which they regularly negotiate licensing agreements. They also can’t misrepresent that their services are necessary for consumers to license their ideas, and that they prepare objective and expert analyses of the marketability or patentability of ideas.

The settlement requires the defendants to post on any Web site or advertising, and to furnish to prospective clients, an affirmative disclosure statement that clearly and unequivocally states:

  • How many consumers submitted ideas within the past five years;
  • Of those, how many were offered, and how many signed, agreements for defendants’ several services including research, presentation, and licensing services; and
  • How many consumers succeeded in licensing their ideas, how many made more money in royalties than they paid the defendants in fees, and the percentage of the defendants’ income that comes from royalties earned from their customers’ inventions.

The statement must include, in bold print, how many consumers in the last five years made more money in royalties or sales proceeds than they paid the defendants, and the percentage of the defendants’ income that came from royalties paid on licenses of consumers’ products.

The defendants are Davison Design and Development, Inc., formerly known as Davison & Associates, Inc., and its principal, George M. Davison III; Manufacturer’s Support Services, Inc. and its principal, Gordon M. Davison, and his wife, Barbra M. Davison; and relief defendant Barbara L. Davison, who is George M. Davison’s wife. The settlement ends the litigation between the FTC and the defendants.

Earlier, after a trial, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania entered a $26 million judgment in favor of the FTC against the defendants, except that it limited Barbra M. Davison’s liability to $8 million and imposed no liability on Barbara L. Davison. The proposed settlement will suspend the judgment once the defendants transfer cash and other assets valued at about $10 million, including residences in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania. The cash payment includes $6.8 million specifically listed in the order, plus approximately $105,000 in interest on a cash bond. The FTC has established a telephone line for consumers who may have been harmed by the defendants’ conduct. Consumers may call 216-263-3434 for more information.

The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the proposed consent order for permanent injunction was 4-0. The order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on July 14.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Coming To A Mailbox Near You

The August issue of Inventors Digest is en route.

In the cover story, we pose the question: Do video games make you smarter, faster, stronger?

Our emphatic answer: Hell yeah!

Selected content should be posted on our site soon. A full, electronic version in PDF will be available for Edison Nation Gold members.

We're putting our September issue to bed. Our cover treatment explores new developments in transportation - a timely topic given soaring energy prices and deep environmental concerns.

We also will be printing our highly anticipated special report on INPEX, the nation's largest inventor tradeshow sponsored by one of the more controversial characters in the industry. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Online Casting Call In Session

Everyday Edisons is holding an online casting call at Edison Nation June 2-23 for Season Three of the invention television series.

All you need is a well-communicated idea. No prototypes or patents are necessary (although patents don’t hurt). The inventor of the best idea will become an Everyday Edison and have his or her idea developed and featured on the show.

Inventors Digest also will profile some of the inventors who have the most promising ideas.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New Issue of ID Is Out - Come And Get It!


OK, Edison Nation Gold Members ... for the past couple of days you've had access to the latest edition of Inventors Digest.

This month, we feature famed British inventor James Dyson. Read how he took on the goliaths in the vacuum industry ... and won!

We give Gold Members advance access to the magazine. The entire issue is available on a PDF.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thank You, Providence

We returned from the final Season Three casting call for Everyday Edisons safe and sound. It was great meeting all of you last weekend. I always come away from these things with a great sense of uplift. A special shout out to Ron Komorowski, a New Jersey inventor who helped me at the Inventors Digest booth. He’s a great evangelist for the magazine and inventors.
You should check out the forum at Edison Nation to see what attendees are saying about the event.

Providence provided a mother lode of potential products for commercialization, I'm told.

What amazed me was how far some of the attendees trekked. There was one guy from Oregon!
Although I didn’t get a lot of time to take in the sights of Providence, some colleagues and I enjoyed a 4-hour walking tour of downtown Boston. ID Assistant Editor Mary Dickson (pictured) graduated from Boston University. She gave us an insider’s look at her college town. My favorites: Fenway Park (natch), where I persuaded some union guy to allow my bud Arcadio inside to take a quick picture, and the Granary Cemetery, where some of our country’s Founding Fathers and Mother Goose are buried.

I’ve got some exciting news about some major media attention coming our way. Stay tuned ….

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Meet the Vacuum Rebel


Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be featuring in our upcoming issue of Inventors Digest :

We travelled to Malmesbury, England, to meet with James Dyson, inventor of the Cyclone line of bagless vacuums. Our story chronicles his 14-year struggle to market his revolutionary line of products. Established industry experts mocked and rebuffed him.
“If there were a way to build a better vacuum,” they all told him, “Hoover or Electrolux would have invented it.” When Dyson proved them wrong and his product became the leading-selling vacuum in the UK, some of those very naysayers copied his products and infringed on his patents.
His is an amazing story of intelligence and persistence, tinged with a bit of rebellion. Look for the July issue to hit in the coming weeks. Early editions will be available at Edison Nation, where you can get a free subscription to the print edition by becoming a Gold Member.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Minnovation'

If you're in the vicinity of the Twin Cities this summer, check this out:

The Minneapolis Central Library’s “Minnovation: 150 Years of Ingenuity”

What do Rollerblades, Scotch tape, seat belts and the Tilt-a-Whirl have in common? All were invented in Minnesota. The Minneapolis Central Library is hosting “Minnovations: 150 Years of Ingenuity,” a celebration of Minnesota inventions and inventors. Paying tribute to Minnesota’s thriving culture of invention, the exhibition highlights the best of the library’s patent collection.

Minneapolis Central Library is Minnesota’s Patent and Trademark Depository Library. The exhibition is made possible by a Legacy Grant from the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission. Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Cargill Hall, Library Atrium and Space 144
May 1-Aug. 17, Tues and Thurs, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wed, Fri, Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Related events at Minneapolis Central Library:

Patent Workshops
Wednesdays; May 7, June 4, July 2, Aug. 6; 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Best Buy Technology Center
Saturdays; May 10, June 14, July 12, Aug. 9; 10-11 a.m., RKMC Meeting Room, S-275
Minneapolis Central Library has the only Patent and Trademark Depository Library in Minnesota. Join library staff and learn the basics about patents, patenting and how to conduct your own patent search.

Minnovation: Meet the Inventors
June 7, 2-4 p.m.
Children’s LibraryFor kids entering grade 2 and up. Have you ever wanted to invent something to make life easier or more fun? Discover how to spark your inventive imagination. Meet some award-winning kid inventors and Scott Olson, the inventor of Rollerblades.

Finding Betty Crocker
June 10, 7-8 p.m.
Minneapolis Central Library, Doty Board Room
For more than 80 years, Betty Crocker has been one of America’s most recognized trademarks and the most successful branding campaign in the world. What is it about Betty? Susan Marks, author of Finding Betty Crocker, offers an entertaining, charming and utterly unique look at an American icon. Join us and discover all things Betty.

For more info: www.hclib.org and www.mplib.org

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Poor, Poor Patent System


There's an interesting discussion about the state of patent submissions going on at geek forum slashdot right now. Seems USPTO Director Jon Dudas kicked up a storm for noting the poor quality of patent applications and the woeful state of the current patent system. Among his oberservations: the U.S. patent system "rewards those people ... well out of proportion with their contribution to any product."


Monday, April 14, 2008

USPTO launches new pilot

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is initiating a six-month pilot program that will allow an applicant to have an interview with the patent examiner prior to the first Office action on the merits in a new utility application.

The First Action Interview Pilot program will expedite prosecution of the patent application by enhancing the interaction between the applicant and the examiner, providing the applicant an opportunity to resolve patentability issues one-on-one with the examiner at the beginning of the review process. The program will begin on April 28.

“As we have learned from our Accelerated Examination program, an interview between the applicant and examiner early in the review process can help resolve issues more quickly and expedite a final decision,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Jon Dudas. “We believe the enhanced information exchange in the First Action Interview Pilot program will offer dual benefits of reduced pendency and improved patent quality.”

Currently, an applicant may request an interview prior to a first action. Granting of an interview is within the discretion of the examiner who has not yet reviewed the case, and the applicant may be required to identify relevant documents and explain how the invention is patentable over these documents.

Under the pilot program, the examiner will conduct a prior art search and provide the applicant a pre-interview communication which is a condensed preview of objections or rejections proposed against the claims. Within 30 days from the issue date of the pre-interview communication, the applicant must either choose not to have a first action interview with the examiner, or schedule the interview and file a proposed amendment and/or remarks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

National Trademark Expo

U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Jon Dudas will formally open the National Trademark Expo on Thursday, April 10. Joining Under Secretary Dudas will be Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, Smokey Bear, the Pillsbury Doughboy®, Sprout® and other iconic trademarked characters. Also on hand will be Anson Williams, who played “Potsie” on the 1970s TV series, “Happy Days.” His firm Starmaker Products is an exhibitor at the Expo.

Twelve other corporate exhibitors including Microsoft®, Owens-Corning®, Burberry®, Callaway Golf® and NASCAR® will provide exciting interactive displays that illustrate the vital role trademarks play in the global economy. The Expo also will highlight the Federal Government’s efforts to combat counterfeit goods, which costs America billons of dollars each year. The Expo is free, fun, and informative for the whole family.

WHO: Speaking at 10:00 a.m., Thursday
• City of Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille
• Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Jon Dudas
• Commissioner for Trademarks Lynne Beresford

For a complete list and description of the exhibits, see: http://www.uspto.gov/main/homepagenews/2008mar31a.htm.

WHAT: National Trademark Expo

WHEN: Opening ceremony – Thursday, April 10, at 10:00 a.m.
Expo is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursday - Saturday

WHERE: USPTO campus, atrium of the Madison building, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Va.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

USPTO Can't Change the Rules

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has no substantive rulemaking authority, so says a U.S. District Court. Good news for those who think the USPTO over-reaches; bad for USPTO Director Jon Dudas, who came out on the losing side of this court case.

GlaxoSmithKline, et al. (collectively, “GSK”) and Triantafyllos Tafas (“Tafas”) filed a lawsuit to permanently enjoin the USPTO from changing longstanding rules on how patent applications are examined.

In a twenty-six page opinion, District Court Judge Cacheris found "the USPTO’s rulemaking authority under 35 U.S.C. § 2(b)(2) does not extend to substantive rules, and because the Final Rules are substantive in nature, the Court finds that the Final Rules are void as ‘otherwise not in accordance with law’ and ‘in excess of statutory jurisdiction [and] authority.’ 5 U.S.C. § 706(2).”

You can find the opinion here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Patent Off-Shoring, Down Under

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has forged another patent examination deal with a foreign country ... this time Australia. The release says:

Washington, D.C. – The Commerce Department’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Intellectual Property Office of Australia (IP Australia) today announced that they will launch a new trial cooperation initiative called the Patent Prosecution Highway in April. The Patent Prosecution Highway will leverage fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. It also will permit each office to benefit from work previously done by the other office, in turn reducing examination workload and improving patent quality.

This pilot project with IP Australia builds on the success of a pilot with the Japan Patent office, which was made permanent in January. Pendency to first action was substantially reduced in many cases relative to the normal pendency in the particular technology area.
Under the Patent Prosecution Highway, an applicant receiving a ruling from either IP Australia or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office fast track the examination of corresponding claims in corresponding applications. Full requirements for participation in the trial program can be found at www.uspto.gov/web/patents/pph/pph_ipau.html and http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/patents/international/pph_uspto.shtml.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Trash to Treasure

Imagine transforming stuff from your recycling bin into the next big thing and winning $10,000 for your innovative design.
Design Squad, PBS’s engineering and design competition show, and Intel have joined forces with By Kids For Kids to give young people the opportunity to do just that.
The nationwide Trash to Treasure competition will launch at www.bkfk.com on April 1 to coincide with the television series’ premiere of season two and will run through June 30.
Fabric, paper, plastic, small electronics, wheels, clamps, springs, batteries, hardware, wood, cardboard … just about anything is fair game.
The grand prize winner will receive $10,000 provided by the Intel Foundation and a trip to the development lab at Continuum, an award-winning international design and innovation consultancy, to build a prototype of his or her Trash to Treasure design.
The Design Squad Trash to Treasure contest will challenge kids of all ages to take everyday discarded or recycled material and re-engineer it into functional products. The product can move things or people, protect the environment or be something kids can play with.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Do Patents Do More Harm Than Good?

Amid the clamor over patent reform, a parallel debate is occurring. The TechDirt blog has an interesting discussion going about whether patents do more harm than good.

Here's blogger Mike Masnick's premise:

"Any given monopoly is going to be bad. There are economic rents associated with a monopoly. It limits the supply available and increases the cost, acting as a deadweight loss to society. That's absolutely true with patents as well (as much of the research has shown). However, there are a few more reasons why patents tend to be a net negative. ..."

It's provocative stuff. Inventors Digest will be featuring Michael Meurer in our June issue. He's co-author of Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk, and will spell out his argument how patents stifle innovation. Stay tuned ....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More on Patent Reform

The proposed patent reform bill is generating more chatter and clatter. Over at Intellectual Property Watch, there’s a post saying, “Legislation for sweeping patent reform in the United States could see Senate floor action as soon as early April.”

Those who claim to be in the know predict the bill will die a quiet death after all is said and done. There may be something to that … even the USPTO has said it can’t support the reform bill “as written.” But it still supports some of the more controversial aspects of the bill, including changing the longstanding first-to-invent provision to first-to-file.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rudolph!


Rudolph Diesel invented the diesel engine in the 1930s. His birthday is March 18.

He would have been 150 years old this year.
Diesel engines have evolved from rattling, exhaust-belching machines into smoother running ‘green’ alternatives to gasoline engines. Many run on clean vegetable oil-based fuels or “biodiesel.” The folks at VW put the “bug” in my ear to remind us of Rudolph’s birthday … oh, and that the company offers a line of diesel vehicles for consumers. Inventors Digest will showcase alternative energy in May, when it will feature Jay Leno and his biodiesel EcoJet car on the cover. Stay tuned …

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Innovation in the UK

A pair of Scotsmen bagged the Biggart Baillie Innovation Awards, a UK invention contest. One earned it for a new way to de-clutter school desks. The other earned honors for a contact-lens safety apparatus.

Read more about it here.

Meanwhile, Welsh innovators were showcasing their smarts at the Innovation Into Action 2008 event recently. Inventions included a no-drip cap for milk bottles (I guess they still use milk bottles in Wales), and a high-tech navigation system that includes historic and cultural information as drivers pass landmarks.

Read more about the event here.