This morning I was on FOX News’ “Fox and Friends” morning show. I shared a panel with Patrick Raymond, an inventor and the president of the Inventor’s Association of Manhattan (www.Manhattan-Inventors.org) and another inventor, Rodger Gooch. The objective was to encourage Americans to consider tapping into their entrepreneurialism and inventiveness during these tough times. (Click below for to watch the clip. Goofy.)
I recommend that all women read “The Feminine Mistake” to fully understand the importance of financial independence (http://www.thefemininemistake.com). I’m banking on my long-term financial security being built on a portfolio of proprietary intellectual properties.
inventing = problem solving
Innovation and inventing is really just problem solving. For example, I was frustrated that gold jewelry isn’t suitable or comfortable to be worn when active, say at the beach or on the dance floor. So I set out to create striking fine gold jewelry that moved with my body and felt weightless. My patent was awarded for the combination of metal – precious and non-precious – with medical adhesive for adornment purposes. A number of years ago while working in South Africa I invented two different kinds of adornment from this one patent:
First, the 24kt “gold tattoo” that’s flexible like skin, waterproof for a few rinses, breathes and is disposable. Looks like skin is painted with gold. Applied like a decal. Perfect for the beach.
Second, the 14kt or 18kt “floating skin gem” which is more substantial and reusable, but still feels feather-light. Dramatic high-mirror finish catches and reflects light. Also applied like a decal. Perfect for parties and the dance floor.
FOX News wanted to feature this particular invention over my others because it’s not technical, easily demonstrable and relatively simple in concept. I literally invented it on my dining room table. It shows that even a “blonde” can invent stuff at home 🙂
how to become an inventor
Inventing, like weightlifting, requires the exercising mental creative muscles. Everyone has ideas and the potential to invent – it’s all about practicing creative problem solving. To get your right-brain exercising I suggest these simple tasks:
- Start a journal of frustrations and problems you encounter in daily life. List what irritates you about products and services, or what’s missing. Inventions with obvious benefits are the easiest to introduce, as they require less explaining and lower advertising costs. Journal-keeping forces discipline, but also importantly serves to record the dates and evolution of your inventions for the patent process. My IP journal is divided into three areas:
- Products Ideas
- Process and Service Ideas
- Ideas for trademarks, logos and website domain names
- Brainstorm separately ways to solve the problems you’ve identified. This is not a linear process, but as you stumble across technology, read articles and have conversations you will find yourself “solving” your problems. You also might start to see synergies between your problems and solutions. A few good ideas will rise to the top. Successful inventors have a portfolio of ideas (many balls in the air); there’s rarely a single million-dollar idea. Also, VC and backers want to see that you’re not just a lucky one-hit-wonder. Like publishing, once you get one idea off the ground, it becomes exponentially easier to bring successive ideas to fruition.
- Go online and look at all the trend reports that are regularly published (such as www.trendwatching.com) to get a feel for market dynamics. Look for synergies between your frustrations/problems, your various solutions and market trends. You want to focus on inventions that have the largest market. The United States Patent and Trademark Office states that only 3% of all the patents issued to independent inventors ever make it to market. If you find links then you’re possibly onto an innovation with commercial viability.
- Next, see if your idea exists to ensure its originality; you can pay someone, such as a patent agent or attorney, or do it yourself. You can do simple Internet research and you can search the US Patents and Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov) or use a free user-friendly site run by Google (www.google.com/patents). You can search international patents on another free site that accesses Europe’s patent databases (www.espacenet.com).
- If you seem to be onto a few good original ideas, prioritize the ideas that will be the least complex to prototype and produce. Of course you can always out-source your R&D under an agreement that includes non-disclosure and the transfer of the IP into your name, so don’t be scared of technology. But novice inventors should cut their teeth on a simple idea. Another way to evaluate and prioritize ideas is using the spread between the retail price and the manufacturing costs of the item. A good rule of thumb is that your produce should retail for four-to-five times the manufacturing cost. Ideas with the highest margins and potential unit sales should rise to the top.
- Have fun and enjoy the ride!