How to make money with invention

How to get your invention onto store shelves

By Debbie Strauss - Special Projects Producer, Owen Conflenti - Anchor

HOUSTON - D'Lain Braunig, of Houston, is a mother and a hairstylist.

Secretly, though, she's always been an inventor. One of her grandest ideas is 20 years old.

"I came up with this idea, the headboard, the Phantom Headboard," Braunig said. "I had myself a headboard out of wood, and it was so heavy, so I was lying in bed one night and I said, 'Why can't I come up with a headboard that comes in two pieces and you can sell it in a box?'"

The Phantom Headboard has two-sided tape that peels off. Batting is pressed onto it and then a cover is attached with Velcro. You can change the cover to match the style of your bedroom.

Braunig was proud of her idea. She showed it off to her children. They helped her film a video.

Watch the home video:

But she hasn't been able to bring the product to market. 

Can you help Braunig with her idea?

Contact D'Lain Designs:

Tilman Fertitta is always on the lookout for the next big thing. 

"So you're always looking for uniqueness and, 'Is this really special, or not?'" Fertitta said.

Fertitta is a larger-than-life Houstonian, one of America's most successful businessmen and host of CNBC's "Billion Dollar Buyer."

Casting Call for "Billion Dollar Buyer":

On the show, he gives local businesses and their ideas a shot at the big time. His advice: Ask others for their opinion and don't be scared of honesty.

"If you really think your project is special and you ask people around you and they shoot you straight, you'll find out real quick if it is special," Fertitta said.

Another expert at giving advice is Mark Peterson, with Houston Inventors Association. He has helped design everything from jukeboxes to jet engines and medical devices.

What to do with your idea: Step-by-step

Step 1: Research

"You research what is on the market," Peterson said. "Research those companies and, in conjunction, you research patents."

You can get can help at Houston Inventors Association Meetings: Meetings are held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at the Bayland Community Center at 6400 Bissonnet St. in Houston. Click here to view it on a map.

Step 2: Get a patent

You can get help at Rice University's Fondren Library by clicking here.

The library can provide assistance for inventors who already have ideas on searching for existing patents in the federal U.S. Patent and Trademark Office databases. The library has special access to the databases due to its membership as a Patent and Trademark Resource Center.

One of its librarians has gone through formal training from the Patent and Trademark Office on how to search the databases and provides workshops on searching the databases to the public on a monthly basis. The database searching is a necessary step prior to applying for a patent.

The next class is scheduled for March 17 and is free and open to anyone, although registration is requested. Click here to register.

You can also hire a patent lawyer.

"It might cost you a little money, but you're better off spending money there before you go off developing something," Peterson said.

Make sure no one else has a patent for your invention. Then it's time to make the big decision.

Step 3: License or manufacture it yourself

"Are you going to license or are you going to venture and be an entrepreneur?" Peterson said.  

With licensing, you minimize the risk and capital investment, but you're selling your idea to someone else.

The other route is manufacturing it yourself.

"You better make sure you're very passionate about that, because you're going to be working 70 to 80 hours a week," Peterson said.

"If you're an entrepreneur, you better fulfill those dreams, because you might make something good happen for yourself," Fertitta said.

Companies Looking For New Products (Source: Houston Inventors Association)


If you have an original tool invention in the automotive service industry, Lisle Corporation is interested in evaluating your invention.

High-tech gadgets:

Infomercial products

Kitchen and houseware items

Tools and home improvement products

Toys and kids products

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