Can Your Daily Routine Land You a Patent?
Wake up, shower, shave, brush your teeth, get dressed, walk the dog. Most people do a lot of the same things every day and probably don’t feel very inspired while they do them. After months of working from home and being socially distanced from others, it can seem like every day is Groundhog Day. But hidden within your daily routine could be an idea you can turn into a new patent.
When our everyday tasks become rote, we stop thinking actively about what we are doing and can become numb to minor inconveniences and inefficiencies. Sometimes the way to discover a great idea is to practice a little mindfulness. Here is a technique our design team uses to uncover new ideas that can become patents. We start by recounting what we did over the past day, hour by hour. Some of us keep a small notebook or use our phones to snap pictures of what we’re doing to help jog our memory, but often we just take a few minutes to reflect on the day’s tasks and experiences. We might come up with a list like this:
1. 2:00 am – woke up when dog stole the bedcovers, didn’t go back to sleep until 3:30am. (Need a better dog bed?).
2. 6:30 am to 7:30 am – dog jumped on the bed wanting breakfast, got up, checked phone for messages/alerts/headlines, fed the dog, went for a run (3 miles, usual route, need to mix it up).
3. 7:00 am to 8:00 am – started the coffee, took a shower (ran out of soap), got dressed (no clean black socks), toasted a bagel, scanned email on phone.
4. 8:00 am to 9:00 am – video conference, lighting was terrible (new desk lamp design?).
The idea is to capture routines and little problems throughout the day. Little problems can often be the spark for a patent idea, because what else is a patent but a solution to a problem?
The inspiration to one of our current patents, our self-shredding label, came about by becoming more aware of a daily routine that was becoming a hassle. I’m a privacy fanatic and I try to protect myself from identity theft by shredding mail with my name and address before putting it in the recycling bin. I realized that I was wasting time each day taking mail and package labels to the shredder in my office and standing there feeding them in a few pieces at a time. I didn’t want a shredder in my front hall, or a bigger shredder in my office, I wanted an easier way to destroy a mailing label with less effort. That minor, everyday inconvenience turned into an innovative new product design and U.S. Patent # 9779641. By working on that initial idea, we have evolved the original concept into a number of new label products including pharmaceutical, security, and tamper-evidence labels.
Give your daily routine a little hour-by-hour scrutiny. We can't guarantee you'll come up with a solution for stolen bedcovers or no clean socks - but you might find you can change someone’s life for the better and get yourself a new patent to boot!