The Intellectual Property Committee of the Dade County Bar Association had grown weary of the typical attorney cocktail reception thrown to raise money for a good cause, so the Committee devised The Patently Impossible Project, which was a charity race to assemble a patented invention based only on patent provided, various parts and tools. The patent selected was US Design Patent No. D366,908, simply titled Toy Catapult. The event was staged on Friday, December 3, 2010, at the Miami Science Museum, with proceeds going to The Legal Aid Society, which is the oldest legal services provider for the indigent in Miami-Dade County.
Jamie Rich Vining, an Associate with Lott & Friedland, is currently the Chair of the Intellectual Property Committee of the Dade County Bar Association, and was in charge of making sure the event ran smoothly. About 150 people in attended, including yours truly who was in South Florida to speak at the Inventors Society of South Florida the following day. Approximately $8,000 for Legal Aid, and the group is already excited about the Second Annual Patently Impossible Project for next year.
The event was open to all South Florida engineers, inventors, attorneys, and paralegals, regardless of specialty. In fact, there was at least one trademark attorney engaged in the competition. There were 11 brave competitors, each who donated $50 for the privilege to be the first to successfully construct the device in question. The contestants did not know what they would be building, or how success would be determined, until the moment of truth when the competition started. Each of the contestants were handed a brown bag containing the pieces, parts and tools they would need, as well as a copy of the patent. They were told they needed to build the device and then successfully launch a penny about 10 feet across a marked line in order to win. Bragging rights were on the line.
The contestants were Gary Winer (Fleit Gibbons Gutman Bongini & Bianco, PL), Ury Fischer (Lott & Friedland, PA), Miriam Richter (Miriam Richter, Attorney at Law, PL), Greg Popowitz (Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart), Elaine Chisholm (Nortel Networks Inc.), Jacqueline Hea (Ericsson, Inc.), Michael Longo, Octavio Robles, Craig Kirsch (Law Offices of Craig S. Kirsch, P.A.), Paul Allen (Marksmen Inc.) and Christian Sanchelima (Sanchelima & Associates). And the winner was Octavio Robles, who took home a special first place trophy from Professional Awards of America. Ury Fischer came in second, with Paul Allen third.
In a unique twist, as attendees entered the Miami Science Museum they were encouraged to purchase raffle tickets for the opportunity to win an iPad. A raffle isn’t unique, but upon purchasing a ticket for $10 you were to keep one half and place the other half in the container for the individual who you thought would prevail in the competition. The winner of the iPad would be chosen from the container of the individual who won the competition. My ticket wound up in the container of someone who didn’t win, place or show, but it was all for a good cause and kept everyone engaged and rooting.
For those who chose not to compete and simply attended, there was a mini-trade show with tables set up by local vendors, who were handing out cookies, appetizers and displaying their goods and services. One of the most popular tables was the Grey Goose table, providing drinks of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties.
“We consider The Patently Impossible Project to be a complete success,” said Vining. “In these difficult times, devastating funding cuts have reduced Legal Aid’s staff and ability to serve the ever growing legal needs of the indigent clients in Miami Dade.”
The location of the event, at the Miami Science Museum, seemed exceptionally fitting for the event. Right next to where the competition to put together the catapult was taking place was a solar automobile, allegedly having a top speed of 55 miles per hour, and a zero emission automobile powered by compressed air. The Zero emission compressed air auto looked just like the cab from the movie Total Recall, both inside and out.
In a world where good stories don’t get enough attention, this novel way to combine a fun event with a fundraiser for a truly worthwhile cause is inspiring. Hopefully The Patently Impossible Project will provide a model that can be duplicated around the country.