Carnell Duvall didn't set out to become an inventor, only to solve safety problems faced by operators of so-called "rollback wreckers" widely used by wrecker service operators. Duvall is a tow truck operator with more than 44 years of experience in the southeastern Oklahoma community of Quinton. Rollback wreckers hoist disabled or wrecked vehicles onto their long bed instead of hooking a cable to them and hauling them behind the wrecker. "Rollbacks are great, but have three faults when working accidents," Duvall said. "Length, safety and winching stability." When working accidents, Duvall was often forced to block all lanes of traffic as he positioned the 40-foot long rollback wrecker to hoist a wrecked vehicle from the side of the road. It put him and his equipment in jeopardy from oncoming traffic. So, he began to work on a solution to the faults that he saw in the wrecker, and eventually came up with a hydraulic device attached to the side of his vehicle. It winches wrecked vehicles to the side of the road through a remote control, keeping both wrecker and the operator out of harm's way. With little professional help, the long-time tow-truck operator created a working prototype of what ultimately became the Rollback Sidewinder in September 2001. Less than two years later, he was awarded a U.S. patent for the device. "I didn't start out to build a machine to get a patent," Duvall said. "It just worked out that way. The product just worked better and better, and everyone said I should patent it." Although he considers himself a "creative craftsman" rather than inventor, Duvall's rollback device has become an example of the success of Oklahoma inventors, said Dan Hoffman, president of the Oklahoma Inventor's Congress. Hoffman cited other recent Oklahoman inventions that have achieved some measure of success: The Trooper Trap invented by Oklahoma state trooper Alan Beaty; The Bio-Mixer 1200 fluid mixer invented by Oklahoma City engineer Sam John, who also has invented a device called the NeoLite 3200, which provides light therapy in a blanket or vest for newborns that have jaundice; The Trailer/Vehicle Alignment System invented by Bob Cook and Roy Blasius; The Garage Butler invented by Tulsan Jim Quintus, which Hoffman describe as probably the most commercially successful of Oklahoma's most recent inventions. The most famous Oklahoma inventions were both invented in the 1930s by Oklahoma City residents: the shopping cart, invented in 1937 by Sylvan Goldman, and the parking meter, invented in 1935 Carl C. Magee. Of course, for each successful device patented and marketed, hundreds never make it out of the inventor's garage. "We spend quite a bit of time listening to ideas that are in that category," Hoffman said of the Inventor's Congress. "But that's part of it. If we can educate and promote viable products, fine. If we can't, we try to point out there are exit strategies. Sometimes you have to save your money for the better idea when it comes along." The Oklahoma Inventor's Congress claims about 100 members statewide, with chapters meeting monthly in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The organization was established by Gov. Henry Bellmon during his first term of office in 1966. "We will have about 25 new members each year," Hoffman said. "They kind of cycle in and out once they get through the process. They have learned what it takes to develop and protect and market intellectual property." What it takes is both time and money. And patience. The process to obtain a patent requires a typical minimum waiting period of 18 months, Hoffman said. Services of a patent attorney can cost $5,000 to $8,000, while the patent filing fees total $500, according to Susan Holcombe with the Patent and Trademark Deposit Library in Stillwater. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site, individual inventors must pay $700 if the patent is issued, and fees are twice that for large companies. Patent maintenance fees also are due at certain intervals. Oklahoma inventors can get assistance with the process from the Patent and Trademark Deposit Library, and the Oklahoma Inventors Assistance Service, both on the campus of Oklahoma State University. In August, Duvall will take his Rollback Sidewinder simulator to the annual Tow Expo in San Antonio, where he will do live demonstrations for an audience of industry veterans.
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Oklahoma Investors Congress
Oklahoma City Chapter Meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Oklahoma Station BBQ, 4331 NW 50 Contact: Dan Hoffman, 348-7794 Tulsa Chapter Jim Quintus, president Meets 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Delta Cafe, 3330 S Peoria Contact: Jim Quintus, (918) 274-1037 Oklahoma Inventors Assistance Service 395 Cordell S, Stillwater Contact: (405) 744-8727 Patent and Trademark Depository Library 5th Floor, Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University Contact: (405) 744-6546