Battling Big Business

Michael Powell faced a fear many low budget inventors encounter, and he won. In this case, he tackled Home Depots theft of his invention, and he won a generous settlement.

It’s been seven years since he showed Home Depot officials a saw guard he invented that allowed it to continue to cut lumber for its customers without having to shell out as much as $1 million annually to employees who lost fingers while offering the unique service. It’s been four years since he filed suit, claiming the chain stole his “Safe Hands” saw. It’s been more than a year since a West Palm Beach jury and federal Judge Daniel Hurley agreed that it had.

“It’s done. It’s over with. I’m just a producing person,” Powell said of his ability to return to his first love, problem-solving, instead of being consumed by the legal fight.

But, he said, his success should inspire struggling inventors that they can take on giants and win. The $15 million the jury awarded wasn’t just for the money Home Depot should have paid to install the saw guards in roughly 2,000 stores nationwide instead of having them duplicated for a cheaper price. The appeals court found the guard saved the company money by reducing losses and gave it a competitive edge.

“Now the small guy can sue. It isn’t about peanuts anymore,” he said. “It’s not going after what you should have been paid, it’s what it was worth to them.”

Photo by Lasse Rintakumpu

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