December's spark of genius article
The Polester Takes a Long Shot in Digital Photography
For the past two years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has attended five different Maker Faires in California, Michigan and New York. This summer, I walked into the Henry Ford Museum to cool off from the 95-degree weather and passed a gentleman showing off his invention. He had an adjustable pole with a camera attached on the end capable of taking pictures in places that were not easily accessible. The inventor, Jim Polster, was exhibiting and demonstrating his invention, the Polester. Get it?
I recently caught up with Jim to learn more about his invention. He told me he used to be a cabinet maker but retired from that business and was working for a roofing company. One day, the roofing company gave Jim a 25-foot ladder and a camera and sent him out to take pictures of leaking roofs. One day, after he almost fell off the ladder, Jim started thinking of a safer way to take pictures without the risk of being so high off the ground. He took some toy construction set pieces and built a holder for a camera, then added the pole from a roof snow rake to create the first prototype of the Polester. Next, he took some pictures with this contraption. "I made adjustments to the prototype when I needed to overcome problems," Jim said.
So, how does the Polester work? A camera is mounted in a holding device with a spring-loaded trigger positioned next to the shutter button. The holding device is then mounted to a pole capable of making angle adjustments for the best view. The operator raises the pole to the proper level and lightly pulls the trigger to automatically focus the lens before snapping the picture. It is really quite simple and very easy to learn how to operate and make adjustments.
Jim said, "I didn't have the knowledge or understanding of the patent system," referring to his comfort in filing his own patent. However, he found a backer that helped with the financing so he could hire a patent attorney and get some legal assistance through the USPTO. A little more than two-and-a-half years after he filed his application, Jim received U.S. patent 8,002,480 on Aug. 23, 2011, for a "Mechanically Activated Remote Device for Actuating a Camera." The issuance of this patent helped him meet two of his goals-demonstrating proof of concept and getting intellectual property protection in the form of a patent.
Jim realized a third goal after selling 220 units of his invention-marketability. While his sales have not been high enough to support him financially, he still sees his invention as a success. Jim acknowledges that his product is not for everyone, but those who have a need should take note of a highly engineered and quality product. None of the 220 units he has sold have been returned.
Out of the original 20 or so markets he identified as his original target audience, he has made inroads in at least eight of those areas. Home inspectors use the Polester to take pictures in places where access could be dangerous such as crawl spaces behind tightly placed machinery or roofs. Jim has also built a customer base with government agencies using his device for a variety of needs including bridge inspections, law-enforcement forensics, and waterworks and sewer treatment plant inspections. Jim is a member of several inventor clubs, refers to inventor blogs, and even worked for one of those large invention companies that say they will do everything for you. He has some advice for aspiring inventors paranoid about their own inventions.
"They think that someone is going to steal the idea, but in reality the likelihood of a company taking an idea from an inventor and developing the invention is very small," said Jim, and added that many people have similar ideas that result in similar products being developed.
"My invention isn't the first remote on a pole, but it is different enough to receive a patent," he said. To learn more about the Polester visit www.longshotcamerasystems.com.