PittMoss: Engineering Expertise Protects Novice Inventor


Twenty years ago, Mont Handley, founder and CEO of PittMoss LLC, became concerned about commercial growers’ reliance on peat moss as a growing medium.

Sometimes great ideas take time to bear fruit. Twenty years ago, Mont Handley, founder and CEO of PittMoss LLC, became concerned about commercial growers’ reliance on peat moss as a growing medium. When peatlands, the source of sphagnum peat moss, are disturbed, they emit carbon into the atmosphere, which is detrimental to the environment. Considering that the United States imports a million tons of sphagnum peat moss each year, Mont pondered a man-made alternative to this environmental resource.

Fresh out of college and working for a nursery chain, Mont turned his kitchen into a lab and began “playing in the dirt.” “My mom gave me an old Cuisinart. I began grinding up newspaper and organic elements, and eventually hit upon a mix that was stable for growing seedlings,” he explained.

Mont turned to Hartman Global Intellectual Property Law for guidance. “I knew patents existed and that I needed one. But I didn’t know if I was ready — and I wasn’t,” he recalled.

Mont came to the firm with a one-paragraph product description. While that was enough for a patent search, it wouldn’t support an application. “My original work was hands on — a dash of this and a bit of that. I didn’t know to measure my ingredients,” he explained.

Applying Scientific Principles

The firm’s engineering expertise was essential. “Hartman and Global looked at it with a scientific eye. They knew what the patent examiners needed, and they helped me understand my product better.”

The firm’s patent attorneys, all of whom started their careers as engineers, guided Mont as they worked together to develop his single paragraph into a 20-page patent application with drawings.

But the work wasn’t done. Although he received a patent for that original application 20 years ago, his idea languished until 2013 — when he neared his 50th birthday. “I said to myself, ‘If I don’t work on PittMoss now, I never will, and I’ll regret it when I’m older,’” Mont recalled. He quit his job, cashed in his 401(k), and sold his house, using the proceeds to build a full-scale proof-of-concept manufacturing facility. “In August 2013, we made our first ton of product,” he said. Hartman Global continues to work with PittMoss to protect its most recent developments.

Patents Help Attract Sharks

Now the story gets exciting. In April 2015, Mont pitched PittMoss on the reality show Shark Tank — raising $1.5 million in funding through a combination of shark and local investors. His new manufacturing plant, capable of producing 20 tons of PittMoss a day, is set to begin production by June 2015.

“Our long history with Hartman Global helped seal the deal with our sharks. They saw the longevity of the relationship and appreciated that the firm could explain why PittMoss earned a patent, how our new developments are patentable, and that we would have a monopoly for the next 17 to 20 years,” Mont noted. “If anyone is looking for a quality patent attorney, they can’t do better than Hartman Global.”