Inventing almost burned my house down….

One of my favorite kid inventing experiences, well looking back anyway, was the time I tried to make a hot air balloon.

it’s 1974, armed with an ad from the back of Boy’s Life Magazine, and a few grass cutting dollars I had saved I anxiously place my order for the Super Gigantic “Real Hot Air Balloon” ……“Over 8 feet tall!”

hfdsgfhsgfhWeeks later, (although it felt like years) it’s here! my Super Gigantic Hot Air Balloon from the back of Boy’s Life magazine.

Wait, it’s a rather large envelope, but how could you fit a Super Gigantic Hot Air balloon in an envelope? Even a very large envelope?

Taking surprisingly little time to answer my own question, I open the envelope to find ten, eight-foot long sections of Blue and White crate paper. That, when glued together as show in the instructions, will result in what could only be described to an 8th grade inventor as pure inflatable “heaven”

Off we go, several of my like-minded young inventor friends and I, to our not so super secret hideaway of invention – my parent’s garage.

After a quick rummage through my dad’s tool bench we find the glue we need and start the argues task of constructing our paper balloon – all the while holding out hope against reason that this craft will in some way actually lift one of us off the ground.

Hours later, it’s done. Standing before us in all its glory, an alternating blue and white paneled hot air balloon – over 8 feet tall! – just like the ad said.

We have the balloon, now all we should need is some hot air. Well obviously you can’t just find hot air, you have to make hot air. For that we turn to one of the most trusted tools in a young inventor’s arsenal – My Dad’s blow torch!

There we are, in the driveway – although in our minds it may as well have been Cape Canaveral. The top of our balloon secured to the end of a long fishing rod, the metal ring installed in the opening, and torch at the ready.

Firing up the torch we start the process of “inflating” our craft for its madden voyage. Slowly It starts to inflate; it’s actually getting larger as the panels start to form that classic balloon shape. I have the torch, my buddy jack has the pole, and if memory serves me correctly my sister Susan is manning the ring at the bottom.

As I slowly inflate our balloon, the magnitude of the situation starts to sink in and my mind starts to drift a little. This is actually happening, we will be the first kids on our block to build and launch a real hot air balloon – this is huge!

And then it happens – distracted by my thoughts, I let the torch shift ever so slightly and the paper catches fire. It takes no time at all for our dream of flight to transform itself into a reenactment of those classic images of the Hindenburg. Now burning at an amazing rate, the balloon is reduced to ashes on the end of a fishing rod in 30 of the longest seconds I’ve ever experienced.

All that work, all that time waiting for the mailman, my life savings, gone. Our efforts rewarded with an aluminum ring in the center of a rather large burn mark on the driveway – and I’m going to be so grounded when my dad finds out I used his blow torch.

Oh well, such is the life of an inventor.

With the blind enthusiasm of a young boy, and in what would prove later to be a vain attempt, we make sure everyone is sworn to secrecy over the use of my dad’s blow torch – and head back to the basement to find another Boy’s Life magazine.

Mark Reyland

The real story of how Thanksgiving was invented

We invent a wide variety of things, why not holidays.

It’s turkey day, and many of us will spend the day with family and friends giving thanks for what we have. Well, maybe we should pause a moment and give thanks to Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, one of the first women’s magazines, and the lady who really invented the modern day Thanksgiving.

dfhgsfghYou see, the original Thanksgiving took place in the fall of 1621 at the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts, with the Pilgrims and some 90 Wampanoag Indians on hand. While the occasion came to be a semiofficial holiday among New Englanders, the idea of holding a national Thanksgiving day was very slow to catch on.

In fact, The Continental Congress scheduled the first Thanksgiving for Thursday, December 18, 1777, to celebrate the defeat of General Burgoyne at Saratoga. In 1789 George Washington proclaimed a one-time-only day of thanksgiving for Thursday, November 26, to celebrate the new Constitution.

Once Washington left office his successors let the idea drop.

Enter Mrs. Hale. A native of New Hampshire, she became obsessed with the idea that “Thanksgiving like the Fourth of July should be considered a national festival by all our people.”

In 1846, nine years after she became the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, she launched a crusade to make Thanksgiving an official holiday.  Every fall the magazine would describe their vision for Thanksgiving complete with the signature Turkey. Encouraging the centerpiece meal by publishing recipes for such things as “Indian Pudding with Frumenty sauce” and “ham soaked in cider three weeks, stuffed with sweet potatoes, and baked in maple syrup.”

The rest of the year Mrs. Hale blanketed influential people with hundreds of letters urging them to support her cause.

Her efforts continued up through the Civil War. After years of trying Mrs. Hale found support in President Abraham Lincoln who finally issued a National Thanksgiving Proclamation setting aside the last Thursday of November as the official Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving continued to be proclaimed annually by the president this way until 1939, when Franklin Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving was going to take place on the third Thursday of November.  Of course commercialism was the chief consideration–FDR hoped to woo retailers, who complained that they needed more time to “make proper provision for the Christmas rush” and of course squeeze in a few more shopping days.

FDR’s move outraged some including many few football coaches, who claimed that not only was FDR trampling on sacred national traditions, he was screwing up the bowl game schedule.

In 1939 and 1940 people actually chose which day they would celebrate Thanksgiving. However, by 1941 Congress got into the act by officially declaring that Thanksgiving would thenceforward fall on the fourth Thursday of November.

So, as you spend this day celebrating, relaxing, and of course eating. Take a moment to ponder the history of this well seated national holiday – and be thankful for Mrs. Hale, after all she got you a day off.

Hey -I wonder who invented Black Friday? I sure would like to find that guy!

Mark Reyland

Tyler asked about inventor royalties

Inventor Tyler Ekern asked a good question:

fdhgsdfg“If you license out your invention to a company who then licenses your patent to other companies, are you compensated? Also, what is the royalty rate for military technology and how often does an inventor receive a lump sum?”

Well Tyler, it’s like this.

Think of your patent as a baseball. You have a baseball, and I have a baseball team. I need your baseball so my team can play – makes sense. I license your baseball (effectively renting it from you) for a specific amount of time (called a term), and at a specific price (called a royalty).

In our agreement it clearly states that under no circumstances am I allowed to let anyone else use the baseball. Or does it? Maybe it actually says I’m only allowed to let others use the ball on Tuesdays, and if I do, that I’m to pay you 25% of whatever I receive in compensation.

You see, all contracts start as a blank sheet of paper. We are free to write into them a set of terms that favor us, while the other party pushes back with a set of terms that favor them. In the end, contracts normally find an equilibrium of fairness to both parties. So the answer to your question is Yes, if that’s what you put into your contract.

Your second question is pretty straight forward. The average royalty rate across all industries is about 8%. There is no specific royalty for military items that I’m aware of, and an inventor receives a “lump sum” when they negotiate it into their contract.

It’s important to remember contracts are simply a set of temporary standards two people agree to live by, and a pre-negotiated divorce settlement when they no longer love each other.

Mark Reyland

Inventor raises over 13 Million on Kickstarter

In 2014 inventor Ryan Grepper (one of the kindest and most honest people I know) found himself as the inventor who created the highest funded Kickstarter campaign ever. Ryan shattered every record at the time, raising over 13 Million dollars for the development and distribution of his all in one ice chest – called the Coolest Cooler.

untitledNow, just a year later Ryan is feeling the downside of what many inventors would consider a huge windfall – as pointed out in this recent article from a Portland Oregon newspaper.


The Portland man who invented the Coolest Cooler and got $13 million on Kickstarter is under fire as thousands of people who helped his company are still waiting to get their product.

Fox 12 first interviewed founder and CEO Ryan Grepper in 2014, when the campaign for his product broke records for getting the most funding ever on Kickstarter.

Grepper expressed his gratitude to all the backers, saying the Coolest Cooler, which has a blender, Bluetooth speakers and many other bells and whistles, wouldn’t exist without them.

Depending on the amount of their donation, many Kickstarter backers were promised they’d get the first coolers off the assembly line back in February.

But the arrival date has been pushed back a few times, and now backers are being told they won’t get their coolers until April of 2016.

One of the benefactors, a man from Philadelphia who only wants to be known as Mark, said Grepper has been emailing backers, citing problems with manufacturing overseas, factory workers going on strike, high shipping costs and more.

However, Mark and other backers are angry that Grepper is selling the coolers on to new customers at full price, $499, before fulfilling his obligations to the people who got the business off the ground.

“The consensus from us is that we’re frustrated,” Mark said over the phone. “You know, we invested money, it’s gone and we haven’t seen a product yet. Now, when it comes, is it going to be good?  Is it not going to be good?  We don’t know.”

FOX 12 requested an interview with Grepper at the company headquarters in Portland, but he declined.

Why am I showing you a negative article about a person I truly believe is kind and honest? Because it’s a learning opportunity for every inventor who thinks (like Ryan did) the future of their invention lays in the hands of anonymous donations.

Sure, like Ryan you may raise some money, maybe not 13 Million, but you may find the money you need to develop your invention – and with it you will find the responsibility of developing and manufacturing a product for the first time in the white hot spotlight of your donors.

You see, Ryan Grepper is a very accomplished inventor, a very honest man, and a very smart guy. He has all the cards stacked in his favor and he’s still struggling to make the Crowd Funding process work.

I’m not saying don’t use Crowd Funding. I’m simply saying, just take a moment to think about how hard it’s been for a guy like Ryan before you jump off into that deep end.

You can read the latest updates from Ryan about the Coolest Cooler here:

Mark Reyland

Read more:

Another great inventor question from facebook

An inventor named Chris Cole asked a great question on facebook yesterday, so I wanted to make sure he got an answer.

“What about product names and slogans? Do companies ever license the name and slogan thought up by the inventor? Is it worth the expense of trademark in those?”

ManComputerQuestionFor most inventors the process of creativity doesn’t stop at conceiving, designing, and proving an idea. Many inventors go on to name and brand the idea with what they think are memorable monikers and sexy slogans.

Sometimes they come up with a name that just naturally fits. Other times they force feed the name into what sounds clever to them and their dog, but really doesn’t fit the product.

Either way, a product name (called a brand) and slogan (called a tag line) are generally assumed to be included for use in the product licensing agreement if they are not formally trademarked.

Inversely, a brand and tag line that has a formal trademark registration is either addressed by specific inclusion in the license, in a separate document, or not at all.

Let’s be real for a moment. Most inventors, after chasing a licensing deal are not going to let it fall apart over a name. In fact, most inventors would be more inclined to include it in the deal just to see the brand they created mass-produced.

That said – if you are one of the very few inventors who creates a great name for your great product. You should probably file a trademark – licensing your trademark the same way you licensed your product.

If you don’t want to risk that your great name is worth the expense of a trademark. You can always factor that value into the overall deal and require the company to file the trademark if they choose to use the name.

Either way, talk with your attorney before you choose one road or the other so you’re not making legal decisions based on what some guy on a blog told you :)

Mark Reyland

If you have an inventor question, just ask it on the Inventor Education facebook Group like Chris did, it’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s of course 100% free.

Quirky’s remains going to the highest bidder

If you’re one of the over one million inventors who made the mistake of believing the Quirky community was going to make you rich, or one of the potentially thousands of inventors who, through that process, now have some legal relationship (contract, royalties, co-inventor, patent assignment….) with the now bankrupt Quirky – you need to know that those relationships could have resulted in assets that the bankruptcy court is about to auction off to the highest bidder.

sdfsadgafdfFrom the quirky website:

The Company is working with potentially interested parties to establish a stalking horse bidder for certain of its assets, including assets related to the Quirky online community and the Quirky name.  The Company will look to conduct an auction, if bids are received, and will be seeking court approval to have the sale close within approximately 60 days.

The next scheduled Quirky bankruptcy hearing next Tuesday:

Statement and Reservation of Rights of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors Regarding the Quirky Sale Motion (related document(s)60) filed by Melanie L. Cyganowski on behalf of Proposed Counsel for the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors. with hearing to be held on 11/24/2015 at 10:00 AM at Courtroom 501 (MG) (DKT 186)

It appears the council representing the committee for unsecured creditors (mostly individuals) is Melanie Cyganowski. If you think you have a claim of ownership, of any kind, you should reach out to her at and ask.

If you would like to know more about the Quirky bankruptcy, or follow the events, you may obtain additional information by visiting the website of the Company’s claims agent, at

Mark Reyland

A kid inventor…or Satan himself?

Alright, the answer is Kid Inventor, not Satan.

If you read the Daily Inventor Education Blog regularly, chances are you’ve read a story or two about my exploits as a kid inventing. The point of these stories isn’t actually about the events that took place, but rather to illuminate the fact that the mind of an inventor start to emerge at a very early age.

gyhukoFor me – I knew I liked to “Invent” things as far back as I can remember. I think my parents did too. Since, in addition to exposing me to activities that would foster creativity, they also hid anything they didn’t want destroyed. (not to worry, I found the stuff anyway)

We’re inventors, we like to take things apart, but so do our kids.

As parents it’s our responsibility to recognize the creative, some may say inventive, gene in our own offspring and expose our children to an environment that will help them grow.

I’ve listed a few kid inventor sites here to get you started. Look through these sites with your young inventor, maybe even get them involved in something that will help them expand their minds, focus their creativity, and fit in with the other kids.

The Lemelson Foundation – MIT program for Kid Inventing.

Ask Dr. Universe! A colorful, fun source for kids to ask science questions or just explore!

Camp Invention Summer day camp for kids sponsored by the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame that focuses on inventive thinking and problem solving.

“Design Squad” Produced by WGBH Boston, “Design Squad” promotes engineering for youth through outreach programs across the United States.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) A non-profit organization to excite young people about science and engineering through a robotics competition, LEGO league and more.

Fun Brain An educational site for children and teachers abound with games that focus on math and grammar

National Gallery for America’s Young Inventors A national competition that inducts six young talented American inventors annually into the National Gallery—a museum to preserve and promote great inventions produced by America’s youth.

Super Science Fair Projects Super Science Fair Projects offers a step-by-step guide to science fair projects for students in middle school through high school. There are links to over 100,000 science projects, science experiments, and science fair project ideas. A guide for parents and teachers is also available.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Kids’ Pages Information and answers for kids provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

We didn’t have tools like this when we were little, but we do now, and with these tools comes the responsibility help mold the minds of young inventors. Who knows, maybe we can even help a child who secretly feels like an emotional outcast – because we all know how that feels.

Mark Reyland

1 2 3 224