Student's Patented Invention Is Most Valuable As An Endeavor With Her Dad
By Emily Drew '04
September 28, 2001
September 28, 2001
Not many students can find their patented inventions on the shelves of the college bookstore! But following five years of product development with her father, Davidson College senior Christa Wagner can. Their device, the Q-Pin, went into production last summer, and is now being test marketed in Office Depot and Staples stores, as well as the Davidson College Bookstore.
"It started in my high school photography class," said Wagner, an English major from Charlotte. "I wanted to display my photos without defacing them. Tacks and push pins poked holes in the pictures, which meant re-cropping the photo after every display."
To solve the dilemma, Christa and her father, David--an architect with Wagner Murray Architects--developed the Q-Pin. Described on the package as "the pin that holds without the hole," the Q-Pin prevents damage to items posted on a tackable surface. The company's Web site, www.plushpins.com, claims that "Whether posting photographs, design layouts, invitations or posters, your objects will be held securely, and fashionably, without destruction."
The pair have begun distributing their product from their Charlotte-based company, Plush Pins, LLC. Q-Pins retail for $2.95 per box of 24 pins.
The final design for the Q-Pin evolved from prototypes created by the father-daughter team. "The first design looked like a Pac Man, but it didn't hold papers up," said Christa. Then, while working at his computer one day, her father noticed the shape of the letter "Q" in the font Seraph. In a "eureka moment," he realized the potential design was sitting on his screen.
David Wagner made a model based on his idea, tested it, and found that the design held paper very effectively without damaging it. When inserted into the wall just above the object being hung, the tail of the "Q" holds the paper in place against the wall...without making a hole in it! The promotional literature also claims superiority over traditional push pins because the "contoured pin head is ergonomically designed to fit more comfortably in the hand of the user."
Christa Wagner said she uses Q-Pins in her residence hall room to hold up all her photos and posters, and that her father has completely redone his office cork board to use Q-Pins exclusively.
The Wagners received both a design patent and a utility patent on their invention two years ago. Design patents protect the appearance of a product, and utility patents protect its function. Although a utility patent is more difficult to attain, the Q-Pin's function was unique enough for the US Patent Office to recognize its novelty.
Christa relates her experience with the Q-Pin to her experience at Davidson. "You must work for success," she said. "Business, like school, takes time, research, and patience."
Although she learned a lot about marketing and design through the experience, Christa does not plan to pursue a business career. "I had a limited ability to help with the marketing anyway, because it's so time-intensive," she said.
She's unsure of her post-Davidson plans, but is considering beginning as a teacher. She knows she's going to have to do something to make a living, because she doubts that the Q-Pin will be a ticket to fabulous wealth. "The survival chances for a one-product company aren't that great," she admitted. "In the best scenario, we would make some money by being bought out by a much bigger firm. But this wasn't ever about money. It sounds corny, but it's been most enriching as a means of strengthening my relationship with my father."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.