National Patent Attorney
“Cour-age”: Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
This word came up several times in my keynote speech to the Inventors Society of South Florida (ISSF), as I faced a crowd filled with creators, innovators and entrepreneurs who all shared a common bond: To successfully launch their idea in what I call the Golden Age of Inventing in America.
My 20 year journey through patent law has shown me how important courage is, especially when surrounded by naysayers and pessimists, often even well-meaning friends, family and co-workers that can kill your idea before it even gets off the ground.
Some of the ISSFs’ aims are to educate the inventor in evaluating, marketing, producing and licensing their idea in a nation known for astounding innovation and entrepreneurial capacity.
But my speciality - Patent Law - is perhaps one of the most important and difficult and often misunderstood pieces in this puzzle, an area that small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs and inventors often misunderstand, neglect or ultimately, fear.
Many mistakenly hold the belief that their idea is taken or is too simple to be pursued seriously in the marketplace. Or, they feel the process is overly complex and weighted against them. Some inventors who visit me, have literally waited years - sometimes a decade - before mustering up the courage to come see me to protect their idea.
I think many in the audience that day could relate to the fear of the unknown, or the magnetic pull to stay safely in one’s comfort zone rather than pursue an idea that could change the world or simply make some process simpler, better or faster which ultimately translates into a lifetime of annual revenue and royalties.
I feel well versed to make this claim because for many years I was stuck in that same gray twilight too, a limbo between where I was currently stationed in life and where I wanted to go as a both a patent attorney and close collaborator (and friend) to inventors across America.
The quote that always captured this struggle and internal fear to ‘dare mighty things’ was captured by Teddy Roosevelt:
I had shown some initial courage early in my career and overcame a rejection letter to join the top patent law firm on the planet - Fish & Neave. This law firm had helped the Wright Brothers with their patent on the airplane, Thomas Edison with the invention of the lightbulb, Henry Ford with his automotive ideas and Alexander Graham Bell with the invention of the telephone.
Unfortunately, I quickly found that the Fish & Neave of today was no longer representing inventors directly. Instead, I fell into a dark rut for many years as I melted into the cold, distant meeting rooms of corporate America where I had little interaction with small American inventors like those present in the ISSF audience. My meetings were with lawyers and MBA’s and I was far removed from the creative spark of the inventor.
In the video further above, I talk about a complete stranger who changed my life forever after unintentionally sending him an email thought-stream of my fears and dreams in life, which at that point included starting my own law firm.
It was a comical moment, which changed my life forever and ultimately led to my evolution into The Patent Professor®, a moniker I have picked up and that has taken wings as I spoke about my experience during recent TEDx Talks and national appearances on CBS and ABC. Two of my recent patenting books are Amazon bestsellers.
The unifying theme in these dreamscapes is the courage to pursue your idea full throttle when all those around you emphatically state it’s impossible.
I recall one of my clients, Alex Gomez, who dumped a raw, unattractive prototype on my table one day and told me his surgical anti-fogging device would change the medical world forever. Every doctor he met, told Alex that he was crazy, no, NUTS!
“John, I don’t care,” he said. “I dropped out of medical school to pursue this idea and I know it will work. I need you to help me patent my idea.”
Fast-forward a few short years, and Alex astounded his critics by growing his startup to a business that would earn over $20 million dollars annually with a medical device that was used in over 1 million annual surgeries.
When he sold his company to an Irish medical giant for over $100 million, he completed a remarkable journey that ‘dared mighty things’.
Although Alex acknowledged the role patents played in this massive payout, stating “the most important part of the deal was our intellectual property, as it also had several other products under development”, I firmly believe that courage was the operating system upon which he launched his idea full throttle.
My final parting words to the crowd of inventors present at the ISSF that day were to remind them that the greatest cost in life is not dying; it is dying with an unfilled dream still suffocating you inside.
I join Teddy Roosevelt in reminding all inventors to fight like hell for that dream and ignore the naysayers and escape the gray twilight of your comfort zone.