Archive Page 2


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.


Pepsi Wants to Give You Money

Do you need a reason to go out and buy more Pepsi? If you do, your moment has arrived. Get out there and work yourself into a caffeinated frenzy of innovation as soon as possible… because Pepsi wants to give you cash for all those sugar-fueled ideas!

Pepsi’s new Refresh Project is giving away almost $1.5 million every month to fund ideas that “will have a positive impact.” Grants of all sizes will be awarded to individuals, businesses and non-profits, ranging from $5k up to $250k (based on the size of the idea and the needs/resources of the folks behind it). Grants are available in six categories: health, arts & culture, the planet, neighborhoods, food & shelter and education. Submission starts the first of every month and goes to the 15th or until Pepsi receives 1000 ideas, whichever comes first.

There is a “public vote” that is part of the funding process but I can’t quite figure out how it affects the outcome, except that the top 100 runners-up from each category will automatically be rolled over to the next month’s competition. While I’m not sure that soda’s going to change the world, there are some truly inspiring ideas up for funding this month–everything from special-needs cheerleading to crayon recycling to diaper distribution. And it’s always nice to see one of the big guys finding a way to give back.

So, if you’ve got an idea, get your fanny of the couch and start typing. You might just get the money you need to give your invention legs! I bet you can even type and hold your Pepsi at the same time.


Patents a la Jackson

Ever wondered how Michael Jackson did that cool lean move in Smooth Criminal? Well then, ladies and gentlemen! For your reading pleasure, I present: Michael Jackson’s patent on the “method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion.” Just another little bit of genius from the King of Pop Patents.

I guess this means you should check with your lawyer before taking that MJ act on the road.


Design Inspiration

If I had all the time in the world, I would probably go back to school, get a design degree, open my own design firm, work for ten years until I got all kinds of impressive awards and then design my own fabulous box, logo and website for the Buff Cuff.

But, since I’d like to launch this product before my kids turn twenty-five, package design was an area where I definitely needed professional help. And luckily, here in Omaha there are some kick-ass designers–I’ve worked with the very talented Adam at GoodTwin in the past and am now working with Oxide on the Buff Cuff packaging and website.

Very early on in the process, I sat down with the guys at Oxide to talk about the look and feel I wanted for the Buff Cuff. Having a great branding package is very important to me with this product (well, duh) and I wanted to make sure that Oxide had a clear understanding of what I like. Even though Drew and co. are excellent communicators, I decided to make a “mood board” of my own, just so I could be sure that they really understood me. Who me, type-A? Never.

Anyway, as I started searching for design inspiration, I found myself gravitating towards repeating retro patterns–Lindberg and Girard textiles from the sixties, Mary Blair‘s Disneyland architecture, modern-day stuff from Rex Ray and Jonathan Adler. All so round and colorful and fun. I also found some fabulous “new” Girard items at House Industries, including a snappy set of Girard-inspired fonts. I could look at this stuff all day (though I don’t think I’ll be buying my two-year-old a $120 set of blocks anytime soon).

I can’t wait to see how the package comes out. There’s a very strong possibility that I’ll end up with a thousand of them in my garage at some point, so figured I better speak up about what I like, design-wise, even if Oxide are the ones who are going to make the magic happen. If I end up with something even remotely Lindberg-esque, hopefully I’ll like it enough to tile my wall with box lids if I never sell a single Buff Cuff.

Or hey! Maybe the box will be so fantastic that people will actually want to buy the product!

Whoa. Marketing breakthrough.

Sarah Gupta, MD

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