The Scoreboard Clock was licensed in 2005, and ever since Oates Design has developed ideas for fun, practical, and not-so-practical consumer products– games, toys, sporting goods, electronics, tools…. exploring this space exhaustively when I really believed in idea. Everyone is certain they have THE next big hit- I was no exception. For the next 10 years I spent the majority of my time trying to win the lottery, again.
When I got really excited about a product concept, I would draw it over and over freehand, sometimes with a rendering program- considering dimensions, utility of design and form. I’d build one, whether or not I had the skills to make it actually work. In The Art of Innovation, author Tom Kelley (brother of David Kelley, CEO of IDEO) illustrates some of the worlds great inventions in their infancy— crude, non-working prototypes, sometimes duck-taped, lincoln log- popsicle-stick creations, never meant to be anything more than something the designer can hold in hand to consider its use and how to build the next one, and whether that is even worth doing.
Some of my concepts never made it past the drawing stage. If my drawing articulates the idea well enough, and is as far as I can take the idea, then it’s time to hand it to someone who can carry the ball, and move on. The Scoreboard Clock, the best-selling NFL-licensed product ever and my Greatest Hit, was simply a drawing, my Picasso. I have been paid for it monthly since 2005. One of my drawing-only favorites is the Kick-Off Water Fountain– a stadium-shaped outdoor water fountain. You would download decal art from your favorite team, and print on your own color printer- or order online. What kid wouldn’t want one of these? My enthusiasm was not shared by any of the companies I pitched it to— so I never built one.
I made several cool working prototypes, and filed a few provisional patents— preparing the drawings, writing the abtract, filing the patent. A provisional patent is never reviewed by the USPTO except to make sure the elements are present. It is meant to provide protection while the inventor launches it, shares it for fiunding, etc. only granting the protection of the U.S. courts, copyright and patent law for one year. Then the inventor must prepare and file a full patent application, or the idea is available for the next developer (who would have to think of it- these aren’t available to the public). This could be the case when you see stamped on something “Patent Applied For”, or “Patent Pending”. Full patent applications being rather costly, I have never been through the entire process, save for a small fortune spent trying to secure the rights to the name, Spinfluence, a political board game I developed and prototyped in 2004. This work of genius was rolled at the NY Toy Fair that year- not in production, ready to ship, but in a large portfolio carried by me on the floor for three days, pitched to any toy company executive who would listen. I returned from the show with a LOI (Letter of Intent) from a small game and toy company…. who promptly went out of business.