Covering up compact fluorescent light bulbs could be the brightest idea yet for Port Ludlow inventor Karl Gruber, 65. Patents are pending in the U.S., China and the world for Gruber’s CFL shade, with help from Sequim attorney Jacques Dulin and his Innovations Law Group, Ltd.
Gruber’s device screws on to a 13-watt CFL, and a few other sizes, to soften the brightness of the bulb.
“(CFLs) are everywhere,” Gruber said.
“This has a huge market. There’s billions of dollars in money and resources being saved by switching to CFLs.”
The idea flashed into Gruber’s head one day as he and his wife, Suzi, were speaking to a real estate agent about selling their house. They were told to replace all of the CFLs in their house because potential buyers could be turned off by their brightness.
“I looked at (a CFL) and said, ‘that’s a screw,’” he said.
Suzi Gruber said, “Fluorescent lights are very hard on your eyes.”
“I used to work under fluorescent lights, and it makes it harder to work.”
Gruber took off with the idea in August 2009.
He developed the product from his home computer and now they have three samples from Shanghai, China. “I desperately sought injection molders to make (the shades) in the U.S.,” he said.
“I was turned down by 10 molders — never because I didn’t have money — I tried and tried to make it in the U.S. but found stone walls. The molding fee was 1/20 in Shanghai than in Washington state.”
Gruber considered selling the shades through his website but he doesn’t want to take the time for a product that could sell millions.
“I’d rather take less money and let someone else market its potential,” Gruber said.
Inventing might be in the genes for Gruber. His father, William Gruber, invented the View-Master, a device for viewing 3-D pictures from a picture disk.
Karl went in other directions. He got bachelor’s degrees in civil and industrial engineering from the University of Washington and worked as a corporate pilot for 40 years.
However, he didn’t pass up a few ideas that he later developed.
He invented an emergency distress flare that shoots from a hunter’s rifle. The concept was bought but never developed because the buying company deemed it too dangerous to manufacture. Nonetheless, Gruber described the deal as “golden” between him and the company.
Gruber also co-founded and sold a business that developed music for fashion and restaurant chains.
Gruber patented a stand-alone battery charger for a Garmin Global Positioning System 496 and other models. He said before he developed the charger, people only could charge batteries in the unit. His model has no affiliation to Garmin and is sold on eBay. Gruber said the Illinois Air National Guard just ordered quite a few.
“There is a demand for it, but for every Garmin 496, there’s 10 million of these (CFL) bulbs,” Gruber said.
The bulb shades don’t have a name yet, Gruber said. Right now he’s focused on product development.
The colors he’s proofed are crystal amber, daylight blue and sunset pink. He eventually wants more colors and cup sizes but the model can fit a number of CFLs. Gruber has a lot of optimism for his bulb shades since he’s found no one else who is developing a similar product.
“It’s fantastic and exciting to be almost famous,” Gruber joked.
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