1. Choose Your Own Harlequin Adventure
For $45, San Jose start-up Torrid Romance will write you into an erotic novel, featuring up to 35 details such as eye color and favorite underwear. For a premium, the company will even render your face on the book's sultry cover (that's a sample with Brad and Jennifer). Founder Jade Pham got the idea after her fiancé proposed to her by penning his own bodice ripper. She said yes, then sold the engagement ring for seed capital. Pham has sold 1,700 books so far, and expects volume to double this Valentine's Day.
2. Tracking the Storm Trackers
This month, Arizona-based WeatheRate Inc. will crown one local meteorologist in each of the top 50 TV markets as the most accurate by matching televised predictions with actual temps and precip. Founder Bruce Fixman was inspired by J.D. Power's lucrative car reports. He plans to sell the promotional rights to the rankings to the stations with the best forecasters. In a recent test market, Phoenix's KPHO touted its top WeatheRate ranking. Fixman believes that's partly why Nielsen ratings for its nightly newscast jumped nearly 20%.
3. What's Cool on the Slopes
New telemark skis--BobTails by ScottyBob's--could be the hottest innovation to hit the sport since parabolics debuted in the '90s. Telemarking is an increasingly popular expert style of skiing where only the toe clips into the binding. Entrepreneur Scott Robert Carlson's patented asymmetrical design enables tele skiers to turn more easily, he says. Manufactured in Silverton, Colo., the skis sell for $390 per pair. Although telemark skis make up a small fraction of ski equipment sold, analysts say that demand for them has been "through the roof," while sales of Alpine skis are off to a slow start this season.
4. Trademark Advance (Serious)
Global trademark protection just got a lot easier to obtain. The U.S. finally joined the Madrid Protocol, a treaty that standardizes the trademarking process in 61 countries. A planned Patent and Trademark Office website will allow U.S. firms to complete forms in English and to pay all fees in American currency--although each country will still collect its own yen, euros, or kwacha.
5. Trademark Advance (Not so serious)
Oh, the irony: Everybody's fave ex-Communist Mikhail Gorbachev is single-handedly trying to extend the bounds of intellectual property law by filing to copyright the iconic port stain on his forehead. The perestroika pioneer moved to guard the birthmark after a Russian vodka company reproduced it on its bottles--even though the commissar instituted a stern antidrinking campaign while in power. "Given how seriously he seems to be taking these matters, companies may soon find themselves in court," observes Minneapolis trademark lawyer Michael Bondi.