As the dust settles in the third decade of the Internet era, URBO news site echoed the conclusions of my recent TEDx Talk which unequivocally states that normal, everyday Americans are changing the world with small, simple ideas at greater rates than the rocket scientists at NASA or the freakishly smart engineers at Google.
In fact, the exploits and success of the “Average Joe,” reflects the new world we live in where a Kickstarter campaign or viral product video on Facebook can launch a million-dollar brand and inspire a legion of fanatical fans. URBO’s article The Most Important Inventions You Never Think About used my recent TEDx Talk “Patenting Solutions To Life’s Little Annoyances,” to herald the epic rise of Average Joe in innovating America and indeed the world! “The vast majority of inventors aren’t brilliant engineers (we’re looking at you, Nikola Tesla) or scheming pragmatists (we’re looking at you, Thomas Edison). They’re normal people,” wrote R.J Wilson. Once and for all we need to penetrate and diminish the mystique and awe of the fabled flux capacitor which has so often dimmed the hopes of everyday Americans who feel they cannot compete with the mad cap genius of “Doc” in the blockbuster movie, Back to the Future. While large firms like Google or IBM use the First To File System to quickly rack up hundreds of patents through a cadre of internal patent attorneys, The Average Joe has some remarkable tools at his disposal to cross the finish line first. Perhaps the most important one is to keep his idea a secret and share with as few people as possible. Sharing the idea on social media or conducting searches on Google is a recipe for disaster exposing the idea to rivals who will not waste a second filing the idea FIRST with the USPTO. The second advantage Average Joe has over the rocket scientist at Lockheed Martin or Monsanto is the fact that the USPTO does not require a prototype in order for a patent to be filed. If an inventor approaches me early enough in the process, I can help draft a bulletproof patent application that will offer a wide range of protection against copy cats in foreign countries or litigation teams at massive corporations.ß As long as you can describe how it’s made or how it works, you can probably get a patent. Just ask any of my clients including Troy Faletra who invented the ThrowRaft marine safety device or Steven Lovenvirth whose LitterZap product is reshaping the pet sector. As URBO quite correctly points out both the Average Joe and Rocket Scientist often stumble upon an idea by accident. This was the case with the Super Glue invention which was an offshoot of an attempt by Harry Coover in 1942 to create new plastic sights for soldiers fighting in World War II. Nine years later, while working on a heat resistant substance for aerospace applications at Eastman Kodak he remembered the botched experiment and used this knowledge to create Super Glue. You will not believe how many inventors tell me similar stories; how they come up with a world-changing idea but don’t always grasp the significance or importance of it at the time. This happened to another client of mine David Cogswell who invented the toilet purifier which was recently featured on the Home Shopping Network. “I was immediately struck as to how much noise the overhead ceiling fan was making. I thought there must be something wrong with it. I flushed, then immediately went back to my desk and did some drawings on a new design. Something much more simple, silent and effective than that lousy overhead fan!” He then threw the drawings in his desk and promptly forgot about them until moving to a new house two years later and re-discovering the drawings while searching for staples in the garage. In baseball, the most common type of hit is the single. When used correctly it can be highly effective but never garners the attention of a home run. As the MLB states nobody has ever made a commercial about singles hitters. Fans crave the homers, the long bombs that sail over the stadium covers. Yet singles unnerve the man on the mound. Singles move runners from first to third, from second to home. They drive in runs. This principle is at work in the world of inventing where for decades the home run or its metaphorical equivalent, The Flux Capacitor, grabbed all the limelight and overshadowed the power of singles, those small simple ideas that rise up to win games and ultimately hearts and minds. This was the approach another one of my clients took, Andy Castellanos, when he came up with the idea for an inspirational baseball bracelet based on the patron Saint St. Rita which had a deep personal connection to Andy as well as the world of baseball. Several prominent athletes now wear the St. Rita Baseball Believe Band and a portion of funds generated from purchases of the patent sports bracelet go to a number of causes around the United States. “When you own one, you’ll also have a constant reminder that obstacles are meant to be overcome, and that miracles happen every day,” said Andy. His simple idea is winning heart and minds; it’s a far cry from the complex mythical machinery inherent in a time machine or flux capacitor. So the next time you watch a game of baseball or a re-run of Back to the Future, remember that singles and small ideas help win games and can take you to the world series of inventing. The only time you will ever need a flux capacitor is when you reach a grand old age and wish you could travel back to your younger self to beg him to call me to protect his (your) idea NOW.
Yes, inventors, the time is NOW to protect and profit from your idea.