These homemade inventions have less than a 2% chance of turning a profit, but when one of them defies the odd and really hits it big, look out!
The Patent Process
Before getting into inventors who struck it rich, let’s have a quick review of the thing that can make inventing profitable– patents.
Getting a patent can be a long, frustrating process. On average, it takes 34.6 months for patent applications to be reviewed, and it can be even longer depending on the complexity and technical nature of the patent being filed.
To file for a patent, you need to fill out a patent application and submit it and the fee to the Patent Office. Remember, this is a legal document, not something you just fill out in a few minutes.
There are several different types of patent applications. These include:
- Provisional patent
- Non-provisional patent
- Design patent
- Plant patent
- International patent
Now let’s take a look at some of the most successful homemade inventions in recent history.
- Intermittent windshield wipers—Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, made headlines throughout the 70s and the 80s when he sued Ford and Chrysler for patent infringement. Kearns said the companies stole his idea of the intermittent windshield wiper, and he fought for years to get justice. It was a true David vs. Goliath case, and eventually Kearns received about $30 million in compensation from the auto companies.
- The Battery Buddy–Jeff and Rich Sloan are the inventors of the Battery Buddy, a device that prevents car batteries from dying. After patenting the idea and building the prototype, the Sloan brothers licensed their invention out to a major company, and it was eventually sold to thousands of customers. In the process, they generated millions in royalties. Today, the Sloan brothers are recognized around the world for their books, website, radio show, and TV appearances where they share advice for inventors and entrepreneurs like themselves.
- Geox—While out taking a jog, Mario Moretti Polegato was disgusted with how hot and sweaty his feet were getting. He decided cutting holes in the soles of his shoes would help ventilate the shoes and keep his feet cool and dry. This idea led to the creation of the Geox shoes company, a brand where all shoes feature soles with tiny holes in them. Polegatto has made about $3 billion to date, and even the Pope wears his unique shoes.
- The SippiGrip—In 2005 Sari Crevin was frustrated that her 1 year old would repeatedly drop his sippy cup on the ground. After trying a few existing products, which were all flawed in one way or another, Sari made her own new and improved version with a non-slip grip and strap. A couple years later after securing a patent, Sari’s invention has transformed into a $1 million per year business. Not bad for making a baby cup!
- Nutella—Michele Ferrero wanted to make chocolate a part of breakfast. He realized that spreadable breakfast chocolate could fill a need people didn’t even realize they had. Today, eaters spread Nutella on toast, put it in their crepes, and even eat it straight up. The Ferrero family, who also has other big brands including Tic Tac and Kinder Eggs—has an $11 billion fortune.
Quick Tips for Filing a Patent
- Perform a patent search to make sure your invention hasn’t been patented already
- Get legal help to ensure you complete the patent application correctly the first time
- Write clear descriptions
- Include patent application filing fee
Did you know?
- The first can opener wasn’t invented until nearly 50 years after cans were introduced
- Thomas Edison filed 1,093 patents
- Bubble gum was invented by accident in 1928
- Marlon Brando was an inventor in his final years, obtaining several patents for tuning drum heads
- Isaac Newton is credited as the inventor of the pet door (cat flap)
What are some of your favorite invention stories?