Posted on Monday, 20th September 2010 by blog

From the zany to the dangerous to the just plain dumb, here is TIME’s list (in no particular order) of some of the world’s bright ideas that just didn’t work out.

 

The Segway
The Clippy
Hair in a Can
New Coke

And so many more…….

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1991915,00.html

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Posted on Monday, 20th September 2010 by blog

A very sweet lady I know named Julie invented a nice little product called the E-Zzz Sleep Pillowcase. http://www.e-zzzsleep.com/ like many inventors do, she developed this from scratch all by herself, simply feeling her way in the dark as she maneuvered the labyrinth of product development.

Several years later – and now reflective about the process, Julie felt compelled to email me some thoughts she feels could help other inventors traveling down the same road.

Here are some MISTAKES Julie made – and YOU should avoid:

- I hired a professional artist for both the booklet/brochure when I could have saved a lot of money doing it myself and using stock art.

- I had a booklet made in an odd size so it cost more to have it printed, cut, and folded.

- I would not have trademarked the original name if I had understood trade marking at the time.

- I ordered way too many product labels (because I was SURE that EVERYONE would want a pillowcase) – I actually could have saved about $500 if I had been realistic.

- I had too many manufactured for first run (3000 units) – when they didn’t sell as I thought they would, I had to rent a storage unit and purchase about 100 boxes to store them in.

- I hired three different marketing companies (even checked references) and they all ran away with my money – about $8,000 total.

- I changed the name of my product twice, which meant new labels (didn’t use about 6,000 of the original labels), new booklet, new logo, new website, etc
As you can see – none of the mistakes Julie made were earth shattering, but when you add them all up it’s a significant amount of tuition in the school of hard knocks. A little less emotion and a little more research and Julie could have saved a lot of money. 

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Posted on Tuesday, 14th September 2010 by blog

About a year ago I was developing a retail product. After months of work it was completed and the factory samples were back from China. The sales sheets were all done, the sample packs were assembled, and we were ready to go.

 As we do with all the products we take to market, we contacted the stable of sales reps that work with our products from around the country and turned them loose. As I normally do to keep my edge, I took a few accounts myself and started making phone calls.  

The first call I made was a buyer for a large chain in California and I politely asked if I could send her a sample kit. She agreed, gave me the postal information and off it went.

A week goes by, and as I always do I followed up on the call to make sure she received the samples we sent her. I reached her at her desk, and asked if she had in fact received the samples. She said she had and although she thought the product was “nice” she didn’t think it was a good fit for the line of products her chain carried.

Now keep in mind – rejection from buyers is simply something you have to deal with in this industry. It happens more often than not – and you can’t take it personally. After all, they are not rejecting “you” they are rejecting a set of circumstances. So don’t feel bad when it happens to you.

Not usually one to give up, several months later I decide to try again. I contacted the same buyer and politely asked if I could send out a sample pack. As if we had never even talked the first time. – She said yes. Again I followed up a few weeks later to check on the samples. I got her on the phone, asked her what she thought, and this time her reaction was a little different.  “Wow, these are really cool. I think they will do great in our store”

I almost fell out of my chair- It was as if she had never seen them before. Just a few months later and the same phone call had an entirely different result.  I’ll never understand what happened with that buyer – but she placed a very nice order so I’m not going to spend much time trying to figure it out.

When it comes to retail buyers – You just never know

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Posted on Monday, 13th September 2010 by blog

Each consumer product lives on what I call the Benefit/Detriment scale – you can think of it as a “see-saw” where you pile things on both sides.
As you develop a product for retail you have to pay close attention to this scale and how your design functions effect its movement. Let’s take a look at some of the basic elements of Benefit –vs- Detriment in a normal retail product.
Benefits:
The problem the product solves – Does it solve a small problem or a large problem? Is solving that problem of great value to the consumer or does the consumer have other ways to solve it?
 The quality of the product – Is it likely to last a long time? Are the materials and craftsmanship such that the use cycle will be longer – Price (divided by) Number of uses = Per-Use Cost – The lower the Per-Use Cost, the greater the value to the consumer.
The emotional benefit – Will the consumer feel good about making the purchase?  Does it make them feel proud for finding a solution?, or smart because they figured it out? or even happy because they spent their money wisely.  As humans, our body releases an endorphin each time our mind tells us we are happy. When you can get the consumers mind to send out that endorphin as a reaction to your product you form an indelible link in the consumers mind between happiness and your product.
Detriments:
Cost – The first detriment in any product is always cost. Unless you are giving it away for free, the consumer is going to have to lose some of their money in order to acquire the benefits of your product. To them, that can be a pretty big detriment depending on what the value of money is to them as an individual.
Perceived product quality – Just as this can be a benefit, it can quickly turn into a detriment if the consumer feels the quality of the product will result in a higher Per-Use Cost.
The emotional detriment – Again, it’s a double edged sword. Things such as the name being hard to pronounce or spell, the complexity of use and the colors can all make a consumer feel inadequate or in some cases even stupid. Remember that brain we talked about, you guessed it – another endorphin. The problem is this endorphin forms an indelible link between sadness and your product.
The most important thing to understand about the Benefits –vs- Detriments scale is that you can control many of the things that affect it. But to do that you have to be keeping it in mind at every step of the development process.  
I once knew a lady who for 20 years refused to purchase “Neapolitan” Ice Cream. It just so happens in grade school she learned that “Napoleon Bonaparte”  was a very bad man. In her mind she associated the brand “Neapolitan” with the name “Napoleon” and refused to ever purchase that brand of Ice Cream. The natural reaction when she saw the name on the package was to remember that bad feeling she had from all those years ago. 
Was that a little wacky? Not to her – and after all, she had the money
From the UIA Inventor Blog www.uiausa.org

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Posted on Friday, 10th September 2010 by blog

 

I had a great conversation the other evening with an inventor about her project. It was a conversation I have several evenings a week with inventors – but a little different.
 
We talked about her product, and the journey she had gone through. We talked about all the money she has spent and where to go from here – we even talked about the fact that in her city she didn’t have a local inventor group to join so she was pondering the idea of starting one.
 
Eventually the conversation turned to the topic of why she invents. I was taken aback by the story she told growing up in a house where she always wanted to “tinker” and her family did everything they could to discourage it. You see, she knew at a very young age she was destine to be an inventor – even if her family didn’t. They weren’t being mean; they simply didn’t understand how her mind worked and were no doubt at a loss for how to support her.
You may think that environment would serve as the catalyst for her to go off and invent the greatest thing ever invented – and she did in fact invent a nice product. But the real story is how that experience inspired and motivated her to dedicate her life to building a place where young kids can go and be nurtured in innovation and creativity.
 
As often happens with good people, she used her childhood experiences to help mold her life’s work. Not to inventing – but to a much larger issue with a much greater impact on society. 
 
I have no doubt she will build a wildly successful place for “kid inventors” to be creative and grow – and when that time comes, I have no doubt that we as a community will help her in any way we can.

Become an Educated Inventor – Join the UIA www.uiausa.org

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Posted on Thursday, 9th September 2010 by blog

What came first the inventor or the Entrepreneur?

Inventing is a business, not unlike any other business at it’s core is a requirement for profitability. As such, the invention must be transformable into a product developed either for use in the trade, or to be entered into the stream of consumer commerce. Either way, it boils down to an exercise in math – It either works and archives profit, or does not work and achieves failure.

Many inventors don’t have the slightest idea about the business side of the industry. Often they don’t care and they don’t want to care. However, some inventors expect their invention will magically morph into some wonderful retail product that sells millions and makes them rich beyond belief.

Of course it doesn’t work that way – the reality is, some entrepreneur will likely take the ball from the inventor and run down field to cross the goal line….In this business they almost always do.

Inventors who fail to realise the importance of the entrepreneur in this process will never truly understand how to invent for the market. In fact, they are likely to get lost on the way there. That doesn’t mean they can’t (or won’t ) be successful, it means they have to educate themselves on the business side of things and come to the realization that at some point you are going to have to trust your “baby” with someone smarter in the ways of business that you.

Get educated about Inventing – Join the UIA http://www.uiausa.org/

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Posted on Thursday, 9th September 2010 by blog

After weeks and weeks of hard work and planning you emerge from the basement. You just know it’s the greatest invention on the planet. So with a great anticipation you show this earth shattering, mind bending, genius making idea to someone who’s opinion you respect above all others.

They look it over, they ponder it – and then with a huge smile on your face and ears at the ready you hear them proclaim ….THAT’S JUST DUMB!  – They don’t get it, they don’t see the vision that is so clear and vibrant in your mind of everyone on the planet using this invention.

So what happens when we hear that? (come on….we’ve all heard something similar) Does it deflate you?….or…Does it motivate you?

Get educated about inventing – Join the UIA www.uiausa.org

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Posted on Tuesday, 7th September 2010 by blog

 

There are several “Life Cycles” associated with a retail product. The one we want to talk about here is the consumer use life cycle. It doesn’t start when the consumer purchases the product – or even when they take it out of the package and place it in the drawer or cabinet, It starts when they pick it up and go to actually use the product – and it ends when it finds its way back to that point of origin.  
Why is this important? Because we can get a customer to purchase a product for the first time using color and intrinsic value, and placement – all the marketing tricks we use to get attention. But we can only get a consumer to purchase a product the second time (or even more important to tell others good things about it) if the product successfully makes it through the consumer use life cycle the way it was intended.
To illustrate this let’s look at a little gadget that does a fine job of holding up its end of the bargain – The Chip Clip
We’ve all seen them; plastic little clips that hold a bag of chips closed. The clip starts the consumer use life cycle in the kitchen drawer. The consumer has just eaten ½ a bag of chips, walks from the den into the kitchen looking to cash in on the value agreement he/she made last week in aisle 12 with that pack of Chip Clips.
You know the agreement – “Ok, little clip, I’m going to leave $1.29 of my hard earned money here at the store, and take you home. But, when I have a ½ eaten bag of chips, you are going to step up to the plate like your inventor said you would, and you’re going to keep them closed and fresh for me.”
Now standing in the kitchen with a ½ bag of chips, the consumer’s here to collect part of that $1.29 in value you as the inventor promised them. The consumer takes the clip from the drawer, places it on the ½ eaten bag of chips, and sets it in the pantry. It stays there several days and eventually they eat the rest of the chips. The Chip Clip is then returned to the drawer and the consumer use life cycle is complete.
In the big picture of things the “consumer use life cycle” is a subset of the “product life cycle” while the product life cycle is a very important subset of the product’s “value proposition” – and in the end, the product’s value proposition is the reason a consumer purchases a product in the first place.
Do you think the chip clip inventor thought about the Consumer Use Life-cycle when they invented that product? Probably not, but the next time you invent a retail product maybe you will.

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Posted on Monday, 6th September 2010 by blog

Many of you may not know the name Mel Fisher – but for those who do, you will recall he was the treasure hunter from Key West Florida who found the ship wreck Nuestra Senora de Atocha worth hundreds of millions of dollars in gold and jewels.

Mel’s story started with, like many of us – a dream – Mel knew he could find that ship. It took him over ten years, he lost a son, and spent every penny he had – but he no doubt felt it deep inside. Deep in that place where we keep those thoughts we simply know to be our  truth. That core of belief from which all other thoughts radiate and strength is born. 
No one really understands how inventors and treasure hunters really know. But like an internal compass, these thoughts guide us to a destination few will ever attempt to reach. Something inside the inventor is both fuel and focus that allows us to get there in the face of sometimes insurmountable odds.
 While most people around Mel wrote him off as a simple dreamer, Mel trudged on. Awakening each day to the simple mantra that was the outside world’s only look into his true being. He started every day with the simple words – Today’s the day!

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Posted on Thursday, 2nd September 2010 by blog

From the AP news wire….very interesting.

Look carefully at the lid to your coffee cup or the handle of your disposable razor. A recent ruling on an obscure, century-old statute has opened the door for people familiar with the finer points of patent law to sue companies that stamp their products with expired patent numbers.

A couple of sharp-eyed lawyers are shooting for a financial windfall through the nearly forgotten law, and the Justice Department says they have a case.


The ruling in federal court in Alexandria appears to be the first of its kind upholding the constitutionality of a law allowing anyone to sue in the name of the government if they have evidence that a company is guilty of “false markings” _ namely, claiming patent protections that have expired or never existed.

The person who sues gets to keep half of any money awarded, with the rest going to the government. Damages of up to $500 per violation are allowed, which for mass-produced items with “Patent” stamped on every product could theoretically run into billions of dollars.
Despite the financial incentive to sue, lawyers in the Virginia case say no one other than businesses with a financial stake availed themselves of the law.
No one, that is, until Matthew Pequignot.

A Washington patent attorney, Pequignot (PECK’-eh-naw) noticed the patent marks on the lid to his daily cup of coffee, did some research and found that the lid’s maker, Solo Cup Co., was continuing to claim patent protections for disposable lids that had expired nearly 20 years ago. Depending on a variety of factors, most patents expire after a set period of time, often after 14 to 20 years.

In 2007, he sued Highland Park, Ill.-based Solo Cup, which makes the red and blue plastic cups seen at parties and barbecues and also supplies disposable cups and lids to retailers like Starbucks and McDonald’s.

Pequignot says the lawsuit addresses a problem in the patent community: companies using false marks to make products look impressive or to scare off competitors, who must do significant legal work to research the patents. He likens false patent marks to placing “No trespassing” signs in public park lands.

Pequignot followed the Solo Cup case by suing razor company Gillette, owned by Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co., and Arrow Fastener Co. Inc., a manufacturer of staplers and similar products. The case against Saddle Brook, N.J.-based Arrow has been withdrawn, but Pequignot retains the right to revive it.

Gillette is seeking to dismiss the case, arguing Pequignot shouldn’t be allowed to sue unless he can show Gillette acted with “an intent to deceive.” “False markings claims come cheap: They damage defendants’ reputations. … Numerous complaints can be filed at almost no cost,” Gillette’s lawyers wrote, noting Pequignot’s multiple lawsuits.

In the Solo Cup case, court papers indicate Pequignot offered to settle for $9 million. Instead, Solo Cup argued that allowing a private citizen to sue on behalf of the government is an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers. Solo Cup also argued the law violates constitutional requirements that a plaintiff must suffer some type of harm to bring a lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema concluded in March that the provision allowing Pequignot to sue in the name of the government, though rare, is constitutional. Called “qui tam” statutes, most have been repealed because of concerns they were being abused.

Despite Brinkema’s ruling, there are still concerns over the law’s use. In May, a federal judge in New York tossed out a similar lawsuit filed by a patent attorney who sued Brooks Brothers over expired patents on its “original Adjustolox” bow tie.

The judge ruled that if the plaintiff, Raymond E. Stauffer, wants to sue on behalf of the United States, he must prove the government suffered harm, a standard he said Stauffer failed to meet.
Brinkema, on the other hand, said in her ruling that the U.S. suffered harm by the very fact that its laws were being broken.

The Justice Department is siding with Brinkema. On May 29, the government moved to intervene on Stauffer’s behalf and said the New York judge’s analysis is flawed.

Neil Friedman, the lawyer who represented Brooks Brothers, likened Stauffer and Pequignot to “bounty hunters” looking to collect an easy payoff. He said he is aware of several similar lawsuits that have been filed since the Pequignot and Stauffer’s cases.

Pequignot, for his part, says he does not expect an avalanche of false markings lawsuits, despite the fact that Stauffer and some others have already followed in his footsteps. He said that, even as a patent attorney, it took him many hours of research to be able to file his lawsuit.

Dennis Crouch, a law professor at the University of Missouri and author of the Patently-O blog, said lawsuits like Pequignot’s had been “almost unheard of” before his filing. He said the effect could be significant, though, since he estimates there are millions of false markings in the marketplace.
In her ruling, Brinkema suggested Congress may want to close the loophole.

“It is likely an accident of history that (the law) survives as one of the few remaining qui tam statutes in American law,” Brinkema wrote in her opinion which grudgingly acknowledged Pequignot’s right to move forward with his case.

With the law’s constitutionality upheld, Solo Cup says it plans to offer a “good-faith” defense that it relied on lawyers’ advice and did not intend to deceive.

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