“If you’ve got really good ideas, you have to be a good salesman,” says Lemelson-MIT prize winning inventor Woody Norris.
Some inventors achieve limited success, one-hit wonders, if you wish. Others try their whole life to perfect an idea but are unable to interest an investor or manufacturer about commercializing it. Still others, like Elwood Norris have achieved consistent success commercializing and profiting from their inventions.
Norris says that the secret to his 45-year career that it is important to file patents, file early (provisionals, if appropriate) and work with a good patent attorney who understanding the invention and what you plan to do with it.
$300M+ from Licensing
“Over [Norris’] 45-year long career as a professional independent inventor,” reports Forbes, “his innovations have produced significant breakthroughs in medicine, data storage, audio electronics, and defense technologies — helping to produce billion-dollar markets and generating $300 million in gross licensing fees.
In 2005, he was awarded the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize for his invention of “a sonar tool to isolate different movements inside the human body.” (With his wife, he set up a foundation and gave the money away to other inventors.)
Norris, the son of a coal miner who had only a third grade education, grew up in a family that struggled to make ends meet. The family’s only luxury was a radio, which at the age of eight Norris took apart to learn how it worked and produced sound. From that moment, he became captivated with electronics and made a hobby out of taking them apart.
His HyperSonic Sound (HSS®) invention is said to be the first big improvement in acoustics since the loudspeaker was invented 80 years ago. Norris first filed a patent for HSS in 1996 and received it three years later in 1999. In 2002, the first commercial version of the device became available.
Norris’ excellent TEDtalk can be found here.
Norris believes that an inventor needs to find the right patent attorney, not just one who can file a patent.
“What I would do is buy a round trip ticket for my patent lawyer (not first class) to fly down to Poway, California, where I live… I would fly him down for a day or two and give him a demonstration, make some hand drawings, give him some schematic diagrams, and so on. Then, when I was confident that he understood it, I sent him back home and he sent me a draft in a week or something like that.”
More or Less Bulletproof
Norris’ response to being asked if there is here such a thing as a bulletproof patent: “They’re rare. You either have a bulletproof patent or you surround your idea with a whole variety of patents to box it in to get the competitors out. And then, by doing that, you’ll get it to be more or less bulletproof.”
The Forbes interview is required reading for serial and other inventors who want to generate more than a patent from their work. Read it here.
Image source: ted.com