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I Invent Things

January 19, 2010

Well, that post heading is not entirely true. I think of things to be invented. I record in a top-secret diary my inventive thoughts. I’ve done this for 25 years.

This is a genetic thing. My mother also kept notes on inventions. She claims that one of her ideas (the retractable dog leash) was stolen when she submitted the idea to a patent service. She never heard back from the service, but within a couple of years she was seeing the retractable leash everywhere – just as she had designed it.

Now, her story is what paralyzes me. I am so afraid of my absolutely awesome ideas being stolen that I keep them well hidden. My notes, including diagrams, are protected better than my money in the bank. And of course, I don’t dare even think about going for a patent. Who would I trust? No one.

Each time I see one of my inventions hit the market (like the counter-top dishwasher, and headphones for your home phone – which arrived on the scene in the 90’s, years after I had logged the thought in my invention diary), I get the diary and put a big X on the page, or I tape a picture of the invention on the page.

Opportunity after opportunity passes me by. But it’s the sharing paralysis that  has me just sitting on my ideas. For example, one time at a holiday party, I was coaxed into sharing one of my inventions. So, I shared one that I wasn’t super attached to, though I really thought it was a good idea.

 I talked about how discouraging it was to hear two or three news stories a year about hikers getting lost. That had led me to design a hand-held firing gun – like a flare gun – that, when triggered, sent a long wire up through the tree-line. The wire would have a helium cartridge at the end of it and when the wire went taut,  a release would be activated on the cartridge that would fill a red balloon with the helium.  Meanwhile, back on the ground, the lost hiker would use the built-in ground stake that would be attached to the firing gun to anchor the distress signal. Then he/she could sit tight and await being found. I even said that the item should be available at the base of every hikers’ path and for a reasonable price, like $19.95.

About three years later, one of the party attendees expressed his disappointment that a patent he and his father had submitted had been turned down because someone had already submitted something similar. Then he went on to describe my hikers’ gun! I suspect (because I prefer to think this way) that the guy thought the idea was originally his, not that he had stolen it from me. (I do believe the human mind picks up information subliminally sometimes, and that what we think is original thought can actually be a clone from thought expressed by another.)

But now, I won’t share my ideas with anyone. I even have a good friend who has a good friend who’s a patent attorney. I can’t bring myself to even sit with him and lay out my ideas!

Anyway, yesterday I used a product that I’ve used for years – something we’ve all used for years. And one thing about it that has been a constant frustration (for years, for all of us) suddenly spawned a solution invention!!! I love when this happens. It’s what I’ve come to think of as “a Ben Franklin moment!” I can’t wait to document this one…and then wait to see how long it is till someone else takes it to market.

Is there therapy for this “sharing paralysis” I’m stuck in?

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