In the previous post, I described a problem I identified: the inability of the average cooler to easily hold both a package of ice and a six-pack of beer. I had conceived an innovation that would solve the problem, but I now needed to figure HOW exactly that innovation would work.
In order for my innovation to be successful, I needed to find or create cardboard container technology that prevented leaks – cardboard that folded in such a way that it would keep the melted ice in. As I began to play around with different prototypes, I also visited several manufacturing facilities in the Stanislaus county area. The production facility International Paper made milk cartons – could the same technology be applied to the Ice’N’Go? I looked at the technology and realized it wouldn’t. But that left a number of other plants to visit.
One of the smartest things you can do, as you are trying to devise and apply technology to a product, is to visit manufacturing facilities that address the same issues. Don’t give away your idea or explicitly describe it, but ask pertinent questions. If you ask the right questions, pointed questions, you will gain the information you need, at least in part. It is important to learn about manufacturing capabilities. As I’ve said again and again, you may come up with a great idea. But if it cannot be produced, then it ceases to be of any value. It remains theoretical, rather than possible! So while it might garner you a patent, it won’t any profit – especially if you can’t claim any methods of manufacturing.
The purpose of gaining information on manufacturing capabilities is not only to guarantee your product can actually be made, but also to help you file your own intellectual property. The techniques you observe should not solve your own problem, but guide you to a solution. I started digging around and realized that one way to solve the leakage issue was through an old technology. The technology, which had patented folds called “gussets”, was created when fish first began to be shipped cross-country. The fish needed to be packed in ice, and the ice would eventually leak. A messy, fishy mess was unacceptable, and gussets were born.
I discovered that the patents on the gusset technology had expired, meaning they were over 20 years old and now public domain. After calling several manufacturing plants, I was cheered to learn that they still possessed the ability to apply the technology. Because the technology was old and expired, I didn’t file a patent on my idea at the time. It wasn’t a new idea. And if you’re going to file, you need to have a novel idea. It wasn’t. But I thought if kept getting closer, I would find enough difference between the old technology and how I was going to use it in the present to file some claims.
To be continued…
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