Assisting Companies to Recognize and Energize Innovation


In corporate surveys on hundreds of patent intensive companies by the Chicago based IP Performance Group, three patent milestones were identified as opportunities to recognize and reward inventors. These included:

1. Idea disclosure: upon submission of a new idea, via an idea disclosure form.
2. Patent filing: the idea is deemed to have commercial potential enough so to write and file a patent application.
3. Patent grant: the invention is grant intellectual property rights.

In the surveys, companies typically recognized two of the three opportunities to recognize ideas.

I started U.S. Patent Services almost 24 years ago, believe it or not, because of a motorcycle accident.

It is the result of a very strange series of events starting in 1986 with motorcycle accident that left me with a shattered pelvis. I was in mechanical engineering school at the time at Tulane University in New Orleans. Following my accident and 32 days in traction, I ended up on crutches for close to two months. The crutches were such a hassle that I subsequently designed and constructed a pair of folding, underarm orthopedic crutches for a senior level mechanical engineering design project. The most distinguishing element was a unique telescopic folding hinge design, latter dubbed the OrthoLink.

The crutches were a As we adapted the OrthoLink to other home healthcare devices, we began filing for U.S. Patents, of which I have several. Our U.S. Patents were critical to finding a licensing agreement. We eventually licensed a portion of the crutch design to the world’s largest manufacturer of aluminum crutches.

The genesis of U.S. Patent Services begins following the above series of events. Some very good friends of mine had owned a lighting and lampshade company. For my 30 birthday, they gave me a beautiful, Georgian style, federal candle stick style lamp where the panels of the six sided shade were adorned with the drawings from my U.S. Patents. I thought it was such a cool gift that I wanted to start selling them. And that was when I started U.S. Patent Services with just two products, a U.S. Patent Lamp and a U.S. Patent Wall Plaque.

Today, we’ve been around for almost 24 years and we’ve grown to over one hundred unique and specialized items dedicated to recognizing and displaying U.S. patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights. All because of a motorcycle accident.

A few years ago we were approached by Harley Davidson for a very unusual project. I got a call from the custom paint division and they requested a meeting with me. I’m thinking “Great. We’re going to do patent plaques for Harley Davidson”. Boy, was I wrong. In fact, they wanted to create a “gas tank wall plaque”.

Now, for anyone in the Midwest, getting into Harley Davidson is like the Holy Grail account. But a gas tank wall plaque? What were they thinking?

But we love challenges here at U.S. Patent Services (like a microprocessor controlled patent plaque for Pixar) so I hop in my car and get to a meeting at the Harley Davidson headquarters downtown. I meet with the representatives and I was given the concept of a full size motorcycle gas tank cut in half and mounted to a board. That was it. I was given some blank steal tank shells and sent on my way.

At first, the problems posed by this seemed ridiculous. How do we get gas tanks, paint them, cut them in half, mount them to a board, add decorative back plates and a name plate, etc., etc? And do it all for under $80. And then supply 3,000 of them to Harley Davidson.

After many, many months of investigation and development, a big part to the solution was found with a company that had a proprietary method of printing onto flat sheets of PVC, then thermal molding them into shape such that all the proportions of the printed image were maintained in the final draw or “pull” as they called it. In essence, this meant reverse engineering the distortion of the plastic during the forming process. It required printing an image that was digitally distorted onto flat material which became undistorted during the forming process. It was a perfect solution, at the right cost and offered the advantage of allowing for virtually any design.

To secure the imprinted tank shell to the board, a lip was molded into the shell that was sandwiched between the board and a large die cut decorative plate placed over the shell onto the board. For effect, rivets were added to the perimeter of the plate. They initially requested two design versions, one modern and one retro.

As you can see from the picture, we did it! We engineered a perfect solution at an impossibly low cost. That is what makes us such a great company. We are about solutions and not afraid to take risks to serve our clients

We are strong believers in using creativity to recognize creativity. Creative people are by nature somewhat bored by the “typical”. They like things that stimulate them. This applies in the recognition of creative people as well. Try to find something that really grabs them. Something that they think is cool.

Take Pixar Animation Studios, the ultimate creative company. When Pixar approached us, they wanted something in a traditional patent wall plaque concept, but not at all traditional. For one thing, they wanted a patent wall plaque that incorporated an actual piece of film strip from their movies. Even further, they wanted the film strips to showcase the technology of the patent that the plaque was recognizing.

Talk about an administrative nightmare alone, let alone a technical one. But this was how important they valued creativity, both in people and in recognizing same. Thus, over the course of a year, systems were worked out, prototypes were flying and new technologies, such as light emitting panels, fiber optic cloth and light emitting diodes, were explored.
Now, working with Pixar is an adventure in and of itself. It remains one of the most rewarding and difficult experiences in my career. They are absolute perfectionists. They wanted the “Apple” wall plaque of wall plaques. And in the process of delivering such, their endless pursuit of perfection rubbed off on us.

The final design and how it functions is quite impressive. And like Pixar’s movies, even more so if you knew what went on behind the scenes. It features a matched color print of the patent with a full color image from a movie with a film strip of the same image die cut into the print. The print is sandwiched between a Demetri glass board etched with the Pixar logo and the inventor name and an electronics housing with a circuit board and battery holder. The circuit board contains a programmable Atmel microprocessor with 256 bytes of RAM. The plaque senses hand gestures using a 10.5GHz Doppler radar. Illumination of the film strip is provided by 24 high brightness white LEDs with a color temperature (5600K, CRI 80) chosen for the best spectral output. Both the light intensity and time duration are programmable using hand gesture recognition.

After great expense and over a year of development, the plaques were unveiled at an exclusive event on the Pixar campus. Needless to say, the inventors were very impressed. And justification of all the work and time and cost was vindicated by a single inventors comment – “I think I’ll pay attention during the patent meetings from now on”.