Mother was the necessity of invention for sixth-grader...


April 22, 1993

Mother was the necessity of invention for sixth-grader Akhil Rastogi of Fairfax County, Va., one of the youngest people ever issued a patent by the U.S. Patent Office.

His screw-on, nonspill, pour spout for unwieldy milk jugs was invented when he was a mere 7 years old, after his mother sustained nerve damage in one hand and it became Akhil's task to fill the milk glasses for the table.

The chore was frustrating, as the youngster struggled to keep the milk from splashing to the floor instead of into the glass.

Rather than crying over spilled milk, Akhil began to think hard about a solution. Using modeling clay, he fashioned a spout with a channel running down the middle to contain the flow of cow juice. Thus was born the E-Z Gallon spout.

After winning a statewide school science fair award as a third-grader, Akhil was advised by the judges to consider patenting his invention. He applied to the government office and last fall received notice that his spout was officially protected by patent law.

Now 12 years old, Akhil hopes to market a plastic version of his device, aimed at the elderly and disabled and others who have trouble maneuvering the heavy gallon jugs. The spout should sell for about 50 cents, he reckons.

The world has not beat a path to his door for his better milk spout, the young inventor admits. He is working to find a way to manufacture and distribute his product.

But the success of the idea has spurred him to develop a tape dispenser that is easier to use and other products that could help the blind. "There has to be an easier way," is his credo, which has already served the young inventor well. Already, he has his eye on becoming an engineer (like his father) and attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The youngster was honored as a distinguished inventor this month along with other, much older colleagues by Intellectual Property Owners Inc., a group that represents holders of patents, copyrights and trademarks.

Akhil's demonstration to the audience at the Washington ceremony was as straight-forward as the invention itself. He poured a stream of pink liquid from a gallon milk jug into a glass. It was a refreshing affirmation that even the simplest device, with no silicon chips or lasers, can comfort the human condition. And that wisdom can spring not only from the mouths of babes but also from their minds.

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