Martin Schweiger of Schweiger & Partners is a German patent lawyer who moved to Singapore literally hours before the 9/11 attacks were launched. He searched over 30 countries before deciding to settle in Sinapore where he established the Asian branch of his patent law firm.
But Mr Schweiger is more than just a patent lawyer, he is also an inventor, developing everything from a ‘smart’ mosquito trap to a fencing sport sensor. The Straits Times spoke with him about his law, his inventions and why he does it?
Q: You recently invented a “smart” mosquito trap which is on trial in public areas. It is particularly important since dengue fever is endemic in Singapore and a 53- year-old died from it just last month. Can you tell me about it?
My invention was to provide an electronic system that can turn any available mosquito trap into a 24/7 surveyed trap which sends out alarms even if there is a failure in any component. If this happens I can immediately disable the trap and run a maintenance service on it, keeping the labour needed to a minimum. This also turns the smart ovitrap into a commercially viable and secure product.
Q: You have also come up with many other devices – of which about 10 are patented. What are some of them?
I have been discovering and inventing my whole lifetime: I still remember it like it was yesterday – at the age of three, I discovered electricity by inserting two knitting needles into a wall socket. I have tried out many things. I believe that I was a handful for my parents. I have been inventing since I was 12.
One of the more spectacular inventions was a sensor for the sport of fencing, which I invented about 25 years ago. It makes obsolete the long electric wires attached to the back of the fencers, and the central evaluation unit which indicates which one of the two fencers hits first. It made it much easier for the fencers. Without the cable, you can turn yourself around more easily when fencing, for instance.
The hit sensor was good only for training purposes because it was not reliable enough, so it ultimately did not succeed in the very small market. I also invented a foldable kitchen balance in 1990, my first potential mass product. I wanted to have a foldable balance to better count calories when I was on a business trip and I wanted a balance that I could fold up and take with me to a restaurant. But then the German balance company Soehnle, which had been keen on my product, was sold and the purchaser Leifheit decided to not market it.
Q.What inspires your inventions?
They always have their roots in problems that I personally become aware of. For example, I used to fence in university and that was what led to the fencing hit sensor.
But inventing is only one side of the coin. The other more important side is to turn the invention into a product that is sold successfully. What I have recognised early the hard way is that it is easy to invent something new, but it is only sweat, capital and the right marketing that will transform an invention into a successful business.
I often meet inventors who think that their patent alone will make them rich. This is simply not the case. I believe that a patent is worth nothing without a company that makes and sells the patented product. And it is best if the inventor works for that company.
Q:Have any of your devices been sold in the mass market?
They never made it beyond the prototype, but this is not unusual. What I can tell you from my professional background as a patent lawyer is that, as far as a product is concerned, not even one of hundreds of inventions becomes a profitable product.
Source: Straits Times