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Is there an inventor in your neighborhood?

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February 7, 2006

Moultrie- In the last 28 years, Georgia inventors have gotten patents on 25,157 creations. Those patents include everything from Bingo cards, to golf club heads, to farm equipment. Inventors are everywhere.

Hundreds of south Georgians hold patents on creative inventions, almost 200 in Albany alone. Some inventions are created out of necessity, some just for fun, but each inventor I talked to said no idea is too small. In fact, you might be surprised at what we found because there could be an inventor living next door to you.

You can get Twice the Ice along many highly traveled south Georgia highways. But, did you know the idea for these jumbo ice machines, melted from the brain of a Moultrie man.

"Sometimes it seems like almost a dream that really happened because most people don't get an opportunity like this and we're grateful for it," said Donald Dalton, Inventor.

Inventor Donald Dalton had a heart transplant in 1992 that forced him to quit farming.

"I started a Fish market and bought an ice maker for that and had more ice than I needed so I started selling it by the cooler to customers that were going fishing," said Dalton.

So, Donald put his brain to work. Modifications to an original conveyor system in his store and the ice house was born. A large ice maker on the roof makes it work.

"That makes 6,500 pounds in 24 hours, drops into a bin with a live floor and a rake chain on it. When the customer presses the button for bag or bulk whichever it turns on the augers to fill the weighing mechanism," said Dalton.

Twice the ice, started to get twice the attention. Donald and his cousin started into the costly patent process, but when demand heated up he and his cousin sold out to Ice House America for a cool profit.

"My cousin and I discussed it, if we got a chance to sell out, at our age, we would sell out as long as we could get a pretty decent return," said Dalton.

Ice House America now holds the patent for Twice the Ice, but you don't have to be a corporation to own the rights to a great idea. There could be an inventor living right in your neighborhood. Becki Johnson's idea started cooking when she saw the cover of a Southern Living Magazine.

"The Victorians made square cakes and you can find antique square pedestal cake plates. You can also find tons of round cake plates which our moms and grandmothers like to make. Well, the young generation likes to make sheet cakes 13 by 9," said Becki Johnson, Inventor.

Becki searched for a 13 by 9 cake plate. When she couldn't find one, she designed her own. She hired an engineer, worked out the design, and hired an Atlanta attorney to make sure her idea was an original.

"I was granted my patent in '02 and I've been searching for a manufacturer now," said Johnson.

Her full time job has put her patented idea on the side burner, but she said if she didn't pursue the idea, she might not forgive herself.

"I do, I believe in it and I'm not giving up," said Johnson.

While her goal is eventually to sell the product on QVC, across town a soccer mom's idea to keep herself cool got a warm reception to the marketplace. Splash Cool is flooding the market.

"Since it was so wildly popular in Europe and no one was doing it here I thought that I would take that opportunity and start my own company," said Drew Aultman, Watersall President.

Since water can't be patented, Drew Aultman hired consultants and an attorney to trademark her idea.

"You would think it would be easy to put water in a can and that it wouldn't be complicated, but because it's just water it actually did make it a little more difficult," Aultman.

Two years of development, lab work and stability testing and Drew's product was ready to hit the shelves.

"You can cool and hydrate and set makeup and it just feels great and what's wonderful about this product is that it has no preservatives or chemicals," said Aultman.

Splash Cool and Watersall can now be found in more than 100 stores in 23 states. The product was recently featured on the cover of a national magazine and Drew just signed an agreement with Nordstrom's Palm Beach Store. Inventors say, no idea is too small.

"People still say it's the best thing you ever did and you know they're getting a bargain and you enjoy seeing them do that," said Dalton.

Donald and his cousin still own five of the Twice the Ice machines in the Moultrie area. And he says Ice House America is still improving on his original idea.

"We made a lot of mistakes and errors and things and it wasn't even to the point it could be," said Dalton.

With royalties from his idea expected over the next twenty years, he's interested in how this big company and improve upon his idea.

"They've got a research and development, house in the plant and they're trying new stuff on and five years from now it's going to be awesome what it really can be," said Dalton.

Securing a patent isn't cheap. The basic filing fee can be anywhere from $200 to $300, depending on the invention, then there are additional fees and the patent office and the inventors I spoke with recommend getting an attorney to help you with the process.

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