I'm doing an IAmA for my father. He doesn't believe people are interested in inventing and I'm trying to prove him wrong. I'll be passing on the questions to him.

Unfortunately, he's a very private person so I can't mention his name, but I can work with the mods for verification.

5:00 EDIT: Sorry all. Have to go out for dinner, probably back in a few hours. Thanks, it has been fun so far!

8:00 EDIT still out with friends. But I've sent verification to the mods. We'll answer more questions when we get back. For all those that are calling for specific inventions/patents, sorry he's not willing to not be anonymous. I'm surprised he's answered as much as he has.

10:45 EDIT: We're back, but only for an hour or so. I'm terribly sorry for leaving, but we had no idea that this would illicit so much interest.

1:21 EDIT: Thanks everyone we're done. This is probably the most vague IAmA in recent time, but I thought that this was better than nothing. The mods never did verify this post, after I sent them proof, but what you going do? Also, keeping with tradition, here's an incredibly vague explanation of my father's system of inventing.

Comments: 1301 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

Odoacker814 karma

2 Questions: How exactly does your Mark XLVII differ from the old models? What can we expect to see from yourself in Iron Man 3?

DrInventor874 karma

My son had to explain that joke to me. Funny.

cr0ntooz334 karma

What is the "coolest" patent you have?

DrInventor606 karma

I don't know about "cool" but I invented a bunch of nuclear, biological, chemical defense patents if you think that is "cool".

ponyslayer11217 karma

This feels like a fake. Did the mods get proof?

A few fishy things:

1) Very few people have depth in this many diverse fields--how did you get these skills?

2) If most people see opportunity in something they stick with it. This guy is bouncing around all over the place.

3) The whole post is vague and generic. I'd expect someone with this level of success to be more pointed

DrInventor163 karma

Hello. I'm back. Sorry for going off-line. Actually, I have received a few messages from some people who know who I am so this is not really a major attempt to hide my identity. They are all amused to see me on this as they know I don't normally make a public appearance. However, this post caught my eye.

First, it actually really is uncommon to execute on a multi-domain level, but it is certainly not impossible and it is done by a few practitioners. Second, you really get tired of doing the same business or invention over and over. So, it is actually refreshing to move to a new field periodically.

The post really points out that multi-domain inventing initially appears either very difficult or perhaps even economically non-optimal because you lose the advantage of time spent building expertise in a specific domain. HOWEVER, the best inventions are executed by someone who arrives with new ideas FROM A DIFFERENT DOMAIN. It is the ability to enter a domain with horizontal knowledge, from outside the domain that really opens the possibility of a superior innovation.

quitar211 karma

Rough estimate how much $$ would you say your inventions brought in?

DrInventor389 karma

A few billion per year in annual sales.

aforu151 karma

How has the process and cost of getting a patent changed over the years? Same for the value of owning a patent.

DrInventor159 karma

Patent laws have changed a bit since I started, but the process is roughly the same. We have "provisional" patent applications, which are cheap and easy to submit, it is "first to file" rule today rather than "first to invent" and the cost is higher. The importance of foreign filing has increased in a globalized world. Also, I have never been a software inventor, although my early career was in computers. Many people are strictly IT and software today and this has completely changed the complexity of inventing and the manner by which people go into business. "Hardware" patents have not changed radically, but the focus on software has been a huge disruptor.

Othor_the_cute104 karma

What would be your best advice to anyone who wants to be an inventor? Are there certain things that they should study, or people they should talk to, or certain radioactive spiders to get bit by?

DrInventor227 karma

Most people never try to become a "multi-domain" inventor because it is a rare occupation and quite difficult to build the skills. Instead, most people become of single-domain inventor where they build expertise and market knowledge in a singel area.

The problem with inventing is that you need to create very substantial and new ideas that alter the economic or business model significantly -- you can not create incremental inventions. Why? The reason is that incremental inventions are of great value to a company already operating within a business.

The incremental invention improves production, reduces costs, adds new features, but doesn't change the overall balance of power within an industry. Incrementalism is useful for companies that already operate within a field. However, if you are a private inventor, you need to create an invention that changes the entire basis for a field or industry so that the invention forms the basis to enter the industry from a zero base and take the industry by storm. This is called a "generic" invention. Incremental inventions must be licensed to the people who already control an industry and the inventor faces huge NIH problems.

The big invention, the generic idea, allows the inventor to raise capital and enter the industry and displace the current players because the invention moves the needle to such a degree that no existant player can operate against the new concept. Such a dramatic new idea is usually possible only by using certain specialized approaches to inventing.

Forget about a small contribution unless you want to do endless licensing deals and have doors slammed in your face. They usually do not pay well.

DisgruntledPorcupine91 karma

When you were young, did you ever plan on inventing as your future? Or did the inspiration strike later on?

DrInventor208 karma

When I was 14, I came up with a concept for a laser, which was totally new technology at the time. I was behind and another company had already developed my system, but a large multi-national was sort of surprised that a kid could invent something like a laser. It was an early foray into inventing, but I developed other interests. Later, I went back and systematically dissected how to invent. So, the key was to "invent a method of inventing". With this tool, the world is a little oyster.

yakooza555 karma

What kind of laser are you talking about? The concept of a laser is almost a century old.

The first functioning laser was invented in 1960, at which point it was already patented.

The complexities of a laser, especially when it was just a new technology, would have been impossible for a 14 year old without an education to figure out.

DrInventor24 karma

Not really. Original solid-state lasers were optically pumped ruby lasers and there was plenty of things a kid could see that would improve the situation. I was just a kid and there was another company about 12-18 months ahead of me, but not bad for a little punk.

andre_whopper90 karma

What business is the most successful and why? What is the inventors background? IE, engineering, electrical, etc.

DrInventor190 karma

The most successful business was a method of making consumer water filters. It is used today to manufacture perhaps 90% of all consumer water filters including all of the "name brands" and all of those refrigerator filters, etc.

I am a multi-domain inventor, which means I invent in a wide range of fields. My patents are mechanical, chemical, materials, physics, agriculture, consumer products, defense, medical, etc. My background was originally engineering and physics, but then I went into ecology and agriculture. The mix never makes sense, but it is designed to just keep exploring something new.

quitar68 karma

When a company uses one of your inventions do they buy them out right or pay you to use them? Like renting a car?

DrInventor142 karma

I have done almost everything. I have invented while employed. I have sold technology. I have sold a company that I built. I avoided licensing, but I am beginning to like royalties. You can do some really interesting tax planning when you own equity, take royalties, or sell technology. As tax laws change, you adjust your approach. It makes a big difference.

quitar55 karma

How long does it usually take you to go from paper/concept to finished product & patent?

DrInventor128 karma

variable. If you are within a company and inventing incremental ideas, then they might be implemented very quickly. If you are building a revolutionary idea, it might be years. Too revolutionary, the world usually rejects, and then you are stumped -- sitting on a brilliant idea, but no one understands it. Happens all of the time.

mangage227 karma

What is your best most misunderstood invention you can't see why the world won't adopt?

DrInventor35 karma

I have several inventions that were never commercialized. I was always stumped by the fact that the best inventions actually never went to market. The problem is they are too ahead of the market or the potential marketers. They rarely can understand something that is really so strange and advanced. It is better to stay well within the space that people feel comfortable. So, no question about it, there is an appropriate window and the world is often not ready for the best inventions.

quitar41 karma

Do you think that there is a decline in American inventions/inventors, or is it just something that's under the radar?

DrInventor98 karma

American inventors are now doing software, apps, etc. This has taken almost all of the talent and moved it into IT. This is sort of convenient for me as it has removed a generation of competing inventors into software and out of chemistry, physics, etc, There is little of the intense competitive potential out there. This is not to say that value is lacking in software -- just the opposite. People are doing software because it is cheap to create and market. However, there are few barriers to entry and hundreds of thousands of competing ideas. Not my dish. I like to be inventing where other people avoid. There is mega-potential in these areas and no competitors The Chinese, Indians are generally not good innovators, but great incremental people. This is a cultural problem that they will perhaps overcome in the future.

So, overall, there has been a decline. However, this means that the few remaining players are having more fun.

martinzky27 karma

Do you invent stuff to help people, because you like inventing, or because you like the money?

DrInventor59 karma

Both. Some of my inventions were designed to help people and they also made money. An invention that helps people, but losses money, is not sustainable. Such things fail quickly.

quitar25 karma

On average how long does it take you to come up with an invention?

DrInventor90 karma

The time required to invent something is actually quite complex. Most of the time is used to actually identify the question or to define the problem. In most cases, one can not invent the answer because the problem is posed in a manner where there is no invention. When you rephrase the character of the problem, the invent pops out almost immediately. The people who have the problem usually "lie" It is not that they are bad and lying. The problem is that they look at the problem in a manner that can not be resolved or in some cases they can not find the problem. They can not tell you the real problem so they mislead you. Your job is to look at the situation and find the hidden problem -- which is the real opportunity. Once this is identified, the invention is just a few minutes away.

Frajer24 karma

When and how did you realize you had the ability to invent stuff?

DrInventor45 karma

I invent using a specific system that was developed by myself and a colleague when we were in college. The system allows one to invent in whatever field you want and methodically (you will definitely solve the problem more effectively than even the practitioners within the field). However, there are specific limitations. However, it is one of the few "systems" that is methodical and that can be taught. It is not random. My colleague has something like 60-70 patents and is also a successful inventor and intrapreneur. He did not like being independent so he has stayed at a large company. I went solo.


Can you elaborate more on this system?

DrInventor33 karma

That would require such a long answer, I couldn't do it justice on a form like this.

dejan3616 karma

Did you ever have one of your invention "stolen" or have you patented everything in time?

DrInventor25 karma

When you get into the inventing game, you are generally running behind the state-of-the-art and you file patents that are NG. Later, as you evolve, you get in front of the pack and take the lead. You measure your progress by measuring how far you are ahead of the other people in the field. Stealing ideas doesn't happen too often if you are cautious. However, there are a multitude of companies that have a policy of "stealing" and employees participate in this type of policy. Eventually, you learn who these companies are and you avoid them.

quitar16 karma

When you come up with an invention do you shop it around or try to market it yourself?

DrInventor26 karma

Finding partners with established distribution and market resources is always more efficient than starting from a zero. Time to market will be reduced in most cases. As you become known, finding partners or funding becomes a bit easier.

BaseEight14 karma

Do you write your patents yourself or have you ever done so? If so, how did you learn about the process?

DrInventor36 karma

You can save quite a bit of money and get quite a bit of control when you write a detailed patent specification yourself. Eventually, you can probably write the whole patent, including claims, if you have done it over and over again. You can learn about the process from the internet and just doing it a few times. It is easy. However, there are some complicated legal concerns, so use a lawyer. I have had some really wild problems. The government once seized one of my patents for national security reasons. Took me quite a while to argue my way out of that. Sometimes, complex legal arguments can be used to patent something that looks impossible to patent. I used "contributory infringement" doctrine in one case. Remember, if you are in this business long enough you will end up in court defending a patent.

quitar11 karma

Has the global market/internet made it easier or harder to invent/patent something?

DrInventor28 karma

I think overall it has made it easier for me, as there are less people in America that are inventing brick and mortar technologies. Young people today are all focused on "inventing" in the IT space and it gets them out of my hair.

quitar9 karma

How long have you been inventing, and are all/most of your inventions applied to one area/field of work, or do they cover a broad spectrum?

DrInventor16 karma

I filled my first patent at the age of 19 and I've been inventing for 35+ years since.

I mentioned the different fields I've invented in this answer.

quitar8 karma

If you got your first patent at 19 did you graduate college or did you go right into business?

DrInventor26 karma

I tried going straight into business, but it was a failure. The ability to invent useful technologies was not enough to be successful. How to monetize a technology is the truly hard part of inventing. An invention that can not be sold is useless as a technology.

After I went into industry for a few years and figured out how to do that, it was smooth sailing.

KNVB3 karma


DrInventor7 karma

You will be surprised to find out that inventing is not at all a process like some "innovation" classes teach. You will likely not succeed without some serious intelligence, but creativity is not derived from being a good student. Actually, really good students who want the best marks and work hard to conform to the teachers, or the parent's, expectations, are usually not successful -- whatsoever.

jeannaimard3 karma

Nice try, Ron Popeil!

DrInventor10 karma

Worked with him too. A terrible person. Very nice wife.