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Calvin Flowers Featured in Crain’s Chicago Business
As a young man Calvin Flowers could empathize with parents struggling to keep their teenagers from running up monthly bills on “touch-tone” telephones which couldn’t be locked like their predecessor “rotary dial” phones. Calvin and his six teenage siblings gave his parents real headaches running up the family’s monthly phone bill. Calvin saw a real problem in need of an affordable solution for everyday folks. He recalls how his parents would unplug the touch-tone phone and lock it in their bedroom as a last resort. But his siblings would simply buy another phone and plug it into the wall jack when they wanted to make calls. Calvin’s passion for electronics and solving problems helped him to solve this telephone abuse issue by creating the “Tel-Lock” which secured touch-tone phones at the phone’s wall jack. When the invention worked, Calvin knew he had something others would want, could afford and sold it nationally in Walgreens.
The road to success was not an easy one for Calvin. In the 1990s, Calvin hired a now defunct invention promotion firm to help evaluate, develop, patent, and market his invention. Calvin was a novice when it came to navigating the invention process. For $500 the invention promotion firm did a patent search but charged him an excessive $9,500 to complete the process. After Calvin made his final payment, he learned his patent application had been denied and after some research discovered that one of the firm’s attorneys wasn’t even licensed to be a patent lawyer.
Through an appeal process Calvin eventually received his patent but his battle to get his invention to additional markets was not over. He faced another hurdle when a major manufacturer stole his idea and sold the invention internationally. Despite limited financial resources, Calvin persevered and ended up settling out of court in a patent infringement suit. Calvin’s experience shows that many inventors fall victims to so-called invention promotion firms that promise much but deliver little. Calvin started Chicago Inventors Organization so that other inventors would not have to go through the trials and tribulations he did.
Calvin Flowers has a B.S. in Mathematics from Chicago State University.