I’d found the technology I needed to make the Ice’N’Go possible and was moving forward. A friend in the beverage industry recommended that I contact his friend, an employee of a large popular beer company. I guess I was a little too trusting at the time, because I almost immediately sent over my drawings and photographs. I probably underestimated any risk because it was a “friend of a friend” situation. I received a call back very quickly. Things were looking good.
Around this time, my family and I embarked on a six-month journey around the United States. I thought I could manage the contact and the process by cell phone, as we toured state parks and national monuments packed into our trusty Suburban. I remember talking to the contact in Alaska, outside our cabin. He and the company were definitely interested, and I was pretty confident that things were moving in a positive direction.
But suddenly, all communication stopped. I called several times during the next few weeks, but didn’t receive a call back. That’s never a good sign. I assumed they were no longer interested, and that I’d pick up the pieces and send the idea to another company when I returned. But when I got back, things became busy, and I all but forgot about the project. It wasn’t high priority. Just one of many projects.
I forgot about it until I was in Dallas on a business trip, that is. I was visiting a manufacturer on another project. I remember parking my rented car in front of a convenience store, and looking up at a huge sign overhead. There it was. There was my product, my idea. The poster read, “ ‘Ice’N’Go’ by ____”. There was my exact product – it even shared the same name! I bought it and examined it. And sure enough, it was a cardboard container that you opened, poured ice into, and sealed shut.
I was in shock. And unsure of what to do. The project hadn’t been a priority, and I hadn’t filed any intellectual property – because there wasn’t any to file on. I went on my way, and kept a sample of the product in my office as a reminder: sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Although some people in my office were upset about the way things had gone down, I wasn’t because I understood a couple different factors.
There wasn’t any intellectual property protection. The idea was a good one, but it wasn’t completely unique. It had been done before in another industry. It just wasn’t that new. Also, it seems possible that the beer corporation had considered an idea like mine before. The man I contacted could have had this idea before. Maybe I sparked him to begin working on the project again – maybe he had already done his research and knew that I couldn’t file for any intellectual property.
Summers later, I listened to the Ice’N’Go advertisements on the radio, and I kept seeing the product in stores. I wasn’t bitter though, because it gave me satisfaction. “How?” you might wonder. I was gratified because it was clear that YES, my idea was a good one. And that mattered to me the most at the time. I was on my game, I was designing and creating. So I missed one. Sometimes you do, and you just have to keep moving forward.