Have you ever designed your own landscape equipment?

Have you ever thought about how you could make a better tool or device to improve your landscaping business? A member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum created a machine to improve the process of collecting leaves. In this discussion he shares with us the steps he took to design, create and ultimately patent his leaf collecting device. Maybe this story will help inspire you to experiment with designs as well.

One lawn care business owner wrote “my Dad and I have invented a leaf cleanup machine that could do away with the yearly chore of leaf removal for the average homeowner. This machine is the only product ever developed that both picks up and bags leaves - in one simultaneous step. Now, we know there are tons of products out there; however, they all only solve 1 part of the problem. They either help to gather the leaves better, or they help to bag the leaves better. None solve the leaf collection problem end-to-end. Our design utilizes the ease of use of a lawn sweeper, with the improvement of a bagging capability.

Homemade leaf collector

Homemade leaf collector

After drawing our the design on paper, we made a homemade prototype. It is crude, bulky, and imperfect but it is functional to get the point across. And we got a have full US utility patent coverage for our design - #8,056,177.

If you have ever thought about inventing your own equipment, here are a few pointers for going through the process. I hope they help.

After designing your idea, do a search, to make sure your idea isn’t already patent protected by someone else. A patent search can usually run anywhere from $400 - $800. Check out the website uspto.gov and follow the links to try and do a basic search yourself. Keep in mind, it won’t show you everything. That’s when you have to hire a patent attorney to do an exhaustive search, but even then you might not find everything.

Our attorney cost us about $2,500 to get the patent, but we did a good amount of work ourselves, and we had to fight for ours. If we paid the attorney to do everything, the price would’ve gotten up to about $4,000 - 5,000 or so. In the end we got the patent, so we are pumped about that. The examiners at the uspto office are incredibly overworked, so sometimes they will deny you the patent, but they may not have even completely read through your application.

homemade leaf collector

homemade leaf collector

My dad took a few weekends of combing through the conflicting patents that the examiner had cited and actually found some major flaws in their reasoning. He put it all together and had the lawyer present it, and about 3 days later, we had our patent. Always know that you can do some of the work yourself, if you’re willing.

This machine is geared towards the average homeowner who takes it upon themselves every year to clear their lawn of leaves. I know that homeowners buy millions of rakes, blowers, lawn sweepers, funnels, clog-free rakes, and tarps over the years. This justifies the need for something to relieve them of this chore, because none of them do the job. Not everyone either wants to, or can afford to pay a landscaper to do it for them, so they do it themselves.

There will be numerous options for the machine. One such option will be to have the machine be entirely manual, that is, as it is pushed forward, the wheels, brush, and conveyor belt will all move. The brush will obviously move the fastest, probably a 5 or 6 to 1 ratio relative to the wheels so as to sweep up every single leaf. This would be the least expensive, and, like any product line, this will have inexpensive options and expensive ones. The top of the line will obviously have all the bells and whistles that someone who can afford, will want.

Our prototype was built with a 20 year old Craftsman that we bought for about $100 20 years ago. The additions that we made to it will certainly add some costs, but nowhere near what we deem to be what the market will bear. We think a manual unit can go for about $300-400, and the motorized for a little more. With all of the people we’ve spoken to, both online and in real life, that is a small cost if they know that for the next 10-15 years, they’ll never have to do the backbreaking work of raking, blowing, dragging, and bagging leaves ever again.”

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The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
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