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Plagued with Another Invention

The greatest satisfaction I get in this job is helping inventors. From independent inventors to engineers in large corporations, the people who create something new know the brilliance of that light bulb that goes off. Many times, I get to relive that moment with them, as they describe the invention and as I poke, prod, and try to stretch their invention to see how large it can go. In many cases, my ability to see their invention in a new light gives them new insights and solidifies their understanding of the idea.

Because I entered Patent Law as both an independent inventor and a corporate engineer/inventor seeking a way to avoid the high cost of a patent attorney, I relate on an almost practical and personal level with my clients.

Independent inventors/entrepreneurs are the most interesting and exciting people. Unshackled by society’s bonds, they are willing to follow the vision and mold and shape it into whatever it becomes. This is the lifeblood of our society, pumping new innovation into the stream of commerce, taking a risk, and getting their rewards.

Invention for me used to come in a vision, with every nut and bolt in its place. For example, my sawhorse invention came to me when I woke up at 4:00am after having seen a metal sawhorse the day before. The vision included the pattern of stiffening ribs, nail access holes, locating features for interlocking parts, and symmetrical part design: all in the original vision.

Now, invention sometimes happens as a process, spurred by a single question or thought. The process leads down a path of searching, finding a dead end, recreating the idea, and following where it leads.

In my early days as a designer, I would often get the vision of a completed machine or article and merely work as hard and fast as I could to get it into the CAD station. After several years, I did not need the complete vision of the final product, and I began to enjoy the fascinating journey of how the product would develop and be molded by design constraints, other people’s ideas and suggestions, the interactions of other systems, and other factors that I could not envision at the outset.

There was a point where I didn’t know how a design would come together, but I knew the answer was in there and it was up to me to do my homework and the answer would appear. It was at this point that I was at the top of my game.

Since I have been in Law School, I have tried to swear off inventing, because it can become a consuming passion. Unfortunately, this weekend I had the opportunity to have someone ask a simple, straightforward question: isn’t there a better way to do that? And I have been plagued with another invention.