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Creative mind pays off with second U.S. patent for Lakes Region man

Union Leader Correspondent

February 18. 2018 10:31PM
Dan Burbank of Moultonborough holds the journal in which he writes down all the ideas he has for perspective inventions. (BEA LEWIS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Dan Burbank demonstrates his cap breaker invention that quickly pierces the foil under-cap on a bottle of two-cycle oil. He obtained a U.S. patent for the device on Dec. 26. (BEA LEWIS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

MOULTONBOROUGH — While the word “inventor” typically conjures a mental image of a scientist or engineer, perhaps a bit eccentric, many inventions are the product of ordinary people solving everyday problems.

Dan Burbank of Moultonborough is anything but ordinary but concedes he does has some eccentric tendencies. Like his famous inventor ancestor Luther Burbank, Dan Burbank benefitted from little more than a high school education but showed an affinity for mechanics at an early age.

Luther, who grew up in neighboring Massachusetts, was awarded more than 100 patents over his 55-year career as a plant breeder. Dan, who spent 40 years as a logger before formally entering the inventing arena in 1997, has just obtained his second patent.

“My wife says my thought process is like a Super Ball, all over the place. But I think I got the Burbank gene. I’m a problem solver,” he said.

His first invention to earn patent protection was a disc brake for a wheelbarrow, which was successfully licensed by Jeep. His latest is the cap breaker.

His accomplishments stand out in that just 2 percent of all patents are issued to individuals.

“My mind never stops. I’m always looking for the next best thing,” Burbank said. “I’m an opportunist. I look at things and say there must be a better way.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Burbank Patent No. 9,850,048 on Dec. 26.

The invention provides both convenience and a safe way to handle the contents of bottles that are sealed with a foil under-cap.

During his years in the timber industry, Burbank recounted opening hundreds of bottles of two-cycle oil for a chainsaw. Without a pocketknife, or a vehicle key handy, Burbank said, like most people he’d use his finger to break the seal.

“It takes quite a bit of pressure, and you end up with your finger in it. Eat a sandwich later and you can still taste it, no matter how many wipes you use afterwards,” he said.

A variety of bottles are sealed with foil like windshield washer fluid, dry gas, and other fuel additives and all carry safety warnings that the contents are toxic.

Eighty percent of over-the-counter drugs are also packaged with a tamper-resistant foil under cap.

Burbank recounted that his patent attorney was stunned that the idea had not already been patented.

His latest invention is all the more special, according to Burbank, as his son Brian, who graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2007 with a degree in mechanical engineering, helped fine tune the product and created the computer-assisted design drawings that were submitted with the patent application.

The seal breaker cap has a flip-up triangle-shaped fin held in place with a small nub of plastic that serves like a kickstand. Consumers can unscrew the cap, flip up the point, poke it through the foil, use the contents, then flip the point back down, and screw it back on the bottle for recycling.

With the patent in hand, Burbank said, he has his sights set on getting a meeting with top executives of a company that makes a nationally marketed product that is sold with a foil under-cap and demonstrate his invention.

Instead of entering into a licensing agreement, Burbank believes the best way to market the cap is to attract investor capital and subcontract with a manufacturer.

The makers of products that have foil seals typically buy their plastic bottles from one manufacturer and their caps from another, he said.

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