Meet the Inventor: Nancy Falk and the Business of Invention

Clorox is full of scientists of every stripe.

We’ve got microbiologists and geologists, engineers and chemists. We’ve got data scientists and social scientists, technical scientists and theoretical scientists.

One thing all Clorox scientists share, however, is deep curiosity and a passion for discovery.

Come meet some of our Clorox inventors.

Nancy Falk and the Business of Invention

Curiosity about how things work first attracted Nancy Falk to a science career. Protecting her discoveries (and those of her colleagues) has become a rival passion.

With a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and 25 years of industry experience, Nancy knows a thing or two about the molecules that make cleaning products work. Over the course of her career, she’s an inventor on 28 U.S. patents and publications. She’s also listed on patent publications in 18 other countries.

From scientist to inventor

It was the struggle to earn her first patent early in her career that transformed her from scientist to inventor, from someone who explores the natural world to someone who protects her discoveries.

You see, Nancy’s initial patent application was rejected.

Fighting for her intellectual property, Nancy worked closely with her company’s patent attorney, learning to think like a patent examiner and craft a counter argument accordingly.

“That early professional experience of first just finding something novel and then protecting it by getting the patent approved was really, really useful to my career,” Nancy says. “I learned that when you start a project, you already have to be thinking about how you’re going to protect it. Then you incorporate that strategy into the discovery process.”

Nancy Falk points to a circle representing one of her inventions on the Clorox patent wall, which includes all the patents from the company’s first 100 years.

Putting the consumer first

Even though Nancy’s doing science and discovering new chemical properties, she’s always putting the consumer first.

“I learned early on that you need to tie the technology of a patent to a consumer angle,” Nancy says. “Now, I’m always looking to provide a saleable, competitive advantage with my discoveries.”

Indeed, being able to meet a real consumer need with a patent-protected technology makes it easier to get a new product onto store shelves.

For example, Nancy worked on the formulation of Green Works® products, including Green Works liquid laundry detergent.

The patents Nancy and her colleagues (including Maria Ochomogo) earned for the formulations gave the product a distinct advantage.

“We tested something like 80 different competitive products in that space, and we knew our product had something very different,” Nancy says. “Our patents enabled us to talk to retailers about why the Green Works laundry detergent was special. The patents really helped us tell the story.”

Protecting innovation, fostering growth

Today, Nancy’s known across Clorox as a go-to person in R&D for help embedding intellectual property protection concerns into the earliest stages of an innovation discovery project.

As a member of the Cleaning Growth and Innovation Group, Nancy advises which technical discoveries the Cleaning Division should pursue. In addition, Nancy’s applying her technical and intellectual property expertise to other breakthrough innovation projects to “rethink how we think about IP,” she says.

“More and more, we want intellectual property in place for our product launches,” says Nancy. “The more IP is embedded in our innovation growth strategy, the more we’ll be able to drive even more innovation and creativity across the company.”

With the consumer-driven inventions of Nancy and her colleagues in R&D, Clorox will continue to drive growth through innovation for years to come.

Nancy Falk in front of the Clorox patent wall.

Related posts:

Meet the Inventor: Heather Day’s Chemistry for Sprays

Meet the Inventor: Terry Kitagawa is a Master of Connection

Maria Ochomogo: The Mother of Green Works

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