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Sirena Rolfe: Staying Covered with Tempus Hood

by Patents Integrated
October 13th 2021

No matter where you live, chances are you've experienced a sudden weather change. You could be walking outside under a cloudless sky and then just like that, the winds pick up and you feel drops of... More

Hello and welcome to the novel and non obvious podcast where we discuss the intellectual property topics, impacting the startup world. My name is Yuriko morita, the host of this podcast and founder of patents integrated Today, we welcome Sarina Roffe, founder of Tempest Hood Incorporated. We'll be discussing I. P. Issues related to protecting your innovative product when you're creating a niche product. Welcome Serena, thank you. Tell us a little bit about Tempest Hood and your inspiration for coming up with the product and the company. Yeah, sure. My main inspiration was I was extremely frustrated when I'd be out and about on what seemed to be a really nice day and then all of a sudden the weather would change whether that was rain coming in or high winds or snow. And I always felt like I was just never prepared meaning I'd either have like a really heavy coat with me that may not have had a hood or I didn't have an umbrella and I just found that there has to be a better way. So I invented Tempest Hood mainly because it's an easy to use attachable water resistant nylon hood and the attachable piece is that it connects directly to the little locker hook that's in your coat or jacket so you can automatically attach it there, slide it over your head and you're ready to go, which basically takes away the need of having a huge coat because it has a hood or lugging around a clunky umbrella.

So I know on your website it says, ladies, if you spend more than $100 a month on your hair, you need this product. Yes. So I'm, I'm of japanese descent, my hair does what it does. So whenever I force it to do anything, it doesn't do anything. I'm about due for a haircut, I Don't spend $100 a month of my hair. Who is your target market here. So you know, that's the vanity piece of it, right? So I am definitely vain when it comes to my hair, when it comes to just looking good. And I find that I spend more than that a month on my hair and when I would talk to different women, which is basically my target about the care that they put into their hair, the investment that they put into their hair. I found that most women who felt like they needed to protect their hair, whether they were cycling or running or just out and about spent around 100 bucks a month on their hair to, to keep it well maintained and that doesn't mean you're going to salons and spending that necessarily, but that means the products are buying right?

And I felt that when you or finding yourself in a situation where it is raining all of a sudden or snowing or the wind is bad, that investment is pretty much out the door. And so that's why I recommend my hood for women who do spend that type of money on their hair on a regular basis. Yeah, you look lovely today by the way. Okay, can you tell us about your thought process as you came up with your product design? Sure. So uh, the first thing was the vanity piece for sure. The second thing is I lived in new york for a few years and prior to that, I mean my home is colorado and I just found that because the seasons can change in a day, right? I mean it's just you're never properly prepared. It feels that I just felt like, you know, I have a lot of great jackets. I have a lot of really cute umbrellas and stuff like that. But there wasn't any convenience in protecting my do quote unquote, which is what is on my site and that's why I felt there was just an important need to sit down and do some research.

Is there something like this in the market already? Is there other people who are in the outdoor industry who was already working on something like this? You know, is it just called something different? And I didn't find anything. What I found was that there were attachable hoods that came with your coat but they weren't versatile in a way that you can use them with other coats or jackets. And so I literally sat down and sketched on a notebook piece of paper. What I thought the hood should look like, what made the hood different from everything out there right now. And that's why the first piece of my hood that I designed is the flak that connects to the locker hook or we call it locker hook but the hook that's in the color of your jacket. So that was the main component. And then from there, everything else looks similar to other hoods you see today right? They have the drawstring around your face, they have the pool around your crown. But believe it or not both of those things that draw string around your face and your crown aren't on one hood together. It's either one or the other, which is what I have found. So when I designed it I literally sat down and wrote it out and then I did the process of looking up the USpto and saying to myself, if it's not on the market, maybe this is patentable.

I don't know. Let me try and find out. So that then led me to do my research with regards to how the patent process worked. What I love about the process that you just described is the fact that you are the target market and you researched that target market and then you research the products that would satisfy the needs of that target market. So product market fit and then you realize, oh this is an innovative product. Let's see if I can protect it. So that's really awesome. So then how did the patent process go for you. So it is very daunting the hardest part is the way that the websites are written can be very intimidating. And so what I ended up doing was just figuring out how do I navigate through this process? Right, but what's the first thing I should be looking at into your point? It was researching it, it was even looking at uspto and researching other patents as well.

And by doing that research helped me understand the process and what that then pushed me to was, oh there's something called a provisional patent, what does that mean? Oh it means I can tell the U. S. P. T. O. Hey, I have an idea, please kind of keep it on your books, so to speak. And then it gives me that year to really sit down and think, is this something I really want to do right? It gives you that year to kind of think about it. It gives you that year to talk to your friends and family and is my idea? Cool, is it something you'd buy? And once I got up to that year timeframe, I think I probably had about two months left before it expired. I had started researching attorneys and saying to myself, hey, it's not in the market, there isn't a patent out there like it. And I interviewed three attorneys and my third one is the one that I went with and he was just great, I felt like he believed in what I was doing, he couldn't say it was patentable, of course, but he believed in what I was doing and that was enough for me to say, okay, let's work together. And that's when he and I sat down and got very technical about things.

And later I found out that the provisional patent work was actually something that most people don't do on their own. They actually do have an attorney for something like that. And that to me was very satisfying of like, wow, I did that all by myself and I didn't pay an attorney to do it, right. And that was very cool for me, you know, just to be a part of that application process, literally sending in the drawings I had grew on notebook paper to the USpto and getting it approved and then ultimately recognizing, okay, if if I'm serious about this, I need an attorney. So, one thing that, that really strikes me as I'm talking to you and when I've talked to you in the past is that you're very studious, you do your research, you spend a lot of time researching your steps. Were there things in your patent application drafting process that surprised you or that you found interesting. So, I know you said that it's intimidating. That's for sure because it's a lot of legal language.

Was there anything about that process that was interesting to you? Yeah. You know, the provisional part, honestly, for me was the easiest part because that was very much like now I'm just putting my thinking on paper right now I'm just telling the USpto my thought process and showing my creativity and those types of things. So that was actually the easiest part. The hardest part was when I was working with the attorney and just walking through the process of all the detail that you have to draw. How every piece that you're drawing, Everything that you're identifying as design work has to be written in a certain way. Like that to me was like wow I wouldn't have thought having to describe how to use my hood is so detailed. When you think about picking up a hood you're like I just Robin Hood and I put it on my head and I pull the strings and make it tighter. But when you're writing that and and saying that to the U. S. P. T. O. It's so detailed and I would have never thought that even in my own patent research and seeing all the patents out there and reading all the legalities that go with it.

It just didn't dawn on me that I'm now having to describe to the U. S. P. T. O. How to wear my hood. And so I thought that that was pretty daunting for me to sit with my attorney and have him do that. Thank heavens he was doing that. But for me I would not have ever thought it would be so detailed. So can you talk about some of the back and forth that you had with your attorney in order to put this together? So you came in with your provisional application already done and then what did he do with it? So he took that and it was a great jumping off point for him because I had only had one hood created, I had my first prototype and there were still things that I was trying to change around and at the same time have him now submit the patent application. So it was almost the phrase that they use of building the plane while you're flying it. It was kind of that same situation. And so it was great from a sense of serena you're thinking X, Y and Z and I'm thinking a B and C.

How do we merge these thoughts together in order for the U. S. P. T. O. Office to understand what you're trying to do and so, you know, the back and forth really was you said this, did I write it as you said it or in order for this to work for the U. S. P. T. O. What you said needs to be tweaked a certain way. And so there was definitely a lot of collaboration in the right way to speak about my Hood. The design work actually was really simple because I had a prototype and it was easy for him to look at the prototype and draw it out and put the figures next to it and identify what each piece meant. So that part was pretty simple. But my communication putting that on paper was definitely challenging. So congratulations on getting a patent and issued patent. If you look up serena's name in any of the patent websites, you'll find a patent that belongs with the Tempest Hood product. That's great. So then what came after that? What's your current plan?

So once that my patent was submitted, as you know, it takes a really long time before you hear back from the USpto with regards to process. And I know they've changed a lot of the rules since then. But the waiting game was really challenging. So for anyone listening to this who's thinking about it or in the process of doing so it it unfortunately because it does take awhile makes you second guess your work and Ignore it. Throw all those thoughts out the window until you hear something. It's not worth your energy or time to really stew on it. So I would recommend not doing that. But when I got the call from my attorney actually got a call from my attorney and I submitted in 2014, I received a call from my attorney in 2016 and it was actually for me to defend my patent which I had never thought about because remember I did all this research thinking I'm good, I didn't see anything out there. I should be good to go, Well, there were a few companies out there who either had a patent that seemed similar. So the patent specialists wanted me to defend against those.

And then there were also illustrations out there by well known brands who didn't actually have a patent quite yet. But they had illustrations on the books of ideas that they were thinking about. And that was scary because in my mind, this being my first go around, I thought that means I'm gonna get denied if I have to defend it, I'm denied right away. And my attorney did a great job of explaining that actually is a good thing that they're taking the time to have you defend it versus denying you right away. And so that made me feel much better. So I defended my patent twice. The first time was, as I described that there were companies out there who have patents that seemed similar to mine. So That happened. And then the second time I defended it, I want to say that was 2018. Another illustration had popped up, not necessarily a patent, but another illustration that seems similar. And I defended my patent against that as well. And that process was great because it does make you think is my product, something that people are interested in. And if people are interested in it.

And now I'm defending it, there definitely seems to be a place for it, if that makes sense? Right? So I went back through that defending process and I had said to my attorney, is there a way that you can meet with the patent office to describe and defend my patent because on paper some things don't come across as well as they do if you can actually show it or have a true conversation. Um, and he was all for that, he's like, absolutely. So I wasn't a part of the conversation which made me kind of feel like I wish I could have been a part of it, but it probably was good. I wasn't. And so he had the conversation, we received a letter that said thanks for the conversation. We are re reviewing everything will get back to you. So in late 2018, I want to say it was actually december a few months later, I got the call from my attorney that said congratulations, you received your patent and I'm like, oh my gosh! Like it was just amazing, very exciting. So what does that mean to you back to your question, What does that mean now? And so it went two ways. One way was how do I pay this knowledge forward?

How do I help others in my situation whether it's women, women of color, People of color in general, how do I help them navigate it? Because it is very daunting. And then the second piece is do I want to just sell my hood forever. Do I want to keep selling my products forever. And so I had to really sit and think really long and hard of how I wanted to do this and honestly both. I was able to talk to a few nonprofits and explain the process to them and help them understand, you know, how do you think about a pattern? Not everything you produce is patentable, but it at least gets the creative juices flowing to make you want to be excited about your product. Right? And then the other piece of it is the marketing part of it, the selling part of it. Like even though my day job is digital marketing, I am terrible at selling my hood terrible. But you know it I've done both and I've I've loved doing both. And so now it's been a few years that I've received my pattern. A lot of cool things have happened. I've recognized that I'm one of, I think I was a 40th and 41st African American woman to receive a patent since the late 1800s.

Like that's blows my mind. But it makes sense during the times, right? And then I've also recognized, you know in colorado, there are a lot of women out here who have patents but the USpto office obviously doesn't identify based on demo who's receiving patents but at the same time there's enough of a community that we recognize there aren't that many women who have patents in general. So it's just a great community to be a part of and, and it's great that I have different avenues I can take now that I've received a patent very long winded, but I hope it answered your question definitely. Well I think the gist of it is that the patent prosecution process, so this defending your patent application going back and forth with the patent examiner. It takes patience and it sounds like you had great guidance with your patent attorney. So that's wonderful that you had that. I know that you've mentioned to me that you had some assistance. You had a relationship with the Rocky Mountain patent and trademark office in particular.

Can you tell us about that? sure. When I had learned probably I want to say in 2017 I want to say that there was a Rocky Mountain USpto office that was opening in Denver colorado. That like was amazing to me because you know, although I went through the process not having that support directly, it was so exciting to be able to share that information with nonprofits and others that I'm working with that right up the street here in colorado in Denver you can go to the USpto office and you can talk to agents and you can look up everything you want to know with regards to what you're trying to design, what you're trying to receive a patent for and just have it like at your fingertips Scuse me and that to me made me want to have those connections with the Rocky Mountain USpto. So molly, who is the director of the Rocky Mountain USpto? She and I have built a relationship because she recognizes that the patent process is so daunting. She recognizes that there may be a lot of us out here who won't go through the process because it appears to be daunting.

And she has done just a really good job of outreach and figuring out how to talk to nonprofits, how to talk to businesses in general of just what this process is, what it takes, what it looks like, you know, and encouraging people to be comfortable using the USpto and not feel intimidated by it. And I think having her as a voice representing something of such a I mean it's the government at the end of the day, whether you like it or not, it's the government and it's scary. And so I think she's just done a really good job of doing that. And so I've been working closely with her in her office of of how I can help, you know, spread the word. That's wonderful. Yeah molly Kotowski at the Rocky Mountain USpto has been a friend for me as well and she has been such a big supporter of the startup community. So she has always made herself available whenever we asked her to come in and speak to, for example, the boulder startup week community, that sort of thing. So she's one, she's a wonderful resource.

I think what really impresses me about molly is that, you know, as high up as she is in the government every once in a while I can send her a linkedin message and she'll respond or someone else from her office will come and respond to me directly. So it's such a wonderful resource. I know that the Denver Public Library has always been a uspto repository for many years, but now that we do have the Rocky Mountain uspto right here, I have gone in there to do interviews with the examiner and that sort of thing. So then where is your product going now? Where do you want to go with your product? Yeah, great question. Um, so my goal is to have my patent licensed out to um, probably more of an outdoor retailer type focus company. Obviously I'm open to listening to and working with other companies, but I would like to have a good conversation with a brand that recognizes the importance of my patent as well as you know, feels like it's a good accessory to whatever they have right.

You know, I, I feel like as an african american woman as a patent recipient and actually being able to have a product that I feel is needed. I would love for an older company to just recognize the importance of that, if that makes sense. You know, even moving the whole african american piece aside the product itself, I just find it so versatile and yes, it's my products of course I'm, I'm pushing the heck out of it. But for men, for women, I haven't targeted for women of course, but for men to like my partner and his friends all have it and they, whether they're wearing it over their cap at a ball game or or whether they just have it in their hands because they're planning to take a long bike ride or run or walk or whatever it is, it works for everyone. But the vanity sake of it is definitely around more of women honestly, which is how I came about it. But I would love for just an outdoor company of some sort to recognize it and want to have it as a part of their overall product layout, if that makes sense.

Okay, so do the companies that are in the outdoor retail products, jackets and those sorts of things, do they care about intellectual property? You know what's interesting is, you know, when you and I had the conversation before um, yes and no, there are a lot of products out there in retail that don't have patents, you know, and there are a lot of things out there that don't need patents, but for me the design of it with the, how I described the bungee cords with how I describe the connection at the base of the hood, those are designed pieces that aren't out there as one And so for those that appreciate it definitely recognize, wow, it's good to be protected it because there isn't anything out there like it. But for those that don't feel like it's needed is mainly because they have the idea that I can just grab a hat, I can just grab an umbrella and don't see the purpose of it. But at the same time recognize that it is a good thing to have. So for me personally, I love that I have it protected.

But for those that maybe don't think it's needed or isn't necessary doesn't matter to me either because at the end of the day I just want people to embrace my hood, whether it has a pattern or not, I'm just lucky and blessed that I have a pattern to protect it. Having patent protection can be a marketing tool as well, right? You're so right. And and having that on my website is big when I have conversations about it being patented. Absolutely helps as well too. It just gives that extra credibility to it for sure. And I would think that the whole not wanting to carry an umbrella, the travel industry could be a great outlet for this product as well if you're listening and I love to me products by the way. Okay, great. Is there anything that, oh, here's a fun one. You've gotten your patent, what have you done with the patent? Have you gotten plaques? Have you gotten commemorative objects?

What have you done with it? Well, the first thing I did which actually one of my old managers had suggested it is I was like I should get a tattoo of my patent number. And so I did on my left shoulder, upper shoulder is my patent number tattooed. So that was the first thing I did. But shortly thereafter I did get a plaque created with my patent and the drawing and everything. But yeah, that's just how important it is for me. So it's on my body. That's wonderful. I think that just demonstrates how much the whole process and going through the process and and coming up the other side has meant for you. I know that you you are actually featured in a book called Invent Her. It's a book called B and Invent Her and every woman's guide to creating the next Big thing by Meena You and Hilary Meyer. You've got a chapter featured featuring you. Yeah. So then if you are speaking to a new inventor, male or female, it's okay.

It doesn't matter too much either way. But I know that you're very supportive of the minority community women inventors. What advice would you give to someone that that has a product idea but it's not quite sure what to do next. The first thing I would say is to do some research, make sure that there isn't anything out there right now in the market that is similar enough for you not to add value or have value with what you're trying to create. The second thing I'd also say is not everything is patentable, not everything needs to be patented. And when you're doing your research, those types of thoughts will come in your head of like, do I need a patent for this or is this just something really cool that I want to put in the market and that to me is where using using the Rocky Mountain uspto if you're in colorado or other U. S. P. T. O tools is really helpful because you do get your hopes up right away.

You're very excited. Everything is so cool. But unfortunately, it can also make you sad if you find out way down the road that it's not patentable or it's already in the market. So try to try to get your sad feelings out early, trying not to put too much and energy and effort in the process. If you haven't done your research. So in a nutshell, do your research is the first thing I would recommend. That's perfect. Any last words? No, thank you so much for having me. And you know, if there's anyone out there that wants some assistance, I'd be happy to help in any way that I could. That's wonderful. Yeah, if anybody wants to get a hold of serena feel free to contact me or go look on her website, Tempest Hood dot com. You'll see her whole story, you can buy her products. So it's T E M P U S H 00 D dot com. Well, thanks so much for being with us. Serena. You've got such a great perspective for these early inventors and and early product developers.

So thank you. Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it. Well, we hope you enjoyed this episode of the novel and non obvious podcast. Our guest today has been serena Roaf of Tempest Hood. You can find more information about Tempest Hood and even buy one for yourself at Tempest Hood dot com. That's T E M P U S H 00 D dot com. Feel free to send us comments or suggestions for startup in I. P related topics you'd like us to discuss on this podcast at info at patents Integrated dot com. Our producer is Joel Davis of analog digital. Our marketing specialist is Tim Sprinkle of Layup content. Our theme music used with permission is the Workday Takata from A Life in a Day, composed by Sherry's lighter and performed by Michelle Stanley and flute, Jeff le Quattro and guitar and yours truly on cello. Here's our obligatory disclaimer. The content of this podcast is informational only and not intended to be legal advice. The novel and non obvious podcast is the production of patents integrated and all rights are reserved.

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Sirena Rolfe: Staying Covered with Tempus Hood
Sirena Rolfe: Staying Covered with Tempus Hood
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