Most of us have heard someone mention an invention idea they once had and wished they had developed it. My first idea came when playing pickup games at the local basketball court. I thought there should be a sports clothing brand named “And One”. A couple of years later, there was a brand. The stories and the lost opportunities have always stayed in the back of mind. Each time I had what I thought was a good idea, I learned something about product development.
Working as a physical therapist, a couple of ideas have stuck around long enough to make an imprint but didn’t make it to the patent application stage. The first was a belt and pillow system that myself and a colleague created to provide lumbar distraction. It fit the limited resources and space we had and was effective. We joked about developing a product but never followed through on it. The main reason was that we rarely used it ourselves. The second idea was for an arch support that could be built into a shoe and the user could vary the amount of support. This idea made it all the way to a rough prototype and patent search. The search found a similar product that had a better design. That was enough to take the wind out of that sail.
New ideas come along in daily life as well. While playing around on a print on demand site, I thought “Diamond Life” would be fantastic for a baseball/softball gear company. This time, I applied for a trademark. I learned about trademarks and office actions on this adventure. Sometimes, hiring a lawyer who knows how to navigate the system, would be a key to success. I could have refiled but since the process takes so long and the products I had posted were not selling well, I moved on. I have developed prototypes of art equipment. I found one on Instagram. It had been improved on and developed already. It was more complicated and 2-3x the price point I had imagined, but I assumed they had a least a provisional patent that would have covered my idea. I did pursue the other idea as far as a self-completed provisional patent and approached a few companies with the idea. I received one response and it is was a very polite, no thank you. I contacted a local company to make it but after 3 months of them not even starting, I let it go.
The newly patented product I developed was driven by knowledge that it could actually help my patients. When I was tempted to not follow through, there was a sense of guilt. Because of that, I made choices that were likely not the best for someone developing a business but were made consciously, because I knew I would not regret the effort. People needed the option to have this tool. I knew it was for a niche inside a niche, but if it could help anyone, I needed to try.
In one year, I had 3 different patients fall while using a bedside commode. Each one had a story that involved them on the ground, BSC and its contents on them, and EMS coming to help. I am being intentionally vague but just know that you would never want to go through the trauma. In all three cases, getting a new, more stable BSC was not an option. One of the patients had a caregiver that was great at making things to adapt the environment. We tried to come up with a solution for their particular situation but circumstances changed before we were able. After a few months, I had an idea. I made a series of prototypes in the garage and thought that I had it. I researched and called a lawyer in town and made an appointment to discuss in detail. That weekend I fully tested the prototypes. It did not work in the slightest. In a bit of a panic, I came up with a new idea, prototype, drawings, and pictures before the Monday afternoon appointment.
Through the whole process of developing the product, finding a manufacturer, and having it up for sale, I have learned quite a bit; too often, the hard way. Early on, I reached out to a few durable medical equipment manufacturers. The one call back I received was amazing. The call was from a local company and he asked a few questions about the product. He quickly realized that it was not something that would fit in their product line or with their target customer base. That could have been the end of the conversation, but he took the time to ask a few more questions and provided some guidance on things that would help me move in the right direction. I am so thankful for that call and his time.
The Chair Cane has been for sale for awhile now. It is a passive listing for now. There was some difficulty with an algorithm on the platform thinking that it had a battery. I changed the description and reached out several times but was unable to resolve the issue. After six months of the listing being pulled, the inventory was manually inspected and the error corrected. For that and several other platform related reasons, I may just leave it passive for now. Who knows where this path is going but it is an adventure!