Friday, September 19

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 4

Well this is it.... the day you have been waiting for. The day we talk about how to actually make money from your patent.

Like I said yesterday, one way to make your investment back is to select a very nice frame, hang it on your wall, and when your friends come over, simply charge them a dollar to see it. You may not make a ton of money but at least you will have recovered a small portion of that very large investment.
Secondly, you can do what many inventors do. You can pay a lot of money for the patent, then license it to a manufacturer who will then make a widget and give you a percentage of the profits. For many inventors this is a great option since it generates income with very little effort.

But why does a company want to license, or rent your patent? Because you had a great concept for a solution to a large problem and you educated yourself enough on the areas we talked about earlier to structure a strong defendable patent with little white space and solid claims.
Charge your friends and license your patent are two of the most obvious ways to make money from your patent, but there are two more inventors rarely think about. Optioning your patent and Selling your patent.

Before we start talking about selling a patent we have to take a moment and talk about ownership in general.
Some of you may know, a US Patent can only be awarded to an individual, and that each inventor on the patent is treated as if they were the only inventor on the patent - that is, they have equal rights of ownership. Not 50/50, but each inventor owns 100% of the same patent.  It can be confusing when you have several inventors all free to go off and sell, rent, or give away the same patent.

Additionally, you may or may not know that there is only one way to change ownership on a patent - the process of Assignment.  Unlike almost anything else know to man, ownership of a patent cannot be changed through contract, or inheritance, or as a gift. These mechanisms may be the catalyst for changing the ownership but they are not the mechanism.
The only way to change ownership of a patent in the United States is to register an assignment with the US Patent & Trademark office in Washington. Until that assignment has been filed and registered, the legal ownership remains with the originator in the eyes of the law.

Much like a book or a movie, inventors often Option the use of a patent to a manufacturer. Think of this as a short term rental you offer the company while they explore the technology and figure out if they can or should make a widget.
The basic premise is simple. Never give up control of your patent without some form of compensation.  In an option you may be renting it to them for 90 days, and depending on how well you positioned the patent (based on all the factors we've talked about) you can demand a significant amount of rent.

The final way we want to explore monetizing a patent is to simply sell it.
This is actually a very interesting option that most inventors have no clue about. You see, in today's world patents are often bought and sold as if they were stocks or bonds. Not that they appreciate in value the way a stock can, but that they have a specific value that can be very subjective.

Say you have a company, and you want to increase the value of your company by adding to its assets. You may purchase a patent (or more likely a bundle of patents) for a lower price, then have them appraised at a higher price (remember, value of a patent is very subjective) giving you an asset that makes your company worth more, and can be used as collateral.
So what mechanisms are available for us to actually sell our patents? The most popular one is simply to find a company and approach them. Look for a company working in the technology covered by the claims, and offer the patent for sale.

The second most popular way is to auction your patent. There are many patent auctions that take place year round. Normally held online, the auction catalog is full of individual and bundles patents that can be sold for significant amounts of money. That is, if you have a strong patent.
You may remember in the beginning we talked about these factors that make for a good patent. The reason these are so important is because those are the factors that make up the value of your patent in the first place.

You can sell any patent to anyone willing to pay for it. But in the end it's how strong the paper is, how well written the claims, and how commercially viable the technology that will determine if anyone wants it, and how much they are willing to pay you for it.
So now you know what makes a patent strong and what avenues are available to you to make money from that huge investment.  After all, the time to think about making money from your patent is long before you buy it.

Mark Reyland

Thursday, September 18

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 3

So let's get back at it shall we?

We see that there are some important concepts we should understand as we figure out the value of our patents.  
At this point though we need to talk frankly about patents and the role they play in your inventing process.  You see, patents aren't for everyone. In fact, to independent product inventors they normally serve very little purpose.  With less than about 20% of all retail products patented, and the vast majority of independent inventors working in retail products, an average cost of $12,000 over the life of the patent, and only 47% of the applications actually awarding, it doesn't normally add up for a product inventor to get a patent.

That said, there is no such thing as always and before I get hate mail from the patent office I want to point out that although clearly broken as a system, US patents can play an important role in many inventions. But how do we know what ones?
You never know for sure, but I normally apply this rule of thumb. The more technically complicated and developmentally intricate, the greater a chance the patent will help you. If you are inventing a simple product that will get to market pretty quickly the entire process will be over before you find out if you are one of those lucky 47%.... so why bother.  If your invention is 10 years in development, and will be worth millions then a patent is an important part of your strategy.

Okay, so we got that patent we always dreamed of, and now we want to figure out what to do with it. Let's look at our options.
We can...
A) Hang it on our wall and charge our friends a dollar to see it  
B) License it to a company so they can make a widget with the technology

C) Sell it to someone, or some company
These are the only three options you have as an inventor to monetize a patent once you have it.

Now of course a penny saved is a penny earned, so not getting it in the first place is like getting a check for $12,000 in the mail.....don't ya think?

 Knowing these are the three things we really want to talk about, I vote we all get a good night's sleep and jump right in tomorrow.... come on, you knew I was going to do that... night, night

Mark Reyland

Wednesday, September 17

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 2

Here we are already in part two of this .....well, come to think of it, I have no idea how many parts series.  What I do know is that I'll just keep blabbing until we cover the important stuff, and maybe in that process you get a better sense of how patents are commercialized.

We were talking about definitions that help us center ourselves on the subject. So far we have talked about Claims, and Claim strength.
No we need to expand by addressing a few more terms.

WHITE SPACE: This colorful little term refers to the "space" between claims in a patent. Say claim one is for "A" and claim two is for "B + part of C", and claim three for "E, F, G" The white space in this example is that part of "C" and all of "D" not covered in the excising claims. The name of the game is to reduce the white space so that the claims form a solid barrier with no gaps.
FRESH PATENT:  That's right sports fans, patents like fish go bad over time. Obviously the biggest reason a patent goes bad is simply because it has a term associated with it. The less time left on the patent the less it's worth - simple as that.

DEPENDANT PATENT:  In terms of value, a patent that is dependent on another patent to come together to form a product is worth less than one that stands alone. Say you have a patent for "A" and the commercial viability of your patent lies in the development of a widget that requires both "A" Technology and "B" Technology. Without the value of "B", your patent for "A" has a significantly reduced value to the person making that widget.
LIKE PATENTS: Just different enough to be awarded separately, but close enough to cause confusion and in some cases litigation. If there are a lot of these like patents to yours the value can drop like a stone. The reason is simple really, no one wants to take the risk of paying to defend the patent against someone who feels they overlap.

PATENT STRENGTH: Although as with any strength measurement, patent strength can be, and normally is, very subjective.  After all - what I think is strong, you may not. So let's look more at the elements of what makes a strong patent in terms of valuation.  We look at several indicators, including (you guessed it) Claim strength. However, that alone does not tell the story. So we continue on by looking at how much white space there is, how close the patents are to other patents, how fresh the patent is, and the market/category where products could be developed using the claims.

Okay.... there are a few more terms for you to ponder. We'll pick this up on the next blog when we can spend a little time talking about the actual ways to convert a patent to money.

Mark Reyland  

Tuesday, September 16

Got my Patent...Oh @#*&, now what? Part 1

You did it! .... a very long time, much discussion, and thousands of dollars later you got a patent.  Congratulations, you are now a patent holder, one of 47% of applicants that actually received their patents after spending all that time and money.

So what now?
Well, if you are like most inventors you will talk about it to anyone you know until people find graceful ways to change the subject, often while you are still in mid sentence.  Or, there are those who will try to commercialize it and end up sinking even more money into the bottomless pit of possibility.  

What you probably won't do with this expensive piece of parchment is make any money from it. You see, although there are several ways to monetize a patent, most inventors focus on those that appear to be the most lucrative but also the hardest to achieve - selling a product.
Before we explore that crazy mess, let's take a quick moment to define some terms so we're all on the same page. Terms every patent holder should know before they even apply for the world's most expensive wallpaper.

CLAIMS: Not a claim against something, but a claim for something. You see, a patent is nothing without its claims. In fact, the words "I Claim..." should be required in the title of every patent instrument, if nothing more than a reminder of the reason you spent all that money in the first place.
In your patent you are claiming you can do something that has never been done before.  Pretty bold of you actually, but hey, if it's true own it. 

Remember - These are claims NOT products. In fact, in the world of patents, these claims have NOTHING to do with products. So get your head on straight and understand the difference in owning a patent and owning a product - they are not always inclusive.
CLAIM STRENGTH: While this term is self explanatory, its implications are anything but.  When we talk about claim strength in general we refer to the ability to defend the claim against infringers. While this a key component of the patent value, it leaves unaddressed the bigger picture issue with patent valuation and commercialization of the patent - the issue of claim achievability.

Much to the dismay of our founding fathers, who I'm sure are rolling in their graves as they witness the bastardization of their noble intent. The US patent system under its current form DOES NOT require the claim to actually be achievable.  There - I said it. We patent ideas, not necessarily inventions. We didn't always do that but we do now.
What this means to your claim strength is another layer of scrutiny when it comes to figuring out if the patent has any value.  The claim is strong because it's well written,  because it's relevant to some form of commercialization, and in today's world, because you can actually do it not just theorize it.  

Okay...that's enough for today... I'm tired.  In the next part of this series on what to do with that patent you just sold your dog for, we'll define a few more key terms and then talk about your options for turning that paper into money.

Mark Reyland

Monday, September 15

Hey....there are TWO sell sheets?

Many inventors ask this question - what is a Sell Sheet?

Let me answer it for you, it’s a sheet that lists the benefits and sales information about a product, while giving the reader a graphic representation of what the product looks like.

But we can’t stop there – in fact there are two types of “buyers” in the product industry, and that means there should be two types of sell sheets – and there are.

The first sell sheet we’ll talk about is one for a license product. That is, the sheet is designed to show a basic product concept and function. These sell sheets are very basic and normally contain a few core things

1. A rendered graphic image of the product
2. The problem/solution statement
3. A short list of basic consumer benefits
4. The status of any intellectual protection on the product (without dates)
5. The innovator/inventor’s contact information 
Because the formula of a product licensing sell sheet is so basic, and it’s not designed to confer a lot of specific information, most inventors do them themselves, or have them done by a graphics person. Either way, it’s important that you don’t go overboard and that you depict the problem, the product and the benefits accurately and concisely.
The second type of product sell sheet is a lot more complex. Because this sell sheet is designed for a retail buyer and that means you already have the product made and ready for distribution.
When you are contacting a retailer trying to get an order they need very specific information.  In fact, the sell sheet is really a secondary conversation between you and that person, taking place after you have hung up the phone or left the building.
A good buyer’s sell sheet takes all the variables off the table by presenting the information they need for decision making; in a way you want it presented to look best for that product. It reaffirms what you told them, documents what you told them, and passes on what you told them to others down the line who may have read the sell sheet but did not get the chance to talk with you directly.
Unlike a licensing sell sheet that can be any configuration, a Retail Sell Sheet has a formula – It’s always a double sided glossy standard size sheet, and the information is presented in a very specific way.
The front side of the sell sheet is pretty basic. It contains what we call a “glamour shot” (a central image of the product) a short paragraph about the problem/solution statement. “The _____ is designed to help the consumer overcome a problem doing this…..”  - And then in bullet form, the top 5 uses for the product.
The back side on the other hand is a little more complicated. It contains what we sometimes call the “retail shot”. This image is of your product on a store shelf presented in a way that plants the image in the buyers mind to help them visualize your product in their stores.
Then it’s down to business – the back side of a buyers sell sheet is about presenting them the information that they will need to understand how they can fit the product into their lineup. It should include images of the different package and display options along with this list of information important to the buyer.
1.    Order lead time and fulfillment information
2.    Piece size, colors, packaging and weight
3.    The MSRP (Based on research not a guess)
4.    Product availability date
5.    Display options
6.    Basic freight information
7.    Minimum order information
8.    Number of units in a Sub Pack, a Master Pack, and Pallet
9.    Contact information including any web site you have set up for the product, your  name, address, phone number, and alternate number

It should NOT however, contain any information about wholesale pricing.
As you can see there are some major differences in the terms inventor soften use to describe “Sell Sheets”. In fact, the wrong type of sell sheet to the wrong company can make you look not only unprofessional, but greatly decrease your chances of getting any kind of deal.
Mark Reyland

Friday, September 12

10 easy steps to Licensing a product

I swore I would never do least not like this, but the demand has been overwhelming to lay out a set of steps that outline the product licensing path.

The reason of course I didn't want to do it was because it normally takes a significant amount of discussion to properly explain these steps. Necessary discussion, because just knowing the steps themselves is only half the battle - you must also know how to use them and why they are significant to your success.
These are the steps you take to license an "idea" or a "Product" to a third party company.

It's not scientific, but rather a very practical set of steps that when used correctly will result in success more often than failure.

STEP 1 … Find a good solution to a big problem - You need to start by understanding the demand for your solution.  You are providing a fix to my problem and I'm willing to give you money for it. But I alone can't support the market so it needs to have literally millions of people with the same problem.
STEP 2 … Understand the core function of your product/idea- Products are wrappers for functions simple as that.  Understand the core function of your product and you will unchain yourself from the paradigms you have of what the "product" looks like - A water bottle is a water bottle. But functionally so is a 50 gallon drum. The function is the containment of mass (not fluid) and the orderly movement of that mass. Now apply that standard to design and all of a sudden you have a water bottle the world has never seen before.

STEP 3 … Make sure you know what makes a product/idea successful - You have to do your homework. If you want to be successful, if you want to be a professional, you need to earn it. That means reading everything you can get about things like Use cycle, workarounds, and the benefit detriment scale of a product.  I assure you they are all here on this blog along with many other things you need.  
STEP 4 … Conduct a Market Audit to see if the world needs another one -  A market audit is finding every functionally equivalent item currently being sold and matrixing them out into a giant spreadsheet. Size, price, function, store, color.... all go into a market audit.

STEP 5 … Protect the product/idea the best you can - Look to see if it's already been protected by someone else so you don't infringe on them. But then use an NDA or a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) as a first step in developing a baseline of protection.  There is no need to spend a lot of money here - let the company you license to spend their money on expensive patents.
STEP 6 … Produce a quick manufacturer sell sheet - Again, here on the blog (use the search bar on the upper left) you will find all the information you need to develop a low cost manufacturers sell sheet. Not a retailer's sell sheet you don't need that - keep it simple and give them the information they are looking for.

STEP 7 … Go shopping for contacts - That's right, go shopping. Go to every store that carries a category for your product and flip over the packaging. On the back will be either the manufacturer or the distributor. Take a picture with your phone or simply write it down.
STEP 8 … Respectfully and Professionally contact manufacturers - Now that you are home from the store start calling the contacts you harvested.  BE RESPECTFUL.  Ask them what thier process is for submissions and if they will sign an NDA. If they say no, thank them for their time and hang up. DO NOT get angry and act like a jerk. It hurts all of us.

If they say yes, follow what they tell you. These processes are there for a reason so respect them.
STEP 9 … Understand and Sign a license contract - If you follow these steps eventually you will get a license deal. It may not be on your first try. Like every process you have to get good at it, but eventually it will happen. When it does, understand the deal. Take your offer to someone who knows what to do and ask them for advice. Use a CONTRACT attorney (not a patent lawyer) in all deals to ensure you are properly represented.  Over time you will learn what needs to be in the contract and the legal end will be reduced to more of a review.

STEP 10 … REPEAT STEPS 1- 9 Over and over again - I can't stress this enough. THIS IS A PROCESS you have to own it and make it your process. That means tweaking it and repeating it over and over until it becomes second nature.
So you wanted to know the big secret to successfully licensing a product to a manufacturer? Well now you know. It's not complicated, it's not expensive, it's not even that much work actually. That is, after you get good at it.

Mark Reyland

Thursday, September 11

A very cool little printer....

Invention Awards: A Magic Wand For Printing

A mini inkjet prints on any flat surface with a wave of the hand
By Rena Marie Pacella

In 2000, one of Europe’s largest rubber-stamp companies approached Alex Breton, an engineer from Stockholm, Sweden, for product ideas. Instead of dreaming up a new stamp, he designed the PrintBrush, an 8.8-ounce handheld gadget that uses inkjets, computer-mouse-like optics and navigation software to print uploaded images and text on any flat surface, including paper, plastic, wood and even fabric.

Conventional printers move paper through the machine in large part because it’s the only way to accurately track the position of the page relative to the print head. With such constraints, Breton realized, a printer could never be narrower than its paper—unless the inkjets had an entirely new way to navigate across the page.

That’s the allure of the PrintBrush. The device operates more like a computer mouse than a printer. Laser sensors, originally developed by Philips, track the printer’s movement and pinpoint its position. The sensors continuously emit infrared laser beams toward the paper’s surface as the user moves the device over it. They then measure the scattering of the reflected beams, which—along with the beams’ power fluctuations—determines the device’s velocity and direction of motion. Even small amounts of reflected laser light are enough to track motion, so the lasers work on almost any type of surface.

It took less than two years to develop the first prototype but nearly a decade more to get it right. With each new version, Breton and the team of optics engineers and other experts he recruited refined the navigation system, most recently replacing LED-based sensors with the lasers. They also added color, which required writing a set of algorithms to quickly formulate the ink combinations needed to produce the appearance of 16 million different shades.

By early next year, a PrintBrush with a built-in camera for instant photo printing will hit the market and officially claim the title of world’s smallest printer. Breton will release an even smaller model, the A4, shortly thereafter.

Read more about this and other winners of the Invention Awards at
Mark Reyland

Wednesday, September 10

We all get older...

This has absolutely nothing to do with inventing, nothing to do with products, and certainly nothing to do with patents.... but who's pretty funny.

I just hope it doesn't stay in my head all day

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, September 9

No kidding....

Alton Brown has become best known as the host of the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" program. But he's also a damn fine cook with his own show, "Good Eats."With that show he became synonymous with flawless technique and no nonsense cooking.
He is also a champion against the kitchen villain known as the "unitasker" — those gadgets that only do one thing and take up too much space in the one room in the house where organization is key. "
I have seen enough kitchens in my time — professional or otherwise — to know not only a unitasker when I see one, but a useless gadget as well. They have no business being in your kitchen" Says Alton.  
Here are three of them that clearly fit in the “unitasker” category:
You don't need this. You need a good blender. A good blender can help you create everything from soups and sauces to margaritas and milkshakes. There are many good blenders on the market, but most pros swear by VitaMix or BlendTec. Be prepared to spend around $500 for either one. That's right. $500. But it's the last blender you'll ever buy. Anyone who has ever struggled with a stubborn smoothie or a leaky blender will immediately appreciate the quality of these machines.
This unholy abomination is a symbol of what's sometimes wrong with America: Why do something right when you can do it quick and poorly?
First, eggs are too delicate for the microwave. Second, there are a few skills I believe everyone should master. How to make a proper omelet is one of those things. With a little butter, a couple eggs and some fresh herbs (thyme is nice, so are chives) you can make an omelet in about two minutes that will put most restaurants to shame. If you want to know how, ask the master - Jacque Pepin has many books. My favorite is "Essential Pepin." Use the money you save not buying the things on this list to buy his cookbook.
There is only one slicer you will ever need. It's called a chef's knife.
Find one just big enough to be comfortable in your hands, take good care of it, and then throw away every banana, tomato, egg or whatever else slicer you have rattling around your kitchen junk drawer. Good chefs will tell you that having at least one good knife — and keeping it sharp and clean — will make you a better cook almost instantly.
So you have an it a single use, take up space, collect dust kind of product invention like these?
Mark Reyland

Monday, September 8

Inventor Recycling..... it's in the bag

Anyone who knows me knows I'm anything but a tree hugger.

In fact, I don't try very hard to recycle. While it does help the planet, it's actually a feeder for companies who sell the recycled material. If you have ever looked into manufacturing with recycled materials you know the most expensive part of the process (especially in plastics) is the separation process.

Not that I'm jaded, but isn't recycling simply us as a group helping increase profits for companies who want to appear to be helping the world?

Now - that said - create a nonprofit recycling company to help charity, or even a government recycling company to lower taxes and I'll be the first one in line to throw my bottle in the little blue bin.

But that's not what I wanted to show you, what I wanted to show you was an entirely different kind of recycling - Inventor Recycling.

What? you never heard of inventor recycling? That's because I just made it up, so don't feel too bad.

I only made it up as a way of talking about the impact we as inventors can have on the planet and the economy by doing what the guys in this video did.

They used their talents as inventors to see things in ways the rest of us couldn't. Taking parts and pieces that had no prior relationship and bringing them together in a way that had benefit - new concept? no, there are lots of people who do some form of what these guy did.

Inventing is that process, and no matter if it's a complex medical device or a handbag, we as inventors build something from items, that when complete benefit someone in some way.

In terms of recycling, or even inventing, did these guys hit it out of the park? Maybe not, but they did make a cool bag.

Friday, September 5

A story you should read

As I travel around the country I am blessed to meet some very nice people.

Several years ago in the little town of Redwood Falls Minnesota I met a couple named Greg and June Amundson. Other than Greg being about 20 feet tall, he and June could be any inventor couple in the world. Their story was typical, and their journey was full of both joy and sadness.

Our paths have crossed several times over the past year and I’ve come to respect the tenacity this unassuming couple from Minnesota has for turning their product into something that can help people. (If you have ever tried to calk something you will know exactly what I mean) So here is their story of inspiration and hope.

Another new year and I’m sitting here patiently awaiting an offer from a major DRTV company to hopefully license our product. We received an e-mail yesterday telling us it was on its way and we should have it soon.

We have a product called Insta Caulk™ with SilTak™ silicone adhesive which is a “peel and stick” trim product that replaces caulking on just about anything from toilets to countertops. Currently we are selling direct on our website at

But three years ago it was an entirely different story - I was laying awake one night because our custom home building business was going into the tank, and fast. It was a feeling that’s hard to explain unless you have had it, but it is deep, painful and foreboding worry that just about makes you sick.

For some odd reason I began to focus on the consistent sloppy, dirty caulking I always noticed on urinals in the men’s room. I tend to see things and think about solutions. I‘ve always wondered if I have some form of ADD. Maybe, due to my panicked state of mind, I designed a solution in my head and got up the next morning and drew it up on our computer. When I was done It looked cool, very functional, and if it actually worked could be used anywhere in the world. I had heard that if you can design a product everyone uses over and over again you would become rich. That may be true but getting to that point is almost impossible.

Being an Inventor is a lot like treading water. As long as you keep kicking and trying you probably will keep your head above water and continue to see and hope for success some day. Of course, once you become too tired, give up, or take on additional burdens that you can no longer handle staying above water, you sink.

We have been through far more than I could have ever imagined in 3 years. Deaths of family members, cancer, financial ruin, challenges with our children and that’s just family stuff.

The development of a product seems to follow the same peaks and valleys with days of solving a design problem and feeling elation to days of truly believing your dream has been a sham and a waste of time.

I can still remember the beginning being very naive but optimistic - believing every day this was good and it was going to work. I also remember days in my garage, or “mad lab” as I called it, where I would feel like I was having a mental breakdown and could no longer go on with our product. To help keep us going I made little stickers for all of our rear view mirrors in our cars that simply said “Believe”.

Like many inventors - during this process we burned through all of our savings just to keep the bills paid which added to the stress. We had to do everything ourselves and as hard as it has been, the process worked. We networking with all of our friends to see who knew someone that could help us, we posted questions on Facebook and LinkedIn, we called upon local business’s for free advice. We also had to design our product, develop prototypes, complete testing, set up marketing, design graphics and a billion other items that go into a new product. All while designing and building our own manufacturing setup which works pretty good considering it cost us only $300.

Our first breaks started to come well into the process as we were barely hanging on when we were able to find local suppliers who were willing to work with a startup company and give us as many “breaks” as possible. We also found great information and advice from Mark Reyland of the UIA which has saved us from many pitfalls and has played an instrumental part in getting to the point we are at today.

We have been “treading water” for years and will have to continue treading water as long as we can. But maybe, just maybe, things will change today, and if they don’t, I can still see above the water and I’m far from getting tired.

Greg Amundson, President
Cornerflex, Inc.

Thursday, September 4

Do these make my Ass look BIG?

We all want our products to solve a problem -and the bigger problem the better. It could be a household cleaner, a garden tool, even a kitchen gadget. These are all great problems solving products because we can see them actually working. The consumer holds the benefit right in their hands. But what happens when the benefit is not so obvious, when it’s subjective? What about when the product is designed to do nothing but make the consumer feel better about themselves?

Maybe a bra that makes your boobs look larger? Maybe one of those magic little pills that makes your “manhood” bigger….guaranteed!

After all, buying is about emotion. The consumer uses that emotion as the catalyst for making the purchase. We’ve all see a product and said “I love this” we just had to have it, so we start marching down the list of justifications why we should buy it. At the top of that list is always “because I want it” and that buying justification is always driven by the product in some way making us feel better. The endorphins in our brain are released and we start making that mental association between the product and feeling good.

Clothing is a perfect example of how this process works. We all have lots of pants, and they all function the same way. But for most of us the buying catalyst for a clothing purchase is how we feel the clothing makes us look – not the fact that it keeps out cold, or wind, or rain. In fact, those are expected values, and the consumer actually gives the manufacturer little credit for the product performing those functions. Style, color, and how it makes you feel are the value benefits the manufacture must use to motivate the buyer. These are all very subjective, and the hardest consumer values to nail down in a product.

In the case of that really cool pair of jeans it often boils down to a simple premise - if I can convince you the pants you have in your hand are going to make your big ass look smaller - then you feel better about yourself and you buy my product. At the end of the day you still have a big ass - you just feel better about yourself…. and my product.

Mark Reyland

Wednesday, September 3

Are you an Inventor?

While I'm not sure you would find it defined this way in the dictionary, I was asked recently to explain what an “inventor” is. I can do that, but first we need to understand the context around the answer.
There are three main areas to what most people call “inventing”.
Each is an entirely different function than the others, and although they are building blocks to one another, Innovator, Inventor & Product Developer are not mutually inclusive in their industry roles. 
The “Innovator” – we hear this term used all the time, in fact most people would say it’s synonymous with the word “Inventor” - but it’s not. An Innovator is one who presents a hypothesis. That is, they develop what they think is a solution to a problem, or have a great idea, or come up with a great concept.
The “Inventor” – Again, we hear this term being used interchangeably with the word innovator but in fact they are very different. An Inventor is one who proves a hypothesis. They take the theory that they (or an innovator) presented and actually do what it takes to prove the hypothesis works the way they thought it would. It’s important to understand here that we often think of this in terms of going to the garage and bolting things together, but Scientists and Mathematicians invent every day using nothing but a computer or a white board.
The “Product Developer” – This person would be defined as someone who, using the learned skills of Industrial Design and/or Engineering forms the inventor’s proof into a commercially viable product or technology. In fact this person is often neither an innovator or an inventor, but rather an educated craftsman.
So – can an inventor also be an innovator? Can an innovator also be an inventor? Could one person be all three? Sure, but often they are not.
What can be said is that none of these have any more or less importance than the others in the overall process of inventing and commercialization. They are however very different and understanding that difference is important in understanding ourselves.
Mark Reyland

Tuesday, September 2

Now what can we do with this?

We see them all the time - great ideas people come up with for solving problems that then get turned into great products.

Many times these great ideas are born from the frustration of everyday life, mixed with a bit of experience and education. The result ranges from very simple solutions to much more complex solutions depending on the background of the inventor.

In this video is an example of a great solution turned unto a great product developed by someone who obviously had a significant background and education in chemistry.

Don't get frustrated when you see these complex products being developed and compare them to your more simplistic efforts. You are the norm, not them, and while your contribution may not be the chemistry behind this hydrophobic concoction - it very well could be an application for it that only you envision.

Mark Reyland

Friday, August 29

What are Pantone colors?

As inventors we are forced to think of many issues dealing with the conversion of our idea into a consumer product. Color is just one of those issues - but it's a big one.

Have you ever thought about how colors are generated and communicated? Maybe not, but if you ever want to communicate with a factory about color you had better start by understanding the Pantone system.

PMS (Pantone Matching System) is a color matching standard used in the Printing Industry for selecting colors, similar to how you would select a paint color in a hardware store.
PMS colors are used in a variety of industries, primarily printing, though sometimes in the manufacture of colored paint, fabrics and plastic parts.At its core, the Pantone Color Matching System is largely a standardized color reproduction system.
By standardizing the colors, different manufacturers in different locations can all refer to the Pantone system to make sure colors match without direct contact with one another.
One such use is standardizing colors in the CMYK process. The CMYK process is a method of printing color by using four inks—cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The vast majority of the world's printed material is produced using the CMYK process, So by assigning a code (Pantone number) to the colors everyone stays on the same page.
With 1,114 different PMS shades to choose from, there are plenty of options when selecting color for a product or packaging design.

Mark Reyland

Thursday, August 28

Hot for teacher.....

There are only a handful of “Inventor Forums” on the internet – thank goodness. Not that all the people posting on those forums are bad, they are not.
However as much as the internet has given our industry in terms of educational outreach, it has created places that new inventors should either stay away from or at least understand the context of the information and opinions provided.
Enter Mr. Smith’s second grade class. You have Mrs. Smith, who took the time to educate herself on the lesson plan for the second grade, attended school herself to achieve the industry standard for teaching, and proudly stands at the front of her flock prepared to impart great knowledge and wisdom.
Also in the room of course are a bunch of second grade students eager to soak up this knowledge like water to a sponge - and so it goes - Mrs. Smith teaches, the students learn, and we have an effective process for education. 
Then suddenly Mrs. Smith leaves the room. Immediately the child with the strongest personality takes over and starts running things – they pick up the lesson plan and start teaching the students – or maybe they just start making things up and offering opinions.
What was an effective form of education has now degraded to the unknowing teaching the unknowing.
Such is often the case on inventor forums. A strong personality takes over and starts’ feeding their ego by spewing out information that in its best case is wrong, and in its worst case is harmful.
Some of the “class” will follow every word like sheep. While others will engage in the conversation simply to break the loneliness of their existence, and still others will bravely attack from behind that little avatar and cute screen name that now has become their identity to the world.
The ones we really worry about are the ones you never hear from. The hundreds of people reading those forum posts who don’t ever say anything. They often just sit and read, and while they may be able to see the big picture and factor in that Mrs. Smith has left the room, they rarely end up with the information they came looking for - or worse they walk away with what they think is the answer when in fact it’s just some idiot spouting off about something they think they know.
So next time you jump onto an “Inventor Forum” just remember the people you meet there aren’t always what they appear to be, and the information they are dolling out is most often just more garbage left by the side of the Inventor super highway.
Mark Reyland

Wednesday, August 27

Would YOU use this?

I recently ran across this image. As social experiments go it's pretty unique in that it has nothing to do with bathrooms and everything to do with courage.

I found myself thinking, as a answered the question "Would I have the courage to use that?", about how we as inventors often ask consumers to have courage. Not normally public embarrassment courage, but the courage to have faith in our inventions.

Of course by the time the invention has made it through the labyrinth of process that is product development, much of the consumer risk has been controlled. Not all of it mind you, and the question still remains in the mind of the inventor - how much courage am I asking the consumer to have in adopting my invention to solve their problem?

Interesting question... do you ever ask it?

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, August 26

Meeting Announcment

We are excited about this week's meeting of the Charleston Inventors Association for two reasons
One - Because we will be joined by Alex from Evo Prototyping ( who is traveling all the way up from Florida to teach a class on Prototyping and 3D Printing. Alex is an inventor himself who created one of the best shops in the country for inventor prototypes so you DO NOT want to miss this!
Second - Because we are moving into our new meeting space. That's right, the nice folks at InnoLabs (1007 Johnnie Dodds Blvd - Mount Pleasant, SC  29464) have agreed to let us use their conference space as the new Charleston Inventors Association meeting place. InnoLabs is a one story white building located on 17 just behind the VW dealership.... plenty of parking, and a very nice facility.
So JOIN US Thursday night at 7pm for the August meeting of the Charleston Inventors Association!
Mark & Greg

Do you have an inventor group or an announcement about a "non-commercial" inventor event you want to get out? Then send it to me here at the Daily Inventor Blog - I'm happy to post it for our almost 20,000 readers a month!