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By J.D. Houvener
Patent Attorney and Founder

What are some of the challenges that you think individual inventors face and entrepreneurs as you get started what were some initial hurdles and barriers that you personally had to clear so for me personally and I hear this echoed from a lot of other engineers and Technical uh Personnel is uh clearing space in your work week to be able to work on the engineering projects work on inventions there’s so much that advise for our time meetings email administrative tasks cleaning off your desk I mean it’s it’s an endless supply of distractions and unless you like really put a priority on blocking out a minimum of four hours for engineering whether it’s in a specific day or throughout the week and I’ve heard about you know writers deal with this too some writers who were doing books on the side had to do it like their first hour or two of the day every single day and they just had a routine and I think it’s helpful to have that kind of a routine for engineering as well awesome so you think kind of prior to that prioritizing and blocking out time um is important yeah it’s kind of there’s a lot of noise a lot of you know stuff life that can interject and will interject if you don’t block it out is that right right and the only way that I’ve been able to succeed with that is actually uh enlisting the help of both my family and my friends um to let them know you know clearly I really need your support in like for example if I’m laying out a board that can frequently take like 12 hours straight uh because you’re just focused and you’re thinking of like nine different things at the same time and you don’t want cats or other distractions during that time and uh you kind of don’t want to start again it’s not a project that you can just like do 30 minutes of you know you really have to like sometimes it takes like eight minutes just to open the software um because it’s so computer intensive for the processor so excellent well let’s talk a little more specifically about um inventing inventing she mentioned you had initial 4A at your previous company in the corporate setting was it Fuji film was that what you were saying okay and then when you start on your own maybe tell us about the first time where you thought hey I’m inventing or are you thought about learning about the law of patents and um how you began your to get educated there so this is actually a really good question uh for me to answer so I had actually been encouraged not to patent so uh because we’re such a huge proponent of Open Source uh both open source software and open source Hardware which is actually kind of a still in its uh initial stages I would have to say it’s only been um you know the certification for Open Source Hardware has only been available for the last maybe six years now and so uh you know we had been trained that prior art is very important uh in establishing uh you know kind of a track record in the open source Arena however uh I decided uh two years into it that we wanted to file patents and trademarks not so much you know to go after other corporations but to allow us freedom to operate so to establish without a doubt that we are the you know first company to succeed in making a round phone and so uh we wanted to continue making non-recticular phones for non-rectingular people and to be able to protect that right and have that freedom to do so and have no one else can test that we wanted to uh file the patents uh to protect those rights wonderful and did you do some of that research well some of that thinking on your own by gathering resources and looking online finding books how did you get educated about that decision to move forward that that’s a really good question so I actually attended a lot of seminars so we’re really fortunate to be in Seattle in that I mean our business is in Bellevue but in the Seattle area because there are so many at least in you know when we started uh us particularly around 2018 when we started looking into patenting that there’s ton there’s a huge startup ecosystem in Seattle at least at that time and there were tons of training seminars offered by different law firms in conjunction with um the trade office itself and so because of that I attended very thorough and deep ties into the whole process itself but I think you don’t appreciate the intricacies of the entire process until you go through it yourself because you know like watching on a slide deck like okay this deadline is 30 months later and this deadline is 18 months later and this deadline is 12 months later like you don’t really keep track of that until you actually have to go through it yourself and um I think one of the ways that bold IP has been helpful for us keeping us on track with those deadlines specifically that’s been really useful awesome let’s think about um you know um the creative process and inventing as you go uh type of thing is we’re realizing where you’ve got invention upon invention can you talk about that a little bit and as you’ve started you may be filing the patents have you found that you know there’s more ways to it’s spurred more creation or more Innovation as you’ve as you’ve gone

yeah that’s a uh that’s an interesting question I think that so for example in our case we developed a very gorgeous design and as soon as that came to light we felt very protective of it and decided this is the design that we want to patent however in parallel to that we’ve been iterating other designs over and over and over and over again so I think so for example um we do have some additions that we’ve made to the iterative process uh just since covid uh that I’m thinking gosh maybe we should patent that because no other smartphone has that um and so you know we we have uh you know developed um kind of proprietary uh features to our smartphones um that are not yet protected but you know uh like in our case we we just want the freedom to operate we uh are not necessarily looking to uh prevent other people from being in this space but we want to be in the space and we want our features to continue being in the space and to have no one else block us from those things and so I think that’ll be a decision that we’ll have to make uh before the next release uh of our smartphone so we’ve released two smartphones already uh a 2G version a 4G version and then we have 50 000 people who are waiting for our 5G version but uh we’re stuck in the uh a situation that they would only want to pay 250 for it but you know the chip just the chip inside cost 250 dollars so uh we’re stuck uh at this point but uh if we do fight and we are looking researching other ways uh to make it less uh expensive and if we do surmount those obstacles uh then I think that’s the time to actually patent the additional features that we’ve been uh working on got it thank you and along those lines can you talk about how you went about finding a manufacturer for your phone for your devices how did that go and tell us about that so that’s actually not an easy process uh I I was really fortunate to attend a talk back in I think 2014 2015 uh about someone from the Seattle area who was pointing out that yeah you can manufacture uh more cheaply in China but by the time you factor in all of the shipping costs and at that time we didn’t even have tariffs but by the time you factor everything in and the global political situation and we’ve had to deal with covid shipping issues uh in 2020 we were affected by that and so when you factor all of that in uh it actually sometimes makes more sense to manufacture Stateside or at least in North America not only um so in this particular talk they pointed out that the price of the cost so the the cogs cost of goods sold maybe uh lower in China but you’re not you know the the shipping costs are maybe on a different sheet and so um it’s important to really have an overall understanding of the entire um kind of supply chain uh uh yeah you’re like on a shark tank these terms like what’s the landed cost right when it you know automatically get here um and I just you know so that makes sense so you want to make sure you’re thoughtful about okay what is the true cost um make sure there’s gonna be some profit left right and the other really important issue is being in the same time zone so for example if you’re making Goods there are a few manufacturers just outside of Tijuana if you’re making Goods into you at least they’re in the same time zone you don’t have to wait uh 24 hours to receive a response and so uh time is money in the end and the faster you can iterate uh your your design changes uh the faster you can get Goods to a consumer so there’s a lot to be said for manufacturing in North America uh rather than elsewhere um so the reason that we so fortunately we do all of our manufacturing here Stateside and out of our 400 plus components on the circle phone um what is it 95 our sourced Stateside um all but four components four five components are Source State Side so that’s uh the battery the display the cameras we just don’t make these things uh well in North America yet so um that’s important so yes so not only the overall cost but all also the overall time factor involved is is really essential in evaluating where you want to manufacture so some tools that I’ve learned about since we found our manufacturers are one is called and so I highly recommend if you are just doing prototypes to just prototype Stateside uh particularly if you’re patenting in the United States and you’re a business in the United States

being able to search for those manufacturers Stateside is really important um they can also work with you on your design a lot more than if you were manufacturing say at some place in China PCB way is very popular jlc PCB is very popular as well and I’ve ordered boards uh from them as well but interestingly enough um so last year we experienced a kind of a glut of designs you know supply chain and recovered for the most part and so Engineers were finally able to submit their designs for manufacturing and so between August and December of last year uh manufacturers were actually slowing down and the turnaround time was uh lagged several weeks so even at manufacturers in China so um it’s important to just uh be patient with whomever you’re working with whether it’s Stateside or elsewhere and just work along with them it really pays off in the end awesome and and you had to fire or move or change manufacturers or have you been lucky and stuck with one so we’ve been really fortunate we have a manufacturer in Bellevue who manufactures all of our printed circuit boards and they’ve been exceptional and they’re like two-thirds of the price of most West Coast manufacturers uh and their quality has been Stellar I think they started out doing work for Boeing and they do work for SpaceX and uh blue origin now uh amongst other companies uh they’re not able to talk about it but in the industry I know that uh they do work for those um companies and uh just doing your homework and also asking around is really important word of mouth is super important people are usually willing especially in Hardware uh to share with you their War wounds and battle stories and um just asking everybody you meet about their experiences is really important a couple more questions here let’s talk about going to Market you mentioned you’ve got a 2d phone a 4G and a 5G that lots of people are waiting for how have you what have you seen to be the most successful ways to sell your product or service on the market uh so probably not the way that we’ve been doing

okay yeah what ways should we not go to market but but I already told you I’d advise someone yeah so I can uh if you have so the way that we do it is we run crowdfunding campaigns so that we can afford to do a manufacturing run and then we allow uh backers to have Early Access to our smartphone designs um as a reward if they’ve you know pledged at a certain level and so that’s been very rewarding to us we get to know the backers personally and um kind of get their feedback on our product and those backers are more invested in our product than if they had just purchased us at say Target and so uh that’s worked for us but it may not be the solution for everyone else so for example one of the challenges that we run into is that running a crowdfunding campaign on uh Kickstarter or Indiegogo or um teardown or any of the other kind of popular crowdfunding sites is great if your device or object or offering is less than a hundred dollars so our offering is actually seven hundred dollars so we offer that at a discount if you buy our phone retail then it’s a thousand dollars so uh if you do um back us through crowdfunding and help us fund our uh manufacturing cycle then you do receive it for a severe discount um that doesn’t work for every business and I think uh getting your product placed in stores is its whole other adventure and we we’re just not there yet we may be there in the future and we’ve had many people resellers reach out to us globally from the Middle East from Africa particularly in South Africa I don’t know why we get contacted all the time but they really would like to sell our product there and most of our uh interest in the circle phone comes from India and so we have researched actually manufacturing there because uh the cost of goods would certainly be less we wouldn’t have to pay the tariffs uh that we do on those four items that we do get from China and uh there’s lots of benefits there to manufacturing where you deliver your product to your customer and so uh those are all um uh uh kind of works in progress uh since the beginning for us the manufacturing in India is actually maturing at a rapid rate just in the last four years and many smartphone companies uh Samsung uh Apple um xiaomi have opened up factories in India because of it the Indian uh the government of India is supporting a new manufacturing facilities hoping to draw people away from companies away from China so so yeah it’s been an adventure for us to Market and sell our product uh we’re lucky that we have a large following but it takes a lot of work to grow that and if you don’t invest the time and the effort in that uh your product just won’t sell right I want to give you an opportunity to do some bragging here okay tell us some of your most your proudest and biggest achievements I know you’ve got a lot of work yet just to go but let’s look back and reflect what are some of the highest moments that you’ve had with oh I’m definitely getting the patents this time see we got one last March and uh then last December and then uh this March as well so seeing uh that paperwork and getting those Awards uh was certainly uh meaningful uh and uh this year also had another exceptionally happy note we won the uh CES 2023 Innovation award honoree award so I think it’s in my closet back here we haven’t we haven’t announced it publicly because we’re waiting on one more thing to happen this year and then uh we’ll be bragging about it more publicly I can brag about it here but um congratulations that is wonderful huge achieved I would say having 50 000 right people that want to your product that’s a big achievement too yes and then having 50 000 people kind of equates you can you can do the math only five percent will probably buy it so but like but you want those numbers those initial numbers to be large so that when you do the math in the end um you’ll be able to sell your products so excellent okay and we’re doing all three opportunity what would you say um about your branding really quickly in terms of your company there’s detour and then there’s the circle phone and trademark so talk a little about how that has been impactful so one brutal lesson that we learned early on uh our company name is detour it stands for it’s an acronym it stands for Designing the opposite of rectangle everyone and then we have a stop sign as our look that logo and gosh do I have it I think on the screen oh you got it yes okay so here’s our company logo and then everyone thought that we were a construction company so I don’t know is my screen backwards to you no yeah I can see it properly yeah and then this is actually a product the circle phone uh logo right here and so uh it was important for us to trademark um both of those um but when we started out with the detour logo everyone thought we were a construction company and so uh our our mission was lost and so we added I don’t know if you can see we added our slogan non-rectangular phones for non-rectingular people yes and so now all of our anytime we mention the company name we always include that slogan so whether it’s on business cards it’s really important on business cards uh this is a side note but I’ve been to tons of conferences I have over 2 000 business cards that I’ve scanned into my collection and if you don’t list what you do on your business card or what your product does on your business card it will get lost at the end of the conference so for example if you uh hand out your business card in meetings during conferences people will not remember what you do unless you know the name of your company or the name of your product says exactly what it does so that’s why we named uh you know this phone that we’re doing now the circle phone but we have the ability to make uh of course the oval phone um what are the other ones the heart-shaped phone the Octagon phone the hexagon phone and then also there’s a star-shaped uh display that we’ve been looking to make something out of it and it actually looks kind of like a bubbly flower but it fits so well in the hand um so all of these shapes fit better in the hand than our current rectangular phone and so um yeah we’d really like to explore these other non-recticular phone offerings um but we’ll see we’ll see what happens wonderful as we close I want to ask the last question here any thoughts you’d like to share about bold or our team yes so Chris has been work uh since nearly the beginning and he’s just been exceptional at getting our design on paper and being able to translate that into a patentable work I’ve just I’ve really been impressed with his ability to make that happen uh and I’ve been looking at that other videos on the website and it sounds like he does that for other uh clients as well uh he’s just really gifted in that area the other uh a thing that he’s good at is convincing the examiners to push a cotton through and so we’ve had you know when people first learn about our product having a non-articular phone like their brain just can’t even accept the idea of a circle phone and so uh you have to sometimes walk some people through that and he’s been very good at doing that on behalf of our product and I really appreciate him for it it was so nice to hear thank you Christina for sharing we are at the end here I will turn the recording off unless you want to have anything else on the record you want to share no I I just really appreciate your support throughout the years uh I didn’t realize heading into the patent process what a lifelong relationship

because you’re you’re linked for a long time and so um I’m really grateful that you were recommended to us and that you’ve been such a good partner for our company thank you you’re very welcome thank you for those kind words all right we’ll stop that report

About the Author
J.D. Houvener is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses with a unique perspective on their patent needs. He works with clients who are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patents in the market. If you have any questions regarding this article or patents in general, consider contacting J.D. at