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, 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:
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.

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.

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 until Nov. 21, 2008. For more information about the Olympus Innovation Award Program, visit

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.”

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, under “Calendar of Events.” For additional information, contact Jason Chernock (404-385-0829); e-mail (jason.chernock@innovate.g