The entrepreneur Tom Rune Stepien in Kongsberg has, in one year, obtained a patent, registered a trademark and a design, and put the invention into production. Along the way there has been a lot of pondering at night and bouncing of ideas with good advisers during the day.

Text: Claude R. Olsen

Tom Rune Stepien (33) is a tradesman and does a lot of drilling in walls. To prevent the room being covered in brick or plaster dust, two people generally work together, one doing the drilling and one holding the dust extractor close to the drilling point.

- This is a problem we have had for many years, and one that I have thought about for a long time. On 28 November 2014 I woke up and realised how I would solve it! I got up and started to draw, says Stepien. In principle, the solution is a bucket on a telescopic stand with a dust extractor outlet underneath.

Quick market survey

He drew a sketch and contacted ten different types of trade firms in the Kongsberg area. They all thought it was a smart solution. After this small market survey, Stepien contacted the large tool supplier Würth and asked for meeting. It was a good decision. Today, the Dustbox dust extractor is marketed by Würth.

A large international company can easily run over a small entrepreneur. Stepien therefore took care before the meeting to ask Würth to send an e-mail in which the company declared that it would not copy the solution or buy copies from others.

- Würth have treated me well both personally and in business terms, says Stepien.

Protecting all rights

The next step was to contact the Norwegian Industrial Property Office to find out whether anyone had already taken a patent for Stepien's solution. No one had.

- I felt that the idea had patent potential, and I asked for bids from three private patent agents for assistance in writing a patent application. I chose the bidder who had a fixed price and no price add-ons, says Stepien. The patent application was approved and the patent was assured.

In addition, Stepien has registered a trademark and design.

To date, protecting rights has cost Stepien NOK 80 000, mostly for the patent. He is now also applying for an international patent, and that will cost another NOK 60 000.

Good assistance along the way

Stepien worked full-time as a tradesman throughout the process, and has devoted all his spare time to developing the product and the new company Villa Teknikk AS. There has been a lot of pondering at night about whether a decision was right or wrong. Both Innovation Norway and the enterprise office (Etablererkontoret) in the Kongsberg Region have been valuable support players and advisers to Stepien.

- I was well received by Innovation Norway and received financial support from them. And I had received great assistance from the enterprise office in Kongsberg. I recommend others to use it. It's good to have someone to talk to who is interested in what you are doing, he says.

- If you are to succeed as an inventor, you have to have belief in yourself and be willing to prove that your idea is possible. You also have to believe that most of the people around you wish you well. You have to be prepared to share with others. Many people are unwilling to share their idea with anyone. That will lead to disappointment, he says.

In mid-January 2016 there were 50 dust collectors in use. The target is many thousand every year. But it doesn't stop with Dustbox. This creative tradesman already has two new products under development.


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