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INVENTIVE CREATIONS DESIGNERS HAWK THEIR WARES AT CONFERENCE.
Sun Sentinel; Fort Lauderdale; Jan 20, 1996; TOM STIEGHORST Business Writer;
Abstract:
Erik Berman is networking at an inventors' conference in Miami with a pair of peculiar crutches.

He has been working since he graduated from college in 1989 to commercialize Krutch Kridder crutch pads. They come in 20 animal varieties. They've been patented since 1992. What Berman needs now is wide scale distribution.

For Berman and about 200 other inventors who attended the conference, inventing a better mousetrap is only the first step. The hard part is getting the world to beat a path to your door.

Full Text:
Copyright Sun-Sentinel Co. Jan 20, 1996

Informational box at end of text.

Erik Berman is networking at an inventors' conference in Miami with a pair of peculiar crutches.

Atop each crutch is the kind of fuzzy stuffed animal you might win at a carnival game. Pretty funny, eh?

Not to Berman.

He has been working since he graduated from college in 1989 to commercialize Krutch Kridder crutch pads. They come in 20 animal varieties. They've been patented since 1992. What Berman needs now is wide scale distribution.

He hoped to meet a buyer from Wal-Mart scheduled to attend Friday's session of Making Invention Pay, a two-day inventors' conference at the Miami Radisson Mart Plaza Hotel.

For Berman and about 200 other inventors who attended the conference, inventing a better mousetrap is only the first step. The hard part is getting the world to beat a path to your door.

The Boynton Beach inventor said that to pursue his dream, he has been selling real estate and delivering pizza. He's about to get his mortgage broker's license.

"What does that tell you about inventors?" he said with a grin.

To be an inventor requires a dogged faith in yourself and your product, most inventors said.

"Don't ever listen to anybody who's negative," advised Dorothy Van Fleet, the inventor of Earbones.

Earbones are nothing more than small strips of plastic or velvet-covered cardboard shaped like dog bones. Pierced at each end, they are used to keep a pair of earrings together in a jewelry box.

Van Fleet, of St. Petersburg, said she got the idea last year. More than once she had been reduced to tears by the pre-work hunt for a missing earring among the 200 or so pairs she owned.

"It's something a woman would really want," she said.

Van Fleet has three markets for Earbones - retail, advertising specialty and earring card. Claire's Boutiques is testing them as a retail item. A big Massachusetts specialty ad manufacturer is taking them to the industry's biggest trade show in June.

And a jewelry company in Rhode Island is working with her to make a jewelry display card in which the Earbone breaks away from the card along a perforated line.

"This is going to revolutionize the earring card world," Van Fleet said.

Most of the inventors who paid $125 to attend the convention were looking for practical advice. How do I get a patent? What is the best use of my limited budget? Who has the power to buy?

Pamela Riddle, chief executive of Innovative Product Technologies Inc., of Gainesville, helped organize the event. She offered support, but cautioned that reality can be harsh.

"Never forget that when your product goes on that store shelf, someone else's comes off," Riddle said.

William L. Brown, of Miami, is angling for a small slice graffiti removal business.

Brown's product is Graffiti Off, which works like acetone in removing paint but is nonflammable and nontoxic, he said. A friend in Arizona sent him some to aid Brown's graffiti cleanup campaign in his Kendall neighborhood. Struck by the commercial possibilities, Brown made a deal with his friend and began pounding the pavement.

So far, Brown has spent about $8,000 on attorney fees, brochures and the like.

PATENT PENDING

A few tips from the Making Invention Pay conference:

-- Champions: Find out who within a company can champion your invention. Chances are it isn't someone in the legal department or research and development. Get a dialogue going with someone who is technical and speaks your language.

-- Trade shows: Here's the place to focus your limited budget. Go to trade shows to make contacts in your industry and within companies who might market your invention. Contacts lead you to buyers.

-- Business cards: Write a brief description on the back of each business card you collect. When making followup calls, you will frequently be forgotten unless you save details to bring your meeting back to memory.

-- Patents: Decide whether you first want to pursue a patent or test your product in the market. Many ideas turn out to be uncommercial, which you won't find out until you test them. But without a patent, your ideas are fair game. If you are in a business with a short product cycle, such as software, your product could be outmoded by the time you get a patent. Patents were extended last year from 17 to 20 years.

Source: Innovative Product Technologies.

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