An Overnight Success, Ten Years in the Making
Tom Carpenter accomplished what every inventor strives for, but very few attain. He is a success. Over the years I have learned to meter the likelihood of a product’s success on the inventor, not the invention. From the first time I met Tom, over a decade ago, I knew he was merely a matter of time. He was meticulous. He would test and retest every aspect of his inventions. Although I am sure he came up with dozens of inventions, he only pursued the ones that survived his rigorous vetting. Although he recently inked a seven figure deal for his latest invention. That never would have happened without the years of behind-the-scenes testing and refinements he puts into every new product.
A Simple Plan
Tom’s system is simple. Find a need and invent a product to fill that need. That is the easy part. The hard part, where most inventors fail is taking that product to market. “Build a better mousetrap and people will beat a path to your door.” Hardly. Taking a product to market takes testing, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and customer service. Without all of these items working together, getting to your product to market is more luck than skill. After building a successful company around his invention, it is not long before a suitor walks in to buy the company.
Tom protects all of his intellectual property from the start. Obtaining federal patent and trademark protection keeps lazy competitors from piggy-backing on his success. Like any ground-breaking invention, Tom Carpenter’s inventions still find themselves the target of imitators. When that happens, Tom takes the steps necessary to halt the theft of his intellectual property by infringers. Whereas most patent infringement lawsuits involves attorney fees averaging over $1.5M per side, Tom has successfully defended the patent on his silt fence machine for about a tenth that amount. In that case, the court not only found the infringer liable for copying Tom’s machine, but found the infringer to be so brazen in its infringement, that the court required the infringer to pay Tom triple the damage award and all of Tom’s attorney fees.
Tom has spent over a decade researching the problem of soil erosion and finding “green” economical solutions. Tom received his first United States Patent in 1999 on an environmentally friendly technology for installing a textile fabric to reduce soil erosion. Companies and municipalities across the country use his Tommy® silt fence machine to preserve precious topsoil that would otherwise be lost to erosion.
After the invention of the Tommy® Silt Fence Machine, Tom developed a unique transition mat system for preventing erosion and promoting the growth of vegetation in areas susceptible to water erosion. In 2005 and 2009 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded Mr. Carpenter two more patents on this new system for controlling erosion. The “ScourStop” system is so unique that five additional patent applications on the technology are currently pending before the USPTO. Rights to this technology were recently purchased as part of a seven figure agreement.
Inventor of the Year
Two weeks ago, at the Iowa Intellectual Property Association annual meeting, I was honored to present Tom Carpenter with the Iowa 2009 Inventor of the Year Award. It is rare that the award be granted to an independent inventor, but never was it more deserving. I am proud to have worked with Tom for the past ten years and am more excited than ever to see what he comes up with next.