Okay, welcome everybody. Leigh Welcome to the patent professors show. I know, we've just opened up, it's one o'clock. So we're having several participants coming in now. It's an absolute honor to have you here today. I know I'm super excited for this inventor interview. And a lot of our viewers may not be that familiar with you. But for patent attorneys like me, it's, it feels like we're interviewing Thomas Edison of our time. Lee don't know lazy inventor of 250 granted us patents, another 280 pending worldwide, including patents that have been sold to Apple to eBay, Citrix and even the US Department of Commerce, and several major car manufacturers, even Thomas Edison, himself only had around 1000 patents for those that don't know. So without further delay, Les, it's such a pleasure to have you on today.
John, I'd be certainly remiss if I didn't thank you. And it's also just a pleasure and an honor to be here and talking to everybody.
Yeah, perfect. So I'm gonna start out just with it's kind of unusual to have this slide. But um, there's a well known defense attorney, which I think a lot of people know like John Morgan of Morgan and Morgan. And his slogan is for the people. And the reason I bring this up I think it's interesting is that there's this perception out there that people can get injured, right, like anybody can get hit by a bus, but or in a car accident, but ideas come from corporations and I just want to say that and of all people you know, this that that's that's complete bull. Jeff Bezos started Amazon in a basement in his door was like, his desk was a door on concrete blocks, and he delivered his own packages. Walt Disney was working in a studio with his brother in the back of a real estate office. Sam Walton started as a salesperson for JC Penney. Wayne Huizenga, since we're both in South Florida like who doesn't know Wayne Huizenga is fortune started with a borrowed $5,000 from his father. But blockbuster. Of course, Bill Gates, the inventor of Microsoft, Sara Blakely, the world's youngest female billionaire. She, in fact, just sold Spanx, I believe for over a billion dollars. Michael Dell, of course and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, often I get people wondering inventors saying, Well, I don't know if my prototype is professional, as if somehow inventors have to have really professional looking prototypes in order to get to create a company that Steve Jobs would say makes a dent in the universe. So here's Apple computers. One of the earlier prototypes made out of wood. Netflix, like two guys that started a home based mail order business. Larry Page, Sergey Brin developed Google, which was originally called backrub. Back in 1996. Of course, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, James Dyson, the inventor of Dyson vacuum, the Wright brothers, they were two bicycle mechanics, they created the airplane. And I started with my graphics people trying to get some of your patents down here. And then eventually, after about 20 or so I said, guys, this is not not gonna work, when an inventor has 250 granted patents. So with that, I just, I'm just so happy to have you here, you dispel this myth that, that that's really in the interest of corporations trying to paint individual inventors, as as patent trolls, as if there's no major development or companies or anything coming out from them. And just this, I mean, look at who the large corporations are today, I mean, Google, Dell, computer, Facebook, all of these they all started with somebody with an idea that ended up changing an entire industry. And that's that, you know, in Europe, of these 250 patents, the majority of them, I believe you're the sole inventor.
Yes, that's true. And I couldn't agree more. It's been amazing and inspiring to me that some of the great ideas that are really created a lot of the modern you know technological age have come from these little backwater nothing, you know, startups that have become really something and so amazing. Like Apple like you know, Facebook like Twitter. Like, Dell, just just amazing. We have a guy now that is launching rockets into space successfully, you know, started from from nothing that created the electric car market. You know, you on Musk again, you don't see it coming from huge corporations you see it coming from individuals. And that to me has always been inspirational, as you're saying, John, totally inspirational
look at you would expect the electric car would you know, where was GM? Where was Ford? Where was Christ? Like, where are these guys is individual comes out from nowhere? And does this so it's really the backbone of this country. I mean, that's, and I have seen, even in my own practice, I've had individual inventors that have changed entire industries, like the dental retainer industry, the surgical camera lens defogger, these are all inventions that were started by somebody who just questioned why are things done the way they're done. And they might be outside of the industry. But sometimes that's what the industry needs. I mean, they need somebody from the outside the taxicab industry was not going to themselves, improve the way you get a cab. Nothing's changed with hailing a cab for over a century until, you know, again, an individual came along and said, You know what, we've got the technology already. We've got the cell phone, we've got satellites, we've got GPS, why are we going out there standing on a street corner flagging down a taxicab, it just didn't make any sense. But sometimes the innovation has to come from the outside. And it's a little unfortunate that when it does that the outside inventor is painted as a troll, when in fact, they're the ones that are improving the quality of life, in changing companies changing entire industries, because of that. So I want to get that out there to start because this is that I mentioned that the billboard from John Morgan is for the people versus corporations. And I think there's this perception that patent attorneys are corporate attorneys that we represent companies, and we're protecting ideas from companies, but the earth changing ideas are not coming from corporate America coming from individuals. And yes, those companies take off if they've got the right idea at the right time. They ended up becoming the Amazons of today. But the Amazon of today's started with a guy in his basement trying to sell books. Online, correct.
Einstein said it best and to paraphrase if it's not different, you know, not abstract not. And I'm using my words, not his but paraphrasing. Not crazy, don't be thinking about it.
That's right. So so tell us a little bit about your start. And of course, you're a prolific inventor today. But bring us back to the early days. And I think it's going to be going back your first patent was you're still a teenager. So tell us about that. And bring us along to some of the hardships that typically come before you start seeing success. Because we you know, a lot of people follow what you're doing now and in the success you're having. But a lot of our viewers or listeners are on their first idea. So they the I would like for them to hear from someone talk about what it's like to have those early ideas and have them come to fruition.
Right? I mean, for me, inventing has just come naturally, you just can't force it. And it's just something that just pops in my head. It couldn't be in the movie theater, or it could be when I'm walking or it could be you know, sometimes I'll have a dream, and then I'll make a note of it. You know, when I wake up, you know, and that becomes so just been a part of my life is, is you're in pointing out, we're inferring since I was 17 when I filed my first patent, you know, but it is a hard road, it can be a hard road, as you're saying to be an inventor, you know, the one thing that I would stress to your viewers today is don't let anyone say that, you know, your idea is not a great idea. You have to feel it the most important Judge, I think of an invention in the early stage. So did you know dismiss something that's great, like the idea of getting rid of taxi cabs, as you were saying, you know, which becomes Uber, you know, or the idea of making something insanely great that you would think another company could do so often you hear well, Lee or Well, John, if that's such a good idea, then you know, Microsoft would have done it or IBM would have done it. Were enough of the company so you can't allow yourself to be discouraged. You know, I've hadn't done a lot of things that John would have been amazed. You know, when they come up with it, I never really patent or conceive of ideas, I like ideas for ideas for the ideas themselves, not necessarily at that point for monetization, you know, and you'll file with the patent office, and you'll get lucky. And they'll issue a patent and, wow, someone will call, you know, Disney will call and say, you know, like a license on that, or Netflix, or someone or you sell something to apple that comes later. So don't think that you will, if you like it, you know, maybe that's for me. Anyway, that's the best judge of all, that's the best judge of all. So I think one of the main pieces of advice that I give to myself and everyone else, of course, at this stage in my career, I'm kind of, you know, been doing it for a while. So, but I was keeping mine. Gee, you know, that's, that's, that's kind of silly. But no, not really, maybe. And, you know, what, I don't care if it is or not, if it's something that I like, you know, and I think it's going to be an improvement in improvement. i People always ask me, John, how do you why do you invent? Why do you invent? And the reason is, there's one word, I guess, that would best describe it, and it's frustration, gee, I can't cook, why can't we do that better? You know, why can't we, you know, why can't we transmit? You know, directions into a car? That's one of my patents? Or why can't we issue? Why can't want to get out of the store here? You know, I mean, Home Depot, why can't they give me an electronic receipt, so I can track it? That's another invention that I came up with electronic receipts. So you know, things like that, why can't you scan? I've had a lot of inventions in this area, as you may know, and why can't you take a symbology such as a barcode or a QR code, and scan it and deliver results to, uh, you know, to a user, you know, tell them all about the item, you know, connect them to the item. So why can't that be done? How come no one else has done that. But that seems like something that I that people should be able to do that would be useful. You know, as a geek, I guess I'm a geek, as a geek. If it satisfies me, maybe it will satisfy someone else. And on that basis, I just keep going.
So you're you do believe that that necessity being the mother of invention, it's stuff that you would hope that if it existed, your quest would end right there, like you just buy it, and it would solve your problem? And, and that would be it, it's just when you don't find something and you think that item would would improve your life? That's when your mind starts going, Whoa, why isn't this done?
Yeah, I get frustrated. And they say, What can I do those were many times, wow, this is really crappy, there's got to be a better way, kind of be a better way. They don't tinker with it. Sometimes I'll tinker with it for about one minute. And it just comes to me. And you know, and then it's almost like someone is handing it to me. And I'll translate it onto a yellow pad with my yellow pads. And you know, that will later become a disclosure that will go to, you know, nearly disclosure to a patent attorney, and then later on, it will take life as a patent. You know, other times, I'll tinker with it for years, I still have things that I'm tinkering with. So that I just say, for whatever reason, I don't feel like coming up yet. So I don't know if that's a good solution. I guess, again, the critic I'm trying to satisfy, which sometimes can be difficult is made, if that makes any sense?
Yeah, no, it does. As a patent attorney, I've been practicing a long time and teaching patent law as a professor in 2013. There's a huge change in patent law, the single biggest change of the century, when the US went from a first to invent system to a system based on first to file. And, again, first to invent was really in favor of individual inventors and small startups, because they typically don't have patent attorneys employed full time. They don't have the resources to run and rush and file a patent. But there's a lot of lobbying by larger companies to go to first to file that hurts the inventor, like you, who has a bunch of stuff that they're tinkering with, in their, you know, in their garage. They haven't actually filed the patent yet, because you have so many ideas, but you have, you've actually developed something you have evidence of the idea, under first to invent, you could take your time to really fully develop it and then rush and file today you're at a significant disadvantage, because you don't have the resources to to file patent on all your ideas. And sometimes you're developing them. And that hurts you did you find some pressure to you know, which one of these do I filed the patent on? Because we're now on a first to file system. I can't just keep tweaking them without taking the risk that somebody else is going to get that application in First,
I guess but you know, probably in terms of what you said, which, of course, I'm aware of is, is an established inventor? Probably, but the answer is to be critical again, myself, maybe not as much pressure is that you should out, you know, I guess I'll face the priority issues, you know, when it gets to the patent office, I'm not recommending that for everyone, but I have a lot of patents. So it's a matter of getting this one out, or getting that one out, or, you know, or, but it's certainly, I would recommend to anyone that if they have something that they can, you know, put it into a disclosure and get it to the patent office, and you and I know, you can always after the patents issued, as long as the specification is inclusive, and you want it to be inclusive. You want it to be covering every possible, you know, situation, then you can always file and you should file and you should file continuations to, you know, absolutely, to make claims based on the specifications. So, um, there is that opportunity, but with as many patents as I as many crazy ideas as I have, um, they don't always come me maybe as quickly, and I haven't failed probably as quickly as I should, in all cases.
Yeah. So well, because you've been inventing for a long time before 2013. So it's hard. And a lot of inventors have. So it's hard to change that mindset of like, okay, let me documented. You know, the old advice that attorneys would give clients would be document the your idea, if you produce prototypes, keep the receipts, date and sign a logbook. Because all of this could be useful in court, if you had to prove that you were the first inventor, all of a sudden to have all this advice, go out the window in 2013, because proving you're the first inventor doesn't do anything anymore, if you haven't filed. So that creates a bit of pressure, I think for some inventors, especially that are that are really started inventing post 2013. Because they've they've started inventing with this pressure of let me run in file first established inventors, a lot of them are still following what the route that they've that has made them successful. Let me document and let's face it, inventors, a lot of them are perfectionist, they love to like you call yourself, I think, a geek and what part of that is, okay, this is good. But I know I can make it better. And you want to keep getting it to the next level improving the idea. But I think you've you've you figured out that the way to do that is to file, get that first patent in and file a continuation application where you can further modify the idea.
And as I said earlier, sometimes will just come to me all at once, and I can just cash out a disclosure. My patent attorney can dish out an application, and I'm satisfied, it's done and it's over. But other times, maybe it is a bit of trying to be a perfectionist. Other times it's like well, you know, maybe this maybe that maybe can add to it. What can they do? It's probably silly, by the way, but it's just the way my mind works.
Which were tell us about your your early in your career, like how what your earlier patents, like, how does one start down this road of accumulating 250 patents? I mean, they say the longest journey starts with one step, your first step was at 17 with that initial patent, and then what happened after that,
just for a while, you know, I wasn't really following the patent system in the beginning, but then I realized that, you know, catalysts were a good way to protect. I did do a first one as we, as you said, and I said at 17. But there was a bit of a hiatus where I was thinking, you know, get involved in business. And it did. And they had a success on successful startups and business opportunities. And then I kind of realized, as I got a little bit older, that, you know, I should probably protect some of my ideas and follow the patent system, I guess. We had one of my patents and that patent became reasonably litigated. And I had success against some major corporations in regard to that patent and produced a reasonable amount of money or even probably a substantial amount of money. And that kind of also said to me wow, you know, I shouldn't just let these things be you know, floating around in my desk. I probably should say that but I've never really patented just the patent. I'm John Cotton did things that you know, that I'm the really I'm interested in, but then it did become it will say at that point, it became a regularized process at some point. And really, that's probably what I need to be doing. And they set it up as a, as a process in follow through and started filing, you know, so many things I have now, probably that haven't been filed yet more than 150 disclosures to give you an idea, I think it's just pop in and, and I am the mad professor and the fact or the mad scientist, just mad maybe. That's, I'll be doing exactly what I know I shouldn't do. I'm writing about napkins, I'm right become, you know, pieces of little pieces of paper in my office, I have I tried to I write them digitally. Sometimes I have a notebook of the doubt. So somewhere that one of the individually, I think Edison actually mentioned this earlier, they had a notebook. So now he decided I'll be you know, I'll have an economic notebook, I could have a notebook and fill it this week, but I'm still writing him on. Now. Instead, I'm still ready to go on pieces of paper. And, you know, so it's kind of crazy and hopefully get around at some point to filing them.
So like your like your digital background that you have right now, like that's the I mean, that's not too far off from some of the drawings that I ended up seeing at my office with initial ideas. So this inventor sometimes have this perception that because the technology allows beautiful CAD drawings that what you need to have, but here, you guys that are here today, like look a guy with 250 granted patents in the US to under an ad pending worldwide. This is like your toxic, you've heard it directly from him a notebook with a pen. And because you don't know when that idea is going to come to you, it might come at like two o'clock in the morning. Sometimes you document it there because you go back to sleep, and it might be gone.
I was once driving to one of my assistants likes to tell the story, I was once driving my my son and my daughter to one Lego Land. And all of a sudden, it just hit me like a very clean. And within a period of like, seven or eight minutes, maybe maybe longer than that maybe a half hour, I started making notes. And it probably was like 10 or 12 Different disclosures. And I think I actually filed a few of those, or many of them, I don't remember just in a short period of time. And it was not interested in coming up with inventions with my kids who were little at the touch screaming in the back of the car, but just felt compelled to just get a piece of paper out and started writing this letter this letter this way. I don't have any idea where it comes from, or, you know, what causes my neurons to fire in that direction.
So So would you say that the creativity comes in in bursts? Like it's you might have a span with nothing coming and then all of a sudden, like absolutely right?
Absolutely. It's in bursts. Well, but by the way, I hadn't thought of that. Yeah. Yeah, you might have like two weeks where you say, gee, you know, even sometimes said, Gee, I wonder if I'll have any more I sometimes I guess I get a little paranoid Missy Jia would involve any more ideas. Well, okay, I still have my notebook in my paper napkins, I can still get that from, you know, but I never tried to ever say, Oh, my God, I have to think of something. But then it'll be you know, walking around or in a store or in a movie and I go, why can't you do that better? I just have one that I was watching. I'm not a big sports guy. But my daughter was showing me something from a football game. And they said in terms of the broadcast, and he said, Well, I can do I have a new idea. I was thinking I can do you know better than that. So that night when I went to dinner, I did like three pages on my iPad, of what you know, I want to do and that will get filed, I think hasn't been filed yet.
Yeah. Wow. Wow. So because you you've been doing this so long. I know. you've accumulated an incredible amount of experience that could be helpful to inventors. Tell us about some of your efforts that you have to help other inventors around the country.
Right? The the invention, you know, the business that I'm involved in now my company patent asset management, it shouldn't be in doesn't rely just on my inventions. We decided in order to you know, license inventions, John in order to, you know, monetize inventions of patent. I like to tell people that a patent is only as good as you know, just a piece of paper. You really do need to do something with it in terms of trying to license it, create a prototype and you know, become the next IBM that's great, you know, or license it to you No to an IBM or an apple or an Uber, that's great, you know, but you need to do something with it. In order to be successful in terms of the monetization, I set up a company about 10 years ago, and now very actively in the last five or six years, with patent professionals, patent attorneys and paralegals and all those operational people that we need patent asset management. We're headquartered here in Fort Lauderdale. We also have an office in India and another one in London. And what we do with both my inventions and other inventors that come to us that have patents, we're not in the patenting business, not at all, we leave it to great professionals, John, like you who superduper patent, you know, attorneys like you. But when someone passes patent and says, What can I do with it, we will examine with our resources we have in our office in India, we have engineers on staff and a whole bunch of scientists, we will examine that can see who is infringing that patent, and who is possible to take a license on that patent. And then we'll pursue that either through a licensing campaign, or litigation assertion campaign, we've managed to, you know, assert, probably more than 1000 times now, for myself, and for our other clients, we have hundreds as I think you were pointing out, in the beginning of the show, we have hundreds of licenses with companies, you know, around the world, major companies like Apple, and you know, and Samsung, and, you know, other major companies. So, that's become a business, I still like to say to everyone, I like inventing more than the business better, but it is a business, and it hasn't been very successful. And I'm very pleased that probably one of the great joys is forgetting me that, you know, someone that walks in, we recently took on an aviation patent from someone, and we're able to, we were able to as an example, and we were able to monetize it and bring that inventor, that sole inventor, you know, money that probably would have had, and we're doing that more and more, you know, it's not becoming just Librato patent, you know, based on my patents really taking in, in acquiring and assisting in acquiring and assisting in a whole bunch of other beds. I'm very proud of that. And I know, the people that I work with are motivated and proud of that as well.
Well, because that kind of leveling the playing field for individual inventors and small startups, because a lot of times when the rights are trampled on by larger corporations, it's because they they believe that there's not going to be anybody fighting to assert those patents, and that they can just take whatever they want. Because, you know, just because of the way the legal system is kind of structured, it's really hard sometimes for an individual inventor to assert their patent. But it's, you know, companies like like yours that helped make that possible. So you're doing a great service for inventors. And that's, that's the, you know, when people are looking at as if, you know, asserting patents is something new. But you mentioned in one of your interviews that the Wright brothers were the inventors of the airplane, they had to assert their rights against larger companies that were infringing. So this is something that's Thomas Edison did the same thing. I mean, this is that's why patents are provided for in the Constitution. It's unconstitutional, right? For inventors, to prevent others from making using or selling their patented ideas.
From what I know, John, with Orville and Wilbur, a recent book that was written about the definitive book, they spent more time in court than they did in their, you know, bicycle shop, inventing the aeroplane, Thomas Edison, maybe not that because he was in the lab a lot. But boy, he certainly wasn't a stranger to record, he might have been a whole bunch of patent litigation. So yeah, it's unfortunate that the corporations that exist in America, they start from nothing, and then they become these huge Colossus is, even though they started from nothing, many of them still have the attitude. If it's not invented here. It's not a valid patent. If it's not, if it's not an expat, it's not a valid bad. That's a bad attitude, and that, you know, really fraught innovation in our country. So if there's anything I'd like to see, definitely I think we do need a revision to some of the recent as you said, 2013 and some of the other things that have come the Atlas decision, which is, you know, really bad decision by the Supreme Court, in my opinion, maybe not a bad decision but not interpreted. You know, no one knows how to interpret it properly. Oh, And that has really been a, you know, the bane of everyone's existence. And I just certainly hope as you know, someone who has had some success that the little guy that's out there can you imagine all the comments Jeffords all the time and Thomas Edison's excuse me, Jefferson was pretty good too, but not as
not as prolific as it was
invented. I don't know if he did I apologize. But it is it certainly was a great inventor, you know. And, you know, I believe that there's some so many medicines out there so many, you know, with great concepts, you know, Jeff Bezos, and the people that we mentioned, Mark Zuckerberg, and, and those guys should not be trampled upon, not be trampled upon, they should have another opportunity to take their ideas and make them into, you know, major pillars of the US economy. And so I certainly believe that to the extent that we can help, we're pleased to, but I think it's going to take far more than me, and far more than my company. It's going to take, you know, some revisions of legislation and some recognition that, you know, tell me if you agree, John, some recognition that these small guys can be, you know, the pillars of society, the pillars of the economy, the pillars of technology?
Well, I agree 100%, I don't know what what more recognition there could be like, like, we just rattled off over a dozen companies that are multinational corporations that started and I'm not saying started in the 1800s. They started not even during my my lifetime, during my my kids lifetime, that nothing in the exploded. But we're out of time. But I want to end with just one final question. If you had like one piece of advice that you wish somebody had given you as an inventor, perhaps that if you want to pass that on to those that are watching today,
it's simple. It's go forward, believe in your own ideas, take the advice that you're giving yourself seriously, and just move forward and do it. And I think then you'll have success. And if you fail on the first one, or the second one, or the third one, don't be afraid to be standing still, and to be standing upright and just go forward again. Because that fourth one could turn out to be you know, one of the great American companies or one of the great world inventions.
Exactly. Wonderful. I couldn't have said it better myself lay this has been marvelous having you here. I want to thank you for for being here. And everybody else, have a wonderful weekend. And enjoy your Friday.
Thank you John so much. I really enjoyed it.