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:
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.

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


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.”