Local woman patents invention to help those in need

Published 10:58 am Friday, December 16, 2016

For every prayer, God has an answer.

Gwendolyn Sue Galloway Smith, a 59-year-old Bogue Chitto woman, knows this all too well. Smith’s prayers were recently answered after she received notification that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has approved her patent for functional basket assemblies for a wheelchair.

Sue Galloway Smith

Sue Galloway Smith

Smith created the multi-use basket in 2014 to attach to the wheelchair of Elsie Smith, her 97-year-old mother-in-law. Smith said she used to take her mother-in-law, who has since died, out shopping, to eat or to church.

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It became difficult to carry both her and Elsie’s stuff around so she turned to prayer.

“I said ‘Lord, for every problem there is a solution, and you’ve got to give me a solution to this problem that I have,’” she said. “‘Cause my mother-in-law, she’s sweet. I love her, but it’s a struggle when you have to try and do all these things (without enough hands). So what the Lord gave me was this basket.”

The basket assembly attaches to the front of the wheelchair and swings upward. It can be unfolded into a desk, Smith said.

“Students can use it when they go to school and put their books in it, they can fold it down and use it as a desk or at the cafeteria you can fold it down and use it as a tray,” she said. “Or a computer table or reading table, whatever they need it for. I can push it to the mall and don’t have to worry about having someone else to carry stuff with me.”

With the patent, Smith’s invention has become the physical prototype. She was able to apply for the patent thanks to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s pro bono programs in association with the Federal Circuit Bar Association.

Smith was accepted into the FCBA regional patent pro bono program’s inventor assistance program, which matches volunteer patent attorneys with low-income inventors to help make sure that no good invention remains undiscovered because someone cannot afford an attorney’s services.

She was paired with an attorney who works for King & Spalding, LLP, in Houston, Texas. Currently, there are no volunteer attorneys listed with the federal program in Mississippi.

At the start of her journey to patent her invention, Smith said those with the program explained that not everyone who applies is considered eligible. The invention must be something that would benefit people.

She assured those who doubted her invention that her idea will provide a “very special basket for very special people.”

While waiting for the patent, Smith’s journey led her to the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, where she said Garrick Combs helped her arrange a meeting with someone from the Mississippi Development Authority. Together they found a manufacturer willing to build her prototype, and eventually start producing and distributing the baskets.

She hopes to begin taking more orders for the wheelchair basket with the patent in hand. Her goal is to build a plant in the area to manufacture and distribute her product in order to create jobs in her home community.

Smith said the experience to get her invention out to the world has been surreal, and she cannot believe it is officially patented in her name.

“When my lawyer called, I was at work,” she said. “When he told me it went through, I wanted to jump up and run and shout. I’m overwhelmed.”

Smith said things just fell into place, as good things do in God’s plan, and she is thankful for all who have helped her make this a reality.