Archive for March, 2010


Shark Tank is Casting!

Aching to get your reality-star groove on? Have invention, will travel? Then get on over to ABC and apply for Shark Tank. It’s pretty basic–all you do is submit a general overview of your idea by email, no supplemental materials required.

And for heaven’s sake, if you haven’t heard of Shark Tank, go here. Even my parents watch this show.


Inventor’s Spotlight at the National Hardware Show

The National Hardware Show is just around the corner and if you’ve got an innovative home-related product, this could be the show for you! With over 2,800 companies exhibiting, it’s one of the biggest baddest annual trade shows in the world. If you’re planning on heading out this May make sure to check out the Inventor’s Spotlight, sponsored by the United Invention Association (UIA) and Garden Weasel, a special exhibition category (and area?) reserved for new products.

Unique opportunities for Inventor’s Spotlight exhibitors include a chance to earn special recognition from the UIA in one of five categories like “most eco-friendly” and “best for simplicity.” Participants will also get to pitch their product live to the bigwigs at Garden Weasel–which apparently could “get your product licenced, promoted and possibly a TV commercial.”

And did I mention it’s in Las Vegas? So even if you don’t make a single sale, at least you can count on a free drink.

Sure sounds a heck of a lot more exciting than the World of Concrete my husband attends every year.

For Inventor’s Spotlight details, contact John Lederer at or 203-840-5381.


Nerds Like You

Finally! A packaging mock-up and a working prototype! It looks like it’s almost time for me to get excited about having a real product to sell, and so of course have started frantically researching marketing and distribution opportunities–trade shows, celebrity gifting, press releases, etc.

Since I don’t have a local inventors group, Edison Nation is one of my favorite places to start when I need information. Outstanding forums, friendly people and a huge amount of free information, mainly based on other inventor’s experiences. You can also watch videos from the PBS show “Everyday Edisons” and enter licensing contests for major retailers. It’s free to join; an upgrade to gold status is $9 a month and gets you a subscription to Inventors Digest, reduced entry fees on contest entries and a fancy “GOLD” title on your avatar.

The inventing business is complicated–it’s like you have to be the design team, the marketing department, the CEO, the accountant, a secretary and legal counsel all rolled into one. You’ve got to get some help. Edison Nation is one of the cheapest (free!) and most accessable resources I’ve found so far, and full of inventing nerds just like you.

As far as my own product goes, after reviewing some of the discussion in the Edison Nation forums I’ve decided that INPEX in June is probably not the right target show for me. I’m now daydreaming about trying to do a gift show instead… though I guess I should probably wait until I have a little more inventory. It’d be an awfully empty booth with just one little ol’ Buff Cuff and me.


Invent foam finger, win $10000

Hey NCAA fans! If you have a good idea for a “fan” product, you could win $10000 from Coke Zero, plus four tickets to the 2011 Final Four. Ideas must be practical, innovative and should “improve the fan experience.” Submission ends March 12th at midnight Eastern–so if you have a winning idea, hustle on over to Coke’s Department of Fannovation and submit. Looks like all you need is a brief description and either a drawing, photo or short video. Complete rules are here.

Beware though: this is one of those contests where submitting your idea gives the sponsor all rights to the invention. In other words, if you have a real invention that you think might get some traction one day, don’t waste it on this contest.

However, it just might be the perfect place to publicly launch the SNACK GRABBER.


Patents 101

Almost every time my invention comes up in casual conversation, the person I’m talking to has an invention of their own rolling around in their heads. And of course, one of the first things people usually want to know is how to protect their idea. Since I’ve heard the whole “mailing yourself an envelope” trick just doesn’t cut it, I thought I’d list a few basic steps you can take toward protecting and possibly patenting your idea.

First: come up with a genius multimillion-dollar idea (c’mon… you know you have one!)

Second: start an inventor’s journal with dates, ideas, etc. I would suggest something that is hard-bound with the pages sewn in (I love Moleskine) so that the pages cannot easily be manipulated or lost. Every month or so, have a couple of witnesses sign your journal, testifying that the invention recorded is your original idea. At this stage, I’d also recommend getting a general-interest invention book like Inventing for Dummies and browsing the online forums (Edison Nation is a friendly resource). Another good idea is to check to see if any invention clubs are active in your area.

Next, once you’ve done some brainstorming and have a pretty clear idea of what your invention will look like and how it will function, you can file a provisional patent (PPA) with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In a nutshell, a PPA is like a “mini” patent: it’s only good for a year, but it does allow you to put “patent pending” on your product while it’s still in development or new to the market. If you feel comfortable with the technical writing/illustrations you can file this one yourself. I wrote my own PPA and filed it using Nolo’s online PPA application; total cost was around $250 (including the $100 USPTO filing fee). If you think you are ready for this step check out Nolo’s PPA Guide, a free PDF that outlines the pros and cons of filing a PPA.

The next step beyond a PPA is obviously to get a non-provisional patent (NPA). These are the “real” patents people think of when trying to protect their idea. NPAs are good for 15-20 years (depending on type) and give the inventor sole rights to the product in the United States. Sounds great right? Well, unfortunately, the down side is that filing an NPA can often be quite expensive–between $10k-$20k including legal fees–and are technically much more demanding than PPAs (meaning they are much harder to file correctly on your own). If you are at this stage in the inventing process and trying to decide on your next move, check out Patent It Yourself by David Pressman.

Obviously the process is much more complicated than what I’ve outlined here, but I just thought I’d put out a few steps to get you started. At the very least, get yourself that invention journal and put some ideas down! Just think: a twenty-dollar journal could make you a millionaire one day. Sounds like a bargain to me!

At the very least, you can will it to your grandkids.

Sarah Gupta, MD

Welcome to the "official" blog of the Buff Cuff, a resource for anyone interested in inventing or inventions. Happy reading!