30×30 – How I filed 30 Patents by Age 30
My first aspirations for filing a patent surfaced during my senior year of high school—at least, that was the first time I ever recall articulating it as a ‘life goal’. Even so, the notion of inventorship had intrigued me from an early age; so much so that my mother had developed the mantra, “His wheels never stop spinning.”
It was also around that time, during high school, that I began developing relationships with my first set of mentors. The first helped me learn technical skills, which allowed me to channel my creativity. The second taught me the importance of critical thinking and exposed me to innovations in medical science. The third helped instill the importance of patents and “homegrown ideas,” from a business executive’s perspective.
By the time I left graduate school, as a new Doctor of Audiology, I felt that I had all the tools that I needed to pursue my dream of filing a patent: an understanding of my industry’s technology, my creativity, and an outlet. I immediately joined the R&D organization of a major hearing aid manufacturer as a research audiologist. With patient needs at the forefront of my mind, I began brainstorming new ways to apply technology.
Thankfully, I was given the opportunity and guidance to consult with a few of the company’s more experienced inventors. These new mentors helped me to explore the potential of my first ‘big idea’. They showed me how to conduct prior art searches (which was like learning a new language), and I began learning the many nuances of internal and external intellectual property processes. It all seemed so daunting at the time, but it is incredible just how patent-savvy one can become in just a few short years.
Filing 30 patents before the end of my 30th year was not the goal that I had initially envisioned. Filing this many patents would have seemed ludicrous, and it certainly was not a statistical probability that I would have bet on. In fact, most inventors tend to already be in their early 30’s by the time they ‘get around to filing their first patent’. Needless to say, this conveniently-timed milestone far exceeds anything that I could have ever hoped for.
So, how did we get here?
Collaboration – I believe innovation is a team sport, and rarely does one achieve anything of great significance alone. I have had the luxury and privilege to collaborate with 41 unique co-inventors for these first 30 patent applications.
I would definitely recommend assembling a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives—this has helped us to develop comprehensive specifications and to capture a wide range of potential embodiments with each patent application. I also had the support of great attorneys, managers, and paralegals.
Communication – It’s not enough to just have great ideas. Often, an inventor must be able to pitch their ideas persuasively and get buy-in from company leadership. Filing a patent is a type of business investment, and an inventor needs to be able to clearly communicate the problems being solved, in addition to the overall technical feasibility of the invention.
Patent attorneys and agents, who can greatly assist inventors when filing patents, also benefit from receiving clear and concise invention disclosures. These professionals can do their best and most efficient work when they completely understand the invention at hand.
- Persistence – Like pursuing every other goal in life, it helps to be persistent. Expect your work to be scrutinized, both on its technical merits and for the business investment that it represents. Persistence is especially important for new professionals who are just entering an industry or joining a different company.
Looking ahead to the next five years, I plan to continue innovating and helping my industry to deliver new and impactful technologies to the patients who rely on our hearing devices. I also aspire to maintain a high allowance with the patent office; so far we are 3-for-3.
So, here’s to the new stretch goal of having 35 patents granted by age 35!
Reference: Nager, A., Hart, D. M., Ezell, S. J., & Atkinson, R. D. (2016). The Demographics of Innovation in the United States. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3066060
I am employed by Starkey Hearing Technologies, but the views expressed in this article are my own.