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July 26, 2023
John Rizvi, Esq.

Making selfies more accessible with Wayne Fromm | Inventor of the Selfie Stick 877-728-7763

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patents profit and purpose are virtual Summit. We've had several inventors already. And today it's my honor to welcome a win from an amazing inventor. Let me get my PowerPoint and you'll learn a little bit about him shortly in a video as well. So purpose patents and profit. And, of course Wayne Fromm, again, amazing inventor, he's got an unbelievable story. I think it's something that inventors need to hear his products have generated over a billion dollars in sales. Here's the whole write up on him on Business Insider, and then Jenny's our moderator Jenny, if you can start the video, a short interview of of Wayne as well.

Orange origin of the selfie stick Saison I were traveling she was young. And we were actually in Europe. I was in Italy at the Ponte Vecchio and she was taking a picture of me I was taking a picture of her and then you're trying to flag down somebody that understands English, which is not always you have to kind of wait to see who might be likely somebody wearing a camera maybe. Or I would stabilize it on a fencer post of some sort and set the self timer and have to run in I kept thinking there's got to be a better way or we'd be at a restaurant we want to get picture the two of us might put sugar packets to try to stabilize it but then we're taking a picture that's kind of up our nose more. So this is where I thought okay, how do we get it to the camera would appear to be floating in areas of a ghost is holding it and that was the genesis of

it. Oh, when I was at Western University, I would bring the quick pot over there and I'd take it to parties and stuff like that and everyone thought it was so cool but at the time the word selfie didn't really exist wasn't popular. So we had to create names you know, he called it a monopod handheld monopod and then the evolution and just kept going the selfie craze hit and then everyone just started calling it a selfie stick and I mean I've always loved it I thought it was really fun but it's really nice that people are recognizing that it's a really fun I guess accessory

industry of my own inventions they were always inspired to for sage as she grew up so there's an evolution of of invention starting with toys and I had things like tight eye Teddy which was a little thing to teach her the art of it became a very popular toy and it became tight I doodle bear tight i Barbie went on into all sorts of different variations. And then the magic mirror because when she was a kid took her to see Beauty and Beast and it was it was a great animation. I remember taking stage to a Disney needed in Glendale California. Like for running around. And then somebody said to who's she was at the first like said she's grown up in this industry. And she was always with her friends, they were my test Mark and I never showed strangers like we have little focus groups, these little kids and their parents and getting their opinion. So it's the quick pod the selfie stick is really an extension no pun intended of that whole, you know, inventing for sage. And, you know, as a family, I just thought it'd be nice for us and other families to be able to be included in the photo wasn't meant just for somebody to sit there taking 600 of their own photographs. And the photographer was never left out of the picture. That was the original intention.

It's funny how, like, you know, there's a there's a part of inventing, where human nature always plays a part. And there's only so much engineers and scientists can do about predicting that I'm in I'm a structural engineer myself and one of the things that at least with automobiles, for example, the an engineer can make the door ultra light. So light that you could with a finger you could close the door of your car, I mean and it would have the same structural strength. However, nobody would buy it because they don't feel safe if your door doesn't have some weight to it some some heftiness to it. So sometimes, you know like social restraints prevent inventions that that might have a practical benefit that clip on ties and other example I mean, here's this is a real tie, of course, but the reason I don't wear a clip on is because you don't look heaven forbid it's seen by a opposing counsel or a judge. You're not taken seriously with a clip on but from a practical standpoint, it's better for your neck it's cooler it's easier to put on easier to take off you don't have this fabric thing around. So social aspects dictate how an invention ends up being used. And that's something that was not you didn't predict with with your invention right like that was you didn't expect people to be the primary use was not hey, let's wait Everybody take a picture of themselves.

Yeah, I have actually bounced the idea off people that I know in different countries and someone, a friend of mine from South Korea, initially said about the selfie stick that, you know, our culture would not embrace that it's too egotistical. And, you know, this is where, you know, we can listen to people, but we also have to listen to our own instincts. And of course, with a lightweight car door, you know, if people become aware that carbon fiber and all sorts of structural changes, and you can prove to them that it's a better way, it does take time, but I do believe that they will embrace these things when it makes more sense.

Yeah. And that's, you know, but it takes a lot of education and timing. But I want to I want to go back because I kind of jumped ahead to, to that just because from your interview, but tell us your story. I mean, you no one is born an inventor. What were you doing before you started thinking of ideas? What was your day job, so to speak, and paint a picture for us of what do you got your start?

Sure, sure. Well, I've always had an interest in taking things apart. And it was, you know, good for the clock industry, but not so much for my parents, because I would always disassemble things throughout the house. And so it's a natural curiosity. I just love understanding how things work. And even in my house, you know, television set remote controls. So it's been a natural affinity that I have towards disassembling things and putting them together and seeing what's needed, what's not needed, and why did they do it a certain way. And so I grew up also as an entrepreneur, collecting pop bottles, soda bottles as a kid for you know, recycling and the paper routes and, you know, running small businesses, I used to perform magic tricks. I was only 10 years old, but I would be foreign performing magic tricks and kids birthday parties, entertaining them. And I think magic had a lot to do with it, because a very curious industry as well. And it's a matter of, you know, doing things that aren't obvious. And that's part of inventing, I wasn't aware at that time, why I was so fascinated by by magic, but I had to understand how do these tricks work? You know, how can we create a story and narrative to divert other people's attention and a lot of the inventions that I did, especially the toys had a magic component to it that Disney's Beauty and Beast magic talking near the character images appear through the two way, mirror material. And, you know, even the selfie stick to some degree, it's like your, your camera was magically or smartphone magically levitating. So that, you know your arms appear to be in a natural position that heads are composed and proportionate to one another as well. Throughout high school, I ran businesses, I had housing rental agency, I had a t shirt store. I then got into repertory cinema when I was in university, I was running a theater. And then I got into the video game industry where I would run I had large game centers similar to Chucky Cheese style, birthday party center. So a lot of that was combat training for the, you know, the marketing and commercialization of inventions. Because, you know, it's one thing to an event and it's another thing to exploit your own invention. And that's, you know, that takes two disciplines in your brain.

That's no, it's fascinating. One of the questions from Christopher is asking, you have there were already others attempting something similar to a selfie stick, I'll just use that term, because that's, but tell us about that. Some of that's in that Business Insider article as well. But what do you feel are the advantages that gave you an edge over some of those other products?

Well, I've always been into photography, even as a kid I would do, you know, darkroom photography, bulk film, loading, etc. I had early cameras SLRs before DSLR. And I, when I created the we call it the quack pod, that's our brand. And that became known as the selfie stick. I was unaware of anything that had been created, similar to that. And we had done our prior art searches. And it came up at elite status that there was a device from the 1980s. But I was it was created in Japan for a disc camera. But I actually had this cameras in the 80s. And I had never seen that extension at that time. I ordered one off of eBay came in from Sweden, somebody had one. And this was already after the fact. We included that as prior art. And if it had been such a great invention, then you know, it should have become a household item. It didn't. It took me over 10 10 years of plugging away with quick pod, taking it onto shopping channels I was on QVC a number of times we would sell out each time. It it was a lot of hard work doing photo shows consumer electronics shows, trying to get into the into the retail chains like Ritz camera at the time and catalog stores like Magellan and sharper image and ometer Schlemmer, this was a very difficult product to have the public understand what it does very difficult to package as well, because it just doesn't pop it doesn't. It wasn't something that people were thinking of. They knew some people knew what a tripod was, fewer knew what a monopod was. But to actually have a handheld extendable monopod people didn't know how to use self timers, they didn't know how to trigger the shutter remotely, there were a lot of a lot of obstacles. And I brought mine to market before the smartphone before the iPhone. And we were doing point and shoot cameras and DSLR cameras, we had to prove to people I was going into professional stores doing demos b&h in New York City, for example. And we had to sell and convince the professional photographers the benefit of this device, because at first they thought it was just some sort of, you know, a silly, a silly product. But we showed them that there were many, many applications, you could become a human, you know, tripod, you could use it for lighting, we use it as a camera base with the legs. So I anticipated all these different uses for it. In my original patent that goes back to it was issued in 2010. But it predated that by a number of years. I had remote control, I had all sorts of features in it that had not been anticipated before. And we also had a self image mirror on the device itself so that you could see yourself in this mirror that was attached to my device, it wasn't necessary to have it attached to a camera, for example. So there were there were many unique aspects to this. But it was really a marketing efforts. And it really was, it was like a 10 year overnight success.

Yeah. Well, it's funny when you mentioned having to educate consumers about the use. I mean, this is something I mentioned yesterday, the post it note, originally, they had to give them away because nobody understood why they would even need one, when you can use paper and tape what's you know, what's the big deal, and they see, you know, a billion dollars of sales from something like this. Another example, you know, the sleeve on a cup of coffee, I mean, we've made it until I think this is 94 990 99. Without this, and then all of a sudden, Jay Sorensen patents it and has a million dollars in royalty payments that he's earned for over 20 years from something like this. But sometimes it takes a certain amount of usage. And then consumers just watching each other use a product before it takes off. So those are two examples. I mean, but you're the selfie sticks, something that you realize yourself through a 10 year process that there's some education required.

A lot of education people liked it when they saw it. But if it was just sitting on a store shelf, I remember going into a store in Manhattan Beach after a consumer electronics show in Vegas. And I asked the retailer, the clerk, the manager, do they have my product and I knew they had it because we had shipped it to the entire chain. And they finally found it on the lower shelf somewhere. They didn't know what it did. I brought it out, I started explaining to the manager and we sold three of them while I was in the store, just the customers that watch the demonstration. And you know, that's that's part of coming up with something that's innovative, that's unfamiliar to people. I mean, the Coffee Sleeve was great, because then as you say people publicly see it, they can understand it, they can relate to it. And that was free advertising. And it's that's the hard part. You know, there's there's several hard parts, inventing, manufacturing, you know, packaging less so today because of online sales, packaging becomes less important. But marketing in general is really the grunt work the heavy lifting.

Yeah, well, but are there parts along the journey? Where did the thought of giving up ever occurred to you? I mean, 10 years is a long time is it's an employee, you know, guys, you know what, I've given it my best. I'm not making inroads. It's not taking off. It's this is too hard. I'm just going to stop

an almost infinite number of times. There was one time we had a shipment that was expected to come in I ordered the first 2000 units and I'm a somewhat of a perfectionist and the original packaging had all sorts of little accessories from carry bags to karabiners to tripod legs to you know the The whole nine yards. And I went into my daughter's room and I said to her, I said, if this doesn't succeed doesn't sell, what else can we use this for? And I kept thinking, maybe to extend, extend it and put clothing on. It's the people that, you know, retailers at Abercrombie and Fitch, they could put the clothing away on higher shelves or higher ranks, I was constantly coming up with a backup plan to move the inventory of if this didn't succeed.

Yeah. And is it. It's funny, we've had a couple we've had Dennis and Mary Lou, green, they're two inventors, they're married. And they create products together. And they've written a book about strengthening their marriage in bending is hard enough when you are making all the decisions yourself. And you don't have that extra relationship, that it can be a support system. But also, it can sometimes make it harder to make decisions, especially when it's 5050. And there's two votes. Tell us about working with your daughter on new product ideas, like how has that been? Have there been times when you give something a thumbs up? She gives it a thumbs down? And then what do you do as an inventor?

We actually work very, very well. It's almost like a dance team. And we've got incredible flow. I have strengths in certain areas. And it's like, we're working 24/7 Because I'm a nocturnal person. So I'll be working throughout the night, you know, coming up with ways to innovate or improve our new products. And she'll wake up and she'll comment on she'll say, Well, what about this, or she'll give it a different shape or different color. So our we work very, very well, as a team. When she was younger, I would, you know, turn to her and her friends for basically, as focus groups and you know, get feedback, especially in the toy industry, it was invaluable to have that. Because you're right, as you say, if you're working on your own, if you're not as part of a team, you're working in a vacuum and I equated often to the whoever invented sunglasses, it was probably some sort of seashell. And he was in a cave, and he came out and as you know, pupils pupils were dilated, these got the seashells, he says, Well, these things weren't great, but they looked so stupid, nobody would ever wear them. No, you know, 1000 years later, of course, you know, they're, they're a fashion accessory. So it can be very isolating. And you know, I think the whole world now with the pandemic is starting to realize somewhat what it can be like for an inventor because we work in a very isolated, quarantined environment quite often.

Yeah, in fact that I've done a couple of videos focusing on iconic inventions that were developed during plagues. And during times of quarantine, I mean, it's just that environment. If you're not in a cave, as an inventor, sometimes what, what would happen is a pandemic will put you in a cave. And you're forced to just your creativity goes up. I mean, our our office has been flooded. And it's It shocked me because it's, you know, it, my wife's a dentist, and she had the opposite effect. Nobody wants to go see a dentist in the midst of a pandemic. And she's like, I don't understand you're a patent attorney. We're like, how are you? Is your office like bursting at the seams with new ideas. And I said, because everyone's at home, they don't have their nine to five, even if they have a nine to five, they're able to work remote. They're not under the watchful eye of a supervisor. So there, they have that creativity is kind of unleashed. Which of course, you know, you do it by design, and it's helpful to be nocturnal, because the world is asleep. So you really get some peace and you get you get stuff done.

Absolutely. Well, that's a that's a very logical, interesting of fact, that's coming forward. Now, it makes it makes a lot of sense makes a lot of sense. I'm guessing there'll be a lot of patent applications that relate to household innovation and things that people are relating to, you know, by being locked down. So

I'm sure you know, over time, when they look at a graph, it there's going to be a huge jump of innovation during the pandemic. And that's natural. Sometimes outside influences. You just lucked out as an inventor with timing and I do think the proliferation of cell phones and cameras has is really that tiny could not have been more perfect for the convergence of the selfie stick with that technology.

100% When I was promoting it, you know there was just a consequence of everything the iPhone because now that made it easier everybody had a camera on them. Not everyone had a point shoot camera. Not every point and shoot camera had a remote control capability. It was only some of the Pentax series that did and on top of that, you know wide angle lenses so now people you know were able to Get group shots in more easily. Then just after that the GoPro the sports camera industry took off and we partnered with them, we were supplying their media teams, we ended up with the Sochi Olympics with them. And that that brought our more professional models into play as well. So that elevated the brand, and it just kept going, you know, we celebrities, John Stamos took it with him on tour on the Beach Boys tour using it on stage. So people saw our brand, they saw our products got great reviews, and divers throughout the world, you know, ours were designed because we're not just looking to win wasn't a race to the bottom. As far as getting the lowest cost items out there. We wanted, I wanted high quality, because I have a lot of products that I grew up with that I still have tripods and whatnot, I wanted my devices to be around 25 and 30 years from now. In fact, even the toys were people that had my original Disney toy from 1991. They still operate, these are the electronic digital toys, and the parents, I get letters that they've given them to their kids. So that's always on my mind. I'm looking for, you know, to develop products that have a lot of longevity to them. Yeah, so you're right, they were just the right food was great timing, it all came together with

you, as you mentioned that, you know, when I was 12, my dream was to take this Rubik's Cube and make it spherical. And I won't get into the story here, but I was crushed when I found the product store shelves. But when you talk about that expression that they don't make them like they used to. This is a toy from when I was 12 years old. I mean that's This is just This is the kind of quality that used to be put into products. So it's good to hear. Yeah, you've taken that into account. One of the questions that we have from well, actually, both Paul and Ray are asking very similar questions, and it's about your patents. Paul was asking if you had design patents or utility patents, and raise question is, oh, is having a utility patent? Does it make it better for licensing, I don't know if you want to, you haven't licensed your

idea. I often I keep certain channels for myself, and I license other channels. So if we go back in time with the Disney products, I kept this house accounts Toys R Us in the US at the time. And in Canada, I kept all the Disney Stores and theme parks worldwide. But then I licensed the rest the two companies that were strong and in their countries respectively. As far as the quick pod the selfie stick Yes, we licensed that we had a company out of New Jersey that, you know took it and CO branded their name with ours gotten into Best Buy, Target Walmart, etc. So we can we focus on what we do best. I know what my limitations are, what my bandwidth is, what St just is. And you know, we have our own online sales we sell on Amazon, we also licensed on Amazon and we've had a stellar year in the last year, Sage was able to obtain licensing agreements with several offshore companies that were selling on Amazon. And it was part of a pilot pilot program on Amazon where they respected our utility patent. And we had it evaluated by them. And they they deemed it in our favor as the equivalent of a court order. So we get licenses, royalties now as well. So it's a utility powered patent, I believe is very useful. This is what I go for. I've had a couple of design patents that was just done at that time in the hope that, you know if it ever came up on imports, I thought maybe Homeland Security if they saw something quickly, they can say, well, it looks like this, it's a lot easier to write to convey an appearance versus what do all these patent claims mean. But I always go for utility patents.

Okay, and you have and you mentioned you know several so really a portfolio and just like you mentioned the iPhone just like the iPhone has 49 Plus patents protecting you and they're not all filed on the same day as different improvements are made you file continuation applications and and continue that way. So and I'm in complete agreement with you on the develop the design pattern is a lot easier for a layperson to see infringement. So I mean you could be you know, like no, that no the first thing about how to read a claim, but when you see things match, I'd hoped for a design patent but the utility really is the gold standard in preventing

and when I got a license a product if I am trying to pitch it to a company I will usually come in with a trademark as well. So I'm, you know, I'm pretty good at coming up with names. So I have trademarks, US trademarks, US utility patent, I've got costing, I've got all the STL CAD CAM files I have often, I've already gone to the mold making process, packaging, so I tried to make it as turnkey as possible. And also proof of concept, you know, getting it out there, getting it started showing that there's interest, and then let other people run with it, because there's fewer people who are creative than people that can sell and distribute. So, you know, I do believe that our fellow inventors have a great advantage in that they can come up with ideas, and the average person just wonders, well, why didn't I think of that? Or etc, etc. So, you know, I have great respect for inventors. And I have great respect for the people who sell and distribute but you know, they're different lanes, often, sometimes they converge.

Right. And as far as the your support system, especially the early days was, was funding a challenge or obviously, and then the follow up question is going to be how has prototyping become easier? Over the years? Because it's certainly with 3d printing and other technologies that are out there. But let's, let's start with the first which a lot of inventors, their their first issue is, gosh, I can't, how do I get the funding to make my first prototype, or to get the patent or any number of things? Well, it

is a lot easier today than it used to be when I was doing the beauty of the Beast mirror went to an art school, I asked for a sculptor. And we started working on some designs based on the shape of the beer that was to appear in the animation. And it was we had to simplify it. I had an early script from Disney and they liked what I was doing in other areas with them. So they gave me an advance script from beating the beast and some images to work with. But we still had to manufacture it in a way that there were no undercuts, and you know, costs were a factor as well. So I tried to do as much as I can, on my own, you know, I learned as much as I could about, you know, prototyping as well. So I did would, you know, created in wood, I had some laser cut woods that was even back in the 1990s I was doing that. And plaster molds and you know, silicone, you have to be creative in that respect as well. But once you have something that you know kind of works, and it's put together with, you know, scotch tape, and whatever else you have, in fact, one of my products and that's quick milkshake maker was a magic milkshake maker where the children were putting milk, ice cream, Nesquik, powder, etc. And it would have had a little plunger handle on the top and they would depress the plunger to get it going. And the we had some thermal inks on the outside of the packaging, that would turn chocolate brown and O'Shea was ready. That prototype, I spent $5 to build, I've got a Slurpee cup from 711, I got a sink strainer from a kitchen supply store like a Bed Bath and Beyond type store. And I just experimented with, you know, different grades of milk, different types of ice cream, Nesquik, flavoring, etc. And I spent no more than $5 on that one. So another time I had an idea for a product, it was just a recreational activity game. And I think I spent about $3 creating this and I went to New York and I licensed it, I got an advance for $50,000 just based on a $3 prototype. So a lot of it is, you know, being invented at the early stages. But if you do need money, you know, of course, people are tapping out their credit cards or returning to family or friends. Get everything in writing, you know, it's a good, good practice to have, you know, good paper trail for whatever you do. Writers crowdsource funding now which didn't exist, you know, in the past. So you can turn to that I'm a little reluctant to do that. Because I don't like to disclose ideas publicly like that, because there are a lot of companies that are just looking for whatever's doing well on a platform like Kickstarter, and then you know, they're able to knock it off before you get your own out there. So I'm a little

biased if you haven't filed so you know, if your patent hasn't come through yet.

100% I agree. I agree. As far as today, I use many companies, one of the companies that I prefer it's in Canada called proto 3000 They do a great job with my 3d printing. And you know, I go through could be 100 prototypes, but we do it until we get it right. And I love it. It's just so much easier. I used to have to wait, you know, a month back and forth between China they would send it or I would fly to China and sit in the front prototype shop, doing CNC and just sitting around killing time. But I love 3d printing, we can, you know, look on your screen, you can do all the 3d rotation of the images and measurements. It's it's, it's incredibly convenient these days, the technology that we have at our fingertips.

Yeah, it's great. One of the things that I get asked a lot by inventors first of all, there's there's one misconception is that you have to have a prototype before you file for a patent. So that's completely not true. But the other one you've cleared up, and I have so many inventors that are embarrassed of their prototype, because it's not fancy, it's made out of playdough, or foam cups or cardboard. And that's here, it's wonderful to hear a professional inventor who's done it who's had whose products have sold over a billion dollars talking about $3 prototypes and $5 prototypes, because there's no you don't get extra points for spending a fortune on your prototype. The purpose is just tested. And under

some of my prototypes with a selfie stick, I would use, you know, the the little clip from a pen, you know, because I wanted to have a pocket adapter in fact, like right now, there you go in and I used umbrellas. That's a, you know, umbrellas that would take the you know, the rods apart. Do you know there was I I'm proud to be able to create things that efficiently and economically. In fact, some of my prototypes are actually on display right now in museums have technology in Europe and Germany for the original selfie stick. I'm proud of that. Yeah, Thumbtack. thumbtack was the original mirror on one of them so that you know, they had, you know, measured the exact angle that you know, so

wonderful. So we're out of time, but I can't thank you enough. This has been an inspiring interview. We will have you come back the next virtual summit and Sunday when this pandemic is behind us back to real life events again. So it's a pleasure having you an honor to have you on.

Thank you very much

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