On the record with product development and marketing expert Warren Tuttle

Warren Tuttle at the USPTO, speaking out on behalf of inventors.

Warren Tuttle at the USPTO, speaking out on behalf of inventors.

Warren Tuttle is known to many throughout the industry as the long-time President of the United Inventors Association. Tuttle is also Open Innovation Director for both Lifetime Brands (the largest non-electronics housewares company in the United States) and Techtronic Industries NA, (the nation’s leading producer of power tools). As Open Innovation Director, Tuttle focuses on external product development, which means he is constantly working with independent inventors to find new inventions to bring to market.

Tuttle began his career as a department store buyer of cookware and small appliances in New York City (Abraham and Straus of Brooklyn, NY). Prior to becoming the product development and marketing expert he is today, Tuttle previously owned five gourmet specialty kitchenware stores (The Complete Kitchen of Southern CT), a prepared food and catering business (The Good Food Store of Darien, CT), a nationally recognized cooking school and a kitchen design business. Food and Wine magazine once described The Complete Kitchen as “one of the finest gourmet stores in America.”

I’ve known Tuttle for years, and we stay in touch via e-mail periodically. After my recent interviews with Mark Cuban and Stephen Key we were back in touch talking about substance. I told him we should really be having this conversation on the record. He agreed. The following conversation took place on Friday, December 4, 2015.

I realize this interview is long, but I didn’t want to break it into two parts because there doesn’t seem to be a logical place to do that. I guess that’s what happens when two true believers start getting into things.

Without further ado, what follows is my interview with Warren Tuttle.

QUINN: Thanks, Warren, for taking the time to chat with me today. I know you’re been involved with the United Inventors Association for a long time, and I know you’ve also been involved with representing inventors who have ideas. I know the industry’s changed a lot over the years, so may be a good place to start is with a broad, general question – what are you doing these days how has the industry changed over the last few years?

TUTTLE: Well, first it’s my pleasure to be here with you today, Gene, so I appreciate your taking an interest as I know you’ve been a big advocate for inventors and inventor issues. So I wear basically two hats. On the professional first, I run open innovation programs for several large US companies. One, Lifetime Brands, is the largest non-electrics housewares company in North America. The second, Techtronics Industries, their power tool division, is the largest power tool company in the U.S. I also help a direct response television company and am in the process of expanding the open innovation platform to a couple of other companies right now, so it’s a very exciting space to be in. It allows me to uniquely, from a professional standpoint, bridge the gap between inventors and creators, makers, product developers, designers, and marketplace shelf, for those folks that want to get their products licensed and work through others. Basically, what I’ve done is set up a very unique model where I, as an outside contractor, actually set up the whole Open Innovation program for these terrific companies. We do it on the basis of being respectful for inventors, paying fair royalties, and not stealing or taking ideas. You know, all the things that you believe in and that you write about. It’s truly a win/win for everyone. I get a tremendous amount of submissions, so there’s obviously a lot of “Nos” along the way and I always try to be considerate and polite. But for the things that we move forward with licensing, there’s been a lot of success, a lot of business developed for the companies and royalties for the inventors. So, it’s an exciting space and I’m not pitching this angel in any way, but I set it up so that I’m paid for entirely by the companies, so there’s never any split in the royalty for the inventor, which is great for them. They get my help and expertise, having put together close to a hundred licensing deals, basically for free. So it’s a terrific model for me personally and one that I have a unique skill set for with my pretty extensive professional background.

QUINN: You brought something up that has just come up recently in an article I published and I don’t want to let it go before we talk about it and follow up. There’s this whole idea about abuse in the patent market, and so frequently it seems that the conversation is centered around the abuse of the patent holder. And we talk about, not “we” you and me, but the narrative seems to almost be that the only abuse in the industry is by the patent holder. And I know that not to be true. I know you know that not to be true. And I just wrote an article about what I know to be a fairly typical situation where a research and development company went and showed their innovation to a much larger enterprise under an NDA. No deal is struck. That company not only starts using that information but then also goes and files a patent application on that information. I wrote in this article that this is widespread and more widespread than any patent trolling, which I believe to be true. And somebody comments “well if it’s true then why haven’t we heard anything about this?” And I know why that is, I mean people who have their inventions stolen don’t want to talk about it for a variety of reasons. But let’s talk about that for a minute. You just brought that up. I know you don’t act that way. When you’re marshalling inventors through this process to try and get them licensing deals and so forth it’s done in a very ethical way with companies that are really looking and wanting to deal with them. But there is a seedy side of the industry, right?

Warren with Cathie and Elizabeth from the USPTO at Maker Faire in Queens, NY, September 2015.

Warren with Cathie and Elizabeth from the USPTO at Maker Faire in Queens, NY, September 2015.

TUTTLE: No question about it. By the way, I read your article. I thought it was great and I even sent it onto my US Senator, Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut. I thought it was spot on. And the whole dialog these days in Washington seems to be centered around patent trolls and that alleged abuse, which I think is really misleading. It’s a narrative that’s being driven by a small group of large companies in select industries. I’m going out to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in a couple of weeks in Las Vegas and I know they’re an industry, for instance, that is on the other side from inventors and creators in the supposed patent troll issue, which I might add is an issue that’s statistically no worse today than it was a hundred years ago. So there are pockets of industries that have been aggressive in efforts to minimize the value of patents, which sets a climate for individuals and entities to infringe on individual patent property rights. But I agree with you 100% that the bigger concern and the bigger issue that’s going on both numerically probably in terms of how often it’s happening, plus what’s really good for American enterprise and business in the long run, is this other side of larger players taking product ideas and infringing on patents and basically usurping the rights of individuals to protect themselves in the marketplace. Once we’ve effectively eliminated the ability and impact of individuals, and supplying appropriate incentive, in this country when developing products and getting them out in the marketplace, and in essence changing the world, we will have taken a I think just a huge step towards ruining grass roots innovation in this country. So this patent troll argument is a bit shortsighted. Certainly, and you’ve written eloquently about it in the past, there are some abuses where attorneys or small firms go after large companies serendipitously for infringement claims, and it’s not right and we would all root for that smaller problem being corrected in a focused way and stamped out. But the current legislation now before Congress goes well beyond what’s needed to address a rather moderate patent troll issue. It’s simply a big business power play through the White House on down. The far bigger, macro issue for America is, if you take out incentive, and we’re talking primarily financial incentive, for individuals to wrack their brains, work those extra weekends, work those nights to innovate and find new products, and if you take that out of the American economic ecosystem, so to speak, I think that innovation’s going to change and in the future we’re going to rely only on big companies to bring forth innovation and we all know where that leads. That leads to eventually a lack of competition in the marketplace and eventually some sort of government bailout for companies that went inevitably stale. We saw it happen with General Motors, to give just one example. They became dominant and then got lazy and stopped innovating, stopped taking risks. That’s what big companies do by nature; they eventually stop taking risks and stifle real disruptive innovating when they can control the marketplace. And it will happen again and again if we don’t keep innovating as a nation. It will change who we are as a country. And how folks could not fully understand the value of protecting patents and individual rights from the start and what role that it’s played- and again you’re a champion for, Gene-in our whole system here is sort of beyond me. But I think it’s a narrative being driven by a small group of companies with a lot of resources and money and they’re doing it in their own self-interest. And let me add this before your next question too, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t have to be that way because the companies that I work with have been generating business doing things the right way and it’s a good feeling all the way around. It’s a win/win for everyone and it’s profiting both individual innovators and the companies that are involved, so there’s proof that it can be done the right way and fairly.

QUINN: And that was one of the things I wanted to follow up on right there because when you were talking about the innovation, if our laws are going to favor the large companies that’s going to affect the type of innovation that we get. And I’ve written that I think it’s not only going to affect the type of innovation that we’re going to get I think it’s going to affect the quantity of innovation that we get because with certain notable exceptions large companies do not innovate. And you are probably in as good a position to expand upon that thought as anyone because you are in the business of open innovation, finding innovation to insource into companies. And it seems over the last handful of years the industry has changed from the not invented here mentality to really wanting inventions from the outside. And at various times, like in the tech sector back in the 90s, these big companies couldn’t gobble up the smaller companies fast enough because of the cutting edge innovation and research that they had going on. So big companies don’t really innovate for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is all the red tape and so many layers of bureaucracy between the person who comes up with the good idea and the person who can green light the good idea just don’t innovate. They’re not risk takers.

TUTTLE: Absolutely. And it’s sort of the nature of a large organization to not be as good at innovating for a whole variety of reasons. They’re just distracted in a lot of ways. They’re fighting oftentimes over market share with other competitors. Blood in the water type stuff as described in the best-selling business book Blue Ocean Strategy. Their main battles are on other fronts. So sometimes they lose sight of what got them to become big to begin with. I always find it rather ironic that some of these companies that are on the other side of the patent troll fight are companies that started with a single patent themselves and, as I like to say, once they got up in the tree fort they want to pull the ladder up and make it inaccessible to others. Well, that might suit their purposes, their short term purposes, but it doesn’t serve the long term interest of innovation in this country. So I agree with you 100% on this, but the bottom line though is, rather ironically, it really wouldn’t take a whole lot to constructively change this whole dialog and go in and set these companies up so that they could actually connect better with the inventor community, inspire them and pay the proper amounts of money which would be very affordable from a business sense. All the licensing deals I do in the Open Innovation front, where reasonable royalties are paid, are all considered part of the cost of goods either to develop or manufacture or distribute the goods. And it’s built in and it’s not always a large amount of money per unit but if you sell a lot of units it can be substantial for the individual and it really works out for everyone. And my advice to the big companies is to get out there and start working with the innovation community instead of against it. It doesn’t have to be a war all the time. I don’t know of you know the book Outliers which is one of my favorite books, Malcom Gladwell, but one of the chapters was dedicated to the proposition that 90% of all medical malpractice suits could have been avoided if the doctor hadn’t been a jerk. And I would ascribe the same advice to these big companies, that they stop being jerks. I can show them how.

QUINN: Yeah, and it’s funny that you say that because when I first got out of law school I did general civil litigation and some of the partners at the firm did medical malpractice, which meant I was involved to some extent in some of those cases. They would always talk about the doctor who could never get sued. And the doctor who could never get sued was the doctor that you really liked. The doctor who you had a fondness for, that you trusted. And also a doctor that was willing to say I’m sorry, you know?

TUTTLE: Right, exactly. Exactly.

QUINN: Sometimes that’s what it takes. And not to go down that path too much but I think it’s an idealistic view of the industry that we’re not there yet. Maybe we’ll never be there in the patent space because it just seems that it is war at all costs. And right now people are just – stealing is the only word I can think of. And it’s not to suggest that these large companies aren’t being shaken down. I understand there are bad actors out there and anybody who disagrees with that statement just hasn’t been paying attention. There are bad actors out there buying crappy patents and trying to settle these cases in an assembly line way in what some federal courts have called extortion like activity. But that doesn’t mean that every inventor is an extortionist. And when these companies talk about just simply circulating filing demanding letters and treating inventors as if they’re criminals that’s a huge mistake and I think Congress is making a huge mistake by following along with that narrative.

Warren riding a BMW K1300S, 175 horsepower sport bike at the famous "Tail of the Dragon" run in North Carolina.

Warren riding a BMW K1300S, 175 horsepower sport bike at the famous “Tail of the Dragon” run in North Carolina.

TUTTLE: I agree. And usually some of the crusaders who are behind this are myopic in their views for whatever reason. Without naming names we know who they all are in the US House of Representatives side. It’s just that some folks who seem to be driven on this issue, and if you start to go back and really look at their roots and where they came from, you’ll understand that they just have their own self interests in mind. Or, either that, Gene, or maybe if it’s not quite as sinister as that, let’s say that their views are sculpted by a very limited amount of experience in the business world that’s just myopic to whatever they’re involved in. And they’re not seeing the big picture. We really need someone who speaks for America as a whole. I’ve lived on three continents, so I’ve had the joy of both being an American and living here, but also living overseas. I grew up overseas. America’s the most innovative country in the world. It is who we are and it’s at our core. If we lose fundamental rights, we’ll be getting rid of the goose that laid the golden eggs. It’s just amazing to me that we’re even having this debate actually. I mean, do folks remember, or even recognize, the history of our strong patent system in the US….the second building constructed after the White House was the USPTO offices, Thomas Jefferson was our first USPTO Commissioner, Abraham Lincoln’s describing the patent system as one of the three wonders of our country, all the amazing innovation that has come from individuals since the beginning, our patent system being the envy of the world. What are we trying to fix, err, I mean screw up? Something that’s not broken? And why, so google, with over one hundred lobbyists in Washington DC can take other people’s innovation and not pay for it? Didn’t they start up only a few years ago with a single patent? So, I’m sorry to be so passionate about this, but it’s such a critical debate and few in America even know it’s going on. Wait until we screw this all up and look back in fifteen years and see then more clearly exactly why. I say, let’s open our eyes up right now.

QUINN: I fully agree with you. And I think maybe I’m mellowing to some extent but the more I think about a lot of this I think it is a limited dataset problem, what you were just talking about, because this patent business is not a simple business. It is a complex, complicated industry. There is no one size fits all strategy that’s going to work for everybody.

TUTTLE: Right.

QUINN: Innovation by its very nature has to on some level be dealing with something that is new. There can be innovations on tangible items, there can be innovations on software, which would be intangible. There can be minor improvements, there can be dramatic improvements, there can be improvements that are improvements because they use fewer pieces and parts so the things don’t cost as much to make.

TUTTLE: Sure, sure.

QUINN: It feels better use, it’s easier to use. Innovation cannot be put into any single pigeonhole. But when a lot of people look at the issues by focusing on a certain pigeonhole. And I’ve been bouncing that idea through my head a lot more lately and probably most specifically as the result of my dialogue and interview with Mark Cuban.

TUTTLE: Good interview, yes.

QUINN: A lot of what he was saying is hard to argue, right? I mean there are bad actors out there. Litigation is an overriding concern for a new company that’s trying to get off the ground and if they have to fight frivolous claims that can really just kill them right out of the gate. So I think a lot of his concerns are very legitimate. But I think the way that he then globalizes the solution becomes unhelpful. Because it discounts those other innovators that are of a different category, that belong in a different pigeonhole, that need dramatically different treatment if they’re going to succeed.

TUTTLE: I couldn’t agree with you more. You’re 100% correct. It is a complicated subject and when people just get ahold of only a small portion of something and grab hold, they tend to miss a lot. That’s particularly disconcerting. I mean it’s one thing if Mark Cuban does this, but it’s particularly disconcerting if these myopic folks are in a position of trust or leadership in Washington and they don’t truly understand things, have never been out in the business world and seen a lot of these things happen and as a result tend to either cling to things that sort of make sense to them, or listen only to folks that they allow access, for whatever reason that may be, albeit connection, money or whatever. It’s easy to put a spin on it. But if you really take a step back and look at the macro picture of innovation, if you could just take the camera zoom back and look at it, maybe make the innovation picture look a little bit simpler, guess what?…it’s all really consumer driven, okay? Good innovation is innovation that consumers respond to and purchase and appreciate, say good things about it and it survives. Bad innovation, you know the 95% of the crap that’s out there is stuff that people just throw up and tried to be creative and it doesn’t have any resonance. At the end of the day the consumer drives things and there’s a whole bunch of ways to approach that consumer but typically it takes a combination of an idea that’s protected, because in the beginning you need to get off the ground and there needs to be financial incentive for someone, and it also needs the entrepreneurship necessary to build the business. Now, every so often, you have people in history, like I suppose Lord Dyson over in England that seem to be able to both be a creator and a business guy and they put it together. But those people are very, very rare. Very rare. Typically people that are on the inventive side, that can solve problems because they understand those challenges, don’t have the same skill set necessary to go out and grow a business and market the solution. Mark Cuban is a business grower, he’s an entrepreneur. The fact that there are other people that have a different skillset from him, well it’s okay and they don’t have to be summarily dismissed, they don’t have to be swept out. I look at the innovation arena somewhat like a restaurant. A good restaurant has a great chef in the kitchen plus it has a great maître d’ up front running the shop. It’s two different skillsets, it’s two different—rarely does the chef have a good personality and rarely can the maître d’ cook. And it’s the same thing here. And when you look at innovation exploitation as that marriage between different people, those who know what to do entrepreneurially and those people who create- you know, Gene, you’ve worked with them, I’ve worked with them—I’ve spent countless hours, thousands alongside inventors who simply have a different mindset. They solve problems, they see things in a different way, they create stuff that Mark Cuban could never create, okay? It’s just a different skillset. This is not a knock on Mark Cuban, it’s just not the day to day efforts that he’s personally involved with. How can he be? No one can do it all. And there’s a lot of fragileness in the beginning of getting the project up and running and launched properly and doing all of that right. And then you have to raise capital and bring in people who could help you get the product to market and collect the money. Or you could license it. Mark Cuban is only looking at half the picture and a lot of these people that are in Washington are only looking at a portion of the picture and Google’s the ring leader in all of these recent Congressional legislative pushes and only looking at a portion of the picture, their own. We all have to take a step back and see this whole innovation arena in its entirety, what it has meant to the historic development of our country, and keep things just a little bit simpler and understand there are different roles that different people play in the process and we all have to respect all the parts. It’s not a zero sum game where the entrepreneur wins and the inventor loses, or the inventor wins and the—it’s a win/win game, it’s a simple game that everybody can win if we all get on the same wavelength. And that’s what I dream of.

QUINN: It’s interesting that you go back to the consumer and you point that out because when you say that the thing that jumps to my mind is that what we’re talking about here at the end of the day is a business dispute. Right?


QUINN: We’re not fighting about the 98% of patents that are never going to be relevant in the marketplace. We’re talking about the 2% of patents that are relevant because they are somehow finding marketplace relevance for the consumer in the form of a product or in the form of a service or in the form of enabling either a product or a service. And somebody’s making money here. Somebody’s making and in many cases an awful lot of money doing what they’re doing and the innovator, who is a patent owner, is saying I want my piece of this. Now where some people then will say it kind of goes askew is, well what if it’s not the innovator who’s the patent owner? Well, the system is set up so that this is a property right.

TUTTLE: Right.

QUINN: And it’s a property right purposefully to allow for the trading of those rights. So even if it’s not the innovator who at the end of the day winds up getting the benefit of any bargain in any licensing deal or any infringement damages awards the innovator has gotten some benefit along the way whether they were paid for it as an employee, whether they were given an investment by investors or what have you. And that is how the system operates. So we’re talking about something here that is relevant. We’re not fighting over the irrelevant stuff.

Warren Tuttle

Warren Tuttle

TUTTLE: We are and it is a business dispute. And it’s funny in my career I’ve had nine of my own businesses and I’ve been around a while now and I’ve been around doing this stuff for 45 years, well since my first business when I was 15. And it’s funny, I’ve had some businesses totally fail where I lost money and lost my shirt and those you kind of move on from, even if painfully. And I’ve had mediocre businesses, which kind of drag along and those are sometimes the toughest to evaluate and shed. But it’s funny, sometimes when you get a hit and a winner and there’s a lot of money generated you start getting into these fights over who’s going to get the money, who’s going to share the money. And when you were just talking you made me think of some of those as we were going along. And you’re right this is a business dispute over success. And you are, you’re talking about the few successful ones and how to split that success and money up. And now companies that the founders are now billionaires that are making—that have tremendous reach and are bigger than some countries around the world, it’s not enough for them to have had success as now they want to freely infringe and take all the money from everybody. Now this is important, and I know, Gene, I know you well enough to know that you and I will probably agree on this, but I think in this country one of the biggest issues in this country is really the, I wouldn’t say the battle, but let’s just say the continual dialog between the rights of the individual and the rights of the collective. I mean we go back and forth all the time on this sometimes without even realizing it. You have too much collective you’re socialist, even more than that you’re communist. If you’re an individual, if you have individual rights you can sometimes have anarchy. We all understand this balance, this is what goes back and forth all the time. But at the end of the day America was built on the rights of the individual. It’s who we are. Religious freedom, the ability to say what you want, the ability to pursue your own business, and to profit from that. And if we keep going down this route where the patent system gets diminished and eventually destroyed—the patent system being really a protector of individual rights- you are going to end up with a country where individuals no longer participate in the innovation arena because they get their lunch stolen every day, they will drop out and our economic ecosystem will be forever ruined. The only people that refuse to see this are folks that do not understand how innovation and wealth are created and those who are only interested in themselves and simply taking for free whatever it is they want. And you’re exactly right, let’s not forget that Intellectual Property is a property right. And by the way, let me just question how real conservatives could possibly give up on the issue of property rights in this country, it’s unconscionable. That they would sell out the time honored patent system for a possible shot at potential tort reform is a bad trade. It’s not a good trade. We should be sticking up for individual rights, individual property rights because the individual needs protection if we want to incentivize that individual to go on and do other things or inspire other individuals to do great things. So we come back full circle to what we started talking about in the beginning which is that I agree with you 100% it’s a business dispute, but we need to protect the property rights of individuals, we need to get these start-up companies, products, innovations off the ground in a way that gets the product initially launched. And by the way, it’s funny because I just spent a lot of time this week with a new company that I might help. It’s a smaller start-up company, and I realized once again, it really struck home, that in vetting them those early days, months and years that a product is being launched, or a company started, are incredibly fragile. Almost like the birth of a baby. And if it’s not done right or properly it can fail for the wrong reasons. Even successful products. Even some things—it takes multiple attempts. So sometimes big companies are not the best companies suited for getting those things launched. They’re just not—even the companies that I work with don’t know how to properly launch a product sometimes. What they’re often good at is taking an existing product and making it better and running from there. So this whole thing, if you look at it, can be a win/win for everybody because there’s a different role played by all these folks if we can just respect what everybody brings to the table and not try to steal all the profits from the little guy, and ruin a winning game. Anyway. Sorry, I went on and on but that’s how I truly feel and know from experience things can be better.

QUINN: I agree. I don’t see this as a tort reform issue at all. I mean if it’s a tort reform issue let’s treat it as a tort reform issue and fix the litigation process and leave the substance alone.

TUTTLE: Agreed.

QUINN: If it’s a tort reform issue it’s an issue about getting rid of frivolous cases and that should apply not just to patents that should apply to any kind of frivolous case, period.

TUTTLE: Right. I agree with you.

QUINN: So let’s talk about that, but we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about substantively changing the patent laws and not doing it in a way that is going to get rid of frivolous cases. It’s going to be done in a way that is going to benefit a certain set of companies that largely are the technology users. And in my opinion that is a mistake. I think you’re exactly right when you say if we go down that path we’re going to kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg.

TUTTLE: And you’re 100% right. You are an attorney and have a law degree. It’s funny, I’m often in the room involved with groups where I’m the only non-lawyer. I had one the other day down at the recent APLA conference in Washington where there were 40 people in the room and I noted that I was the only non-lawyer and someone said in a very timely way… “now you’re bragging”. Pretty funny, cracked the room up. But you have a great mind for this. Mine mind is more like a layman looking at it. But in many respects I see at it exactly the same way you do and I see all the — it’s, you know, I feel like the tort reform part of this comes into the conversation because I keep wondering what is in the minds of the House management that’s leading this unnecessary, over reaching effort for additional patent troll legislation. Did we not just markedly change the patent system only two years ago? Did we not just provide big business with more than enough “reform?-does anyone remember first to invent to first to file and IPR reform that knocked independent innovators and small entities back, among others?-more than in the past 100 years, and now they come ramming back for more. Really? And the only thing I can come up with is they want to establish a loser pay system, which by the way we rejected in this country in 1792 as we didn’t want to go the English route for a whole bunch of reasons, and change that to a loser pay system in other fields like medical malpractice and they consider this a beachhead, that’s the only thing that I can think that they would sell it to conservatives. But you’re 100% correct, if that’s what they want to do is bring tort reform out on the table, well state your case for it and vote for it, too, you know? I think what’s happening, Gene, and this happens a lot, and this is my view of Washington after going down there so often over the past couple of years, these very large businesses and the lobbyists and the folks at some of these large companies, well some of them are brilliant, you know? And they know how to set up the self-interest muse so that they can use whatever it is that’s the argument on the table to get accomplished what they really want, which is usually a secondary or tertiary issue that people aren’t focused on. There’s a bigger play going on here for what they want to do. At the end of the day not having a patent system would benefit Google, right now. If there’s no patent system at all it would benefit them, but maybe not the rest of the America. The bottom line here is though, and I see it when I walk around those Capital Hill offices and I’ve been to hundreds of them now the staffers are so busy, everybody’s so crazy that these lobbyists and former staffers come in and they write all the bills and they direct them and they’re very smart they’re in many ways driving the bus in Washington DC. And to me I have a huge, I have after having spent time in Washington over the last couple of years, I have a much bigger fear of what’s going down there because what’s happening is really smart, well financed, large entities, and I am sure large special interest groups as well, are going in and they are basically forcing their will on the rest of us in a way and it’s just not right. It’s getting convoluted and it’s very discouraging and that’s why we’ve got to be vigilant and keep fighting this fight, you know, we have to.

QUINN: I hear you.

TUTTLE: And maybe I’m kind of an old hippy and distrustful of the special interests of large entities, at least when they adversely affect the rest of us, but whatever. I think that Carly Fiorina said it very well recently….when big business conspires with big government, watch out. This has been happening since English colonization and the East India Tea Company. Heck, I am sure it dates back to the Romans and early trade routes.

QUINN: Before I let you go, I interrupted you back at the beginning, before you were going to start talking about the United Inventors Association.

TUTTLE: You know what, Gene, I have to come clean now. I love reading your column. And I relate to so much of what you’re saying that this is a little bit like therapy so I apologize for going on so long.

QUINN: Oh, no, no this is good. I think this is going to read very well. But I want to make sure we talk about the United Inventors Association.


QUINN: So what’s going on there?

TUTTLE: Well, yea and thanks for asking. So number one, on a personal note, I absolutely love this arena. I have been the beneficiary in many ways of innovation and invention and working with inventors and makers over the years personally, so I really enjoy giving back to the community in a volunteer way. And I could say about 20% of my life is dedicated to that. Not only that, but many of the great people that we have on the UIA board are also involved with that effort. It’s a way to give back and provide free education to inventors or aspiring inventors and product developers to basically try to get the US independent inventor message out, you know, where we can in Washington. And basically to try to help people get their products to market. So that’s why we do it. Educate, Advocate and provide Access to Market for inventors, product developers, designers and makers. We have a great new UIA executive director, North Carolina based John Calvert, who spent many years in the patent office, so we’re very much concerned with patent related issues, which is great. We have Deb Hess, who has run the Minnesota Inventors Congress for many years, who is John’s right hand person for a lot of things that we’re doing and very much dedicated to the non-profit mission. We also have a phenomenal, Gene, probably one of the best things that we do, is we run inventor showcases at major trade shows around the country and we have a great person Jessica Delich from California, who runs that whole program. Basically, if inventors what to take their new products for instance to the National Hardware Show, we have a special designated booth area where they set up with a stage for educational pursuits and pipelines into pitches to companies like QVC and other great retailers around the country. Or they can have licensing discussions with all the enormous amount of companies that are at the Show, who’s management also walk the special area we set up. And we do that at the PGA golf show also, and we do it at one of the main Direct Response TV Industry show, and others. We’ve also got about a hundred affiliated inventor clubs around the country, which several of the club presidents are now on our national UIA board of directors, so we’re sharing a lot of information with these local on the ground clubs which is really a great way for what I call boots on the ground, people who actually go to a real location each month and meet and congregate with likeminded folks to learn the process of inventing and bringing products to market. And then our latest, and sort of most interesting, pursuit right now is the Pro Bono patent attorney program where Jim Patterson has been very involved in launching that and chairs the new Pro Bono commission. Dave Kappos is also involved with that and I’m on that board as well. We’re trying to make sure that people that can otherwise not afford to access the patent system—and I think this is the corollary to everything else we’re talking about, if we’re talking about strong patent system-I think we have to make sure that the patent system is fully assessable to people that otherwise can’t afford it. And the Pro Bono program does just that, and it’s now active in all 50 states. It never existed a couple of years ago. And what we’re now talking about on the Board is the next level which, I might as well spill the beans, which is also called “Low Bono” which is the next step up from Pro Bono, to people that maybe are above that income level that can’t quite qualify for Pro Bono, but maybe are still now wealthy enough to afford to take out a patent and that they could work with attorneys around the country to do it more on a consignment basis and pay back the fees later after they have success, and so forth. So I’m really inspired by that whole program and it’s an effort that the UIA will continue to be involved with. So basically at the UIA we believe in education. Free education as opposed to having to buy it or getting taken on one of those rides. We are for free education, we advocate for what we feel is inventor right. And then we try to provide access to the market both with directing people to companies and people to help them. Or helping them with the patent process so they can file for patents.

QUINN: Well, good it sounds like you’re keeping busy there with lots of good stuff.

TUTTLE: There’s never a dull moment. I’ve been away from home more than I’ve been home this year but it’s been a pleasure and in a couple weeks I’ll have a new venture to call and tell you about as well. But it’s also related and dedicated to the pursuing same path. I mean you love this—we all love this arena those of us who have been bitten by this bug and the question is not only how can we profit from it, but how can we also give back to this community and I very much appreciate what you do all the time and just being the independent voice in so many ways of this whole IP debate, you know let’s just say challenges and discussions out there. And it’s nice to be part, with you, of this greater community.

QUINN: Well, thanks a lot, Warren, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me today.

TUTTLE: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.


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One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    December 20, 2015 08:21 pm

    I really like the concept of bringing together inventors and entrepreneurs, because they really do represent two different skill sets. I come from a technical background, so inventing is more within my personal comfort zone, but I have had to become more entrepreneurial to get anywhere with my technical ideas. I am now working on my second high-tech startup, and I have a third recently issued patent that I decided to try to commercialize through the licensing route, and paid a lot of money to an invention promotion company to do that, but only got a nibble or two of interest. What I have found is that no one is as committed to your idea than you yourself. I think there should be a way to get entrepreneurs and inventors together, but I haven’t found it yet.