The Starting Point
So now it's June 2001 and I'm unemployed. My dad goes back to doing carpenter work and I got a job with a local lawn care company after a month of searching.
My dad had purchased a 1990 Ford F-150 Long Bed truck for deliveries and he ended up just giving me the old truck.
The truck had a lot of issues and I managed
to break out a couple of windows at different times. Once was on a delivery run
hauling wood out the sliding back window when the load shifted after I turned a
corner to fast.
The other time I accidentally shattered the drivers side window out of pure ignorance.
You didn't need a key to start it and it was known to fog out semis on the highway while stepping on the gas to hear the monstrous roar of a rusted out muffler. Whitey Ford was a great truck!
At the time I probably couldn't trade it for the value of tungsten wedding bands but what it was worth to other people wasn't important to me. It had semimetal value and a lot of great memories that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.
I decided that since I have this other truck, and I have no
experience in customizing and I can't afford for someone to build my dream truck
let alone fix the damage, I was going to park my Dodge and drive it for road
trips and weekend cruises to keep off the wear and tear.
I averaged about 1,200 miles a year on my Dodge.
Several months after I started my patent process. I was sent pictures and descriptions for my invention. At this time my lawyer told me my information was just sent off to be patented and I was free to exploit my invention since I was patent pending.
After reading the descriptions and looking at the
just couldn't make sense of what this was suppose to be exactly? So I needed to
make a few changes.
The drawings were not right so I hired my friend Deayne who is an awesome artist to draw up new pictures. As Deayne was reading over the material he brought something to my attention...
My lawyer misinterpreted MY design! For whatever reason, he
added a plastic bed liner that attaches to a "trunk" style bed cover...
He never verified anything with me and it was too late! He already sent off the incorrect information to be patented! I gave him plenty of example pictures, drawings and I even showed him a small working prototype that I built.
I still have no idea why he thought a bed liner was part of the design?
|Tonneau Gate "Liner"||Tonneau Gate|
|Wrong Invention||Right Invention|
|Complete drop-in bed liner with "Trunk" Tonneau Cover||"Trunk" Tonneau Cover Enclosure Only|
We came to an agreement that he would redo the patent at his
expense (I'm sure it cost him nothing) and all I would have to pay was a small filing fee. BUT, since you have
to pay maintenance fees every 3.5 years, my fees have now doubled because of his
So it has ended up costing me more time and money.
Several months later my real design has been sent off to be
patented and I am now patent pending. I had some very cheap looking brochures
made up by both printing shops in town and I mailed them out to all the tonneau cover companies that I could
Keeping in mind this is my attempt to help out my family so I was in a hurry to get these in the mail. I was barely 20 years old, and I was doing this all on my own.
My parents never knew anything about me filing for a patent until I was already patent pending. I didn't want them to know so I could surprise them if I sold it.
I needed something interesting to grab their attention. So...
Ingenious Design by
My Patent Brochures
|This is the top of the tonneau cover brochure.||The corners were rounded off to give the shape of my tonneau cover.|
|The bend on the brochure made it look more like a tailgate.||A business card that looks like a license plate was then taped over the handle.|
|This allowed a manufacturer to have a small "prototype" of my invention.||The backside had more illustrations.|
I told you these were cheap! If I only knew the graphic designers that I know today, these would have turned out great!
However, even with these cheap quality brochures I did hear back from a couple of companies that were interested in seeing a life size working prototype.
I decided to give it a better name than referring to it as a Pickup Truck Tonneau Cover "Trunk Cover".
So I decided to call it Tonneau Gate. It's a combination of a tonneau cover and a tailgate, it's Tonneau Gate.
Building The Tonneau Gate Prototype.
My dad and I built the prototype in the garage and I hired a body shop in another town to fiberglass and paint the enclosure.
Now why would I show you how I build my prototype? Besides all
my build up photos got deleted off my computer after reformatting wiped out my
all my files.
I was quoted that the job would only take 2 weeks to complete because all that was required was to fiberglass over our complete structure and then paint it.
So I scheduled an appointment and dropped off my truck when the time came.
6 months later... my prototype was finished just in time for my home town "car show".
The body shop owner told me "I could have done a better job if I had more time." More time?
My prototype had already been warped, dented, cracked, scratched, misaligned, and chipped before it left the body shop...
The companies that were interested in seeing my prototype lost
interest because weeks turned into months.
So since I wasn't able to sell it right away, I decided to start my own website and hit up some car shows to gain more exposure for Tonneau Gate.
The Tonneau Gate Prototype
Hitting The Show Scene.
My first major show that I ever entered was Texas Heat Wave in 2004. I was entered in the "Street Class" and I actually won 2nd place!
I had just gone public with my website earlier that month so I was completely new to the custom truck scene. I had a clipboard so people could sign my petition if they were interested in Tonneau Gate. For having a stock truck, that was parked in a bad location to where people just walked right by, I was able to get dozens of signatures while I was out taking show coverage for my website. I can't wait to build a real custom truck and get featured in a magazine!
I didn't even stay for the awards because I never expected to win anything. I have some friends that have showed at Heat Wave before but they never placed so I was completely shocked when I won. This is my first trophy that I have ever won for anything.
I didn't even know I won until I was checking the
results a month later on their website.
I had no idea the trophy was going to be that
tall! When I opened the box,
I wasn't planning on fixing my smashed in front bumper
because I wanted people to see how I got my idea for my invention.
It wasn't exactly appealing to anyone, so I decided to go ahead and upgrade to the 99-01 Dodge Ram Sport front end.
I entered the local Labor Day Parade and picked up my 4 year old nephew half way through the parade.
A few more bolt on parts was then added to the truck.
Creating An Interactive CD Presentation For Tonneau Gate.
Since I was still new to custom vehicles
and I haven't been to very many out of state shows, I had never even heard
of the Sema Show...
After I looked into it further I knew I needed to be present at this show to talk to manufactures in person and show them my invention.
My friend Tyson and I worked together and made a flash presentation about Tonneau Gate and worked on my proposal etc.
I had a binder with my information and my CD to hand out to manufacturers. I came across one of the best tonneau cover manufacturers that I had a lot of respect for and I wanted to meet the owner. I introduced myself and I began to talk and show him what I had.
The owner was very rude, cold, blunt and I had to force him to even shake my hand.
A few years earlier I had
sent this company my brochures and I never heard back from them. As I was
standing there I noticed his company was introducing a brand new feature to
his line of tonneau covers.
Their new feature just happened to be the exact same feature that I was introducing with my design.
(A keyless touch pad entry system)
I asked my lawyer about infringement issues and he told me since it was just a design feature, it wasn't considered infringement or something?
Not really understanding what a patent is good for at this point?
The Last Show Before It's Completely Redone!
Spring Bash in Lawton, Oklahoma was the last time my truck was going to look like this.
I already made plans with the local body shop that already upgraded my front end to do some more custom work.
I just ordered my lowering kit, 22's, SSBC Big Brake kit,
K & N cold air intake, JBA Headers, Borla Exhaust and even some new leather
and suede bucket seats.
I will be getting a new paint job and some minor body mods.
My goal is to have the truck completed just 2 months from now with hopes of getting featured in a magazine at Texas Heat Wave!
If I want Tonneau Gate to get more national exposure, getting featured in a magazine will do the trick!
On A Side Note...
As I pulled into the show grounds at Spring Bash in 2005, I was met by one of the judges at the show. I saw him walking up in front of me with a clip board when he asked "Aren't you Jance?" I told him "Yes".
We ended up talking as he judged my truck later that weekend and we've been friends ever since.
Thanks for the trophy DA!