Joanne Hayes knew it was a longshot when she applied for a $10-an-hour job as editor with Affiliated Inventors Foundation. Affiliated Inventors Foundation published a fledgling invention publication in early 1987. She also knew she had the heart, determination and work ethic of an inventor.

Without those attributes, she may not have survived the previous three years as a supervisor for a group of 7-Eleven stores in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “Eight stores. It was like having eight kids and 68 grandkids,” she says now with a laugh. “After that, I know I’m going straight to heaven.”

Having worked on a Johnson & Johnson employee magazine in New Jersey and a businesswoman’s magazine out of Kansas City, she was confident about her qualifications but faced heavy competition: “I think about 100 people applied for that job. I was fortunate to get it.”

AIF, headquartered in Colorado Springs, sent prospective inventors a packet of free information about the first steps to determine whether their invention idea was viable. Inventors’ Digest, a newsletter-style insert, was included in the mailings.

She joined the company that spring for her first issue as editor. Twenty years later, publisher Joanne Hayes-Rines sold the magazine. In spite of this, she still left an enduring impact on American invention and the magazine you are reading.

Learning and advocating

Volume 1, Issue 1 of Inventors’ Digest (the apostrophe was dropped from the title in recent years) appeared in spring 1985. The eight-page newsletter, typeset using an electric typewriter, was the brainchild of AIF’s founder and president, John Farady. Its first editor was Adrienne Walker.

Hayes-Rines recalls that pre-internet, AIF “advertised in Yellow Pages all over the country. People could call an 800 number and get information about the invention process.  The company also offered patent searches and, if warranted, patent applications. They dealt with hundreds of people every month, working out of a little office. Then I came on, and we started selling subscriptions to the newsletter.”

The publication was printed using old-school, pre-electronic composition called cold type. “It demanded a whole lot more accuracy than digital printing because anytime you sent in something with a misspelling or error, the printer literally had to pick up the erroneous piece of type and move it.” Eventually, she bought the magazine —though it was more a bulletin than a magazine for the first five years.

Initially, her learning curve was steep: “At speaking engagements, I always said I got the job as editor because of my writing and editing skills,” she says. “But although I knew how to spell the word ‘patent,’ I had never heard the term ‘intellectual property.’ Then you start to meet enough inventors and IP professionals and go to enough conferences, and you learn.”

By the early 1990s, patent legislation was at a crossroads. Corporate behemoths, weary of delays and anxious about competition from other countries, wanted a faster patent process with less litigation. Some patent holders were sued by inventors who had used patent office regulations to keep their patent applications submerged for many years in the office’s archives.  When these so-called “submarine patents” finally surfaced, they preempted existing patents, which became the subject of lawsuits.

Meanwhile, grassroots inventors and small businesses feared changes in legislation would focus on corporate interests and cost them important safeguards. With its editor leading the charge, Inventors’ Digest became a champion for protecting the rights of the independent inventor.

Hayes-Rines looks back on that as the magazine’s biggest impact during her tenure. “That was really huge because at the time, the U.S. patent laws were unique to the rest of the world. Only the United States and the Philippines had the first-to-invent law. Because major corporations in the United States did not operate under that law internationally, they wanted to change our laws to be like the European first-to-file system.

“When you think about it, any major international corporation could see competitors’ patent applications. They would become public—whereas, in the United States, inventors could have their patent applications kept in secrecy for 18 months.”

She also challenged the hypocrisy of the larger companies. “On the one hand, Corporate America would pooh-pooh independent inventors as a bunch of wild-eyed dreamers and crazy people,” she says. “However, they fought like hell to get to see those crazy inventions, because that is where so many major breakthroughs and successful products really come from.”

Her conversations with international inventors troubled her. She worried that fear was threatening the innovative spirit. “They couldn’t take their concept to have it prototyped without fear that someone would take their idea. Internationally, a patent applicant did not have to sign an oath that he or she was the inventor. In America, when you filed a patent application you swore in an affidavit that you were the inventor. In the rest of the world, the patent applicant was just a filer.”

Making history

While attending a St. Louis Inventors Association conference on patent reform in 1993, she met keynote speaker Robert H. Rines. Three years later, they began an exciting marriage as the most persistent and potent 1-2 punches to tighten the corporate America collar.

When Rines died in 2009, he held more than 40 U.S. patents and hundreds of international patents and was a 1994 inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He was a pioneer in imaging radar, sonar and ultrasound technology; much of his work still supports some of the military’s early-warning attack systems. He wrote music for Broadway and off-Broadway shows and played a violin duet with Albert Einstein as an 11-year-old. He started the Franklin Pierce Law Center and helped the People’s Republic of China regularize its patent process. His insatiable appetite for learning drove his relentless pursuit of the Loch Ness monster. 

“My husband was called a Renaissance man, and it was true,” says Hayes-Rines. “He was a physicist yet had the discipline of the law. He was so adventurous and inquisitive, and was very involved internationally with the patent system and international students. His commitment took a lot of passion. Everybody who makes the impossible come true does so because of their passion.

“That’s why we were so effective as a team, fighting for the rights of independent inventors. We were both passionate about it.”

Their most public impact was when a bill came up for a vote in Congress in July 1999. This bill was filled with provisions that would have hurt independent inventors. U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) managed to stall the vote and called the Rineses, enlisting their help.

This political challenge is heightened by the fact that the bill got unanimous support from the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who wanted its fast approval. After the couple flew to the nation’s capital, they discovered there was already a two-thirds majority in favor of the bill. A parliamentary procedure would not allow its debate.

So the debate soon took place in Hyde’s chambers. The 7-Elevens in Colorado Springs were far, far away. Hayes-Rines recalls the intensity—particularly between her husband and Mitchell Glazier, the legal counselor to the Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property. Rines cited a prior use provision in the bill that would have let any company secretly using a technological or manufacturing process—and without a patent—to be immune from a lawsuit if another inventor came along and patented that process. This was certain to thwart innovation, he argued.

Glazier disagreed as the debate intensified. Then, a turning point: “There was a letter from the AIPLA (American Intellectual Property Law Association) in support of the change in patent legislation that Bob and I were opposing,” Hayes-Rines recalls. “One of the signatories was Glazier.” This could have the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“Manzullo was able to push a copy of the letter across the table to Henry Hyde—who looked at the signatures, looked at the chief of staff and then looked at Bob and said, ‘Fix this legislation.’”

With only 48 hours to do it, Rines, Manzullo and Glazier worked with the coalition’s lobbyists, Rines to restrict companies’ prior use protections. He also added a clause that prevented companies from attempting to get patent cases retried in federal court that they had lost in the patent office, in the name of protecting inventors from added legal fees.

With Joanne Hayes-Rines’ endorsement, the 1999 American Inventors Protection Act passed in the House and was signed into law that November. An April 2000 article in Fortune Small Business that chronicled the couple’s patent reform efforts the previous summer declared: “For decades to come, the U.S. patent system will bear the indelible stamp of Robert and Joanne Rines.”

Savoring her park place

She says she has never been an inventor, but she has always been inventive about finding worthwhile pursuits. Today, Hayes-Rines is active with the Academy of Applied Science, which supports STEM education in elementary and high schools. She is president of a nonprofit, volunteer organization, Friends of Christopher Columbus Park in Boston.

“It’s a beautiful little park on the Boston harbor,” she says. “I always say we put the whipped cream and cherry on top of what’s already a beautiful piece of land. Our members raise the funds to enhance the park and we actively work in the park.  We raise money to illuminate the beautiful trellis during the winter, have free events for kids and Sunday night movies, do a great bit of horticulture work. We also just received a proclamation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives declaring the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park to be the best friends group in the city of Boston.”

She stays current on developments in the invention community and urges the kind of ongoing commitment to grassroots inventors that marked her time at Inventors Digest. “I remember one of the many times Bob and I and inventors from around the country were in D.C. speaking out against an unfair patent law proposal, one of the legislative aides for a congressman said to us: ‘The passion you all demonstrate is why this legislation hasn’t gone anywhere. The corporate world, they send the guys in in their suits. We all know they’re on expense accounts. We all know they didn’t pay for their airline tickets.’”

“It’s the same with today’s independent inventors, especially those who are heading and nurturing inventors groups. They’re not doing this for themselves. They’re doing this for future generations, and they’re doing it for the cause.”


Some of Joanne Hayes-Rines’ benchmarks during her two decades at the helm of Inventors Digest:

Spring 1987: First issue as editor.

Summer 1987: Reported that at a World Intellectual Property Organization meeting, representatives from 38 countries debated a proposal for a “patent law harmonization” treaty—i.e., an effort to switch the U.S. system from First to Invent to First to File. After two issues, ID increased to 16 pages and was typeset by a printer.

March/April 1992: ID became the Official Publication of the United Inventors Association.

July/August 1994: First issue as publisher.

Jan/Feb/March 2007: Last issue as publisher.