Patently Clever: IP attorney shares clients' zeal to invent
By John Golden October 28, 2011Practicing intellectual property law in White Plains, Karl Milde has guided a goodly number of patent-seeking inventors and dreamers through the bureaucratic and legal thickets of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The attorney at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott L.L.C. shares his clients’ passion – and perhaps too the pain of those whose heady inventions on paper have not yet taken off in the real world of commerce and profit.
“I’ve always wanted to make inventions,” Milde said in his law office at 10 Bank St., where four red-ribboned patents were spread on a table for his visitor. The attorney secured them for his most intimate client, one Karl F. Milde Jr. of Mahopac.
“I made inventions before I was a patent attorney,” said Milde, who grew up on his family’s Litchfield, Conn., dairy farm, where a farmboy’s tractor-driving chores left his mind free to soar in the realm of unpatented invention. “Once you’re a patent attorney, you can do it yourself. You can afford yourself.”
It’s as much his two bachelor degrees in physics and electrical engineering from MIT as his Georgetown law degree that have ably served his inventive side. Milde has been granted 10 patents through the decades. If all to date have come to naught, well, there is always a fellow inventor or intellectual property owner needing a lawyer whose fee comes with freely given empathy.
“I’ve invented a lot of different things,” said Milde, whose most recent invention, a thriller novel, “The Airplane,” has made it into print – with a $2,500 lift from its self-publishing author. “Back in the ‘70s, it was electronic music.” The MIT grad invented and patented a way to electronically store the exact sounds of musical instruments. Alas, Japanese companies such as Casio employed the same technique and beat him to the global market.
Milde also applied his inventive mind to automobile safety. There was “The Co-Pilot,” an electronic device that alerted fender-bender-bound drivers when whey followed too closely behind another vehicle. Milde tried to start a business with his automotive inventions, but that venture ran out of gas.
Wind beneath his wingsThe invention that now consumes him – and tragically consumes Milde’s alter ego, Carl Collingwood, in his new novel – is airborne, or will be if the inventor ever can get a prototype successfully engineered and built. It’s a vertical take-off personal aircraft and the attorney thinks it can be “the next big thing,” reclaiming America’s manufacturing eminence and providing employment to many an out-of-work New Yorker, who someday might be able to afford a VTO four-seater of his or her own.
Andrew Cuomo, harried rush-hour commuters of Westchester, take note.
Milde was inspired by a ‘50s invention called the Custer Channel Wing, an aircraft whose inventor, Willard Custer, was inspired by the sight of hurricane-force winds lifting the roof from the barn on his father’s farm. The law of physics at work there, Bernoulli’s principle, is what creates lift in a helicopter or airplane, Milde explained.
As his visitor was an artful dodger of high school physics, he’ll fly past the air speed-to-surface pressure equations and mechanics of Custer’s winged invention here. Mainstream historians too have largely passed over Willard’s achievement in the annals of flight. It’s his impetuous relative, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who gets all the ink.
“I took off on that idea,” said Milde. After noodling over non-winged aircraft, he set about to design a fuel-efficient winged machine that takes off like a helicopter with the aid of air fanned through its wings. He filed the first patent on his vertical takeoff and landing machine, or VTOL, in 2002, and has devotedly improved on it since.
“Nobody’s got my principle,” said the patent-savvy inventor. “The closest thing is Custer, whom I sort of improved upon myself.”
Onto the next big thingMilde is working with an engineer to build a prototype of what he envisions, when gazing skyward from his office window, as the next big thing. “I’m pretty sure I have a valuable idea,” he said. “My next step would be to flesh it out and bring it to the world.”
In the interim, he has written in a deus ex machina role for his invention in his political and international business-world thriller, “The Airplane.” It is issued by iUniverse, a leading company and chief enabler of amateur authors in the new digital democracy of publishing. The novel’s subtitle, “The Story of the Next Big Thing,” does not refer to the portable nuclear bomb making its way up the Hudson over rail tracks for detonation during a presidential speech at West Point.
We won’t give away its fantastical plot here. Karl Milde, after all, has a $2,500 investment to recoup through sales of his suspenseful book.
It does include an archvillainous, cardiac-wing-residing vice president named Richard Chernoff – you can call him Rick, lest you confuse him with Dick Cheney – and a crimes-solving journalist named Juli Gables, whose access to powerful, confession-prone people in high and highly secured places is the stuff of pure fantasy and deep-green envy for any real-world journalist.
Ever inventive, the author also introduces a newly discovered “Peace Gas” that does wonders for the human brain and has our nation’s assassination-targeted president giddy over the prospects of its global deployment. Sprayed liberally in a room, it could turn an assembly of House Democrats and Republicans into a latter-day lovefest chaperoned by Reason.
The inventor’s literary alter ego “wants to be the Henry Ford of airplanes,” Milde said in his law office. “That’s what we need. I think we’ve got to get going again with our manufacturing expertise – and give the middle class some chance. My book in a way is about that.”
Milde already is preparing his next book in what he calls a transportation trilogy. Its working title is “Tractor-Trailer.” The VTOL inventor will stay grounded for this one.
“I’m going to try to make these tractor-trailer drivers the new cowboys,” he said. Its heroes are named The Road Ranger and Toronto. Milde is reading Lone Ranger radio scripts for inspiration.
Hi-ho, Karl Milde.