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Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News
The InvisibleShield is designed to last five years but comes with guarantees.

Protective Solutions Inc. wants to make two things absolutely clear.

One is its product line of transparent-film protection. The second is its benefits to anyone who owns a handheld electronic device.

While only in business since March, the Salt Lake-based company already has 17 people on the payroll, film-protection products for 270 devices and a network of dozens of retailers across the U.S. and in four foreign countries — all thanks to a material originally designed to protect the leading edge of helicopter blades.

"It just speaks 'strength and durability,' and it is an incredibly tough film, and I think that's what creates most curiosity for people right away," the company's president, Phillip Chipping, said after a demonstration showing the difficulty of poking a pen through a strip of InvisibleShield. "Compared to a regular screen protector, it's virtually invincible . . . Being built for helicopters, this stuff is built to last."

The InvisibleShield is designed for specific products and can provide protection from something as relatively innocent as a speck of dust on the tip of a stylus that can scratch a screen, to inclement weather. Various shapes fit iPods, PDAs, cell phones, GPS devices, digital cameras, laptop wristrests and mousepads, medical-equipment touch screens, swipe-card displays, watch faces and more. A shield for the Sony PlayStation Portable, for example, costs $16.95.

The shield, a mere 0.008 inch thick, lives up to its name, being virtually invisible once applied.

"I can give a person an iPod and they'll never figure out it's on there until I tell them," Chipping said. It does not affect device functionality and can even hide many scratches suffered before application. It can wrap around edges and can be repositioned if applied incorrectly.

But durability is the main selling point. Each InvisibleShield is designed to last five years but has money-back and lifetime-replacement guarantees. As Chipping likes to say, "You pay once; you protect forever."

Chipping enjoys freaking out people when he smacks and scrapes a key across the screen on his cell phone, with no resulting damage.

"The basic concept for a screen protector was to have an extra layer. These (inexpensive) types of things provide that extra layer, but as far as real protection, they don't compare," he said.

The inspiration for the company was a Christmas-gift watch Chipping received from his father-in-law. Not wanting it to sustain the scratches of his previous watch, Chipping used some of his father-in-law's helicopter-blade film to cut out a crude circle of protection for the crystal of the new watch. "And it worked beautifully," he said.

The 29-year-old entrepreneur saw possibilities to exploit the film's properties, and a few months later, Protective Solutions was born. The shields are available at www.theinvisibleshield.com, independent Apple resellers and most university bookstores in Utah, about 70 retailers across the country and also in parts of Canada, France, Norway and Sweden.

Feedback from customers is glowing. On the company Web site, a testimonial from an iPod Nano owner in Australia calls the shields the "bargain of the century." Another customer said an InvisibleShield protected the screen from a "truly horrendous scratch in my GPS that would have utterly ruined the screen." A GPS device owner described it as "bullet-proof protection from dings and scratches." An iPod owner said his protected device is "the first one I feel comfortable leaving around without a bulky case to protect it."

While declining to provide specifics, Chipping said the company has sold "a good amount" of the shields, aided by the release of new iPod products coupled with press reports of their easily scratched screens. "It was the right product at the right time," he said.

"Simply because of the electronic device market, there's always been a huge potential, but I've been surprised at how fast it exploded, yes. But there is a strong market there and a lot of opportunity."

Chipping even makes a point through an unintentional play on words. "We've grown very strongly from the beginning, but with the iPod sales, I'd say we've barely scratched the market."

E-mail: [email protected]