For our April Inventor Q&A, we had a talk with Edison Nation member and an “Everyday Edison”, Eric Huber!
Eric has been a member of EN since 2008, has submitted over 100 ideas and received FOUR G8s, most notably for his Germ Master product, which was selected for development and testing by the Edison Nation As Seen on TV team.
Eric is not only passionate about his product ideas, he has been a huge advocate of the rights of the independent inventor. He has gone to Washington, DC, on more than one occasion to fight for the patent rights of inventors.
Here is a little more about Eric:
Where is your hometown?
I was born in Bellevue, Washington…grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Where do you currently reside?
I have lived in San Juan Capistrano, California since 1998.
What is your professional background?
Most of the businesses I have started and have worked for, have involved sales and/or management duties. I started my own company at 16, a couple more along the way, sold copiers, worked for Reebok and designed children’s playgrounds.
How did you initially hear about Edison Nation?
I met Louis Foreman at a tradeshow in 2008. He was speaking about inventing. I introduced myself and he invited me to Charlotte and introduced me to Edison Nation as a community perfect for an inventor like myself.
You have done a lot of work with Louis in Washington DC to protect the rights of independent inventors – can you explain what you have campaigned for, what the current bill will change for independent inventors and why you feel the fight is important?
Let me say first that being asked to be part of this effort has been the biggest honor of my career as an inventor. I have pushed to help personalize and put a face of the independent inventor. We are fighting for maintaining and making improvements to the current patent system that will not claim us inventors as an unintended (or intended) causality.
We see great efforts to mislead the public and lawmakers regarding the state of abusive behavior and resulting litigation. The facts have been distorted and studies debunked. We believe that changes in the patent system should be narrowly focused to address the abusive behavior and not so broad so to reduce our ability to enforce, ultimately diminish the value of our patents and affect our ability to license.
We believe that frivolous litigation can be reduced through improving the patent quality and this includes a more predictable, consistent process. This can be done, in part, by fully-funding the USPTO, allowing them to retain the proceeds from fees; and investing in a greater number and higher quality examiners, including being able to reduce turnover and improve compensation.
Have you ever collaborated with another inventor(s) on a project? If so, how was that experience for you?
I have tried, but found, for me, inventing a solo sport. We inventors are often set in our ways and very particular about our ideas. It is not to say that I don’t reach out to my inventor confidants for advice and input, just not full collaboration.
I am excited about what I am calling Eric 2.0. A new collaboration team consisting of an engineer/prototyper, IP experts and inventor BFFs. This will take my idea offerings to a new level, providing better prototypes, IP plan, and focus, enabling me to concentrate on ideation and licensing.
What are some general industry trends you have noticed recently?
The good news is that most companies have either a formal or informal process for evaluating our inventions. However, one thing I am seeing is a greater reluctance by prospective licensees to sign NDAs.
I believe in the open-innovation environment. There are so many ideas that fly around, and companies are concerned about signing an NDA for fear that they might be already considering a similar idea. Due to the tight economy and limited disposable incomes, companies are very picky about what products they invest in to commercialize.
On the other hand, there are so many more ways to test and market products direct to consumers.
Do you find that invention ideas come to you or do you have to go after them?
I experience both, but am more successful when an idea comes to me. As I live life, I experience wants and needs. When I develop solutions to these I find myself more successful. This is not to say that good ideas won’t come when I am given a need and tasked to invent a solution, just not as often.
What advice would you tell others hoping to score a licensing deal of their own?
One of my biggest pieces of advice is to treat inventing and licensing as a business. Be professional, courteous and have realistic expectations. It is a numbers name in both the idea generation and in finding licensing deals. Make a list of prospective licensees through online searches and (my favorite) from roaming the aisles of retailers. Also, practice your pitch on “throw away companies”. These are companies that you don’t mind getting a “no thank you” from. Learn to be patient. It can take years from conception to store shelves. Be focused, but flexible. I don’t believe in the “do whatever it takes” approach. Perseverance is important, but you need to know when to cut your losses and move on. And finally, ask for help. No one can do everything on their own. A great thing about the EN and general inventor community is how there are so many with experience and amazing talents that are so willing to give advice.
What are some other fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share with the EN community?
I don’t know about “fun”, but here goes. I moved to LA in the 80’s to become a soap opera star and boy do I have a lot of stories. I wake every weekday morning at 3:33 am (my BFFs know the reasoning behind that time) and begin with a 3 mile walk at the ocean to clear my head and solve the world’s problems (or invent a way to remove the last of the shampoo left in the bottle). I have about 120 inventions with sell sheets in my portfolio, from a way to help women zip up their dresses to a revolutionary way to de-salinize seawater.
I am training to set a world record involving balancing things on body parts.
If you are a Facebook friend you will know that I like to wear Crocs and sweater vests because I don’t care what people think. I collect dirt from around the world and animation cells. I have traveled to about 40 countries, experiencing them in different ways from luxury cruises to hitch-hiking with a back-pack.
What inspired you to start inventing?
I have always enjoyed making things to solve problems. This started a very early age. I have recorded my ideas from a very early age. It is hilarious looking back at my “problems” that needed solutions. Like in 5th grade when girls would kick my shins under the lunch table because they liked me…or a way to clean out the cat pan like once a month. A solution was not found for either of these.
When did you come up with your first great idea?
Honestly, I don’t think any of my ideas are or have been great. I have learned that for every person that thinks my idea is great, there are others that think it is not..and vice-versa. My first idea that was better-than-average was about 8th grade.
You have been an EN member since 2008, can you provide us with some details around your experiences and journey to date?
I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for Louis Foreman and EN, I probably would not have the drive and passion for inventing that I enjoy today. Through the conversations, education, four G8 journeys and about 80 R8s, I have honed my inventing skills, developed confidence and meet many amazing people.
We thank Eric for taking time to share his journey, and for all he does inside and outside the EN Community…and as far as those soap opera stories, that’s a post for another day…
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