You know the old joke, “If you want to spend a million dollars on nothing, buy a million lottery tickets. If you want to make a million dollars off of nothing, hire patent attorney services.”
You’ve never heard that common household saying before? That’s not surprising, we just made it up. However, the sentiment behind it is true. There are few other service providers that have made as many men (and women) as wealthy as patent attorney services. Lets delve into the history of human development and highlight some of the most mundane (and some of the most brilliant) inventions that made their creators rich, only through the trademark provided by the patent attorney services they worked with:
- The Yellow Smiley Face
Spoiler Alert! The iconic yellow smiley face that graces every generic grocery bag in the country was not invented by Forrest Gump, regardless of what the exaggerated biography of his fictional life suggests.
The smiley face is so common place in our culture that most millenials might assume it was actually a natural phenomenon, like the blue sky and leaves on trees. However, at one point in time, the yellow smiley was not a thing.
In 1963, a public relations manager by the name of Harvey Ball created it for a client. Here is the kicker: Harvey Ball only made a whopping $45 of the iconic image, when he sold the rights to it to two brothers, Bernard and Murray Spain. The Spain brothers were savvy enough to recognize the untapped potential in that goofy smile and enlisted the help of patent attorney services to have it trademarked. That yellow smiley quickly hit the ground rolling, and when it hit its peak in the 70s, the patent had made the Spain brothers over $50 million!
- The Slimy Wall Walker
Have you ever wondered the story behind the squishy, gooey figurine that children throw at the wall and watch with glee as it seems to walk down it? Who in the world mixed the chemicals together to make the slimy substance and then thought, “Wow, I need to throw this at the wall!”
The answer to that question is — drum roll please — we don’t know who invented it. What we do know is who had the forethought to hire patent lawyers to trademark it. That brilliant man is Ken Hakuta. Hakuta was gifted one of those slimy toys by his mom and immediately realized he had discovered a gold mine. After patenting it, Mr. Hakuta went on to sell 240 million of those bad boys, and make a whopping $80 million off of his patent.
- The Slinky
And then there was the slinky. It is hard to believe that there was a time that every child didn’t have a slinky in their toy box. That’s right, children who existed prior to circa 1945 did not get to enjoy this luxury. And then one day, an engineer named Richard James dropped a spring on the floor while he was working and, as he watched it bounce around with amusement, realized that spring would make a great child’s play thing.
Mr. James quickly took out a patent on his discovery and presented it to toy stores across the country. His first presentation with his newly invented toy was so successful that all 400 slinkys he had available sold within minutes. Fast forward a few decades, and the value of the patent that Mr. James had on his slinky went on the make him $250 million before it was sold in 1998.
- Beanie Babies
Admittedly, if you had presented Beanie Babies to us as an investment opportunity, you would have walked away empty handed. However, Ty Warner saw untapped potential (that we still don’t see) in the goofy bead-filled animals he trademarked in the 1990s. Through genius marketing strategies, such as retiring each character and making them difficult to get a hold of, Ty was able to create hysteria around his Beanie Baby collection that resulted in an estimated $6 billion in profit!
Every person has a million dollar idea. The only thing you need to turn your million dollar idea into an actual million dollar is a patent.