By Jacob Tewel
Is that brand new product idea you came up with patent-pending? Someone just posted a 1999 picture of Jeff Bezos in his early Amazon office which reminded me of the early picture of Apple founder Steve Jobs in his garage. It got me thinking about all the innovation happening around us every day and all the new products being developed by average people just like you and me.
https://www.grantnews.com/category/science/ The Jobs and the Bezos of the world have developed cutting edge advances that have changed the way things are done worldwide and hopefully will continue to improve our lives. Innovations can be costly, luckily GrantWatch currently lists 16 Grants available for the budding entrepreneur. Grants that support students ranging from the development of technology-based solutions all the way to a $100,000.00 grant to individuals that have inventions that have the potential to solve a real-world problem such as a commercial product in the life science sector.
When I hear of a young and budding inventor, I am reminded of the 2008 motion picture; “Flash of Genius”, starring Greg Kinner and Lauren Graham. If you don’t know the movie or the storyline, consider this a spoiler alert.
About 50 years in my hometown of Detroit, which at the time was known as the “Motor City”, Robert Kearns made the prototype of “a windshield wiper that paused between each wipe, like a blinking eye”.
The story is that on his wedding night he opened a bottle of champagne and the cork hit him in the eye, blinding him in that eye, resulting in difficulty driving in the rain. Necessity is the mother of invention.
He met numerous times with teams of engineers from the Ford Motor Company, showing them his blueprints. And in 1969, the Mercury automobile, which was manufactured by Ford introduced the all-new intermittent windshield wipers. It appeared that Ford stole the invention, although they claimed that the “patent was invalid” because it was not” sufficiently inventive.”
Robert Kearns didn’t take this too well and sued Ford which led to an almost 30-year long legal battle which concluded with the inventor’s vindication and a multimillion-dollar award. It also led to his nervous breakdown, a decades-long obsession with the trial, and his divorce.
The warning to young inventors is to be cognizant of the David vs Goliath loophole of the patent system for individual inventors who take their inventions to large corporations. Before you get excited and go show your invention around ask yourself, “Is that brand new product idea you came up with patent-pending?” Apparently, there is a concept in the corporate world known as “efficient infringement.” It is cheaper for companies to force an individual to spend millions of dollars and decades in the courts than to pay the fair price for the invention. That was the movie and let’s hope this is no longer the case. Nevertheless, it is worth considering the possibility and taking all the necessary precautions.
Jake Tewel holds a master’s degree from YU, is a wine seller, caterer and a million-mile traveler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go-to travel person, father, grandfather, and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart-healthy nutrition, exercise, and travel.