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"Up-Front Research": How I do it

let-them-fly's Avatargold

First of all, this is not presented as THE way to research a concept; it is simply an outline of the way "I" do it, which has resulted in 42% of my submissions reaching G7.... and no R6's!        I've also discovered that anytime I "skirt" the following process, I get R4's... coincidence?  I think not!

Lack of thorough RESEARCH is the cause of Red X's (rejections) more than ANY other thing here at Edison Nation, but it also applies to prospective viable inventions that are pursued in ANY arena.... it's tedious work at first and it takes practice to be effective, but doing so will increase the number of submissions that are presented to companies who are looking for new products!       If YOU are sick of R4's, this article is for you!

I do both patent/competing-product searches at the same time because they share a lot of steps so there's no use having to do it twice on the same item, plus, you can (1) uncover relevant similar products and (2) even come upon new uses/alterations that will add value to your OWN concept.... also, you must come to grips with the fact that sometimes regardless how good of a search you do, pertinent things will still get past you.     With that in mind you must remember you're primary goal is to FIND prior art; if you go into it hoping to NOT find any, you're motivation is wrong which will affect the mental parameters and cause you to overlook things.

Get you a pencil and notebook and get your lap-top in a quiet place where the "rhythm" will less likely to be broken.  

Step 1 - Go to Google search (not google patents, just the normal search window) and type in various "names" (synonyms) for the item you have in mind... just enter three or four keywords per search, then click on "Images", then scan through what comes up.

Step 2 - If something catches your eye as "looking" like it, or "performs the same or similar function", save that URL in your favorites and continue searching the google results. (we'll come back to the individual link in a minute)

Step 3 - After sifting through three or four pages of search results, enter a new set of keywords and repeat the process.. do this until you have searched every conceivable name you can think of.

Step 4 - Now go back to the first URL and try to identify the "parent" company of the similar product and attempt to locate that company's website... record the "product name" along with any information about the parent company, then move on to the next similar item you found and do the same thing.

Step 5 - Go back to the first item you found, do a Google Patent Search using the retail "product name"... if you find the patent, or application, read the Claims first and see if you can decipher/discern anything that describes YOUR invention... (make notes of the different uses/designs that are claimed)

Step 6 - Now find the "Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment's" section of the patent and study it carefully to see if the merits of "your" invention is mentioned or eluded to anywhere.         If it is mentioned, unless you can come up with a novel and non obvious improvement to the concept, the search ends.    If it is NOT mentioned, go back to the front page of the patent and find the "Citations" section; look up each one of the cited patents and repeat the "Claims/Specification" search, making notes of any variations of the original item you find.

Step 7 - Repeat step's 5 & 6 with each similar product that you found during your keyword search.

Step 8 - Now your notebook should have (1) a list of similar products, (2) companies associated with the similar products, (3) and any variations of the product mentioned in the IP documents.

Step 9 - Now, google retail chains that you think might carry items that meet the same needs as your invention... look through what they have for anything similar................. also, physically visit retailers and look for items that meet the same kind of need as your invention (take notes as you go), then when you get back home, search for the IP on those particular items, including step's 5 & 6... taking notes as you go.    

Step 10 - NOW, with all your notes in hand, you have a perfectly illustrated map on how you should proceed...... it is also at his point you should take a serious, non-objective look at your concept and ask yourself how it measures up to the items you have discovered?    Does it solve a problem that no other product solves?    Does your solution offer greater "real" benefits than other similar products?  Ask yourself and REALISTICALLY conclude if your concept is "Better Than" other related products?    If there is no mention of your invention/improvement anywhere in any patent documentation, sales papers, web sites, or retail shelves, then you must realistically ask yourself if "your" invention/improvement would be "UNEXPECTED" to anyone familiar with the similar products... in other words, would they greet it with a "Wow, why didn't I think of that?" (remember, you may have something that can be patented, but that doesn't mean the niche population will flock to yours enough to justify some company investing in it)  You have ALL the pieces to the puzzle in front of you... try to determine what areas need improvement or an "easier/more-efficient way"... find a HOLE in the technology that hasn't been filled.  (if you're "in-love" with your invention, now's a good time to slap yourself back into reality)

Step 11 - Many times, I will buy a couple of the competing products and use them at home to determine exactly how "user friendly" they are, then zero-in on my findings.

Step 12 - In your submission, or presentation, list the most relevant pieces of prior art/competing-products, and detail exactly how & why YOUR invention is superior..... (try your best to make the reasons yours is better something that strikes a chord with the reader, causing them to ENVISION/IMAGINE themselves using it)

I know this sounds like a LOT, but after you do it a few times, you start flowing through it and can begin formulating what is "missing" (what needs to be invented) during the actual search process. Sometimes you come up with NEW inventions along the way. It gets to be fun; almost like a scavenger hunt, where you seek out missing puzzle pieces and hope you can collect enough to SEE a picture no one has ever looked at before. <:-)

REMEMBER: "color" and "size" and "material it's made of" is NOT considered patentable improvements. 

REMEMBER: Just because something is patentable does not mean it will be marketable... and just because something is marketable does not mean it's patentable. 

REMEMBER: Just because there are 9 million people in the USA that would benefit from your invention, doesn't mean they will ALL abandon what they are currently using to purchase yours.

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The main reason for this thread is that I am tired of loosing "friends" who ask me to research their concept, and the results were not what they wanted to hear. 

Ken Hill
Derrick James
Rafael Avila
Glenn Stok
roger pena
colleen Noonan
Loren Baisden
Joe Kurtenbach
David Pope
David .
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kdc's Avatargold

This great information Frank and everyone needs to read this. One of the things I've never understood is the term, 'non obvious improvement' because if I'm making an improvement on a product that is already out there...I would WANT my improvement to be obvious.  I take it, that the term means something completely different than that...I DO tend to take things a bit literally.If you or anyone can shine some light on that for me then maybe I can understand that term better.

Frank White
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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thank you...

A good frame to put non obvious into is "unexpected" to those familiar with the particular skill set.       Something that wouldn't be thought of as a "Natural Progression" of the technology.      

Obviousness can be a hard wall to climb sometime, especially when we have to factor-in marketability too.      

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kdc's Avatargold

Thanks again, Sir!

Frank White
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magurn's Avataren_staff_badge

Great information Frank! Thank you!

Frank White
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let-them-fly's Avatargold

You're welcome Michelle.. :)

Kathleen:

Let me give you a little example of non obviousness and marketability, and how they have to find harmony;

Let's say "Eddie" comes up with a new golf ball that has triangular dimples instead of round ones, which consistently causes the ball to go 24 inches further on a drive.... Eddie "might" be able to get a patent on the triangular dimples improvement; the Examiner may determine it is "expected" (natural progression), then again he may not. The Examiner grants his patent on the grounds of uniqueness.  (no one else has written any Claims about triangular dimples)

Now, along comes "Theodore" a couple years later with a new golf ball improvement which has 600+ oval-shaped dimples that consistently increase drives by 50 - 65 yards, and if hit by a Chipping Wedge, creates a back-spin that stops the ball where it lands, every time.      Theodore's "improvement" could also be seen as a natural progression, but HIS generates significant UNEXPECTED results/benefits.     His patent is also granted.

Eddie is excited and goes to try and market his new golf ball..... what he soon realizes is the "benefits" of the new ball (1) doesn't justify the expense/trouble it would take for a golf ball manufacturer to start producing them, and (2) the 24 inch gain in distance wouldn't be a significant enough benefit to cause the majority of golfers to abandon what they currently use and buy the new ones.

Theodore, on the other hand; once he demonstrates his new ball, IT will be in practically every golf bag and club house and golf retailer in the WORLD!!!

-----

Moral of the story; "Eddie" should have recognized the writing on the wall earlier in the process and abandoned the triangular dimple improvement before spending all that money/time.... (or at minimum, experimented with alternatively shaped dimples and not been he!!-bent on the triangular design!)

(there's a "Mass Market" lesson in there too! <;-))

Glenn Stok
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank, you have made an awesome template for Inventors to follow. They should print it out and keep it near their computer as a guide to success. You break it down to components anyone should be able to follow and also see an improvement in their choice of ideas to pursue.

You wrote “The main reason for this thread is that I am tired of loosing "friends" who ask me to research their concept, and the results were not what they wanted to hear. “

Unfortunately, your experience in this area is not unusual. The majority of Inventors tend to want to shoot the messenger for delivering unwanted news. As we have seen numerous times in the forums you have overly sensitive Inventors that can only handle positive reinforcement of their ideas otherwise you are labeled a horrible person only wanting to crush people’s dreams. They don’t see you are actually trying to help them avoid pitfalls that can put them in debt quickly, waste time they could have used pursuing other more viable ideas, trying to help them make a great first impression so companies “GET” their idea and see its value. And since it is posted in a public forum you don’t want a lot of incorrect information put out there that could influence others to take the same path. So asking that person to explain why they are doing something is helpful for others to see why this might be or might not be the best approach to follow.

In my case of Inventors that contact me I see about 85% of the Inventors are not open to criticism even when you back it up with facts and show them their baby is not as unique as they thought. And they forget they asked you for your opinion in the first place. I tell them up front if all you are wanting is a YES person I am the wrong person to ask. Because, I believe in giving my honest opinion based on 16 years of experience as a successful serial Inventor, working closely with a number of companies in a wide variety of industries, a product licensing agent and working with a large number of Inventors.

Frank as you have seen when you respond to a posted thread or start a new thread you get people that attack your response/post because they feel it threatens their belief in how the inventing industry SHOULD work as they see it. You are pointing out a negative they don’t want to accept. Instead of embracing the information and using it to improve their situation they attack the messenger. The dumb thing on their part is that attacking you or I does not change the fact, or change the inventing industry. So if I say “Patentable does not equal marketable” attacking me does not change that fact.

The Inventors that really want to learn about the process need to be open to criticism, ask questions, have realistic expectations and look past some of the posts that are only open to one way and that is their way or the highway. As I have always said there is more than one way to get a product to market. You need to find what works best for you and go for it.

On a funny note it is interesting to me the people that are quick to attack me on forums are also asking me to add them to my contacts/connections list on Linkedin and friend them on EN. LOL

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kdc's Avatargold

Thanks for the additional information Frank...You're the bestest! Any chance of you writing a book? I know a lot of people look to you for advice and having it all together in a book would be ...as David Heath would say...cOOlio !!!

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thank you Kathleen... I AM in the process of writing a book, or sorts... it's called: "Curriculum Management and Lesson Plans for the 2016-17 School Year".       <:-)

I completely agree Roger.... The crazy thing about most of it is, the material that nullifies the person's idea is SO OBVIOUS and EASY TO LOCATE.... there is no way they could have missed it if they had searched just a little bit, but yet: "there's nothing like it anywhere, I've looked!!!"

And, I'm sure they did look... with a mindset of: "Gee, I hope I don't find anything similar" and/or "This invention is going to make me wealthy beyond my dreams!!" and/or "This is a spiritual gift so of course there is nothing like it!".......... thinking like that, they enter one or two glazed-over search terms and when the top result doesn't match, they turn off the computer and say: "I was right, there's nothing out there like it!!"........................ they tearfully share their multi-million dollar answer to all their prayers "invention" with their family and friends, who almost feel obligated to like it, seeing how it has brought such joy and hope to the inventor!

It's such a shame... education is the ONLY way to avoid such pit falls, but as long as inventors voluntarily get completely inebriated on their hopes & dreams, they'll always be plenty lined up to hack apart the messengers.

williamj .
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chappy75's Avatargold

Well Done Frank! That is worth gold!

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thank you Chappy!      

Knowing that some may find the way a bit easier, or at least to watch careful their steps through this pitted land, is a reward favored higher than gold.   

Seeing consistent/repeatable numbers on submissions (inventions) and knowing it's because of the "long, boring" hours, makes them to not seem so demanding.      In many ways, those "searches" have become as invigorating as the climb.      When you make a submission, it's akin to playing the House.  <:-)  

James Chapman
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank, if Inventors would invest the time to do their research upfront they will save themselves a lot of heartache down the road. When I have an Inventor state "I have looked everywhere and there is nothing out there like this" it tends to end up in the complete opposite direction.

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keeztan's Avatargold

Great information Frank, Thank You

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thank you, Mark!

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Agreed, Roger.... it's crazy when one thinks about it because it seems there's something about this industry that causes those who are otherwise sticklers for detail to blissfully dive head-long off a cliff without ever confirming how deep the water is. (or even if there's any water at the bottom!!) 

All I can figure, is they got hold of that weird little book on inventing that always keeps turning up!!

--------------------------------------------

Kathleen C
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williamj's Avatar

Frank, I think it may be more accurate to say...

"If ignorance is bliss, then intelligence is missing."

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

That's normally the case, but it's a play on words...

An antonym of "ignorance" is "intelligence", and the antonym of "bliss" is "misery".

:)

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williamj's Avatar

Frank, sometimes you are just too smart for my own good.  LoLoL.    8  )

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kdc's Avatargold

That's true William...but look at that innocent face of Frank's..don't you just want to go up to him and smoosh those cheeks of his?

I said, 'smoosh' not 'smooch'

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

I saw that phrase written with graffiti on a train car one time, and it really spoke to me; back in the Spring we were discussing "Opposites" in Language class and I brought up the old idiom "Ignorance is Bliss"... then for their homework assignment, I ask them to research that phrase and bring back it's opposite meaning the next day.     Some brought back the old Thomas Gray quote, some looked up and listed the exact opposites, and some went into detail explaining what "ignorance is bliss" means.       It got very deep VERY fast, and we soon realize we're looking directly at ourselves in the mirror, in other words, the "life-lesson" was trumping the "intended lesson"... and how easy it is for that to happen... anyway....      

Even then, I thought how we as inventors set out on "research" expeditions for a concept we've come up with, and return with basically the same type of information, where some is A-L-M-O-S-T what we're looking for, but doesn't quite tell us what we NEED to know (what's going to matter the most for the future of the concept), and with some we get side-tracked into an entirely different direction, so it is imperative that we strive for the material that is going to benefit us most!       

This goes for researching a new invention, or digesting the feedback on a recent R4, R5, or R6.... it ALL goes hand in hand.      We must stay focused and not be lulled away from what we're looking for so we'll be able to RECOGNIZE it when we see it... we must also employ it in a way that the "teacher" (evaluator/prospective company) recognizes it as JUST what he/she was looking for!

It ALL goes hand in hand. <:-)

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dljinnovations's Avatargold

Thanks for posting this information Frank.  Inventing is not all glitz and glamour. 

 As Thomas Alva Edison himself said:

"Genius (or Inventing) is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration."

I think this sums up quite nicely the process you describe.  I too need to do a better job at embracing the perspiration part.  Some think that all they have to do is the 1% inspiration part, and it's up to EN to do the 99% perspiration part. While it's true that EN does the heavy lifting, the chances are greatly improved that the heavy lifting will result in success, if we as inventors undertake some of that heavy lifting ourselves in the form of upfront research.

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thank you Derrick,

The funny part about it is, after a while I began finding the "pursuit" almost exhilarating!   Call me crazy, but it became like a game of chess! 

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank I know exactly what you mean. I love the hunt as much as the success.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank, I have pointed a number of the "I've looked and there is nothing out there like this" emails I have gotten lately to this threadand your listing and highly suggested they print it out and use it before ever contacting anyone. Hope others appreciate your breakdown of your process, very helpful.

Thought you would also get a kick out of knowing still getting friend requests from staunct critics of whatever I post in the forums.  LOL

Kenneth Rainbolt
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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thanks Roger; back before the internet, statements like "I've looked and there is nothing out there like this" could almost be forgivable, if not understandable... but with the information and resources available to us now, there really is no excuse for diving off the cliff BLIND anymore!      All the meditations, chants, beliefs, dreams, positivity, and universal togetherness one can muster cannot avail the inventor a whiff like good old fashioned, boring, hardcore RESEARCH can... consistently!   ("burning the midnight oil", as my granddaddy use to say)

I learned to find peace by separating myself from all "things" and/or "people" that alter my stress level.       I "forgive" them, but that doesn't mean I condone their actions or wish to be friends; it means I've laid them aside as a "Lesson Learned"..... for I know if it/they are allowed back in, it's just a matter of time before it/they began consuming my essence. (kind of like cigarettes).... so they can send friend request till the rapture and they'll be ignored. ;)

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank, I agree, I get contacted by many Inventors that are deeply into everything about being one with the universe and think it will override common sense and doing your due diligence. I found this video that I love that I feel puts all of that pretty much in perspective

How to be Ultra Spiritual (funny) - with JP Sears

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kDso5ElFRg

Frank White
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let-them-fly's Avatargold

LOLOL!!!   (Don't know how I missed this...)  Although it's a parody, it accurately demonstrates how some go about their life and make their choices; and if things don't come out as they were counting on, it's due to some short-circuit on their part so they must attend more seminars, read more books, tune in to more webinars... (aka: making it possible for the speaker's and author's to buy nice things and go on long vacations)        If they studied and concentrated on performing due diligence and excising their God-given common sense 1/4th as much as they do conjuring, it's hard to tell how far they would rise!!

David .
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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Frank, I totally agree. Trying to be "ONE" with your product is not as beneficial as doing the hard research. 

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Seeing some of the questions brought up lately thought this would be a great time to bring this back to the front. Frank did an awesome job breaking it down how he does it.

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thanks Roger... 

Establishing a "map" of the area we are about to embark on will not make anyone invincible, or red-x proof, but it's guaranteed to reduce the chance of an R4, which as you said, seems to be coming up more lately.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Shortcutting  research also shortcuts your chances of success.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Thought I would bring this back up to the front. Frank's listing is great and should be printed out as guide/checklist to get you started.

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thanks for the bump, Roger!

It has been proven and demonstrated many, many times that lack of up-front research into a concept is the leading cause of rejection here at Edison Nation. (or anywhere for that matter)

Thorough up-front research is a daunting, and tedious, prospective task when looked at as a "whole", but when broken down to "stages" (or steps) it becomes more like the assembly instructions for a model airplane, where the thing just isn't going to look right until all the steps have been satisfactorily completed.        You can't "short-cut" or "rush-through" the steps, because it will ALWAYS tell on you down the line!

Up-Front research is exactly the same... and just like with model building, the more PRACTICE you get, the better you get and the more efficient you get, which results in master quality displays.       So it would behoove ALL inventors to practice doing thorough up-front research regularly... every time you go through the process it's like you pick up something else, and THAT is the motivation that should keep you going: always learning... always growing... always an adventure!        Got to get that map drawn for it will show you the way!

Wendy Bialek
Rafael Avila
Derrick James
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obi1adobe's Avatarg8_badge

excellent info ! thanks frank !

so glad you pushed this up to the surface roger.

thanks all

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glenninventor's Avatargold

Thank you for posting this Frank.  I have a few product ideas I plan to submit soon, but I know I need to do my due diligence before submitting. Your list is awesome and it shows me the path I need to follow with each of my ideas before even considering if they are worthy of submitting. 

I also read through the comments and I agree that it's sad how some people look for approval, and they're in denial about reality. I look for honesty. It saves more time in the long run. 

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vitaminguy's Avatargold

I just read this. Wow Frank, how nice of you to share your method with us. Thank you!

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inovate's Avataree_badge

Thank you Frank

I don't know how I missed this before. Research was one of my week points. This certainly simplifies and gives direction to a part of inventing that I use to dread.

You my friend are indeed a great teacher

All the best in 2017

Thank you Glen for bringing this to the top and welcome to EN

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

That is why I am always harping about people needing to use the Search feature and not just read the threads on the first page. Frank has years of great threads in this forum and has provided a wealth of knowledge everyone could benefit from reading. And those threads that are more than one page are useful to if you start at the beginning of them.

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

Thank you Larry, Glenn, Rafael, and Charlie.      I'm pleased that others venture into the processes using the method I posted as a vehicle for such a journey.    The more you do it the clearer it all becomes and soon you will customize it to fit your comfort level. 

Bottom line, as Roger said, the forums are a fountain of educational and familiarization resources that can make the EN experience (or product development in general) a lot less of a game of chance, and a lot more a calculated, informed endevour.

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bobk's Avatar

This thread brings a quote back to me;

"A couple of months in the laboratory can frequently save a couple of hours in the library." - Frank Westheimer (noted Chemist)

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wendybialek's Avatargold

Printed and Saved on my computer!  Thanks Frank for taking the time to share such great info!!

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

That is a very accurate quote indeed, Bob!!

You're welcome, Wendy.    

---

It's crazy how after getting use to researching a concept like this, you almost feel reckless to submit without researching it!

Sometimes after an extended period of research, the R4 is STILL is handed out... and it can be disheartening, but try to channel the frustration into refining the depth at which you search; let it become another realm you look into!

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fernandes39's Avatargold

Thanks, I found your article very useful with many interesting points.

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let-them-fly's Avatargold

You're welcome, Joseph!

All the best fortunes...

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