Resources in Your Backyard
We at the USPTO often hear from inventors who not only need information about protecting their intellectual property with either a patent or trademark, but also such questions as how to get help selecting a patent attorney/agent; or who can help with my prototype; or should I license or start my own business. These are all very valid questions, and many are questions that the USPTO cannot, by law, address. However, there are other resources that can help with these questions.
In our last issue we discussed the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDLs) that are located throughout the United States and the benefit of conducting a search at one of theses libraries. This month we want to provide information about another local resource that might be in your own backyard−local inventor groups.
There are several of them across the country where people meet monthly to share information and experiences, and invite guest speakers and mentors to speak. These offerings can be very helpful for newcomers and first-time starters. Each issue of Inventors Eye includes listings of local inventor groups as a resource for our readers.
Inventor clubs are comprised of inventors like yourself. The clubs have a commitment to helping other inventors by sharing knowledge and providing resources. Most clubs meet on a monthly basis and require a nominal fee to join, but the potential benefits for inventors who join can be immense.
The USPTO often makes presentations at inventors clubs throughout the country, such as the Houston Inventors Association mentioned in our "Spark of column, the American Society of Inventors, Rocky Mountain Inventors Association, Inventors Society of South Florida, and Illinois Innovators and Inventors. Aside from USPTO speakers, most clubs also present a host of speakers that cover many other topics of interest to inventors such as invention disclosure, prototyping, marketing and even injection molds.
Many of these inventor groups have been in existence for years. One of the oldest groups, if not the oldest, is the American Society of Inventors formed in Philadelphia in 1953.
Also, the United Inventors Association (UIA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to inventor education and support since 1990. Its mission is to provide reliable information to inventors such as upcoming events across the country, suggested reading, and funding options. If there is no inventors club in your area, the UIA provides information on how to start one. Joining a local inventor club will provide inventors with free membership to the UIA as well. More information about the UIA can be found at its website, www.uiausa.org.
For inventors in the Washington, D.C., area, the Inventors Network of the Capital Area will be holding an MIT Fab Lab (fabrication lab) in mid-January 2011. An MIT Fab Lab is a style of workshop originally started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where it provides inventors and product developers with assistance in making prototypes of their inventions. After taking safety and other training classes, users will have access to a Shopbot CNC milling/routing machine, UPrint 3D printer, Roland vinyl cutter, laser scanners, and CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. The workshop is open to the public to attend. For more information about the MIT Fab Lab, please visit www.dcinventors.org.
We invite you to visit our list of inventor groups and see what might be available to you in your own backyard. Networking through a club can be the key to your success.