New ideas abound at the inventor′s fair | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 07.11.2009
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New ideas abound at the inventor's fair

International inventors meet in Nuremberg to display their prototypes from November 5 to 8. Young students show promising potential, but one aisle remains empty: The Iranian group didn't get visas.

A stuffed animal cat is posed by a hand by a cat flap entrance

The kitty clap represented just one of almost 800 inventions on display in Nuremberg

Every year hundreds of inventors from all over the world come to Nuremberg's inventor's fair iENA to show off their latest ideas. About 800 inventions from 33 countries are on display this year, presenting a wide range of inventions from improved household appliances to high-tech equipment.

According to iENA, the number of presented inventions exceeds previous presentations in iENA's 60-year history. Many individual inventors from Germany take part in SIGNO (protection of ideas for commercial usage) inventor's clubs. 38 of these locally organized clubs present about 190 ideas on this year's fair.

Young inventors in focus

Especially young inventors draw attention to their ideas. Many young students are part of inventor's clubs at their school and professionally introduce their products to trade experts.

Eleven-year old Raphael Krauthann from SIGNO invention club "Querdenker" ("lateral thinker") presents his idea on how to reach for crutches on the floor with a magnetic device. He developed his idea when one of his friends was struggling with crutches because they kept falling on the floor. "It was really annoying, so I said I'm going to invent something," explained Raphael Krauthann.

Other kids from the "Querdenker" club in Ingolstadt also had ideas with great potential. Andreas Finkenzeller's device prevents burning by accident from an electric iron. The 13-year-old invented a system that stops the electricity flow in an iron if it has not been moved in a certain time period. And Michael Stamp, 14, who had to visit the hospital because fireworks exploded in his hand developed a device that lids the explosive charge in a safe distance by stepping on a handle.

Young inventor Michael Stamp stands before his invention

Displayed inventions ranged from household appliances to high-tech equipment

20-year-old Florian Nuber was facing a different kind of problem. His cat brought dead mice inside his parents' house, so he grabbed two of his apprenticeship colleges at wodego to find a solution. Florian Nuber, Christoph Seger and Sebastian Soderer then invented the kitty clap which uses sensors to check the cat's outlines. It will only allow the cat to come in if it is not carrying a mouse. If the cat is transporting a mouse, its figure would be different.

Antibacterial solutions

In times of swine flu and other potential infections, inventions such as Spanish inventor Juan Edilbato Rodriguez Morales' automatic hygienic mat come in handy. First the rotating brush moistened with water and disinfectant cleans the shoe, then the dryer eliminates the remaining water. This could be used in hospitals, at airports or other places where a lot of people gather to prevent germ spreading.

An antibacterial door handle and antibacterial pens also reduce the chance of infection with germs. A lot of infections in hospitals are caused by door handles because everyone touches them, said Bruno Gruber, a professional inventor of 33 years experience. Altogether he has registered 400 patents so far. The most difficult part, he said, is to find someone who wants to produce and sell a product which starts off as a prototype. "Inventing is easy, marketing is my biggest problem," said Gruber.

Problems with patents

But inventors are also facing problems with patents. Registering patents can take years, claims Gruber. "It should be accelerated, because it is damaging for the industry. Especially in tough times it is important that new ideas get introduced to the market quickly, but the patent office is understaffed." Approximately 700 patent examiners are working for the German patent office. Gruber said they need to double the workforce.

The German patent office is currently searching for new patent examiners. Bernd Antonius from the German patent office admits they are a little behind with patent applications.

Another problem for inventors is the rising annual fee to keep the patent. If inventors don't find a company right away, they choose to secure the patent until they can find someone who is willing to produce the product. Otherwise their invention could be used by anyone for free. Registering a patent itself is not so expensive, explained Gruber, but needing a specialized patent lawyer for complicated matters is.

An empty aisle at the inventor's fair with a banner identifying it as the Iranian area

Space reserved for Iranian inventors remained empty

No visa for Iranians

iENA is meant to be an exchange for international inventors, but this year one aisle remains almost completely empty. The president of "The First Institute of Researchers and Inventors in Iran," Dr. Alireza Rastegar, said he didn't get visa appointments for a group of 45 young inventors at the German Embassy in Tehran even though he applied in time. "We have been coming to iENA for the past five years, and we never had a problem," said Rastegar. "I am very very angry. The Iranian booths are empty. This is a very bad position for us and this exhibition."

Rastegar booked 72 square meters (775 square feet) of the fair for young Iranian inventors. He himself could travel to Germany because he holds a Swiss visa; the few students who are at the fair got visas through Italy or a family invitation from Germany, he said. That's why Babak Khodaparast could present his emergency cooling system that can be used to transport a human organ in a cold device.

Kambiz Shirzadian, who has lived in Germany for 30 years, came to represent his nephew's booth because he didn't get a visa as well. According to Shirzadian, when he asked the German Embassy in Tehran about the visa application, he was told such an application didn't exist.

Lydia Zetl, project manager of iENA, is surprised that the Iranian group didn't get their visa appointments. "For me it was obvious that they would get their visas, because they are exhibiting for several years now and it has always worked in the past." She said she was told that the Iranian group was too late in order to get an appointment.

Rastegar said he is going to discuss the issue with the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday. For Shirzadian the worst part is the disappointment the young people must feel who were eager to present their ideas and to meet international researchers.


Reporter: Sarah Steffen / sjt
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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