ANNAPOLIS – Not all patents filed in Maryland are complex scientific ones granted to inventors working for high-tech companies. Although a number of the successful patent applications contain long descriptions of intricate DNA patterns, others are a little more unusual.
J. Benjamin Williams of Silver Spring won a patent April 3 for a new climbing rose plant called the Scarlet Star. The rose plant has bright medium red blossoms and exhibits a strong resistance to disease, his application says.
Napoleon Epps of Forest Heights received a patent in March for a “meditation enhancing article”-a helmet with ports to hold crystals over the wearer’s eyes and temples.
Frank J. Williams of Baltimore also received a patent in March for a toothpaste warmer to help people whose teeth are sensitive to cold.
Arthur Romer of Silver Spring, devised a new method of decorating cakes, so he filed a patent for a cartridge container and hand-held gun device to dispense frosting in February.
Unlike most inventors, Romer received his patent only about six weeks later.
Most successful applications take about 19 months from the application date to the award date, according to Richard Apley, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Office of Independent Inventors Program.
When inventors do receive their patent, it’s often a red letter day.
Barbara and Cleveland Broussard of Lusby got their “red letter” in the mail in March after filing a patent for a baby bottle holder in June 2000.
“We were very excited,” said Barbara Broussard, who is a Head Start administrator working on a master’s degree in teaching. “We called all our family members.”
After losing countless bottles on family trips, the Broussards designed a special contraption attached to a bottle with a short cord that can be connected to a stroller or baby bag.
“It would be a great idea to have something we could keep track of,” Barbara Broussard remembered thinking in 1997 when her younger daughter, Cecilie, was about a year old.
They didn’t get a holder made in time to use with their own daughters, but they spent the next few years tinkering with a design, trying to peddle their idea to vendors.
But most of the companies the couple approached told them to come back when they got a patent.
Now the Broussards, freshly-granted patent in hand, are going back to those companies. And they even have ideas for additional products, Barbara Broussard added.
Most people who file independently only file one or two patents in the course of their lifetime, Apley said, and most work for a company.
About 10 to 15 percent of independent inventors are what Apley calls “your Uncle George working in his garage” who may not have the money to conduct research and complete the expensive patent process. Only about 2 to 5 percent of patented inventions ever become commercially viable, for big companies or independent inventors, Apley said.
“They get that flash of genius (but) it’s not a cheap or easy process.”