Jonathon Rosplock, SCORE's Green Bay Packers Mentor/Protégé client, has had many successes since inventing a unique strength training tool named The Pronator.
One of the biggest was the letter received a few months ago informing him that his invention had been patented - about 2½ years after submitting the initial application.
"There is an 18-month backlog at the U.S. Patent Office," Rosplock said. "This is such a lengthy process with no guarantees. It can be very intimidating when just starting out. I would suggest finding a capable intellectual property attorney. It is expensive, but they are worth their weight in gold."
He used Boyle Fredrickson S.C., a Milwaukee firm that had been recommended. Rosplock said it might be possible to do it without the use of a patent expert or attorney, but knowing the language is an art.
"It's such an interesting process, and if you don't know how to talk the language, you won't be able to protect yourself completely. The attorney knows how to word your claims for the best protection," he said.
Rosplock, a physical therapist, had been frustrated by the lack of a device to treat patients with forearm injuries when he created The Pronator. As it evolved, it became a tool to facilitate upper-extremity strength in all parts of the arm and shoulder with specific exercises. He thought the hammer-like device had potential, but wasn't sure if it was unique.
That led him to "Google Patents," where inventors can search for prior art and determine if there is a similar item that has been patented. Google launched a new version in July that they say will ease the search for patents and related materials. And, with 600,000 applications for patents filed in 2014 alone, there is a need for simplicity.
Rosplock's search found no similarities to his device and encouraged him to hire the attorney and apply for a provisional patent to provide early protection.
"This says that you are interested in filing a patent, but gives you one year to start the process," Rosplock said. "During this time you can 'test' your idea without a large upfront cost. You can start building prototypes and talking to manufacturers or customers. If you are getting strong feedback and your idea is patentable, then you can choose to pursue one."
The Pronator was tested via focus groups with local university students in physical therapy programs. When that feedback was positive, three prototypes were developed and tested in clinics. Every step of the process encouraged him to take another step.
Now, years later, he has sought assistance from Green Bay SCORE, meets with other inventors and entrepreneurs, participates in trade shows, uses social media for marketing and does whatever he can to promote his product.
As a result, it has been purchased and used by professional football and baseball teams, college teams and physical therapists. The word of mouth is all positive and has resulted in increased sales. He is producing additional inventory and will now have a patent number on the device and packaging.
If an individual or company would try to copy The Pronator, Rosplock would be legally protected. It also makes it more marketable should he decide to sell the rights.
Something that started out as an idea to help physical therapy patients is growing into a success story. Rosplock says that the time commitment has been challenging as he works full-time and comes home to spend time with his family before sitting down at 8 p.m. to run a business.
"I'm happy with the progress and proud of what we've done," he said. "It is inspiring to know that something I created is helping patients and athletes, literally all over the world, get stronger and better."
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.
Photo: Courtesy of Green Bay SCORE