At first, I didn’t think the world needed another invention “how-to” book. After all, many other books have been published in this vein, right? Most do a reasonably good job of explaining the various steps of the invention process. But I must say there is something refreshingly original and enjoyable about the Independent Inventor’s Handbook (by Louis Foreman and Jill Gilbert Welytok, Workman Publishing, 2009).
Louis is the publisher of Inventors Digest magazine and executive producer of the Emmy® award-winning PBS show Everyday Edisons, as well as the and CEO of Enventys, a product-development firm working with major consumer product manufacturers and leading retailers. His businesses are proud Sponsors of the United Inventors Association (UIA). Jill is a principal at Absolute Technology Law Group that provides patent protection for clients ranging from independent inventors to large corporations and federal research institutions. Together, they formed a team they refer to as “the Entrepreneur and the Attorney”.
Their new book is primarily helpful to inventors who come up with consumer products. If you’ve come up with a very high-tech or advanced industrial innovation, this book is probably not for you. But since most independent inventors create for the mass consumer market, The Independent Inventor’s Handbook is an especially useful update in today’s globalized economy, with new risks associated with the rise in retailers’ power at the expense of manufacturers, as well as new tools available to inventors. So the update is welcome.
For 8 chapters, the reader is treated to topical information on each recommended step. And it is told in a storytelling style that is quite fun. In fact, I think this is one of the book’s strengths: readability. Colorful captions, story vignettes and case studies abound. So while you may be in the thick of Chapter 3 on Prototyping, Manufacturing and Distributing — a dry topic, at best — you will nevertheless be treated to interesting story of how Earl S. Tupper was originally inspired by the lid of a paint can to come up with his signature air-tight plastic containers in the 1950′s, but that his other major innovation was the creation of “Tupperware Parties” as a massively successful distribution strategy.
Another strong point of the book is how it offers historical context. Indeed, inventing has been around for a long time. Louis and Jill did a lot of research to contrast what still holds true from what is genuinely new in the inventing field.
For example, inventors can still expect to meet entrenched opposition, much like Galileo did when he ultimately had to publicly recant his scientific observations. By the same token, there are really new things that apply today, such as the new USPTO doctrine of “non-obviousness” to obtain a patent.
Finally, the glossary of terms, sample Non-Disclosure Agreement and “Personal Roadmap” offer helpful guidance. My only criticism is that in their attempt to cover all topics well, Jill and Louis sometimes draw the reader from one topic (say, Patenting) to another (like Sales or Prototyping) in the same chapter, or even the same sentence. This was somewhat unavoidable, since all topics are interrelated. But it can require readers to flex when it comes to chapter topics. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have done it differently. But sometimes, it forces the reader to bounce from one subject to another.
Beyond style and content, the book also gets high marks for its collection of truth-nuggets, both encouraging and cautionary. After all, paranoia is the greatest impediment to progress on an invention project, but so is unbridled belief in quick riches. The reality of the inventing process is that it is not always cut and dry; nor is it linear form idea to success.
The Independent Inventor’s Handbook does a good job of clarifying the seemingly confusing steps involved, with both vivid and real life examples.
Patrick Raymond co-hosts Food Network’s series Invention Hunters and can be reached at www.myinventionscore.com
Ron Reardon – Patents & More, Inc.