by Greg Escobar
Each weekday at 5:30 a.m., Anthony Ruscetta gets up, takes a shower, eats breakfast, and drives 6 miles to work. He arrives at his office at about 6:45 a.m. and starts by making coffee. After that, he checks his email and puts in a full day fielding phone calls until about 4:45 p.m. He leaves a bit early so he can stop at the post office and drop off whatever needs to go out. He eventually gets home around 5:15 p.m. and has dinner with his wife. All of this would be rather ordinary for a working person if it weren’t for the fact that he recently celebrated his 66th wedding anniversary and his 91st birthday was just yesterday.
Doing things later in life is nothing out of the ordinary for Ruscetta. At the young age of 80, he received his MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Business. He is also a decorated WWII veteran who has the unique distinction of walking away from a midair collision between the B-24 he was in, and a B-17.
Rusty, as most people call him, has been serving as the CEO of the Inventors Assistance League (IAL) for the past 14 years, while working with the organization for almost 30 years.
IAL is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization founded in 1962 by Ted De Boer, which helps inventors quickly and inexpensively protect and market their ideas. De Boer was an avid inventor turned patent attorney who realized the short-comings of the patent process—especially the high cost. He devised a system that took advantage of little-known aspects of patent law to keep costs down while communicating the “what” of an invention without revealing the “how” to potential manufacturers.
Numerous important inventions have come to fruition as the result of IAL’s efforts. Some examples include the wheels found on the bottom of present day luggage. Ruscetta recalls, “This guy came into our office one day with this suitcase. He had attached wheels in what I can only call a rather crude way. Nevertheless, that’s where the idea was first established.” Other inventions include the original vapor recovery device at gas pumps, as well as various toys and special toy remote control devices sold by major retailers. Since IAL doesn’t specifically ask its members to reveal their ideas to the organization it’s hard to know how many other mainstream ideas have been helped. Considering the tens of thousands of inventors who have joined IAL over the many years, there is no doubt the number is significant.
Taly Williams, an environmental engineer and former professional football player in the CFL, developed a revolutionary golf invention he calls the Taly Mind Set® which improves golf performance. Williams said, “IAL really helped me in protecting and marketing my idea. They serve as a good example of an organization doing affordable honest work.”
The invention help industry has seen a lot of change since De Boer started IAL. In the early 60s, there were various small inventor clubs around the country, but now, the industry is littered with numerous multi-million dollar invention marketing companies. These companies are much better at extracting dollars from vulnerable inventors than actually helping them with their ideas. They are known for asking inventors to reveal details of their invention, followed by telling them that their idea is the greatest thing they have ever seen and will make them rich—even if the idea is unrealistic.
In contrast, IAL provides inventors with the tools that will help them safely determine if their idea has market value—or perhaps not.
IAL’s seasoned CEO is now overseeing significant changes to the organization’s program as the result of last year’s signing of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act by President Obama. Ruscetta said, “The new law does away with an important protection component small inventors have depended on ever since the patent office was opened over 200 years ago.” Fortunately, the part of the new law that impacts inventors doesn’t go into effect until March 16, 2013. Even after that date, there are still ways to protect an idea inexpensively. IAL staff is working with its affiliated attorneys and the USPTO to update the program accordingly.
Although IAL’s physical office is small, the organization invested in modern technology allowing its numerous counselors to provide help to inventors from anywhere with an internet connection. The staff’s vast experience includes technology, higher education, entertainment, marketing, internet and patent law.
When asked whether he had any plans on retiring, Ruscetta quipped, “All my friends who have retired are no longer around. I figure it’s safer to keep working…” Considering how he seems to have more energy than most half his age, Rusty will be pointing inventors in the right direction for many more years.
Rusty Ruscetta and the Inventors Assistance League can be reached at (818) 246-6542. For more information, visit www.inventions.org. For information about the Taly Mind Set® visit www.taly.com.
Seasoned CEO Navigates 50 Year-Old
Non-Profit Organization Through Changing Times