September's spark of genius article
Your Inspiration Could be at our Next Conference
One of the most important events held here at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the annual Independent Inventors Conference hosted at the USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, Va. I’m proud to say this is my tenth year being involved in planning and implementing this event. This year’s conference will take place on Thursday and Friday, November 4 and 5, with a pre-conference workshop the evening of November 3.
It’s a wonderful opportunity for the USPTO to open its doors to the inventor community and provide information about patents and trademarks from our vast pool of experts here at the office, as well as from outside presenters that are experts in their respective areas like licensing, marketing and patent prosecution. But my favorite presenters are always the successful inventors. Over the past 10 years, I have met some wonderful and successful inventors—like Forrest Bird, inductee in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and inventor of the pediatric ventilator respirator; Dean Kamen, inductee in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and inventor of the Segway®; Julia Rhodes, CEO of Kleen Slate® Concepts; Ralph Baer inductee in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and inventor of what became known as the Magnavox® Odyssey Home Video Game System; and Richard Levy, co-inventor of the Furby® to name a few. They have all presented at past conferences, sharing their trials and errors, challenges they’ve faced, success stories, and most-importantly, their lessons learned.
We meet many of these successful inventors when we participate in our outreach program which takes us to various events across the United States. In May 2008, I attended an inventor’s expo at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston as part of our outreach effort. Whenever I attend an event like the one at MIT, I always try to go to the other booths on the exhibit floor and chat with the inventors about their products and their stories. At the MIT expo I had the opportunity to meet George A. Peters, Jr., who started his company, Lancer 1, Inc. in 2001.
George had solved a problem that anyone with children can relate to. We all know that when applying insect repellent or sunscreen to our childen, you can get it in their eyes or miss a spot. With George’s product, The MittTM, his goal was to provide a safe, easy and effective way to apply sunscreen, repellents and lotions to kids—or anyone for that matter—and it comes in a washable and sealable pouch. He filed his patent application in June 2000 and was awarded patent number 6,539,549 in April 2003. He talked about his experience and some of the challenges he faced when he presented his product in the beginning. In one demonstration, he said, the fabric for the mitt rubbed off as he ran it along his face. In another, the closure for the zip bag flew off. Along the way, George built relationships with various companies to improve the fabric surrounding the product and the closure of the package.
George was a presenter at our 13th Annual Independent Inventors Conference in August 2008 and he answered many questions from inventors just starting the process. George has stayed in touch with the office throughout his journey. The MittTM has expanded to many other applications like car care, disinfectant sprays and applying repellent to horses. “Every time I fall in the trench, I climb back out again and keep going,” he said, learning from each misstep. It is the passion of each inventor for their invention that keeps the drive alive. George’s passion allowed him to sign his first licensing agreement this past July.
Because of his persistence, we felt it only right to bring George back to this year’s conference to talk about his experiences since 2008—how he got his product where it is today and the peaks and the valleys he experienced during the process. George will also present his patented WHAT NOW???, the evacuation training aid used by the Department of Homeland Security, Raytheon, General Electric and even the USPTO.
So, attend the 15th Annual Independent Inventors Conference November 4 and 5. This two-day event is designed to provide independent inventors and small businesses with the skills they need to turn their inventions into business opportunities. Also, take advantage of the pre-conference workshop held Wednesday evening before the beginning of the conference. The USPTO website has the registration information. Hope to see you here!