Young Inventors...Tomorrow's Millionaires

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The US Constitution says we can vote at age 18. At 16, if we pass the necessary tests, we can drive solo in most states. At 11, we can change the face of business. Wait, what? Louis Braille was just 15 when he developed the system of reading and writing by means of raised dots known as "Braille," as was Thomas Edison when he created important invention number one, the telegraphic repeating instrument. Who invented the popsicle stick? An 11 year-old by the name of Frank Epperson.

You are never too young to become an inventor.

History repeats itself again and again. Some of today's inventors are just as young as the inventors of yesteryear. From broken crayon holders to collapsible sponge blocks, the millionaires of tomorrow are coming from an unexpected place:grammar school.

Move Over Edison...

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed. It usually takes about two and a half years for a patent to be processed, with about 65 percent of all patents submitted being approved. The US Patent and Trademark Office does not place any limitations on how old a patent holder must be to receive a patent for an invention, which the talented inventors below have used to their advantage in the competitive world of inventions.

The Crayon Holder - While trying to draw a picture with a bucket of broken crayons, Cassidy Goldstein was inspired to create a way to make use of her small crayon pieces. Instead of throwing away the broken crayon pieces, the 11 year-old created a device that would hold the crayon and give the user something bigger to hang onto. "The Crayon Holder" was born. Cassidy received a patent and her crayon holder is now offered in over 500 Wal-Mart stores. She receives 5 percent of the royalties on all sales.

Hip Satchel - Cassidy's older sister, Chelsea, turned inventor when she transformed an old pair of jeans into a hip satchel to help her carry things without pockets. Like her sister's invention, Chelsea's patent-pending bag has also turned into a money-maker, selling for $50 apiece in boutiques.

The Battie Caddie - Nine year-old Austin Meggitt was on his way to play baseball when a near accident gave him an idea. Trying to carry his baseball glove, bat and ball while steering his bike, he found it difficult to do everything at once safely. Realizing many other kids ride their bikes to play baseball, he thought of a bike accessory that fits on any bicycle handlebar specifically made to hold a baseball glove, bat and ball securely. Austin designed and built the first "Battie Caddie" in his family's garage, attaching a plastic bar to the handlebars of his bike with tubing and using clamps to hold his bat. He added a hook for a glove and a pouch for the ball.

Not only did Austin patent his invention, he has won numerous awards for it, including the National Grand Prize in the Discovery Network and MediaOne Broadcasting's Ultimate Invention Contest. He was also inducted into the National Gallery for America's Young Inventors.

Magic Sponge Blocks - New to the invention scene is 10 year-old Taylor Hernandez, who just this year invented "Magic Sponge Blocks." Her inspiration came not from watching her brother and sister play with blocks, but from hearing her mom complain about how much space the blocks took up. She saw an opportunity to make blocks smaller so they would not take up so much space, and she came up with her Magic Sponge Blocks. These "magical blocks" are large building blocks made from sponge that can safely stack high without the worry of falling and hurting a child. Her patent-pending product uses magnets to hold them together and they compress like a pancake for easy storage. Taylor was one of four young inventors selected to receive the "Chester Awards" at the International Licensing Show this year in New York, which is given to young inventors of unique toys, games and sporting goods.

What's the Next Step?

After investing time, talent and energy into an invention, it's important to protect it as soon as possible. But securing patent rights to an invention can be overwhelming and time-consuming to the average inventor. Moreover, one may not yet be ready to commit to the expensive process of having an attorney prepare and file your application - at least, not before making sure that the invention will sell or that the right business partnerships are in place!

There is a popular solution. Inventors of all ages can register an ownership claim to their invention by filing a "provisional patent application", which obtains for the inventor a priority filing date from the U.S. Patent Office and thereby allows the invention to be "patent pending" for up to a full year. This type of application is far shorter and can be composed more informally than a regular patent application to enable it to be filed sooner, making it attractive to young inventors. They can then discuss their invention with others, attempt to market it and even seek funding for it as patent pending, all the while knowing that they have secured their "place" in line to the patent for a full year. If during that time an inventor decides to proceed with the patent process, he or she can file a regular application with an earlier—and therefore superior—claim of inventorship over anyone else who may try to file for the rights thereafter. LegalZoom.com can get you started on your provisional application filing quickly and inexpensively. Additional services offered include technical illustrations, patent searches and editorial reviews of your provisional patent application by an experienced patent attorney.

Young inventors who are not sure where to take their unique idea can also check out the company By Kids For Kids at www.bkfk.com. This company helps guide young inventors on everything from obtaining a patent to getting a product to market.

Young inventors can apply jointly for a patent with a co-inventor parent, and LegalZoom's services can help make the process smoother and less expensive in the long run. Before you begin, it pays to do your research and document your steps. By Kids for Kids offers these tips to young inventors:

  • Conduct market research regarding your invention.
  • Conduct a patent search through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make sure your idea has not already been patented.
  • Protect your idea by keeping a journal that details your invention.
  • Profit from your invention either by making and selling your product or by licensing the patent right to a company that will make and sell your invention.

Does your child have an idea for a new invention? Visit www.uspto.gov to view other patents or for information on how to patent an idea.