The tables have turned where our usual Host Brian Fried is interviewed by a panel from US Patent and Trademark Office. Brian shares his experiences as an inventor, innovator and entrepreneur, taking things that ANNOY him and turning them into products for sale in mass distribution retails by licensing to earn royalties or manufacturing his products where he sells them directly. He has been working with inventors with an idea in their head to help to review and decide if there is or what is the opportunity for the invention and then works each step of the process holding the inventors hand to get them to where they want to go. Hear about Brian’s successes and challenges along the way as an inventor and he shares his words of wisdom to keep you moving forward with your invention ideas.
Janet Gangola: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the ninth episode of our Patent Trial and Appeal boards, and center, our webinar series. I’m vice chief judge Janet gondola. And I will be your moderator for this session today. We’re delighted as always to see the number of attendees in our audience. Thank you very much for helping us spread the word about this episode. And please, please continue to do so. Now on to the show, I am joined by Judge Bob Silverman, and our special inventor guest, Brian Fried. And I’ll turn things over to judge Silverman to introduce Brian Fried to you and have a conversation so we can learn about his background, his enthusiasm for inventing and his different services he offers to the inventing community to help all of you get started and take your ideas, turn them into an invention, a patent and a marketed product. Over to you Judge Silverman.
Judge Silverman: Thank you Vice Chief Judge Gangola, it’s my pleasure to welcome Brian Fried to the inventor hour. Brian is a prolific inventor, with obtained at least a dozen US patents for his various inventions. In addition to many US trademark registrations, and has developed many commercialized products. Brian has been featured in many publications and media outlets, including the New York Times, Ink Magazine and the Food Network. Beyond developing his own ideas into commercial products, Brian also fosters the inventor community through the National inventor Club(https://nationalinventorclub.com), which Brian founded through teaching and advising, through discussions on his Got Invention Show (https://gotinventionshow.com/), and through his writings. He’s the author of three books about the development and commercialization of invention, the most recent of which was just published last month.
Brian, I’m going to turn over to you now for our discussion. You’re involved in so many aspects of inventing and commercializing new ideas, but tell me, how did you get started as an inventor?
Brian Fried: Thank you very much for having me, Bob, and Janet and the rest of the team. It’s an honor to be here. And one of the things that’s most important to me is to get the information out to the inventor community, get the right information out and give the inventor options and opportunity to help navigate through, whether it’s their invention, or through the US Patent and Trademark Office, website and resources that are available. So, thank you again for having me here. As far as myself, like, that’s, that’s an old picture, I think I have a few extra wrinkles after that one. But you see me now, I have been inventing for over 20 years, I’ve licensed products where I went to a company that had products in distribution, I showed them my invention. They manufacture them, distribute them and I earned royalties from them. I also manufacture my own products. So, I am in business for myself where I make a product and I sell it for a profit. And I’ve had a chance to get my products out there with various distribution. So, I’ve been on QVC, which is a home shopping, network channel type of distribution. I was on there for almost three years and I’ve had my products in all the major retail stores and online and offline. So, I’ve definitely had some experience in doing that. I started to realize that if I could do it, other people can too, and I started to help other inventors out there and I started a radio show called Got Invention Radio which turned into Got Invention Show (https://gotinventionshow.com/) where I help inventors promote their inventions to the world. And the National Inventor Club (https://nationalinventorclub.com) originated from the Long Island Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club where I had one of the largest inventor groups in the country. Obviously when COVID hit I converted it International where I have everybody able to actually be a part of this inventor club no matter where they are. So, I really am very excited for the last year and a half plus, I’ve had the opportunity to have unbelievable guests on including your office and other administration from the US Patent and Trademark Office on the Small Business Administration’s SBDC Small Business Development Center.
I’ve had quite a number of guests on and I have many more to come on there. So just putting the information out there giving the right information out to the community is the most important thing to me. So yeah, I mean, I’ve done it, and just continue to try to communicate it out there, through my books, through the national event or club, through putting my own products out there. And just doing it in a way where people can understand it and helping them to make better decisions on their intellectual property journey, and or invention journey.
Judge Silverman: That’s terrific. Brian, right. Take me back. What was the product or products that you were developing that made you think, wow, I can really do this, I’ve got something that I can share with the world as a creative inventor?
Brian Fried: You know, it’s interesting, because when I first started off, I, people come up with ideas, and a lot of times they do it for themselves. And it’s like, I need this. But does everybody else need this? So, I started to build the list of things that at the end of the day, I’m coming up with ideas of things that annoy me. That’s how I come up with it. And I’m up to 13 patents that I have that I’m proud to be a patent holder with, and a lot of times I’m just coming up with things that I’m in different environments or different experiences. And I stop and I say, you know what, maybe this is something if this is happening to me, then maybe it’s happening to other people. And how many other people is that happening for?
Judge Silverman: Brian, I’ve never heard annoyance is the mother of invention. But maybe you’re onto something.
Brian Fried: Well, you know what it is, at the end of the day, Bob is problem solution. Right? So, what’s your problem? And is there a solution? So, there are people that let things happen. And there’s people that make things happen, right? So, I’m somebody that stops or maybe I pay attention to things a little bit too much. And I stop in my tracks and I say, you know, what, is there something besides me here that is annoying other people? So, you want me to show you a couple of things that?
Judge Silverman: Yeah, we’d love to see some? Sure.
Brian Fried: Okay, well, this is one of my latest ones, which I’m really, really proud of. So, during the pandemic, I was treasuring my paper towels because it was impossible to get paper towel rolls. Right? So, I started to pay more attention to things in the house. And I realized that on top of the paper towel roll, it was all wet and dirty, or dried out from being wet. So, I started to say, you know what, when people’s hands are wet or dirty is usually when they’re reaching for a paper towel sheet of paper. So, they’re putting their hands on top, and they’re getting very dirty. So, what I did was, I started to ask my friends and family if they can take a picture of the top of that paper towel rolls. And it was disgusting. I told them; I wasn’t sharing it with anybody. But at the end of the day, I came up with a product that is a cap that goes into the inner tube of any paper towel roll, because obviously any roll fits on a stand or a holder. And now when your hands are wet or dirty, you just put it on top and you pull the sheen off. And now you keep the top of your roll clean and dry. So that’s my paper towel topper (https://www.amazon.com/Paper-Towel-Topper-Keeps-Clean/dp/B08VWLMM3G), it’s sold on Amazon and I just got some distribution with some colored ones, white that are going to be in TJ Maxx and home goods and a couple other retailers. So that one has been fun. And I’m excited about that one that’s had some good traction out there. Another one that I was on QVC with and it was in Walmart and other major retailers and still out there is one of my products called Pull Ties (https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Fare-Innovative-Replacement-Standard/dp/B08R6R63X2). So, this is a bag sealer that if you take any plastic bag, freezer bag or cereal bag, and you put it through, you put it through the loop, and you push the button. I don’t know what I have here, probably one of my shipping pops here, but it keeps the bag sealed tight. So, it’s good in the freezer cereal, it’s dishwasher safe, it’s reusable. So, this is something that is been going for quite some time and these products that I’m showing you the Paper Towel Topper (https://www.amazon.com/Paper-Towel-Topper-Keeps-Clean/dp/B08VWLMM3G) , I just got my patent issued on that one.
Judge Silverman: Brian, you know, the Pull Ties (https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Fare-Innovative-Replacement-Standard/dp/B08R6R63X2) is one of my favorites, and I happen to have that one. And the reason I like it is, you know you put something in the freezer especially I’m glad you mentioned that, because you put it in the freezer, if you’ve got like a plastic closure that you get with like bread, that’s gonna freeze and crack. And then if you’ve got one of the wires twisties the little protective coating wears off of that and you end up stabbing yourself with a wire every time you try to get something out. And not only that, you can figure out which way it’s twisted clockwise or counterclockwise. And since my wife is left-handed, I don’t know which way to turn it. And I have to cut the bag open till I figure out who’s the last one. Use that.
Brian Fried: Well, that’s funny that you said that because the reason I came up with it is because the bread bag was left open after you take the plastic tab off, I couldn’t put it back on, or nobody could find it. And the twist ties used to poke me. And I just, I opened up my cereal bag, and I saw that the bag was open and my cereal was stale. And then I started to look into the pantry and two different parts in the freezer. And I realized that there’s so many bags that are left open. So, I came up with a better way or my own way. And I started to realize that this is something that picked up and had some good traction and just kept going. So, I’ve manufactured this myself, I’ve licensed this, and it’s still going after 10 years. Plus, it’s still cranking in the market.
Judge Silverman: That’s fantastic. Hey, Brian, you know, I don’t want to interrupt you if you want to talk about some more inventions, but I’ve got a question that is based on a lot of people’s minds, especially since we’re at the USPTO. What role did the USPTO play in your career, you know, we’ve both on the patent side and the trademark side, because I know you’ve used both.
Brian Fried: It’s very important to me, everybody has different opinions on what IP intellectual property means to them. But you know, for myself, and for many other inventors out there, it’s kind of important, if it’s something that you want to have some protection, have kind of a competitive advantage to other people making the same thing as you came up with. So, like, if I wanted to license my product, which I explained earlier, I go to a store, and I see product on the shelf. And I think my product would align nicely with that particular product line. So, I’ll flip over the box, and I’ll call the company. And I’ll ask them if they’re interested in my product to add to their product line. And they would make it distributed and I would earn a royalty from it. Okay, so that’s product licensing. If I end up going to a company, and I say hi, I came up with this great idea. I really didn’t do anything with it. I didn’t, I’m just showing you the idea. They could just pat me on the back and say thanks, you know, I’m not interested and they can make it themselves. So, what I like to do is if I have a chance to get intellectual property protection of a patent, so I go through a patent search with a patentability opinion. So, they pull I have a professional like a patent attorney or agent, pull out prior art, look at the claims compared to what I have to what is out there. See if there’s an opportunity, if it’s something over 20 years, or 15 years for a design patent that’s expired, then it’s public domain, anybody can make it. If it’s something that is challenging, then we have to see how much of a difference mine is to what’s out there. And then I’ll continue in the process. But one of the things that’s really important, and I mentioned licensing, is because if I’m going to go to, if I don’t plan on manufacturing a product myself, or maybe it’s an option for me, maybe yes, maybe no. Then if I want to try to get some royalties for my invention, then most of the time they’re looking to a licensee looking to rent the rights to my intellectual property. Otherwise, what do they need me for? They could do it themselves. So also, if I come up with something unique, like I’ll throw this in also collapse, I have this collapsible egg tray. So, I got a fully issued utility patent on this.
Judge Silverman: What is that? What does that? Tell us a little bit about that, that looks pretty cool.
Brian Fried: Well, here’s another problem. I had Bob, because I’m one of those guys, right? So, I had a problem when I came home one night, and I had leftovers. And there was no room left in my fridge. And I looked on the top shelf, and there was the egg tray, the egg carton, and there was one egg left in it. And it took up a lot of space and it annoyed me. So, what I did was I came up with a collapsible egg tray, where you put your eggs in. And as you take two eggs out, because usually take two but you take one, that’s fine. But as you take your eggs out, you go back until there’s that much space left, so I called it Eggstra Space (http://www.eggstraspace.com/). Right?
Judge Silverman: That’s great.
Brian Fried: So the point is
Judge Silverman: Is that going to be a trademark too Eggstra Space (http://www.eggstraspace.com/)?
Brian Fried: Well, I’ve been using it for a certain amount of time and a certain class of goods. But I’m not sure I do have quite a bit of trademarks; I have to take a look and see if that one’s active. But for the most part, if somebody uses that in my class of goods, I can show that I’ve been using it longer than somebody else. So, I technically have the right even though it may not be a registered trademark, right. No legal advice here, but just my opinion.
Judge Silverman: Okay, everyone, check with your trademark lawyer after this session. We’ll look into that. Hey, Brian. We’re running through. We’re getting to the end of our discussion, but I want to make sure I ask you about your latest book. So, this is your third book that just came out. Is that right?
Brian Fried: Yeah, this is my third book. It’s called How to Make Money With Your Invention Idea (https://www.amazon.com/Make-Money-Your-Invention-Idea/dp/0578292874), and I just want to put it in the front here. So, what I’ve done Bob is I’ve gotten, I’ve taken out all the noise, and I just basically made it short and sweet. It’s less than 80 pages. And it just when you have an idea, what should you do first, second, third, fourth, fifth. And along the way, I help you to make decisions to figure out if it’s something that you should work on or not. Because if it’s somebody else’s intellectual property, is it expired? Where you can start your own business from it? Or are you going to stop and just move on to your next idea. So, I have a chance to speak to a lot of inventors, through my National Inventor Club (https://nationalinventorclub.com), and also helping people with ideas that come to me at all different stages. And I go through and figure out, okay, what do you have? Is it something that exists? Is it a big enough of a difference out there? Is it something that you might want to consider licensing a manufacturing? Look, not every product is licensable, right, it needs to be able to be an A product, it’s got to sell a good amount to be able to make it worth it for you and the licensee the manufacturer with distribution. So, I kind of go through the navigation of when you come up with an idea all the way to commercializing it. And there’s a lot of pauses in between to kind of check, check in to see where you are and where you should go, if you should go at all. And if you can continue, then great. And you get to do it all over again. So, as you get into this process, and the steps and start to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, then it just kind of becomes a lot easier. But every product, every person, everybody’s different, it’s a different journey for every product that I have. And that’s what keeps it interesting and keeps me going to.
Judge Silverman: That’s fantastic. Brian, thank you so much. I’d like you to stick around, because I think we’re probably going to have some questions from the audience at the end.
Brian Fried: That would be great. Thank you, Bob.
Janet Gangola: Brian has been a very popular guest on inventor hour. There’s a whole slew of questions. But first, I want to start with a compliment. A couple of the users in our audience have said that they have your tie clip. And they love the product. And they have it in a variety of colors. So, I thought I would pass that along to you. And I myself need to run out to target because I thought it was fantastic. I know the very frustrations with finding those bread bag clips. So, I need to acquire some for myself.
Brian Fried: Thank you, Janet, you know what, just with what Amy went over as far as what opportunities there are, let’s say if we as an inventor, I’ve been fortunate to kind of go through the process of having my patents issued. Yes, pretty much every time I’ve had some sort of office action that might have come around to me. But it’s good to know that if there was some kind of challenge that I had with the examiner that there is some area of the US Patent and Trademark Office to go to that can represent the inventor to kind of challenge the examiner, or maybe to help me with my office action. So that’s very interesting to know.
Janet Gangola: Wonderful. And that’s kind of where I want to start with the first question we received from the audience for you. When you file patent applications. Do you hire patent counsel Or do you go it alone?
Brian Fried: When I have an issue with something, or somebody does, you usually want to go to a specialist, you can probably figure out things on your own. But what I like to do is when I come up with an invention, I look at it as a business. So, I start off with doing my due diligence and my research and development. And I find a patent attorney or agent to help me a patent attorney is one that litigates they can go to court and represent you in court, a Patent Agent can represent you to communicate to the patent office, USPTO. So, what I do is I have a good patent search done with a patentability opinion. And then I also have a Patent Agent. And sometimes I use a patent attorney to help me with filing for a provisional patent application, which will give me the right for one year to say that I’m patent pending, while I’m exploring the market. And before the year comes due, I can convert it into a utility patent otherwise non provisional patent application. Or it could just be a design patent design patent is 15 years with no maintenance fees. And that can get me by also it depends on my plan and my strategy with my different inventions. But yeah, I definitely use a professional with my patent with my patents for sure. Just because if you’ve read through as much as many patents as I have, or I’ve read, I still feel like it’s an art that somebody really pays attention to and does for a living. And I prefer that I take my patent seriously.
Janet Gangola: And what is the most valuable product that you’ve developed so far, and did you secure patent protection for that product?
Brian Fried: Janet, that’s like asking who your favorite baby is or your favorite child? That’s really tough for me to say, they’re all my, I can’t do that,
Janet Gangola: Is that the one in front of you at the very moment, right?
Brian Fried: My dad always says, I know he’s on here. Well, so he always says, I’m one of his favorite inventions. But I know my brother and my sister out there too. So, he has to be careful, too. But no, it’s really look, you know, some people invent things too, obviously to make a gazillion dollars. Other people feel proud to see their invention out there, and other people using it for the same reason you came up with it. And some people are proud to have a patent hanging up on their wall. So again, my products, everyone has been different journeys, you know, one might have been more towards kids. So that’s more for the kid sector, and then kitchen gadgets, and then utility and novelty, and everyone has a different path and journey, and the amount of opportunity there is for people the window of opportunity to buy it. Now, for example, like these pull ties (https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Fare-Innovative-Replacement-Standard/dp/B08R6R63X2). The reason why this is done pretty well, is to think about this, like if I said, you know what, Janet, you have bread, maybe the next person doesn’t have bread, and this is for bread, this is a you know, a bag sealer for bread. So maybe yes, maybe no, but if I said, this is for cereal bags, this is for in the freezer, this is in your pantry for those bags that are left open, and I kept going on and on. And I said how many people have a kitchen? Right. So that’s why these have sold really well is because I’ve opened up that window of opportunity to have this business. Some other products might be a little bit more niche. And that’s okay, I might not make a gazillion dollars with them. But I make something from it. So, look, people don’t wake up saying I’m going to be an inventor, most of the time you have a job. And you’re kind of side hustling to see if your invention can be something and if it converts into something, maybe it will end up being your full-time job. Or it’s okay, if it’s just residual income, you know what I mean? So, everybody’s got their different paths, and so does your product to kind of navigate through that window of opportunity.
Janet Gangola: In the process of securing these multitude of patents? What did you find to be the most challenging aspect for you?
Brian Fried: Going through and describe trying to protect my inventions, if I’m going to go and start to do these patents, file my patents and have this protection, I want to make sure that I’m doing it right. So going through and describing and explaining and thinking about how much further my intellectual property I would want to cover to protect me, and then going back and forth with the patent attorney or agent to figure out what my claims should look like before I file them. And knowing that I have a pretty good patent that if somebody does try to squeeze a different way that they’d probably be challenged with what I have. So, you know that and then yes, the office actions when you get them. It’s a little frustrating. It’s like, you don’t get it like okay, so then you start to show me I mean, it’s unfortunate. Just a couple months ago, I had a patent I filed, I did a patent search, patentability opinion, everything. And I filed a patent. And the patent office came back to me and said, we see this, and this is your invention. And I’m like, You’re right. So, I’m done. So, I really, really think it’s one of the biggest lessons that I learned myself and for other inventors out there is to do your research. You can think about your idea, go online and search, and I’m talking about searching, not closing your eyes and searching because you don’t want to find it, find it. It’s better to find it in the beginning. So do your own due diligence. Use a patent attorney or agent to do a patent search with a patentability opinion to see if it’s something that you can call your own. Before you start going through the steps of the invention, other parts of the process in doing that research is ultimately like, it’s so important because that’s really going to determine how you’re going to navigate through and what your opportunities are later on. But a lot of people skip that step because you get this unbelievable feeling and emotion. You’re excited that you came up with this invention. But Janet when you’re coming up with an idea, like I said earlier, it’s a business, you gotta put your business cap on, separate the business from the emotional side and make better decisions that way. And that’s what I help a lot of people do.
Janet Gangola: Absolutely excellent advice for our audience. And we’re going to round out our segment with a final couple of questions for Brian Fried. Brian, we know that you host Got Invention Radio (https://gotinvention.com/). Can you tell us about your radio program, when we can listen to it, and the types of features we can expect to hear on your program?
Brian Fried: Several years back, I converted the radio show into a TV online show. So now, with video I speak to inventors that are at all stages of their invention. And I help to talk about their journey, I interviewed them going through their journey of commercializing their inventions or maybe they’re at a point where they want to manufacture, license and to be able to tell the world about it. So, it’s a half hour interview. And once the interview is done, their interview goes on Amazon Fire, Roku, TV, YouTube TV, and the podcast version goes on Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google and Apple podcasts and Amazon music. So gotinventiontube.com is on the YouTube channel. So, you can go to gotinventiontube.com there.
Janet Gangola: Oh, that’s terrific. And we see behind you a poster for the National Inventor Club (https://nationalinventorclub.com). Can you talk to us about what your organization does this membership open, and how to participate?
Brian Fried: Thank you, Janet, National Inventor Club (https://nationalinventorclub.com/join), you can go to nationalinventorclub.com (https://nationalinventorclub.com). And what we do is we have monthly meetings where we have guests on and we have introductions from US Patent and Trademark Office every month and Small Business Development Center, which is free resources for inventors. And we have a guest speaker every month and we go through and there’s interaction on social media, it’s live streaming. We also have free membership and paid membership for inventors and paid membership for service providers. We have a directory; we have after meeting networking events for the premium members. There’s a tshirt you get, there’s other discounts that you get. So, it’s definitely building and growing. When I was running Long Island, Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club, I had 14,000 unique people come through the doors in over 10 years there. And I did that through the government county offices here. So now I get to do it online and have the flexibility of reaching everybody from all over the country and actually all over the world. Every time we broadcast. It’s all over the world. And that’s the same thing. There’s a lot of activity on there. Great information. It’s all different topics to help you keep moving forward with your invention and just resources around just so you need to know like I had GS1US which is barcodes and I had Indiegogo on if you wanted to crowdsource and I had Alibaba if you’re looking for a manufacturer and Thomasnet if you’re looking for somebody local in the US to manufacture. So, there’s all different types of topics that I come up with. And I take suggestions, and I bring them out there and on the to the panel for the inventors to question and I pull the answers out for them.
Janet Gangola: So just to be clear, any of our audience could join National Inventor Club (https://nationalinventorclub.com), nationalinventorclub.com.
Brian Fried: Yes,
Janet Gangola: where they would go to learn about this organization and take advantage of all of the benefits that the organization offers to inventors.
Brian Fried: Absolutely. I love to have you whether you’re free or paid, it doesn’t make a difference just to be a part of it. Be involved in the environment, and please, look, you want to be part of like-minded inventors out there to communicate to network to collaborate, that’s exactly what I’m doing with National Inventor Club (https://nationalinventorclub.com). So, I want people to get the right information and help each other out. That’s the most important thing is just to keep our ideas moving forward.
Janet Gangola: That is so fantastic. Brian, I’m delighted to hear that. One final question for you. Um, clearly today you’ve shown us you have a wealth of experience in both the patenting the trademark process, the inventing world, the commercialization aspect, I understand that you do consult with inventors who may need assistance, or, you know, it’s their first time through this, and they just simply don’t know where to where to begin. Is that a service that you offer? And how can people get in touch with you?
Brian Fried: I do. I have my websites, brianfried.com (https://brianfried.com/ and business website https://inventorsmart.com, Inventor Class, a 3 hour online e-learning course for inventors https://inventorclass.com and connect on Linkedin Linkedin.com/in/brianfried and YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/InventionProductDevelopmentforInventors), and I have to say, Janet, because I’m not, I’m not the person that just Pat’s you on the back and makes you feel good just to tell you, it’s great and wonderful and keep you going. What I do is I help you to challenge what you’ve come up with, before you start spending money, time, energy and effort, and then going around in a big circle back to where you are with nothing. So, what I do is I help you to figure out what you have, what it looks like to license, what it looks like to manufacture, see where you are right now and help you to get to where you want to go. Any of the resources that you need help with along the way I have access to, they give you great price and great service and I watch everything that they do, so, I do work with many inventors and I work with corporations also to help them to find what their problem is or if they know what their problem is, to help with the solution. It’s really important for people to know that there’s information out there and somebody like me . Look, the reason why I am doing what I am doing is because I am showing people that I am nothing special, like if I can do it, so can you. You just need the right information. I made plenty of mistakes in the beginning, so you don’t have to. So, that’s why I do what I do. When I have the chance, I get this information out to people so they can have a better experience of the process.
Janet Gangola: Thank you Brian so much for being with us today, sharing your knowledge, your openness, your enthusiasm for being an inventor. We really appreciate the time that you’ve been with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Inventor Hour. This is going to conclude our program today.