A Pasco inventor has a patent for a device that he says could help people from babies to cancer patients.
Del Lathim, 72, developed technology that works in several products, each using a plastic tube that holds liquid on one end with a nozzle that distributes or pulls liquid in on the other.
The one Lathim thinks will be most used is called the "Squirt Pick," a manual water flosser that he sees as a disposable alternative to a WaterPik, he said.
"It has a memory so it can go back to where it's supposed to and create a real strong vacuum," he said.
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Users mix water and mouthwash together and spray them between their teeth. Lathim said he has received letters from companies interested in buying the patent for the product, including Procter and Gamble and Colgate Palmolive, though he didn't have the letters available.
But the companies want a working prototype. The Smooth Pick model is not usable yet, he said.
"I showed this to my patent attorney and the first thing he did was crush it," Lathim said.
Lathim, a former elected Franklin Public Utility District and Port of Pasco commissioner, also has non-working prototypes of some of the other products that use the hand-operable vacuum. They include a replacement for a rubber aspirator, which takes air out of liquids. He said the ones now used could damage the esophagus and voice box on infants when inserted into their mouths. His plastic aspirator has a downward-sloped nozzle.
The vacuum technology is also used in a cell sampler, which is used to vacuum cells to test for cervical cancer, Lathim said.
Lathim was awarded a U.S. patent for the hand-operable vacuum device on Nov. 19, according to Google Patents. He applied for the patent in December 2010.
Lathim plans to independently manufacture the Squirt Pick, despite the interest from large companies, he said. The first step is finding a company to make the plastic needed for the product. He will have to go to California since no one makes it in the Northwest.
He wants to try to appeal to investors by packaging the prototype with travel-size mouthwash and toothpaste containers, to show how it could stand out on store shelves, Lathim said.
Lathim has more than a dozen patents, he said. His inventions include a plastic "potty chair" for cats and what he calls the first plastic Christmas tree stand. He sold that patent to a Missouri company called Handy Things in 1990, he said.
The inventing business has seen problems because of cutbacks in the government patent office, Lathim said. That leads to people from other countries stealing ideas before they can be turned into products.
"It's killing our economy," he said. "That's just discouraging people from even trying."
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom