Inventing For Dummies®


by Pamela Riddle Bird, PhD

Foreword by Dr. Forrest M. Bird




About the Author

Pamela Riddle Bird, PhD, is a nationally recognized commercialization expert who’s counseled thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs over two decades.

After directing one of the largest publicly funded innovation centers in the United States, Dr. Bird founded and serves as CEO of Innovative Product Technologies, Inc., a product- and technology-based market commercialization corporation. Dr. Bird works with independent inventors, serving as a liaison between inventors and inventor organizations, venture capital organizations and other investors, manufacturers, entrepreneurial networks, and research park facilities.

Dr. Bird is the author of more than 70 publications and has been quoted and featured in numerous newspapers throughout the country including The New York Times, Barron’s – The Dow Jones Business and Financial Weekly, Forbes Magazine, and the Miami Herald. She’s a featured speaker in a video titled Inventing, Patenting and Profiting: How to Make a Fortune on a Small Budget by Inventing. She has been a guest on various TV shows, including Golden Lifestyles, and she appeared in and served as a consultant to ABC’s 20/20. She’s also taught classes on product commercialization and technology transfer at various universities throughout the nation.

Dr. Bird co-branded the first credit card in the nation with MBNA (one of the largest credit card companies in the world) to start the first credit card for innovators, patent attorneys, and patent agents. All proceeds Dr. Bird receives from this card are donated to the Inventors Educational Foundation. Dr. Bird founded this nonprofit foundation that assists innovators and entrepreneurs of all ages and walks of life with educational and commercialization needs.

Among her many memberships and organizational affiliations, Dr. Bird served under three governors as commissioner for the Governor’s Commission on Women and an advisor for the Adult Community Education Board and also the Regional Coordination Council. She’s been the recipient of various recognition awards, including the Outstanding Community Service award, and has received letters of appreciation for community involvement in labor employment issues, child abuse prevention, crime prevention, and education needs.

Dr. Bird is also a pilot who also enjoys horseback riding, snow skiing, hiking, fly fishing, and working with youth science fairs.



This book is dedicated to the inventors who risk everything to be different, to be creative, and to change the world. You make a difference. It’s also dedicated to the supporters and service providers to inventors — the people behind the scenes — including the families who sacrifice to allow the creators to move forward. It’s also dedicated to those inventors in the National Inventors Hall of Fame who show all others the difference one person can make in improving mankind for all generations.

To my husband, Dr. Forrest M. Bird, inventor of the medical respirator, who’s spent the major part of his life inventing so that others may live — including my own daughter. You stand in front of me to clear the way, beside me as my best friend and partner, and in back of me to protect me ahead. You are my great love and soul mate.

To my beloved mother, Julia Nicklyn Hudek. Mom made a large investment when she bore me — the last of eight children. She believed in me, encouraged me, and was always there whenever I needed her. And, to my children, Julie “Rachel” Riddle and Robert “Brandon” Riddle. Rachel and Brandon, you never cease to keep me laughing, amazed, and always proud. You are my pride and joy. You are my shining stars as I am your M.O.M. (Mother on a Mission).

To my father, Albin C. Hudek, Sr., as well as to my brothers and sisters, Albin C. Hudek, Robert J. Hudek, Ronald B. Hudek, Frank J. Hudek, Elaine L. Pingle, Kathleen A. Gerard, and the late Michael A. Hudek.



When a work of this magnitude is released, you can be assured that a number of individuals were heavily involved; therefore, I am indebted and thankful to many. First, I want to thank the innovators who make this book possible and who have changed the world.

I want to thank my husband for his willingness to write the foreword for me. Forrest is not only my husband; he is my best friend and soul mate. He’s a man who’s dedicated his life to saving other people’s lives and is a man of honor who served in three wars and still continues his mission of inventing for mankind.

Undoubtedly, I will leave out some people who were important to the project, and for that I apologize. My official thanks must start with my official Dummifier par excellence, Ms. Kathleen Dobie. Kathleen is an incredible person and a delight to work with. She has insight and is an exceptional editor. I also want to thank my Project Editor, Ms. Chrissy Guthrie, for her drive, energy, and talents in making this book happen, and Copy Editor Jennifer Bingham for checking and verifying everything to make sure it’s right. Ms. Kathy Cox, Acquisitions Editor, believed in me, my talents, drive, and work and was the champion for this project and instrumental in getting it off the ground.

I would like to especially thank Gerald G. Udell, PhD, a pioneer and supporter in the invention industry whom I have continually called upon for his knowledge and guidance. I would also like to thank Mr. Donald G. Kelly, my long time friend and business associate, for being an inventor’s advocate and for the years of continuous support to the independent inventor community. In addition, I received much of the legal advice, not only for this book but over two decades of working with inventors, from the following intellectual property attorneys: Mr. James Beusse and Ms. Christine McLeod of Beusse, Brownlee, Wolter, Mora & Maire, PA in Orlando, FL; Mr. Robert Downey of Robert M. Downey, P.A. in Boca Raton, FL; Mr. William Hobby, III in Winter Park, FL; Mr. Robert Kain, Jr of Fleit, Kain, Gibbons, Gotman, Bongini & Bianco in Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Mr. John Kirk, Jr of Jenkens and Gilchrist PC in Houston, TX; Mr. Peter Loffler in Tallahassee, FL; Ms. Jennie Malloy and Mr. John Malloy of Malloy and Malloy, PA in Miami, FL; Mr. John Oltman of Oltman, Flynn and Kubler in Fort Lauderdale, FL; Mr. Thomas Saitta of Rogers Towers Bailey Jones and Gay, PA in Jacksonville, FL; Mr. David Saliwanchik and Mr. Jeffrey Lloyd of Saliwanchik, Lloyd and Saliwanchik in Gainesville, FL; Mr. Jesus Sanchelima in Miami, FL; and Mr. Brian Steinberger of Law Offices Of Brian S. Steinberger, PA in Cocoa, FL. I would also like to especially thank Mr. Craig Dahlin, CEO of for the many long hours he worked on establishing the computer linkages, follow-up, and phone calls from his associate and wife, “Moon Eagle,” in order to calculate the statistics obtained from inventors used in this book. And then there are the indispensable ones behind the scenes: Mr. Eugene Andrews Grinstead IV, Ms. Kristine Homant, Lowell Salter, Mr. Ted Schaewecker, Ms. Joanne Hayes-Rines, Mr. Edward Miller, and Mr. Robert Loughler.

Finally, I am ever so grateful to the board members for my company: Dr. J. Robert Cade, MD, inventor of Gatorade; Mr. Lloyd Bell, physicist; Dr. Forrest M. Bird, inventor of the medical respirator; Mr. Philip D. Bart, holder of over 100 patents and marketer of the Cabbage Patch doll; Mr. Edward Shadd, development team member of the UPC Bar Code; Mr. John Weber, Founder and Former CEO, Monchik-Weber, Corporation; Mr. Harris Rosen, hotelier; Mr. Patrick Perry, attorney; the late Mr. Edward Lowe, inventor of Kitty Litter, and the late Dr. Jay Morton, scriptwriter for Superman. These innovators and entrepreneurs believed in me when I started my own business dedicated toward working with those who want to change the world. They’ve directed me through the thick and thin. They, too, believe in the undying spirit of the independent inventor.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

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Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Christina Guthrie

Acquisitions Editor: Kathy Cox

Copy Editor: Jennifer Bingham

Assistant Editor: Holly Gastineau-Grimes

Technical Editors: Gerald G. Udell, PhD and John J. Kirk, Jr.

Senior Permissions Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistants: Melissa Bennett and Elizabeth Rea

Cover Photo: © Steve Bronstein/Getty Images/The Image Bank

Cartoons: Rich Tennant,


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Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Brice Gosnell, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services



It was November 1995 when I first met Pamela Riddle. I’d been invited by the USPTO to lecture to inventors and would-be inventors at a special Educational Forum held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This was my first lecture for the USPTO following my induction into the U.S. Inventors Hall of Fame.

I guess the reason why the Patent Office selected me as their keynote to that group of inventors was due to the fact that I was a loner in terms of invention. In other words, I conceived, developed, manufactured, educated, and marketed my Bird Respirator without financial obligation to others. Therefore, I understood most of the trials and tribulations facing my audience, because I’d traveled over the route before. The title of my lecture essentially was, “If I Can Do It, You Can, Too.” After a ten-year period of patient introduction starting in 1958, the Bird Respirators were saving lives in both military and civil hospitals the world over.

Following my lecture was an all-business lady speaking on International Commercialization of New Technology. I figured the title alone would put her audience to sleep. Much to my surprise, within five minutes you could’ve heard a pin drop in the large auditorium. Ms. Riddle had her audience totally captivated; her lecture was informative and interesting, and I learned a number of interesting points. I met Ms. Riddle briefly after the meeting.

My next meeting with Ms. Riddle was at a similar inventors conference in Miami, which I was invited to speak at. This meeting was a combined venture between Ms. Riddle’s company, various nonprofit invention groups, and the US Patent Office. I soon learned that Ms. Riddle was the organizer and director of the meeting. During the meeting, I was fortunate to be able to visit with Ms. Riddle during several luncheons and the formal banquet. I became fascinated with her ability to project her knowledge relative to inventing and the patenting process, and her marketing skills relative to inventions. She was a walking dictionary and resource in terms of innovation. If only I had been able to talk with such a knowledgeable individual following the development of my Medical Bird Respirator, it would have saved me considerable anguish.

During the next few years, our paths continued to cross more and more frequently. I increasingly became enamored with Ms. Riddle as a straight shooter — her frankness was overwhelming. You knew exactly where you stood with her at all times. As we learned each other’s habits, it became evident that our personal interests were parallel. Our continued associations lead to our marriage on May 22, 1999.

As my wife, Pam continues to keep me amazed, and her projects continue to be challenging. Following her own innovative methodology, she copes with changing times. Her frankness with her clients is amazing. I’ve heard her on numerous occasions tell clients that she considers their newborn invention ugly and advises them not to bet the farm on its success. I’ve also talked with clients whom Pam had previously advised that their invention was not the best, only to have them go to a “commercial source” that advised them relative to what they wanted to hear: “Your invention is terrific!” They did indeed lose the family jewels before they realized that what Pam had originally told them was the truth.

It is wonderful being married to a challenging lady, whom you enjoy dating every day, with whom you can intelligently discuss the ever changing societies of the world and the ramifications thereof.

— Forrest M. Bird, M.D., PhD., ScD.




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Making Your Idea Yours

Chapter 1: The Innovation Process

Deciding Where to Go with Your Idea

Protecting Your Idea

Spinning Through the Product Life Cycle

Chapter 2: Patent Basics

Finding Out the Functions of a Patent

Knowing What’s Patentable

Looking at the Types of Patents

Hiring a Patent Agent or Attorney

It’s a Small World: International Issues

Chapter 3: Conducting a Patent Search

Do I Really Need to Do a Patent Search?

Determining Whether Your Idea Is Really New

Searching for Existing Patents

Getting Professional Help

Using Your Search Results

Chapter 4: Applying For and Receiving Your Patent

Knowing Who Can Apply for a Patent

Filing for Different Types of Patents

Making the Most of a Pending Patent

Getting Your Patent

Chapter 5: Maintaining and Defending Your Patent

Keeping Current by Paying Your Fees

Valuing Your Patent

Defending Your Patent Against Infringement

Insuring Your Patent

Part II : Securing Other Intellectual Property

Chapter 6: Trademarks and Trade Secrets

What Is a Trademark?

Federal versus State Trademarks

Using the Trademark and Service Mark Symbols

Understanding the Basics for Filing a Federal Trademark Application

Filing an Intent-to-Use Application

Trade Secrets — Shhhhhhhh!

Chapter 7: Stopping Copycats with a Copyright

What Is a Copyright?

Who Can Claim Copyright?

Copyright Protection

Registering Your Copyright

Transferring a Copyright

Chapter 8: Mum’s the Word: Keeping It Confidential

Spilling the Beans about the Basics

Sharing with the People in Your Life

Running into Someone Who Won’t Sign

Part III : Developing Your Idea

Chapter 9: Prototyping: Making It Work

Understanding the Importance of Prototyping

Obtaining Your Prototype

Protecting Your Ideas During the Prototyping Process

Cost-Effectively Producing Your Product

Chapter 10: Hiring Helpers and Working with Work-for-Hire Agreements

Hiring Professionals to Turn Your Idea into a Reality

Protecting Your Idea and Your Product

Working Out Work-for-Hire Agreements

Chapter 11: Evaluating Your Invention’s Potential

Answering Questions about Viability

Asking for Evaluations

Maximizing the Results of Your Evaluation

Chapter 12: Looking at the Production Process

Focusing on the Process

Making Up the Materials

Inspecting Facilities

Calculating Costs

Working with People

Checking Quality Control

Part IV : Commercializing Your Invention

Chapter 13: Developing a Business Plan

Realizing that You Need a Business Plan

Working Up a Business Plan

Breaking Down Your Business Plan

Chapter 14: Finding Funding

Determining How Much and For What

Figuring Out the Types of Financing

Seeking Out Sources of Capital

Getting Free Money from Your Uncle Sam

Chapter 15: Keeping Control with Your Own Business

Considering Carefully

Deciding to Go for It

Building a Business Structure

Adhering to Government Regulations

Doing Business with the Federal Government

Making Use of Contacts and Sources of Assistance

Chapter 16: Partnering and Manufacturing Arrangements

Paying and Partnering Arrangements

Teaming Up with a Manufacturer

Partnering Abroad

Chapter 17: Preparing to Take Your Invention to Market

Discovering What You Need to Know

Doing Market Research

Chapter 18: Marketing Your Product

Developing Your Market Strategy

Evaluating Your Ongoing Progress

Chapter 19: Advertising Your Product

Exploring Advertising Basics

Designing Your Advertising Campaign

Supplementing Your Regular Advertising

Looking At a Few Tricks of the Trade

Chapter 20: Licensing Your Product

Contemplating Licensing

Regarding Licensees

Getting in Touch with Your Potentials

Facing Rejection

Examining Types of Licensing Agreements

Taking Care of Foreign Licensing

Chapter 21: Negotiating a License

Employing the Art of Negotiation

Estimating Your Invention’s Value

Contemplating Compensation

Part V : The Part of Tens

Chapter 22: Ten Key Contacts

Evaluation Services for Your Invention

The Federal Trade Commission

Inventors’ Digest Magazine

The Library of Congress Copyright Office

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Small Business Development Center Program

Toy Industries Association

United Inventors Association

The United States Patent and Trademark Office

Small Business Administration

Chapter 23: Ten Inventions (and Inventors) That Changed the World

Cottoning On to Eli Whitney

Meeting Metal Man Henry Bessemer

Reaping with Cyrus Hall McCormick

Sterilizing and Louis Pasteur

Calling Alexander Graham Bell

Cooling Off with Willis Haviland Carrier

Flying High with the Wright Brothers

Assembling Henry Ford

Animating Walt Disney

Plugging In to Steve Wozniak

Chapter 24: Ten Inventors to Emulate

Dr. Forrest M. Bird

James L. Fergason

Helen M. Free

Dr. James Hillier

Dr. Marcian E. (Ted) Hoff

William P. Lear

Edward Lowe

Dr. Jay Morton

Dr. Robert H. Rines

James E. West

Part VI : Appendixes

Appendix A: Sample Agreements

Appendix B: Online Resources

USPTO and Related International Links

Important Links for Copyrights

Domain Name–Related Links

Law–Related Links

Other Important Legal, International, and Organizational Links

News, Search, Manufacturers, and Law Associations–Related Links

Additional Government Resources


Most people think of an inventor as a wild-eyed, gray-haired eccentric. Though this image may ring true in one or two cases, innovators come in all sizes and all ages — just look in the mirror.

When I initially started working with inventors, I thought that lack of funding was their primary difficulty. Now, after two decades of experience, I venture to say that the primary impediment inventors face is that they’re sooooo blessed with creativity, they just can’t get focused. Professional inventors don’t come up with just one invention; they continually have new ideas and don’t know which one to concentrate on. This book can’t really help with your concentration problem, but it can help you focus on making the most of each idea you have.

About This Book

This book is designed to answer your questions about how to take an idea and turn in into a product. Put another way, this book can help you turn your dreams into reality. To do that, I put my 20-plus years of experience in helping inventors bring their ideas to fruition to work for you.

I tell you how to decide whether your idea is marketable and for how much. I fill you in on the steps you must take to bring your product to market. I point out potential funding sources and tell you how to get in touch with a vast array of folks who can help advance your project. I alert you to possible snags and help you avoid common pitfalls.

I offer this help in an easy-to-read, easy-to-access format. Each chapter in this book stands alone. Each chapter serves as one individual piece of the whole inventing-and-marketing pie. You can dip into any chapter or section that interests you, then skip on to the next topic, whatever and wherever it is. You may be interested in reading some chapters more than others; however, in the long run, you need the information in all of them.

Throughout the book, I explain concepts that may be new to you and give you information and advice in clear, straightforward language.

Conventions Used in This Book

When writing this book, I used a few conventions that you should be aware of:

bullet I use italics to highlight terms and concepts that I explain in case they’re new to you. I also use italics for emphasis.

bullet The stories in gray boxes are known as sidebars. Sidebars contain information you may find interesting or useful, but which you don’t need to understand the topic at hand. You can choose to read them or not.

bullet Web sites and e-mail addresses appear in monofont to help them stand out in the text.

Foolish Assumptions

I assume that you’re reading this book because you have an idea and want to know what to do next. You want to find out whether your idea is marketable and how to get it to market and make a profit from it.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a prototype or a patent yet. Maybe you have both and want to know what to do next. You want to move forward and do something with your idea. You not only want to see people buy it but you want to make money as well.

Rest assured that you’ve come to the right place.

How This Book Is Organized

Inventing For Dummies is organized into six parts. The chapters within each part cover specific topic areas in detail.

Part I: Making Your Idea Yours

In this part, I show you how to how to protect your idea step by step. I give you the security of knowing what to discuss, with whom, and how to keep those conversations confidential.

These chapters also tell you everything you need to know about patents — how to do a patent search to find out if your idea is already out there, what a patent protects and doesn’t protect, how to apply for a patent, and how to take care of your patent after you have it.

Part II: Securing Other Intellectual Property

Many innovations aren’t patentable products. The chapters in this part tell you how to protect words, pictures, processes, and trade secrets with copyrights and registered trademarks.

Part III: Developing Your Idea

The next time you pick up a product that’s new to you, take a step back and think about how that product got to the store. The inventor had to first visualize the idea, build a working model to see if the idea would work, test whether people would buy the product, figure out if it could be made for the price customers would pay, get it produced, and have it delivered to the retailer and end user.

The chapters in this part of the book take you through all the steps of this development process.

Part IV: Commercializing Your Invention

Very few people understand what it takes to bring a new product to market. After reading the chapters in this part, though, you can be one of those people.

The invention process is quite different from the commercialization phase. Most inventors have to license their intellectual property rights for a royalty or become entrepreneurs.

Becoming an entrepreneur requires a whole new knowledge base, skill set, and often a change in lifestyle. I help you understand the risks and rewards of starting a business to produce or sell your idea.

I also take you through the licensing process from contact to contract.

Part V: The Part of Tens

These short and sweet chapters list inventions that had an impact and inventors who continue to do so. I also list organizations that are of great help to inventors.

Part VI: Appendixes

Here, I provide forms and resources that you can use to protect your idea and find the help you need to make it a success.

Icons Used in This Book

The little pictures you sometimes see in the margins of the pages are called icons. They’re there to draw your attention to the text they’re next to. This book uses four different icons:


This icon directs your attention to information that can make your efforts easier or more effective. Pay attention.


Make note of the information next to this icon; the stuff is important and you’ll need it.


This means watch out! Pay attention so that you don’t make a mistake that can hurt you or your wallet. It marks things to avoid and common mistakes inventors make.


This icon highlights technical information. You can skip this information if you like, but just because it’s technical doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it.

Where to Go from Here

Look through the book and find which part, chapter, or section you’re most interested in. That’s the place to begin.

This book is written in such a way that you can turn to any section, in any chapter, in any order you like, and never feel that you’ve missed a lick. If you’re the studious type, you may prefer to read about intellectual property issues in Part I or II. If you want to know all the development details, turn to Part III. If you’re interested in the sales and marketing aspects, go to Part IV. Or, start at the end and read about and be inspired by ten individuals who changed the world.

It’s written for you, it’s your book, and by reading it, you’re one step closer to making your dream into a reality and turning your idea into a marketable product or technology.

Now, you have the know-how in your hands. Take advantage of it and good luck!

Part I

Making Your Idea Yours

In this part . . .

If you’re an inventor, and I just know you are, you need to know about patents. A patent lets other people know that you came up with a unique idea and that you — not to mention the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office — think it’s special enough to protect with a patent. A patent gives you the legal right to protect your idea.

The chapters in this part tell you what a patent is, how to get one, and how to maintain and defend it.