Want To Be An Inventor? You Probably Are One
Author: Rick London
Ever wonder about the "great mystique" of being an inventor? It boggles some of our imaginations.
What if I told you you already are one. Let's say you are making bacon and eggs and a biscuit for
breakfast in the morning. People have been eating this combination for years both at home and
in restaurants. One day, someone put them all together, added a slice of "cheese product" and presto, this employee of McDonald's got a raise. He had "invented" the Egg McMuffin.
Most inventions are simply improvements or variations, upon others.
If the first invention, book, creation, artwork, etc. does not suit yours, or others fancy, do not give up.
It even had a cute name. At the time, Ed McMahon was the co-host of the tonight show and this made the name of it both clever and even easier to remember.
Many think that to be an inventor, one has to have a specific degree, understand how physics and
science works, etc. The truth is, there truly isn't anything new in the world, especially in the world of invention. There are the occasional enigmas like the slinky, the pet rock, the hula hoop, etc., but they are few and far between.
Most inventions are simply improvements or variations, upon others. When I was a student in
Dallas, I worked at Neiman Marcus where Pet Rocks were sold, and we sold a lot of them. Ten years
later, I received a design patent on a product called "Pet Presidents". They were presidential puppets, each with a sculpted head of a famous president and each had a unique container in which it "lived" plus a care and feeding package.
For instance Carter came in a peanut, Nixon in a tape recorder, etc. I was new and wet behind the ears in the world of inventing. I found "an angel" who gave me $10,000, which was a lot of money then, and to take the prototypes around to various toy companies around the country to try to get them manufactured. It was not to be. Mattel, Kenner, and all the others said they would have to change an entire assembly line to make it work.
I went home in disgust. That was 1980. A close friend of mine, Patrick Weathers was then a featured performer and writer
for Saturday Night Live. We later became roommates in New York but before then, I sent him the Ronald Reagan Pet President (they were in puppet form..."real political puppets). He liked it, as did Eddie Murphy. Eddie used it during his debut performance in a sketch called "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood. That was my 15 minutes of fame.
All I had done is taken an old idea and elaborated on it. I was never great in academia, but decided to go back to school in my forties. I invented a device called "Insert Alert". It was an improvement on "Life Alert"; in that it is worn as a watch, it is fully computerized, it monitors vital signs, has a gps tracker to tell any emergency center who the person is, where they are, and what the problem is; even if they are under the ocean. They can even be unconscious and it will auto-dial the nearest 911. Why did I invent it? I had my first heart attack in 2001.
There was no way I could have pressed or even found a Life Alert; I was so disoriented and barely conscious I did my best to breathe. I formed a corporation after the patent, raised funds, but not enough to pay the engineer to build the prototype. We will try again as technology has changed and there are more inexpensive ways to do it.
Organic farming has been around for about eighty years. About two years ago, I discovered a way to bring organic farming into urban areas, including indoor apartments and offices, and patented it. My wife Lee, was the design engineer on the project and made it happen. We became partners and plan to release it later this year. We are both very excited about it.
Your invention, or mine does not need to change the world, but it can. For instance a friend of mine invented "The smart bomb" and has been given more credit for saving our soldiers from "friendly fire" and casualties than any other invention. He is very humble about it. When we used to carpet bomb, before his invention, we took out entire cities in hours. We did not win hearts and minds of any country, and we lost way too many of our own soldiers.
Next time you have a few moments, pull out a coat hanger or a paper clip, or an air freshener, or
anything around the house. How could you change, modify, add, subtract, etc. to make that product different.
I am also a writer, designer and cartoonist. With my designs, I looked at shoes, Tshirts, mugs etc.
to see how to improve the looks of them. With my cartoons, of which I have about 5000 copyrights, I simply added them and presto, stores were invented.
With Keds, I simply added graphics of famous philosophers on the top panel with their most famous love quote shoes on the side and presto, my love quote shoes were born.
Again, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to be an inventor. I think one of the greatest inventions I have seen lately is the battery operated cigarette which weans people off smokes without the pain of patches or gum and (allegedly) keeps them off. If the first invention, book, creation, artwork, etc. does not suit yours, or others fancy, do not give up.
Thank the Universe for the "failure"...it is hardly a failure by the way. It is proof that you are one step closer to inventing something that will make a difference.
One final word. Never, ever do business with an "invention company". They advertise all over the
place and nearly all are being sued, put out of business, or under investigation. For the best information call or visit the US Trademark and Patent site. If you have the money, also
visit a patent attorney. Both can be very helpful but you do not have to have a patent attorney to
have a patent, or trademark, or copyright. Copyrights may be registered at the U.S. Library Of Congress for about $40 each last time I looked; and you can copyright a whole block of images, etc. for the same price rather than one at a time.
By the way ideas cannot be patented. Sorry. You must be able to render a sketch, or have someone else do it, or have a working model. If you do not yet have a working model/prototype, you may buy a provisional copyright for around $100 which lasts a year, and gives you that much time to build a working prototype at which time you pay for a full patent. The US Trademark & Copyright office will walk you through it.
Don't think inventing is for you? Start a business? Can't afford an office or store? The workscape has changed in the past 3 decades. Whereas people with home offices were once "a joke" today they rule. Nearly 50 million Americans and I do not have the figure or Europeans who work from home, but in America, it is more than those that work in offices and shops. If you start a business, even if one like it has existed before, yours will have your own flavor, your own personality, and you have invented something very meaningful.
Good luck and have fun. Having fun is what it is all about.
Rick London is a writer/designer/entrepreneur and founder of Google's #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts where he sells tees, mugs, greeting cards, etc. bearing his Londons Times Cartoon images, and his over 8000 offbeat cartoons Londons Times which have remained #1 on the Internet since 2005. His site has lured more than 8.7 million visitors since January 5, 2005.