Inventor Income | Invention Success Stories
How much do successful inventors get paid?  How much in invention revenues can inventions generate?

Invention Success Stories - How much do successful inventors make?

$1 billion.  Approximate sales revenues generated by inventor Ron Popeil’s Showtime Rotisserie BBQ.  “Seven years ago, entrepreneur Ron Popeil, the silver-tongued inventor of such iconic products as the Pocket Fisherman and the Food Dehydrator, introduced the Showtime Rotisserie BBQ.  ...After prepping a chicken and placing it in the oven, [inventor Ron] Popeil delivered his next legendary tagline. Like most of his pitches, it blended pithy salesmanship and utter simplicity. And almost immediately, the catchphrase -- "Just set it and forget it" -- entered the pop-culture vernacular.  Indeed, the compact countertop oven (purchased for four easy payments of $39.95, plus tax and shipping) turned into the biggest hit in Popeil's hugely successful home-gadget empire. Since the launch, Popeil says he's sold about 7 million Showtime ovens, generating nearly $1 billion in revenue. "People just love it to such a degree that strangers walk up to me and tell me, 'I love my rotisserie,'" he says." See the Chop-O-Matic.  Successful inventors and successful inventions. Invention success stories. How much money can an invention make? Individual inventor success stories. (“He Invents! Markets! Makes Millions!,” Business Week, October 3, 2005)

$400 million.  High-end range as of the year 2000 of estimated royalty revenues earned by inventor Lonnie Johnson for his Super Soaker invention.  Super Soaker sales. “In the 12 years since [inventor Lonnie Johnson] first got U.S. Patent No. 4,591,071 for the ‘squirt gun,’ as it is listed in official government records, more than 200 million Super Soakers have been sold.  Revenue estimates for the gun range as high as $400 million. ‘Lonnie is the American success story,’ says Dick Apley, director of independent inventor programs for the U.S. Patent Office.”  How much do inventors get paid?  Invention licensing successes.  (Timothy Roche, “Lonnie Johnson,” Time, Sunday, December 3, 2000)  Read about the fascinating story of inventor Lonnie G. Johnson.

$250 million.  Sales revenues generated by the Slinky invention since 1945.  “The Slinky is one of the top 10 toys ever invented, with sales topping $250 million since it first went on the market in 1945.  … A mechanical engineer by the name of Richard James got the idea for this new toy when he saw a torsion spring fall coiling off a table, and then he turned to his wife, Betty, for a name.”  Invention sales revenues.  Inventor success stories: Richard James.  (Bob Edwards, “Profile: History of the Slinky, now being inducted into the Smithsonian,” NPR Morning Edition, February 2, 2001)  In February 2001, Betty James, Slinky's co-creator, was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.  Learn more about Richard and Betty James and the invention of the Slinky.  Read and listen to more NPR inventor storiesView classic 1960s "Slinky" television commercial.

$200 million-plus.  Sales generated by inventor Lonnie Johnson’s popular toy product SuperSoaker.  “Today's African American Hero is Lonnie G. Johnson. He is an inventor of thermodynamics systems for NASA and other organizations.  … You may know him for a well-known toy called 'Super Soakers.' This popular water gun has sold over 40 million copies and generated over $200 million in sales since 1990.”  How much can an inventor make on royalties from licensing an invention or product? (Bangs Black History Committee in observance of Black History Month, “African-American Heroes - Lonnie G. Johnson,” Brownwood Bulletin, February 5, 2007)  View video news story about Lonnie Johnson and his SuperSoaker invention.  Discover books about Lonnie Johnson

$200 million-plus.  First year sales generated by inventor Lonnie G. Johnson’s Super Soaker.  “First-year sales from the Super Soaker® exceeded $200 million. Subsequent revenues have yet to equal those heights because of increased awareness of gun violence. Negative press hurt sales, and revenues from the water gun are down to $70 million annually. The Super Soaker® has undergone redevelopment and expansion. The 15 models now on the market cost $10-$50." Supersoaker.  Super soaker inventor Lonnie Johnson.  Super soaker water gun. Who invented the super soaker?  Inventors success. Inventors that make it. ( (Raelyn C. Johnson, “Soaking up the success. Entrepreneur Lonnie Johnson” Black Enterprise, November 1, 2001)

Are you looking for help with your invention?  If so, Inventors Workshop, one of the nation's oldest nonprofit inventor assistance organizations that has been providing inventor help services for more than 35 years, may be able to help you out.  You can contact them at, Or call them at 805-879-1729.

$150 million.  Royalties received by the University of Florida from sales of Gatorade developed by inventor Dr. Robert Cade.  “Dr. Robert Cade, [invented] Gatorade at the University of Florida in 1965 as a way to both quench players' thirst and replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweating in the intense Florida heat. . . He created a $19-billion industry, the industry sports drinks. Robert Cade came up with a formula for Gatorade back in 1965. . .The Florida Gators for whom it was named drank it the entire 1966 season. But as [former Chairman of the University of Florida Department of Medicine, Dr. Edward Block] recalls, Gatorade hit it big the following year when Florida beat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.  ‘At the end of the game,’ recalls Dr. Block,” when the coach for Georgia Tech was being interviewed, they said to him, well, coach, what happened? And he said, well, the difference in the game was those Gator boys drank Gatorade at half time, and that was it.’ Now owned by Pepsi, Gatorade has an 80 percent share of the sports drink market, and it's generated more $150 million in royalties for the University of Florida, which helps explain why the University of Florida recently dedicated a historic marker on campus recognizing Dr. Robert Cade and his invention, Gatorade.” Also, the University of Florida has established the J. Robert Cade, M.D. Professorship of Nephrology Fund in his honor. How much money does the University of Florida make from Gatorade?   (Greg Allen, “Robert Cade, Inventor of Gatorade, Dead at 80,” NPR Morning Edition, November 28, 2007)  Listen to this NPR story about the invention of Gatorade.


$100 million.  Amount earned by inventor Tomima Edmark for her TopsyTail invention.  “Since Tomima Edmark invented the TopsyTail hairstyling accessory in 1989, the device has earned her more than $100 million.” (Tomima Edmark, “First, your dream: how to take your products from idea to reality,” Entrepreneur, January 1, 1997)

$100 million.  Approximate net worth of Ron Popeil.  “For more than 40 years, [Ron Popeil] has sliced, diced, and sold a collection of quirky, unforgettable items (among them, the Buttoneer, Smokeless Ashtray, Mr. Microphone, and the Ronco compilation albums such as Disco Daze and Disco Nites), all of which he estimates has pushed his net worth to ‘more than $100 million.’” (“He Invents! Markets! Makes Millions!,” Business Week, October 3, 2005). See the original Buttoneer 2 in action here.

$36 million.  Estimated licensing revenues earned by team of inventors for developing the thirst-quenching drink Gatorade.  “In 1973, [University of Florida] researchers developed Gatorade, a thirst-quenching drink. The Scientist magazine estimates that the beverage has brought more than $9 million to the university and another $36 million to a team of inventors headed by UF physician J. Robert Cade.”  (The Associated Press, “Inventors' Income at UF up 70 percent,” Ocala Star-Banner, February 24, 1989)

$20 million plus in royalties to the inventor of the Bowflex.  “[Once] our company [Nautilus] commercialized his innovation, Mr. [T. Dosho Shifferaw] has benefited from more than $20 million of royalties during the [Bowflex] innovation's patent life.” Bowflex inventor's name? T. Dosho Shifferaw.   (Ron Arp, SVP, corporate communications Nautilus Inc., maker of Nautilus, Bowflex, StairMaster, Schwinn Fitness, and Pearl iZUMi brands cited in “Inventor of Bowflex home gyms,” East Bay Business Times, February 16, 2007) See Shifferaw's latest inventions marketed through his company Dosho Design, Inc. See a full array of fitness training inventions.

$15 million to $20 million.  Estimated income inventor JoeBen Bevirt projects for his company in 2009 primarily from the sales of his Gorrillapod invention.  “JoeBen Bevirt, an engineering savant raised by hippies on an electricity-free commune in the Santa Cruz mountains, likes to design lots of different things — from electronics to robotics to green energy technology.  Having already started and sold a life sciences robotics company to Agilent Technologies, Bevirt now has a San Francisco company, Joby Inc., that this year he expects to pull in $15 million to $20 million, primarily selling the wildly popular line of flexible Gorillapod camera tripods Bevirt released in 2006.”  How much does a successful inventor get paid?    (Patrick Hoge, “Inveterate inventor JoeBen Bevirt makes good,” San Francisco Business Times, Saturday, March 21, 2009)

$10 million-plus.  Reported royalties earned by inventor Scott Olson for his Rollerblades invention.  “But what else would you expect from [Minnesota inventor Scott Olson] the creative genius who reinvented the wheel with younger brother Brennan and introduced the world to Rollerblades more than 25 years ago?...  Olson has been on a roll since he founded Rollerblade, Inc., in 1983. He sold the then-fledgling company in 1985 and reportedly went on to rake in more than $10 million in royalties.” (Cary Castagna, Sun Media, “Keeping Fit with the inventor of Rollerblades,” Edmonton Sun, June 1, 2009)

$6 million in licensing royalty payments.  Royalties earned by inventor Jerome Lemelson. for his audiocassette drive patent. “A decade later, a deal with Sony to license [inventor Jerome Lemelson’s] patent on an audiocassette drive mechanism earned $6 million. That technology paved the way for the Walkman.”  How much are inventors paid? Royalties on inventions.  (Shelly Strom, Business Journal Staff Writer, “Behind every successful inventor is an attorney,” Portland Business Journal, April 15, 2002) 

$2.5 million in royalties to the inventors of the Ghostline.  “Barbara Russell Pitts and Mary Russell Sarao made their indelible mark in business with barely visible gridlines on poster board.  Since licensing their Ghostline concept to Carolina Pad and Paper Co., based in Charlotte, N.C., six years ago, the sisters have raked in $2.5 million in royalties — while working from their homes in Plano.  ‘We call it our mailbox money,’ Pitts said.  ‘Every three months," Sarao chimed in, "we go to the mailbox and get more money.’” Plano sisters inventors. Royalty payouts for inventions.  How much inventors get paid.  (Cheryl Hall, “Sisters who took an idea to market want to help others do the same,” The Dallas Morning News (via Knight-Ridder/Tribune NewsService), July 13, 2003)  Order Barbara and Mary's book, Inventing on a Shoestring Budget)

$2 million annually.  Annual revenues reported for inventor, Jim Boelke’s Cat Dancer invention.  “Straight out of the Why-didn't-I-think-of-that file is the Cat Dancer, a revolutionary cat toy that generates $2 million in revenue per year and sells in 11 countries.  Invented 19 years ago by Jim Boelke, a Cat Dancer is a piece of wire with strips of cardboard fastened to its ends. The toy is bobbed over a cat's head, sending it into a flip-filled, paw-raising jig.”  How much money does an inventor get paid for an invention? (Dustin Block, “Wisconsin Inventor's Cat Toy Gains Popularity around the World," Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, originated from The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis., June 9, 1997)

$1 million.  Amount awarded by ABC American Inventor reality show to inventor Greg Chavez for his winning Guardian Angel Christmas tree fire suppression device.  “A dream came true for Greg Chavez, a firefighter and father of six from Camarillo, who won $1 million on ABC's "American Inventor," revealed in the reality show's season finale Wednesday night.  At Topper's Pizza in Camarillo, Chavez, friends and family watched the pre-taped show as his Guardian Angel, designed to suppress Christmas tree fires, beat out the final competition: a convertible brassiere and a custom designed toy kit.  ‘It's amazing,’ Chavez said, after his wife and children rushed the stage to congratulate him during the taping. ‘A year ago, I was sitting in a chair at the house and I was watching the show, and I told my wife, ‘I am going to win next year.’ And she said, ‘I know you are.'’  Chavez and five other finalists had defeated thousands of contenders in national auditions. He was one of three who advanced during the semifinal round that aired July 25. Viewers made the final decision, calling and text messaging their votes to ABC in a two-hour window after the show.” (Jenni Mintz, “Camarillo firefighter named top inventor,”Ventura County Star, Ventura, California, August 2, 2007)

$965,000.  Aggregate amount of licensing royalty checks awarded to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) inventor scientists in January 2008.  “Royalty checks were awarded to [Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory inventors] on Jan. 31 [2008]. Licensing income was up 11 percent this year, yielding over $965,000 of distributions for 110 scientists whose inventions and software were licensed by industry. The average distribution was $8,855, while the largest was more than $114,000. Over $2.1 million in additional licensing income will go to the Lab, primarily for research and development.”  Royalty check recipients included Nigel Moriarty, Ralf Grosse-Kunstleve, Jian Jin, Petrus Zwart, Jay Groves, Fred Buhl, Paul Luke, Paul Alivisatos, Bill Kolbe, Michael Commer, Steve Holland, Ted Sun, Pavel Afonine, Christopher Elkin, Joe Orr, Len Pennachio. Second row: Cheryl Fragiadakis (Technology Transfer Office), Mark Modera, Paul Adams, Nick Sauter, John Clarke, Director Steve Chu, Wladyslaw Walukiewicz, David Humphries, Martin Pollard, Ender Erdem, Fred Winkelmann, Greg Newman. Front Row: Viviana Wolinsky (Technology Transfer Office), Jonathan Maltz, Martha Stampfer, KinMan Yu, Bob Nordmeyer, Derek Yegian, and Duo Wang.  How much does a successful inventor get paid?  (Lyn Hunter, “Inventors Earn Nearly $1 Million in Royalties,” Today at Berkeley Lab, Berkeley Lab Communications Dept., Creative Services Office, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008)

$500,000 in sales revenues after only two years in business.   “Wayne Willert, a Port Washington, L.I., roofer, is proof that a lone inventor can indeed market his own product. Mr. Willert's innovation is the gutter-bolt, which simplifies roofing and other construction work by allowing metal and wood to be joined in a one-step process.  He started out in 1996, hawking his product to other roofers, homeowners and local hardware stores for 90 cents each. Now Gutter-Bolt Inc., a five-employee concern which Mr. Willert runs along with his roofing business, is selling a million gutter-bolts a year at 47 cents apiece through a large distributor that has gotten the product onto the shelves at Home Depot.  The distributor's enthusiasm opened the market for Mr. Willert. “They bought 100,000 pieces to test market, and then flew me around the country to trade shows (to demonstrate it),” he recalls.  With wholesale sales, walk-ins buying gutter-bolts at retail and 40 local contractors purchasing them via mail-order, the company hit sales of $500,000 after only two years in business.”  (Marton Dunai, “More inventors try to market products,” Oakland Tribune, September 5, 2006)

$500,000 in licensing royalties.  Licensing revenues earned by inventor, Franklin "Kansas City" Baker, for three of his inventions.  “One Los Angeles inventor who's had the best of both worlds [licensing and manufacturing an invention] is Franklin "Kansas City" Baker, 47, who has created over 80 inventions and currently holds patents on 16 of them.  His first successful product was the Ameri-Kart, a utility cart with a handle and retractable wheels that can hold items weighing up to 300 pounds. A chance encounter in 1981 at Los Angeles International Airport changed his life forever.  ‘I was comparing luggage at the airport with the Ameri-Kart, which I had in my hand. A gentleman was passing by and asked about it. He got so excited, we set up a meeting for the next day,’ states Baker.  The man was the owner of Beico International (714-799-1034;, a Huntington Beach, California-based manufacturing company with facilities in China. Beico exclusively manufactures and licenses Baker's automobile security inventions, the King Pin and the Trap, in addition to the Ameri-Kart, which has been on the shelves of Fedco and various hardware stores since 1991.  Not only is Baker a client, he is also part owner of the company, and has received over $500,000 in revenues for all three inventions.” How much does an inventor earn?  (Williams-Harold, Bevolyn, “You've got it made! (developing invention ideas),” Black Enterprise, June 1, 1999)

How much royalty income does the average inventor make?  What is the average income of independent inventors?

$75,000 to $99,000.  Median household income range for independent inventors in the State of Georgia.  “There appears to be a tendency among Georgia's independent inventors to belong to moderately high to higher income households. The median household income range for surveyed inventors was $75,000 to $99,000.  This finding corresponds with the observations about education, given that personal wealth tends to increase with level of education. The largest share (16 percent) of inventors hailed from households with incomes ranging from $50,000 to $74,999. One-fifth (20.8 percent) of the inventors did not share their income level. The following chart shows the distribution of inventors by income category for those who reported such information.  As was the case with education level, there appeared to be some correlation between income level and the average number of inventions reported by the inventors during the period of 1996 to 2006.”   How much does a typical inventor earn annually? How much do inventors make? How much does the average inventor make?  Average inventors income. (Joy Wilkins, Chris Remias, Inna Kharoujik, “2007 Survey of Georgia’s Independent Inventors,” prepared for the U.S. Economic Development Administration by the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, Atlanta, p. 11)

$9,700. Average size of royalties earned by National Institutes of Health (NIH) inventors in 2004.  “Royalties earned in 2004 by government health researchers and their employer, the National Institutes of Health [NIH], for drugs, treatments and other inventions developed with government money:  … Average size of royalty per inventor: US$9,700.) (The Associated Press, “Royalties paid to U.S. government scientists,” AP Worldstream, January 11, 2005)

$8,855.   Average licensing royalty check awarded to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) inventor scientists in January 2008.  “Royalty checks were awarded to [Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory inventors] on Jan. 31 [2008].  Licensing income was up 11 percent this year, yielding over $965,000 of distributions for 110 scientists whose inventions and software were licensed by industry. The average distribution was $8,855, while the largest was more than $114,000." How much does an inventor make?   (Lyn Hunter, “Inventors Earn Nearly $1 Million in Royalties,” Today at Berkeley Lab, Berkeley Lab Communications Dept., Creative Services Office, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008)  Find more information about Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and its research programs and history. 

$5000.  Licensing revenues earned in 2005 by Holly Baxter, inventor of Teeny Towels.  “[Holly] Baxter came up with Teeny Towels - all-natural antibacterial wipes small enough to hook onto a key chain. The product is too similar to basic baby wipes to patent, but it's distinctive enough to package and promote. Last year it paid Baxter $5,000, and the product is likely to produce more in royalties this year because a number of large retailers recently agreed to carry it.  …’Since they've been on the shelves, all I've done is walk to the mailbox’ to collect royalty checks, Baxter said. ‘It's like free money now.’”  How much does an inventor make?  How much money can an invention make? (Kathy Kristof, “Inventive parents can turn bright ideas into cash,” Houston Chronicle, February 13, 2006, p. 3).  See inventor Holly Baxter’s Teeny Towels invention sold online.

$250.  Royalty fee charged per procedure to Lasik eye surgeons using the IntraLase laser eye surgery technology.  “Many LASIK surgeons do not offer IntraLase, partly because of its expense. The equipment costs $450,000 and doctors must pay royalty fees of about $250 to the manufacturer for each procedure. Fees are also paid to laser manufacturers each time a doctor performs LASIK, even without the IntraLase.”  How much laser eye surgery cost? (Karen Garloch, “LASIK: Reward of clear vision not without risk,” Portsmouth Herald, Knight Ridder Newspapers, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thursday, March 18, 2004)  

Very few inventors can retire on their inventor royalty revenues.  “I can count on one hand individuals who can retire on their patent royalties.” Can you get rich from invention royalties?  (Rick Martin, partner, Rick Martin, P.C., “Obtaining a patent can be worth the costs involved,” Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology, February 4, 2002)

How much money does an average inventor make?  What percent of patents are commercially successful?  What percent of patented inventions fail to make it into the marketplace?