Who Invented the Car?

When it comes to American society and culture, few inventions have been as instrumental as the automobile. That leads many to assume that the car was invented in America, perhaps by Henry Ford.

However, this is not the case. Most historians agree that the first true automobile was invented by Karl Benz. His patented, three-wheeled Motor Car, which was popularly called the “Motorwagen,” was introduced in 1886. By most definitions, it can be considered the first of the modern automobiles.

Benz was a prolific inventor who also obtained official protection for a carburetor, a water radiator, gear shifters, spark plugs, a throttle system and a variety of other components that are considered basic to automobiles. You might even recognize the Daimler Group name, the car company that Benz founded.

Before Benz

While Karl Benz may have produced the first real-world, working automobile, he was not the first to imagine such a contraption.

No less a luminary than Leonardo da Vinci left numerous sketches of mechanized carts that did not require horses in the early 16th century. Inventors in China built wind-propelled sailing chariots quite early. Westerners were captivated with the idea, and by 1600, Holland had a sailing chariot that was capable of carrying nearly 30 people and could travel approximately 40 miles in a period of two hours.

A self-propelled steam-engine vehicle was built by France’s Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769. His invention was mainly used to move pieces of heavy artillery. It moved at a walking pace and operators had to stop at 20-minute intervals to give the machine the time it needed to build up additional steam.

Similarly, the meaning of “car” has morphed over the centuries. Drawing toward the close of the 19th century, many people were familiar with the word “streetcar,” which referred to a tram. Before this, people used “streetcar” to refer to omnibuses that ran on rails and were pulled by horses.

When the earliest cars were introduced, they frequently were referred to as “horseless carriages,” and the word “automobile” comes from the French.

What About Ford and Other Innovators?

Although Karl Benz is credited with manufacturing the first modern-day automobile, he certainly wasn’t alone in his efforts. Many other creative individuals were working on similar projects at the same time.

Henry Ford was just one of these. Historians agree that it was Ford who truly made cars accessible to the masses, changing driving from a hobby for the rich into a fundamental aspect of daily life for people in every social level.

Although Henry Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he is recognized as having been an innovator who combined the two and perfected the process of efficiently building cars.

Ford built his first automobile in 1896, with a second prototype following two years later. After establishing two car companies that failed, Ford finally started his namesake Ford Motor Company in 1903.

What made Ford’s most recent effort different from his earlier ventures? Instead of focusing on just manufacturing cars, he had turned his emphasis to producing cars in considerable volume. At the time, most companies that were building cars were operated by people who had been in the business of building coaches. These vehicles were built in time-consuming and laborious hands-on processes by master craftsmen. Accordingly, the cars produced by this company were expensive, and most people could not afford them.

Ford’s innovation was a desire to build “a motorcar for the great multitude.” The Model A and the Model N were already being produced and sold, but Ford now turned his attention to the Model T. When Ford introduced this car in 1908, it was probably the easiest car in existence in terms of drivability and repairs. This made the Model T extremely popular, but Ford was still determined to build more of them and lower the price.

That’s when Ford began manufacturing the Model T on an assembly line. The process was repeatedly tweaked and perfected until, in 1913, it was possible to built a Model T in a mere two and-a-half hours.

Internal Combustion Engines

Where would early cars be without the internal combustion engine? This type of engine relies upon the explosive combustion of fuel to push a piston that is housed within a cylinder. The movement of the piston turns the crankshaft, which is connected to the car’s wheels.

The earliest roots of the internal combustion engine go back to 1680 when Christiann Huygens designed an engine that was fueled by gunpowder. Unfortunately, Huygens was never able to build his design.

In 1826, an Englishman by the name of Samuel Brown retooled a steam engine so that it would burn gasoline. The engine was attached to a carriage, but his invention never really took off.

By 1873, American George Brayton had developed a two-stroke engine that ran on kerosene. In the same decade, a German inventor, Nikolaus August Otto patented a four-stroke engine.

French inventor Rudolf Diesel patented the diesel engine in 1895. His invention was highly efficient and featured a compression ignition.

The Road to Innovation Is Winding

As you can see, it is impossible to say that a major invention like the automobile can be attributed to just one person. Instead, there are incremental improvements, some of them occurring over centuries.

What will you create today that might inspire the inventors of tomorrow? It’s impossible to say, but it is essential that you protect your hard work by seeking patent protection.

Contact Williams IP Law today to schedule your free consultation.

9 Best Inventions of 2021

Every year, creative people continue to innovate and invent. They help to make life simpler, prolong life or make people more productive.

Across every industry, surprising and helpful inventions are introduced every year. Here is a look at some of the top inventions of 2021. How will they make your life better?

SAVRpak

How many times have you come home with a take-out package of your favorite meal, only to find the next day that it’s become a soggy mess that hardly resembles its original state?

SAVRpak is designed to prevent this situation from ever happening again. Just put this peel-and-stick patch into any take-out container, paper bag or pizza box to keep your food fresh and as good as new. SAVRpak works by extracting moisture from the air that’s naturally found inside food containers before it can turn into condensation that settles on the food’s surface. This invention not only ensures that your take-out tastes better but also translates to less food waste.

OrCam Read

People across the world struggle with reading. Whether this struggle is caused by dyslexia, poor eyesight or difficulties with comprehension, many people find that their lifestyle is limited by their lack of ability to quickly and easily read text. OrCam Read aims to solve this problem by combining artificial intelligence with computer vision.

The technology is capable of reading any text out loud as a user aims the device’s laser frame at the text. After pressing a button, the device vocalizes it. The speaking voice sounds surprisingly natural, and it can read multiple languages. Capable of reading menus, books, computer screens, advertisements and more, the OrCam Read is bound to change lives for millions of people.

ENO SkyLite

Whether you are a serious backpacker or just want a more comfortable way to lounge in your yard, you’ll be fascinated by this high-end and innovative hammock. Backpackers love it because it’s incredibly lightweight. Instead of packing a tent and sleeping bag, they can just take this hammock and tarp along instead.

The ENO SkyLite has a pair of lightweight, removable aluminum bars on either side to support the hammock like a bed frame. The result is a stable, flat and supportive sleeping platform that is eminently portable. With a built-in bug net and canopy, the ENO SkyLite ensures pest-free sleeping no matter the conditions. A compression sack is attached, and it becomes a pocket when the hammock is in use. Use the pocket for holding a flashlight, phone, wallet and other necessities.

Sphero Indi

In today’s technology-driven world, learning to code is a basic skill from which more people could benefit. Sphero Indi is designed to help kids four and older learn to code in a manner that is surprisingly fun and creative.

This innovative teaching device essentially is a robotic toy car that children can instruct to run through a maze. As their skills progress, they also will solve numerous logic problems. This means that kids are learning essential programming skills through play, and this might help them to develop an interest that will stand the test of time.

Nuro R2

This self-driving electric delivery vehicle is designed to carry a variety of products to neighborhoods while prioritizing the safety of everyone in the vicinity.

The Nuro R2 is equipped with a multitude of tools that make it possible not only to improve its ride but also to protect anyone who might be outside of the vehicle. Equipped with 360-degree cameras, the R2 also is fitted with ultrasonic sensors and both long- and short-range radar. The Nuro R2 is intended to save people time and effort by delivering prescription drugs, groceries, pizzas and other necessities.

Starkey Livio AI – Advanced Hearing Aids

These intelligent hearing aids are designed to make life better by amplifying the sounds that the wearer wants to hear and diminishing background noises that they would prefer to ignore. These hearing aids are able to make as many as 55 million personalized adjustments 24 hours a day. This translates to genuine, realistic sound quality regardless of how loud the environment may be.

The Starkey Livio AI hearing aids are smart devices that connect to a smartphone to wirelessly monitor the wearer’s brain and physical activity to deliver live updates with impeccable quality of sound.

ProxyAddress

As the developer says in the literature, ProxyAddress is an address that follows you. Created in the U.K., ProxyAddress is intended to help tackle the problems associated with homelessness. A person who is homeless may lose their civic identity, making their existence even more unstable and causing them to lose basic services that they need and to which they are entitled.

ProxyAddress may not provide people with a home to live in, but it does give them an address that they can use while homeless so that they can receive services. Access to these services helps many people who are struggling get back on their feet.

Verilux CleanWave Sanitizing Wand

This convenient portable stick is capable of eliminating bacteria, germs and even odors so that people and their belongings can stay clean no matter where they go. Equipped with UV-C lights that are not harmful to skin, the CleanWave Sanitizing Wand is a disinfectant tool that can be used to clean tables, doors and a variety of other objects to help people stay healthy.

Solar Roadways

Recently approved by the FCC, Solar Roadways has the potential for life-changing transformations across the globe. The company developed hexagonally shaped solar road panels that have onboard microprocessors. These control the heating elements in the panel to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice. The panels further are equipped with LEDs for the illumination of road lines or to spell out information and warnings for drivers. Each panel is set up to be able to communicate with the others as well as with vehicles.

The plan is that these solar panels will be embedded into ordinary roads and highways everywhere. Thus, solar-powered cars will be able to charge up even while on the go.

Do you think we missed any amazing inventions on this list? Let us know in the comments.

Where Will Your Inventions Take You?

Contact Williams IP Law today to speak with a patent attorney about your life-changing ideas. Patent protection is an essential step that prevents others from taking advantage of your hard work and inspiration. Schedule a free consultation with a patent lawyer today.

5 Patents that were made by mistake

Some inventions only come into being after months or years of innovation, research and development. Others come about quite by accident. In fact, some inventions that come about by accident are among those that are the most famous and enduring.

Here’s a look at a few of those inventions. Remember, when you’re creating something new, you don’t always arrive at your intended destination. Nonetheless, you just might find that you’ve invented something that is of benefit to everyone.

Post-It Notes

It’s hard to believe that Post-It Notes haven’t been a part of the office forever. Believe it or not, the now-ubiquitous little slips of paper that are equipped with just the right amount of adhesive first came on the scene in the 1970s.

In 1968, scientist Dr. Spencer Silver was trying to formulate an extremely strong adhesive, but his efforts unintentionally resulted in an extremely weak adhesive. Despite things not going according to plan, Silver suspected that his new invention was worthwhile. Unfortunately, his colleagues didn’t agree at first.

One of those colleagues eventually decided that the adhesive might be useful if it were applied to bookmarks. This colleague, Arthur Fry, worked with Silver to develop these adhesive bookmarks, and this later evolved into adhesive notes that could be written on.

Post-It Notes debuted on the market in 1979, and the rest is history.

Velcro

Swiss engineer George de Mestral was frustrated by the stubborn burrs that always stuck to his clothing and his pet’s fur when he was out on dog walks. Closer inspection revealed that the burrs were equipped with tiny hooks that enabled them to stick to almost anything with ease. Using this natural design as inspiration, de Mestral developed a new fastening system that was built upon this concept. Eventually, that fastening system was named Velcro, and it’s now familiar to people all around the globe.

Penicillin

Scottish bacteriologist Dr. Alexander Fleming was merely returning from vacation when he discovered cultures of Staphylococcus aureus in his lab. He’d intended to throw away those cultures before leaving for vacation, and when he examined them now, he found that some of them had died.

Fleming studied this development, only to learn that a certain fungus had grown within the cultures, and that this fungus had actually destroyed the bacteria. The fungus was a mold known as Penicillium notatum.

Fleming received assistance from Australian pathologist Howard Walter Florey and British biochemist Sir Ernst Boris Chain, who were responsible for isolating and purifying penicillin so that it could be prepared for clinical use.

Initially, Fleming called his discovery “mold juice” before deciding on the less objectionable name “penicillin. This accidental discovery has since saved countless lives.

Implantable Pacemaker

Irregular heartbeat is a health concern for many people, but an implantable pacemaker can help to regulate a strong, steady and predictable beat.

Implantable pacemakers are battery-powered devices that are inserted beneath a patient’s skin. As it delivers electrical pulses, the pacemaker induces the heart to beat in a regular rhythm.

Believe it or not, the implantable pacemaker also is an accidental invention. Engineer Wilson Greatbatch was hoping to invent a device that could record the rhythm of people’s heartbeats. However, during his experiments, Greatbatch employed a resistor in the circuit that was the wrong size. This caused the device to create intermittent electrical impulses that sounded a lot like the human heartbeat.

Pacemaker machines were already in use in medical facilities, but they were impossible to move, painful and inconveniently large.

Greatbatch soon learned that it was possible for his invention to be used to place electrodes directly to the heart’s muscle tissue, which would keep the patient’s heart beating in the appropriate rhythm. This meant that patients could benefit from a pacemaker without being stuck at the hospital.

Working with Dr. William Chardack and Dr. Ander Gage, Greatbatch made the pacemaker smaller and implanted it in a dog as an experiment. By 1960, the first portable pacemaker was implanted in a patient. He lived for an additional 18 months. Since then, the technology has been extensively refined and perfected.

Play-Doh

Most adults today grew up playing with Play-Doh, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, Play-Doh wasn’t even a toy in the beginning.

Instead, it was a cleaning product developed by soap maker Kutol Products for use in households across the country. Kutol Products wasn’t doing well, and they were faced with going out of business by the end of the 1920s. Nonetheless, employee Cleo McVicker entered into a contract with grocery store chain known as Kroger to develop a wallpaper cleaner.

Using ordinary ingredients like flour, salt and water, Kutol Products produced a compound that could safely and efficiently clean wallpaper. This product kept the company afloat for a few decades, but sales were floundering again by the 1950s. McVicker’s son, Joseph, was inspired to re-imagine the cleaning product as a children’s toy.

Joseph’s sister-in-law, Kay Zufall, was a teacher, and she invited Joseph to bring the wallpaper cleaner to her classroom to see how the children played with it. After seeing how much the students enjoyed it, Joseph knew he had an idea that was destined for success.

The ingredients were altered, and Kutol Products established another entity, Rainbow Crafts Company Inc., to market Play-Doh.

When Play-Doh was introduced to a national audience on the Captain Kangaroo television show, history was made.

Take the Next Steps with Williams IP Law

Do you have an invention that you think is poised to be the next big deal? If so, then you need the guidance and advice of an experienced intellectual property attorney. Contact Williams IP Law today to schedule a free consultation.

9 Creative but Funny Christmas Inventions

At first glance, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office may not seem like the most likely place to find some yuletide cheer. However, digging through their records reveals nine charming Christmas-related patents and applications that are certain to bring a smile even to Ebenezer Scrooge’s face.

1. Santa Claus Detector U.S. Patent No. 5,523,741

santa clause detector patent

Parents who want to dial up the magic factor for little ones will love this idea. Essentially, it involves a Christmas stocking that is designed to be displayed on the mantle. Using the means of an “entity detector,” the stocking lights up when Santa is near. Contained within the stocking is a switch, power source and light source so that the arrival of Santa Claus can be announced via the light when activated. Your kids will be certain to scurry up to bed in no time.

2. Automatic Christmas Tree Fire Extinguisher U.S. Patent No. 2,522,020

automatic Christmas tree fire extinguisher patent


Accidental fires are always a possibility at Christmas, especially when a real tree is brought into the house. This 1950 patent sought to address this problem by introducing a water-filled star or another ornament that could be placed at the top of a tree. If a fire was detected, the ornament broke open, spilling water on all sides of the tree.

3. Naughty or Nice Meter U.S. Patent Publication No. 2008/0299533

naughty or nice Christmas patent

Have your kids been naughty or nice this year? With this meter, you’ll always know, and so will your kids. The meter is equipped with 12 questions that are used to grade the child’s behavior. Figuring out whether to give coal or presents has never been easier.

4. Crayfish Christmas Stocking U.S. Design Patent D290242

crayfish Christmas stocking patent

A design rather than an invention, this fishy Christmas stocking is the perfect gift for any angler on your list. Other people may find the crayfish-shaped stocking a little off-putting. The hat is a festive touch, however.

5. Smoke Detector Disguised as a Christmas Tree Ornament U.S. Patent No. 5,396,221

smoke detector Christmas tree ornament

Another inventor tackled the problem of flammable Christmas trees in the 1990s. This one didn’t have water in it, but it was shaped like a star and designed to function as a smoke detector. At least it’s more festive looking than a conventional alarm.

6. Kit for Simulating a Visit by Santa Claus U.S. Patent Publication No. 20060116049

Kit for simulating a visit by santa claus patent

This one sounds like a lot of fun. It’s a kit that comes with all sorts of props that are intended to indicate a visit from St. Nicholas. Among the included items are a thank you card, Santa’s driver’s license, a scrap of fabric torn from Santa’s suit and a hoof with which to make reindeer prints in the yard.

7. Christmas Tree Watering Ornament U.S. Patent No. 7,757,435

Christmas tree watering ornament patent

If you’re constantly worried that you might forget to water your Christmas tree, then this is the solution for you. It’s a tree ornament with a water reservoir. When it senses the tree is low on water, it dispenses the necessary liquid.

8. Edible Gift-Wrap for Pets U.S. Patent Publication No. 2013/0149418

Edible Gift-Wrap for Pets patent

Give your beloved pet some much-needed mental and physical stimulation this Christmas season by wrapping up some treats in this edible gift wrap. When does the human version come out?

9. Semi-Artificial Christmas Tree U.S. Patent No. 2,186,351

Semiartificial christmas tree patent

This patent from the 1940s is for everyone who can’t decide between an artificial and a real Christmas tree. The invention consists of a metal pole into which real fir branches are affixed. It’s hard to imagine this one catching on.

From our family at the Law Offices of Jeff Williams, want to wish all of our friends, families and readers a very Happy Holiday.

7 Clever Thanksgiving Inventions

If the responsibility for preparing the family’s Thanksgiving feast has ever fallen into your lap, then you probably spent a few anxious weeks getting ready to make certain that all of the details were taken care of. Along the way, you may have found yourself wishing that there was something to make all of that preparation a little easier.

Luckily, inventors throughout the decades have been creating technology that makes preparing for Thanksgiving easier than ever. Take a look at these seven inventions to decide which ones you want to use for Thanksgiving this year.

Method for Forming Biscuits – Zoeller, et al. 1960

method for forming biscuits patent

Most families have at least one member who makes amazing biscuits. Unfortunately, your relative probably never had access to this interesting patent, the application for which was filed by the Pillsbury Co.

According to the patent, the invention was a new method for forming biscuits from a single sheet of dough. The method would actually form the biscuits to make them look as though they had been “spirally wound” like a cinnamon roll.

The powers that be at Pillsbury evidently were concerned that current methods for making fancy biscuits were simply too complicated and time-consuming to be commercially viable. This invention was meant to correct that deficiency.

Preparation of Frozen Stuffed Fowl – Rogers, et al. 1960

frozen stuffed fowl patent

This must have been a very good year for Thanksgiving innovations between the new method for making biscuits and this invention that is supposed to help with stuffing a frozen turkey.

The inventors appear to have felt that waiting for a turkey to defrost so that it can be stuffed is simply too frustrating. In fact, they didn’t think that consumers should have to stuff their turkeys at all.

The solution was to sell a frozen, already-stuffed turkey that could be taken out of the freezer and put immediately into the oven. With one invention, the cook no longer needed to worry about thawing the bird or stuffing it and sewing it up.

Whatever happened to these pre-stuffed fowls? Did they ever make it to the marketplace?

Automatic Mashed Potato System – O’Connor 2007

automatic mashed potato patent

Next to stuffing, mashed potatoes are probably the most popular side dish on Thanksgiving. However, anyone who has ever made mashed potatoes knows that it’s a lot of work, particularly when you’re cooking for a crowd.

This mashed potato patent system even included “a seasoning unit” so that every batch would be seasoned to perfection. In fact, this was the ultimate all-in-one system as the user simply needed to add potatoes and water. The machine cooked the potatoes and had an automated drain to release the water. The seasoning unit then went to work, and then the “mashing apparatus” would mash the cooked potatoes to the perfect consistency.

The only thing this machine didn’t do was peel the potatoes.

Method of Preparing Edible Fowl – Sieczkiewicz 1958

method for preparing fowl patent

The title of this patent sounds rather vague. What it really describes is a method of quickly and easily de-boning a turkey. The genius of this invention is that it made it possible to remove “the bones from an edible fowl in such a manner as to preserve substantially the entire outer skin of the fowl.” Once the bones were removed, the user was intended to stuff and cook the bird in a more attractive and easy to eat manner.

The inventor states that this method means that there is no longer a risk of having to remove or damage the turkey’s skin, which apparently makes the fowl less aesthetically pleasing.

Roaster for Chestnuts and the Like – Saburo 1929

On the eve of the Great Depression, this enterprising invention seems to have never quite taken off. That’s unfortunate, because enjoying fresh roasted chestnuts would definitely add to any Thanksgiving gathering.

Basically, this patent was targeted at improving roasters so that they could produce roasted chestnuts “in a highly efficient and economical manner.” Moreover, the invention was intended to make it easier to remove the nuts from the roaster without getting burned.

Pie Filling Device – Mooney 1986

In addition to the turkey, perhaps no traditional Thanksgiving dish is as anxiety-inducing to the cook as the pie. Fortunately, this inventor’s pie filling device is designed to make dessert easier on everyone.

The invention consists of a “pumping apparatus” that could be mounted on a shelf or “mobile cart” so that it could quickly and cleanly transfer pie filling into pie crust. Meant to be used in a small bakery, the pie crusts would already be in the oven, and the pump would add the filling via an outlet hose. It’s probably too complicated for use in home kitchens, but maybe some bakeries are actually using this apparatus.

Pumpkin Powder – Gere 1897

This much older invention does not sound particularly appetizing to modern ears. Of course, few people want to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, so perhaps pumpkin powder is a sensible compromise.

Instant pumpkin powder could be mixed with milk or water and immediately used as pie filling, thereby eliminating the need to cook the pumpkin before preparing it for use as pie filling. This was an improvement over existing powdered pumpkin products that had to be cooked after being rehydrated.

Perhaps it makes more sense to stick with canned pumpkin this year.

Ask Williams IP Law About Protecting Your Invention

Your invention may not revolutionize Thanksgiving feasts around the country, but it still may have the potential to make life easier and better for people around the world.

Contact patent attorney Jeff Williams to learn more about how you can patent your new product or process.

8 Patents That Have Killed Their Inventors

Some inventions are fated to never get off the ground. The inventors have a great idea, but they discover that there isn’t a market for the technology or that it’s simply too cumbersome to implement.

Other inventors, and the inventions they create, become famous. Their names may be known all over the world, and some of them appear in history books. Some inventions even make their creators wealthy.

Despite this success, inventors aren’t always protected from disaster. In fact, many inventors throughout the centuries have actually been killed by the things they created.

Here is a look at a few of them.

Horace Lawson Hunley

Working for the Confederate States of America during the U.S. Civil War, Hunley was a marine engineer whose invention was a hand-powered submarine. Hunley’s main objective was to subvert the Union blockade of southern ports, and his early efforts looked like they would be successful. Hunley was in command of the H.L. Hunley during a routine exercise in 1863 during which the vessel sank, killing all eight men on board. Not to be deterred, the Confederate States of America raised the vessel in 1864 and used it to sink the enemy vessel, USS Housatonic.

Karel Soucek

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1947, Soucek was a professional stuntman who called Canada home. In 1984, he successfully went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. His daredevil stunt made him famous and earned him a great deal of money. In fact, Soucek determined that he would build a museum in Ontario at Niagara Falls in which his stunt-related equipment would be displayed. To raise money for the venture, Soucek convinced a large company to pay for him to perform a barrel drop from the Houston Astrodome into a water tank. The fall would total 180 feet. Unfortunately, the barrel drop was ill-fated. A premature release sent the tank spinning to such a degree that it missed the water tank, hitting the rim instead. Soucek died shortly after being cut out of the barrel.

Marie Curie

Perhaps best known as Madame Curie, the famous physicist discovered Polonium and Radium. She was twice awarded the Nobel Prize, but her experiments had a high price. After being exposed for years to radioactive materials without proper safety precautions, Madame Curie died in 1934 at the age of 66. Her cause of death is thought to have been bone marrow failure. Nonetheless, the medical research centers that she founded in Warsaw and Paris are still in existence today and continue to make scientific breakthroughs.

Francis Edgar Stanley

Francis, or F.E., Stanley and his twin brother Freeland Oscar, or F.O., Stanley were American businessmen who founded the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. Their greatest invention was the Stanley Steamer, a steam-operated automobile. The company was in business from 1902 until 1924 when it was sold and dissolved. Tragically, F.E. Stanley was killed when he accidentally crashed his car into a roadside woodpile while trying to avoid colliding with farm wagons that were traveling abreast of each other.

Max Valier

An Austrian pioneer in the field of rocketry, Valier was among the founders of the German Spaceflight Society that was one of the earliest organizations to bring together many of the innovators who would one day make space flight possible. In the 1920s, the society was working on building liquid-fuelled rockets, and by 1930, Valier was able to test drive a rocket car that was powered with liquid propulsion. Unfortunately, he was killed shortly afterward in an explosion of an alcohol-fuelled rocket in Berlin.

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier

An 18th century Frenchman who was a noted instructor of physics and chemistry, de Rozier also was an aviation pioneer. Along with a colleague, he was part of the inaugural manned free balloon flight. The flight was completed in a Montgolfier balloon in 1783. It’s impossible to say what else de Rozier might have invented had he lived. He was killed in a subsequent balloon flight, in which he attempted to fly across the English Channel, in 1785 at the age of 31.

Henry Smolinski

Smolinkski was the victim of an untimely death in 1973 as he piloted an aircraft he made himself by attaching the wings of a Cessna 337 to a Ford Pinto. His craft was called the AVE Mizar, and it crashed on its first test flight with Smolinski at the controls. Theoretically, the Pinto with wings was capable of flying at speeds of 130 MPH and at about 12,000 feet above the ground’s surface. Smolinski had modified the dashboard with instruments like an altimeter and radio navigational equipment, all to no avail.

William Bullock

Bullock is considered a pioneer in the printing industry thanks to the improvements he made to the rotary printing press that was an invention of Richard March Hoe. Boasting far greater efficiency and speed, Bullock’s improvements helped publications like Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly become famous across the country. Bullock’s web rotary press made it possible to use continuous rolls of paper that were automatically fed through the press’s rollers, making hand feeding obsolete. Sadly, Bullock was working on one of his own presses in 1867 when his leg was crushed by the machine. After developing gangrene, doctors operated to amputate the limb, but Bullock died on the operating table.

Where Will Your Inventions Take You?

Most inventors are fortunate enough not to be killed by their own innovations. In fact, some of them even manage to obtain patent protection and actually earn a profit based on their work. If you have a great idea that you want to protect, then contact Williams IP Law today.

The Invention Process for Entrepreneurs

Do you have an invention?

When you have an idea for a new invention, the excitement you feel can be hard to contain. In the space of a few moments, you see yourself bringing a desirable new product to market and earning millions of dollars in the process.

Unfortunately, the invention process is complicated. Getting your new product from an idea to an actual item on store shelves requires a great deal of time and effort. It’s also essential that you protect your innovation with a patent application so that you can prevent others from taking advantage of your creativity.

Although the invention process looks a little different each time, there are still certain steps that you can expect to take.

Develop and Document Your Idea

You need much more than a vague concept to get started. Accordingly, you may have to spend some time developing your idea.

Keep in mind that most inventions are created in order to solve a problem. As you work to develop your idea, maintain your focus on the problem that you are trying to solve. You may want to keep notes relating to your research, experiments and development efforts.

Prior to 2013, the United States had a “first to invent” patenting system. In the event that two inventors submitted highly similar patent applications, the United States Patent and Trademark Office would award any resulting patent to the applicant who could prove that they had the idea and developed it first, regardless of whether or not they were the first to file a patent application.

In March 2013, U.S. patent law changed, and the system became a “first to file” patent system. This means that keeping dated, witnessed documentation of your development process has become less critical. Nonetheless, you may want to keep plenty of notes to document your process in case another party ever disputes your claim to the invention.

Complete a Patent Search

It is possible for any inventor to conduct a patent search in the online records of the USPTO. The online system enables inventors to look for any existing patents that may be similar to their new invention. For an invention to be patentable, it must be unique and non-obvious. If you discover prior art in your patent search that is duplicative of your invention, then you may need to re-focus your efforts.

Do Some Market Research

Did you know that as many as 95 percent of all patents don’t end up being profitable for the inventor? Usually, this is because the invented item just isn’t something that people need or want. Consequently, it may be sensible to do some market research. Is your invention one that people will actually buy?

Obtaining a patent, developing a product and marketing it are all time-consuming and expensive processes. It makes sense to ensure that there is a good possibility that you can make money from your idea down the road before investing too much time and money.

Take a look at other similar products that are already on the market. How much are they selling for? Will it be possible to manufacture and distribute your product at an affordable cost that makes your retail price reasonable?

Market research can be indispensable to determining whether or not you continue with the next steps of the invention process.

Build a Prototype

This is the step in which your idea becomes tangible. You may build the prototype yourself or hire a manufacturing company to do it for you.

Usually, a prototype begins with drawings. Once again, this is something you can do yourself or hire out. Next, you may create a mockup out of any material that can make a passable 3-D model of your idea. It’s then possible to create a working model.

The prototype is a critical step because it may reveal flaws or missing components in your idea. In fact, you may find yourself going back to the drawing board. That’s perfectly all right. Most inventions are the product of a lot of trial and error.

File a Patent Application

When you, at last, have a working prototype of your invention, you probably have most of the kinks figured out. This means that it’s a good time to think about protecting your idea. Typically, this means filing a patent application.

You may file an application for a utility patent, which covers machines or processes, or a design patent, which covers ornamental designs.

Some inventors elect to write and file the patent application by themselves. However, this rarely is advisable. The application will be reviewed by a lawyer at the USPTO who is likely to issue arguments against the patentability of the invention. Having a qualified intellectual property attorney draft and file your patent application usually makes the process go a little more smoothly. The Examiner at the USPTO still may initially deny a patent, but your attorney will be prepared to file legal arguments that could change the Examiner’s mind.

Work on Fundraising, Manufacturing and Marketing

Now that your invention is “patent pending,” you are ready to move on to disclosing your invention to people and entities that might be able to help you with financing, manufacturing and marketing. This may involve writing up a business plan and setting up your own company. Alternatively, some inventors choose to license their patent rights to a company that will handle things like manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

If you do plan to enter into any legal agreements or licenses with another party, then it’s wise to consult with a patent attorney to ensure that any documents that you consider signing fully protect your interests.

Talk to Williams IP Law

Do you have a great idea that you would like to turn into a marketable product? If so, then give Williams IP Law a call. We are experienced at providing guidance to inventors regardless of where they are in the invention process. Whether you need help with drafting and filing a patent application or deciding if a proposed licensing agreement really is a good deal, Williams IP Law has the knowledge needed to advise you.

Invention Help from a Single Company…or Not?

Be wary if you go into any kind of meeting with a firm that purports to help inventors do it all, and remember the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The unfortunate reality is that many invention help companies are really only in it for themselves. How can you know which ones are legitimate and which ones are just interested in taking you for a ride?

Marketing and Promotions

One giveaway is that the company claims to both pursue patent protection and handle marketing promotions. These are entirely separate processes, with each one requiring a very specific set of skills and expertise.

Pursuing patent protection is best left in the hands of an experienced attorney who focuses on this area of the law. This is because a patent application will be examined by an attorney who works for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Accordingly, it is necessary for the application to comply with numerous legal requirements. It typically is necessary for the applicant to make legal arguments to the Examiner at the patent office regarding the patentability of the invention. A patent lawyer is qualified to make amendments and arguments that are more likely to result in an issued patent.

As far as promotion is concerned, a patent attorney isn’t truly qualified to help. This means that it is necessary for some kind of marketing and advertising professional to take over.

This means that a legitimate invention help company will need to have at least two distinct departments: One that pursues patents and one that handles promotions.

Unless the company can introduce you to dedicated professionals in these two distinct areas, you’re probably wasting your money.

Invention Rejection Rates

If you are interviewing an invention help company, ask them about their product rejection rates. Ideally, you want to hear them name a high rejection rate. This demonstrates a commitment to only working with inventors who seem to have a superior invention. They pour all of their efforts into a product that they believe in, and the rest go into the rejection pile.

On the other hand, if the invention help company says that they accept most inventions, take your time and money elsewhere. This is a sign of a company that isn’t primarily interested in bringing the best products to market. Instead, their goal is to get as much money out of inventors as they can.

Up Front Payments

Similarly, you may want to think twice about invention companies that demand up-front payments. Without a doubt, it is expensive to get a new product from the idea stage to being on store shelves, but be wary of any company that promises to get the job done for a really low price.

Chances are good that this company is not genuinely interested in bringing your product to the market. The company forces initial buy-ins to get their hands on your wallet. Suddenly, extra costs start to emerge. At the same time, company representatives seem reluctant to provide you with even a ballpark estimate of how much the whole process is likely to cost.

This is a major red flag, as is an offer of financing. Be especially wary if financing is available, but only if you act right now. The company is demonstrating their commitment to getting your money and their lack of interest in anything else. Don’t let high-pressure sales tactics reel you in. Take your time, and make a carefully considered decision.

The reality is that taking a new product from a great idea to a tangible item that people can use is a lot of hard work. The dedication of various professionals may be required to make your dream come true.

Other Warning Signs

Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has taken steps to warn inventors against blindly trusting companies that say they exist to help inventors get their new products to market. One of the primary warning signs of a scam, according to the USPTO, is the fact that the company advertises their services on the Internet, television or radio. These ads often say that anyone who responds will get a free inventor’s kit or a complimentary review of their invention. Most of these ads are only designed to lure you in.

Another telltale sign of a scam is a company representative telling you that a market evaluation must be completed, and this necessary step may cost several hundreds of dollars. Frequently, the companies simply take your money and don’t actually perform an evaluation. Nonetheless, you will receive a glowingly positive report that convinces you to invest even more money.

Guaranteed Patent?

Further, beware of any company that guarantees that you will receive a patent or your money will be returned to you. Even for the most experienced patent attorney, it is impossible to guarantee that a patent will be obtained. Too many factors are involved. A reputable lawyer can predict the odds of patentability, but will never make guarantees as this is plainly unethical.

The Other Issues

So what is the problem? We receive multiple calls a month from disgruntled and upset customers to these types of companies. The issues we predominantly hear about are as follows:

  1. Lack of communication except when more money is needed.
  2. Ever increasing fees to do the original quoted package.
  3. Failed performance on engineering work.
  4. Failed marketing – refusal to give any status or who has been spoken to about the invention.
  5. Stuck in making payments for nothing.
  6. No accountability for promises made.

In general, it boils down to too much money in all the wrong places. Over the years, we have become very familiar with how these companies operate. The statistics are heavily weighted against you. So what can be done?

Typically the best thing to do is to seek a patent attorney’s help if you want a patent or to check a potential invention. They can guide you through the process and meet with you directly. They can help with negotiations, licensing, and trademarks too. For engineering, contact an engineer. Some patent attorneys know engineers willing to help (with a fee naturally) and can give you the guidance you need. With respect to marketing, there is no easy way around it. Your efforts are necessary unless you have large amounts of cash to put into marketing agencies. The process is doable for those that put forth the effort. We have seen it happen with our clients.

Williams IP Law has made it a point to network and compile a team of different companies, incubators, or individuals that can help assist you during the invention process. Contact us for a free consultation.