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Why It Took Me 30 Years To Patent My Idea

  • Name: Randy Artruc
  • Patent No.: 10,023,282
  • Patent: Gears for Reversing Rowing Motion for Oars: Artruc’s invention uses a hemispherical pair of gears to make an oar’s movements match a rower’s hand movements. Clamped to the side of a boat, it allows the oarsman to face forward.

The idea came from when I was in California, up in the Sierras with some friends. This was in ’88. One of the guys had a rowboat. I said, “Well, I’ll do the rowing, and you guys can do the fishing.” I didn’t have a fishing license. They said, “Ah, you don’t need a fishing license up here!” I said, “With my luck, the day I decide to fish without a license, the warden will be here. I’ll just row.” While I’m rowing I’m thinking: This is the only means of transportation that we do backward.

Inventor Randy Artruc.
Bill Prescott

I think I’m being smart: Maybe if I invent a rearview mirror? Six years later I was at a friend’s house having a beer, and I noticed the bottle caps are like little gears. And by the time I had my second beer, I had two bottle caps, and I thought, Well, look at this, you could change to forward rowing.

I bought two three-inch round wooden balls and carved gears, traced off a three-inch transmission gear a friend gave me. The device worked on the first try. It sits on the rail of the boat. You sit facing forward. The oar is on one side of the gears and the handle on the other. Because of the gears, wherever your hand goes, the paddle goes. If your hand goes forward, the paddle goes forward.

I showed it to a friend and he wanted me to bring my wooden gear to the San Francisco Yacht Club, and I didn’t feel good about that. I figured if I had done that, they’d end up with my idea and I’d end up with a piece of wood. So I never went. Then on December 28, 2004, I lost the prototype in a house fire.

Twelve years later, I had the dream. I swear. I was wondering about retirement, what’s going to happen at the end of my life, and things like that, and I had the dream of seeing a full rowing craft using that gear-driven oar. So that’s when I called InventHelp.

“Twelve years later, I had the dream…of seeing a full rowing craft using that gear-driven oar.”

I’ve always liked George Foreman. He’s the spokesman of InventHelp. He’s always on television. So I don’t know anybody at InventHelp, but after years of George Foreman? I trusted him. I had to pay $1,000 to do the research, to find out if it’s actually patentable. I found out I’m 170 years behind. There were forward-rowing devices patented in the 1800s! But mine works in four directions—it raises and lowers the oars, plus the front-to-back rowing motion—and it has other unique features, too, so I could patent it.

I still don’t have a prototype since the fire. I thought about carving another one. Some people say 3D printing might be the way to go. And some say, well, I don’t know about that. It may not be strong enough for the stress on the gears.

InventHelp gets the design in front of companies. If someone’s interested, they would tell me they’ve got a company that wants to produce it. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure it’s on its way. Like everything else, it takes time.

This article appeared in the June 2019 issue of Popular Mechanics. You can subscribe here.

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