Patent an Invention: Learn from Experience

Since I have been in the business of product development for almost 40 years, I have certainly had many learning experiences. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:

Since I have been in the business of product development for almost 40 years, I have certainly had many learning experiences. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:

I once worked for a major paper company designing plastic bags for bread. Being a creative soul, it occurred to me that those bags could have other uses. To me, they looked as if they could stand on end to be used to start plants, much like miniature greenhouses.

After I had my own product development company, the idea resurfaced. I designed the bags and had them printed with a grid to look like small windowpanes in a greenhouse. We made hundreds and hundreds of them and tried to sell them to consumers through retail greenhouses. Because it was such a simple, non-complicated product we didn’t patent it. That proved to be a costly mistake. Much later on those wrappers became quite popular; in fact, most plants you purchase in grocery stores today are wrapped in them and companies were free to make their own bags with no restrictions or fees because there was no patent.

So the first lesson is to patent your idea or method no matter how simple and non-complicated it might seem. Years later, while I was checking out potential products for some wholesale departments of large companies, I called upon a major manufacturer. During our discussions, I learned that the company had been thinking about getting into the plant and nursery business as a way to increase revenues.

I saw an opportunity and made a proposal to them. My company would develop a machine to take rolls of printed transparent film to make square bags, similar to bread bags, which could stand up on one end. The bags would be designed to hold some earth and a small plant. There would be 12 such bags packaged in a corrugated tray stacked to make a beautiful store display. The company accepted the proposal and we started work.

I looked for a company to grow the plants and found one in Florida. My company developed the machine, a simple adaptation of the bread- wrapping machine I was familiar with from my old job, with a rather simple additional plant-stuffing adaptation. The company I had worked for previously, the one where I learned about the bread bags, was chosen to make the film for our plastic bags. Another lesson… don’t burn your bridges behind you. I have maintained many valuable connections from past jobs that have paid off in many different ways.

Unfortunately, business for growing your own plants was not there at that time. It certainly is today with almost every grocery store having its own flower and plant section; but back then people wanted to buy their plants unwrapped. There was no market for the product. So that is another lesson learned from this project – make sure there is a market for the product you want to invent.

Article &#169 Copyright 2002 Stanley I. Mason. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.

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