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Invention Contests for Inventors

Did you know there are a wide variety of invention contests that inventors can submit their ideas to? Some are geared towards high school students, some are run by corporations and some are sponsored by universities.

Every inventor knows that success with any new product idea is the exception and not the rule. Still, if you have an idea and you are attempting to pursue it, chances are you may be looking for opportunities to try and get some attention for your idea. Entering your invention or new product idea into an invention contest is one way to attempt to get that attention.

Two of the better-known invention contests are the Lemelson-MIT Awards for Invention and Innovation and the Hammacher Schlemmer Search for Invention® contest. Lemelson-MIT offers prizes in four major categories each year and also awards grants to several high school students. The Lemelson-MIT Prize recognizes individuals who have a history of inventiveness and creativity. The $500,000 prize is considered the world's largest single cash prize for an invention. The Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award is for people who have a lifelong commitment to improving society through inventions. The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is a prize for MIT students who have become promising young inventors. The relatively new Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams grants support a team-based approach to invention and innovation among high school students.

Hammacher Schlemmer has a different type of contest for inventors with a utility patent. This company has introduced new products such as the first steam iron, microwave oven, cordless telephone, portable DVD player, and even the new Robotic Sweeper-Vacuum. The annual Search for Invention Contest accepts entrants in four different categories: Recreation, Personal Care, Personal Electronics, and Utilitarian Home & Garden. Criteria for acceptance include: originality of concept, ingenuity in bringing the concept to design, production feasibility, safety, and benefit to user. Cash prizes are awarded. Just like the Lemelson-MIT contest, participation is free to inventors.

A third contest of note comes from a major office-supply company. The Staples Invention Quest™ originally launched in 2003, drawing 8,300 entries from inventors in an effort to find the "next great office product." The contest winner was determined by both a panel of judges and an online vote that drew more than 147,000 ballots.

Besides entering a contest in the hope of winning, inventors who are selected through the contest process may gain media attention. Hammacher Schlemmer hosts a media event at their flagship store in Manhattan each year to announce the winners. Also, participating in an invention contest might give inventors experience in how to present their ideas, sharpen their creativity or be just plain fun.

Who wins these contests? Here are some examples. Todd Basche, an amateur inventor from Los Altos, California won Staples Invention Quest™, described above. The panel of judges and online voters selected Basche's WordLock™, a combination lock that uses letters rather than numbers. A user can unlock using a simple word combination such as the word "book."

John Frederick of Texas won the Hammacher Schlemmer Search for Invention® contest in 2002. Mr. Fredrick invented the "Port-A-Field" – a portable and retractable boundary line for sports that marks pre-measured dimensions without having to use chalk.

Charles Johnson, also of Texas, won the 2000 Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Apprentice award. Johnson came up with several inventions, including a radar device for trains to prevent collisions with automobiles crossing railroad tracks. He graduated from Texas A&M this past May with a degree in biomedical science and plans to attend medical school.

If you do decide to enter your invention into a contest, make sure you understand the rules and whether your invention is eligible, since every contest has a different set of regulations.

You can learn more about these and other invention contests by visiting InventHelp.com's Invention Help Resources section for links to contests, history, trivia and other information about inventors and inventing.


Back to July 2004 Newsletter

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