Inventors Eye is the USPTO’s newsletter for the independent inventor community published since 2010. Browse through our archive to find stories about innovation, profiles of inventors, and tips and advice on USPTO services.   

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  • Sean Wilkerson and Dennis Forbes
    As an inventor, you want to increase your knowledge of resources that support you in your intellectual property (IP) efforts. The Office of Innovation Development (OID) is here to help you do just that.  We provide resources and education opportunities throughout the year that allow you to learn all you can about IP surrounding patents and the patent application filing process.  Outreach Program Specialists Dennis Forbes and Sean Wilkerson are dedicated to providing engagement opportunities either in-person or virtually to requesting stakeholders. Their agency-wide experience allows them to actively develop and launch outreach engagement programs that foster meaningful patent education awareness for independent inventors, small businesses, entrepreneurs, makers, and universities. They are ready to help you in planning your patent education needs and finding events.   Our outreach team develops programs for universities, organizations, inventor groups, federal agencies, and independent inventors by pairing successful inventors, entrepreneurs and government experts to give you a full understanding of what to expect by sharing best practices of patent filers alongside the knowledge of our patent examiners. Our annual programs include the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium held each March and our two-day independent inventors conference, Invention-Con. These programs provide networking, education, and resources to keep you engaged in the inventor community long after the program ends. We continue to expand our services through creative resources like our Patent Virtual Assistance program, a confidential face-to-face video discussion tool which combines the convenience of getting one-on-one expert support without having to travel to our office in Alexandria, Virginia. Currently, there are four virtual assistance programs operating in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Amherst, Massachusetts; Morgantown, West Virginia; and Houghton, Michigan. We are looking to expand the number of Patent Virtual Assistance programs in 2019 with more centers across the country. We encourage our clients, customers, and stakeholders to please visit a Patent and Trademark Resource Center near you for assistance.   You can also take part in our free interactive web sessions, the Inventor Info Chat series, held every third Thursday of the month. Each monthly chat is one hour, covers a new topic each month, and focuses on a portion of the patent process to help bring a better understanding to inventors filing a patent application without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent. If you are interested in any of the programs mentioned in this article or you would like to discuss how we can collaboratively work with your organization, please do not hesitate to contact us via email at or by phone at 571-272-8033. 
  • U.S. Patent No. 2,623,269 Convertible material working machine
    Right about now, woodworkers and woodcrafters who desire to be “Holiday Helpers” for the upcoming holiday seasons begin excitedly sketching ideas. The planning process allows them to begin working on making unique holiday gifts from selected pieces of wood. These items will be made for special family members and friends.  And depending up the scale and scope of the holiday wood project, the woodworker must start well before Black Friday to complete the handcrafted item. Below are five of my favorite items invented to help woodcrafters.  Convertible material working machine U.S. Patent No. 2,623,269 U.S. Patent No. 2,623,269 granted to Hans Goldschmidt on December 30, 1952, is the basis for a five and one multi-tool. The device can be set up as a table saw, a disc sander, a lathe, a horizontal boring machine, and a drill press. This tool could be set up a fixed piece of equipment, or with legs with casters, allowing the machine to be moved throughout the workspace. Interestingly, this device made a guest appearance on the TV show NCIS during season 10 episode 5, where Agent Gibbs, who is a woodworker, purchased this type of device from a pawn shop. Saw Fence U.S. Patent No. 4,658,687 U.S. Patent No. 4,658,687 issued to Charles J. Haas, Dale Timman, and John H. Stolzenberg on April 21, 1987, is for a saw fence. A saw fence is used with a table saw when ripping a piece of wood, meaning that you are sawing with the grain of the wood. When ripping, the board is placed against the saw fence and with other accessories (like the Featherboard and Straddle block cited below), a nice straight cut is achieved.  Adjustable Featherboard U.S. Patent No. 4,476,757 U.S. Patent no. 4,476757 issued to David S. Morris in October 10, 1984, for a feather board that does not have to be attached to a saw table via a C-clamp. The Featherboard is used to keep a piece of wood tight against the rip fence, permitting a nice clean, straight cut. This Featherboard is mounted in a track and then adjusted to fit the cuts that are being made. Adjustable Straddle Block U.S. Patent No. 4,485711 U.S. Patent No 4,485,711 issued to John W. Schnell, on December 4, 1984, for a safety device known as a straddle block. The straddle block keeps the hand of a user a fixed distance away from the blade of the table saw, while holding down against the table while sawing, shaping and making groves into a thin piece of stock. Saw Guard System U.S. Patent No. 4,721023 U.S. Patent No. 4,721023 issued to Robert L. Bartlett, John G. Legier, and Harold E. Folkerth on January 26, 1988 for a saw guard, which encloses the lower portion of a saw blade or a sanding disc. This safety feature was not included on the original patent listed above, but is still being used today. In addition, the saw guard also includes a vacuum port, where one can attach a vacuum hose, to help keep the workshop dust free.
  • Invention-Con 2018 logo
    Invention-Con 2018, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) conference for inventors, makers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and IP professionals, was held at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, from August 17-18. Over the course of two days, 258 attendees from 28 states and Canada were present. This year’s theme focused on concept to commercialization. Attendees were welcomed by Director Andrei Iancu and USPTO senior executive staff who invited them to take advantage of the many resources that the USPTO has to offer to its customers, clients, and stakeholders. Attendees also heard from multiple inventors about their journeys making their ideas happen. Guest speakers and panelists spoke on topics ranging from their experiences of marketing and licensing their products to the success they had achieved in the marketplace. Attendees were also able to network with speakers and panelists at various informational booths, as well as with each other during breaks and after the daily events.  Breakout sessions covered such topics as prior art searching, trademark website resources, and tools, filing for a patent and common mistakes, and funding your venture. During the one-on-one sessions, attendees met with experienced USPTO staff members and discussed various topics, including how to properly file an application, and how to avoid problems maneuvering through the patent process. Howie Busch, inventor of the DudeRobe® and "Shark Tank" contestant, delivered the keynote address. He spoke fervently to the audience about getting his product to market by being persistent and actively promoting his idea. Above all, he encouraged inventors to be willing to share their ideas by engaging family and friends. Both days were packed with panel discussions from inventors and entrepreneurs. The two days of panel discussions were designed to teach inventors, entrepreneurs and small business owners how to take their ideas from concept to market. Panelists spoke on various key points, such as knowing your potential customers, and protecting your IP domestic and internationally. Each panel discussion was moderated by USPTO employees. The discussions included information about useful resources beyond those offered by the USPTO as well as legal advice from IP professionals. Attendees were complimentary of the content provided by panelists and the keynote speaker. Several attendees remarked positively on the selection of speakers, the one-on-one sessions and the overall experience. “The event was simply awesome. Great choice of speakers!” one person exclaimed while leaving a session. An attendee from Fredericksburg, Virginia, mentioned how the one-on-one sessions were extremely helpful. “Overall, it was well worth the trip,” commented an attendee from North Carolina. “I learned a lot.”  If you missed this year’s conference, don’t fret; check the OID website for details on when the program agenda and several of the presentations will be available for viewing. Next year’s Invention-Con will be held September 19-21, 2019, so look for more details on the USPTO events calendar in the coming months. You definitely won’t want to miss it!
  • Brian Fried, Inventor Consultant/Coach, Serial Inventor, Licensing Agent, Speaker, Author, Radio Host, Product Invention Development
    Brian Fried is an inventor, author, radio host. He is a consultant, mentor and advocate for inventors. He is often invited as a guest speaker on innovation and invention topics at major trade shows, government agencies, schools and libraries across the nation. He offers an insightful perspective for inventors to keep in mind as they pursue intellectual property protection. Robin Hylton: The old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” seems to hold true for at least one or two of your inventions—Knot Out and Pull Ties. Would you say that is true and why? Brian Fried: Inventing is more about people being in different places and having different experiences. Some people are more aware that things can be done differently. Others accept things as they are. If you can think about how to use or who can use a product, how it can improve the life or experiences of others, your product has a better chance of success. RH:  How do you come up with your ideas for inventions? BF: I look for solutions to problems. I am also a people watcher. I observe how people respond and react to situations. Sometimes people simply respond and accept a situation as if there is no better way. At other times, people react and show frustration. It is within those reactions of frustration that can lead to inventive ideas to make a ‘better’ product. However, you must not make things more complicated but easier to use. Most importantly, remember that it does not matter who you are. You can invent. You simply must be aware of your environment and experiences. Because there were limited resources available, I decided to share my new found knowledge with other inventors. In 2008, I wrote my first book entitled “You and Your Big Ideas.” The purpose was to provide a roadmap for inventors that would enable other inventors to achieve success more quickly than if they did it on their own. My intention in my second book, “Inventing Secrets Revealed: Guidance from a Successful Inventor to Make Your Ideas a Reality,” was to provide a basic guide of how to move from the idea stage to protecting your intellectual property (i.e., your idea), to marketing and production. My third book is at the press right now, “Invention Playbook for Inventors with Big Ideas.” It is intended to help inventors with a play-by-play of picking up where they are in the idea process and taking them to their goal of earning royalties or going into business with their invention. Learning lessons from others can cut down on the time it takes to get your idea from your head to the public. People started asking me lots of questions on these topics which eventually led me to speaking in public libraries and schools. Now I speak to large audiences and at tradeshows. I even had a radio show that I plan to re-launch soon. RH:  Did you have a mentor or coach to help you? If not, is that the reason you decided to become a coach for independent inventors? BF: I did not have a coach or mentor in the beginning. I read books about inventing, marketing, etc. when I started out. However, the content felt too general and limiting. I realized I needed to surround myself with like-minded people. Thus, I joined a local inventors group so I could network and learn from others. Thus, my recommendations to inventors from the production standpoint is to make mistakes and learn the lessons in order to move forward. Don’t be afraid of not getting things right the first time. The lessons are in the failures. The basic premise is “if I can, you can.” I help inventors realize that their ideas may not be viable and probably should not be pursued because there is not enough difference between the proposed product and existing ones or there is an infringement possibility. By not pursuing such products, inventors can then focus efforts on more viable products. Once you have one idea, you are more likely on track for the next one. That has to be the mindset of any successful inventor. RH:  Besides setting up a consultation for a coaching session with you, what would you tell inventors to get started? BF: Start by writing down your idea. Ask yourself “what makes it different from other products on the market?” If it is not different from other products or will make someone’s life better, it may not be marketable. Take your time to do your own research. Use generic descriptive words in the various online search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo to see if there are already products like the one you have envisioned. Look at the images and not just the description. You want to be sure that it is not similar looking or functioning. Search the USPTO search tools available on the USPTO webpage such as the Search for patents and Global Dossier.  You should also search both U.S. patent and U.S. patent application full text and image databases as well. If you are unfamiliar with patent searching[1], you can start by watching a web based tutorial How to Conduct a Preliminary U.S. Patent Search: A Step by Step Strategy to help you get started. There are also Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) located around the country where you can get search assistance. Your searching does not end there. Search online stores and visit retail stores. Products can be found in one or both of these locations. Be sure to visit those places where you are likely to find your product. You should do your own search. Don’t rely on anyone else. Is the product different enough from existing products to make life easier for others? Search to find your product. This could save you time, money and frustration over time. You must put aside your emotions to be business-minded. When I work with inventors from the beginning of their process, it helps them the most from disappointment and I can keep them on track and help them make better decisions. RH:  What other areas are important for inventors to consider? BF: Licensing is another area of consideration for inventors. Licensing is going to a manufacturer with distribution and adding your product to their product line. Keep in mind manufacturers are interested in unique items that will diversify their product offering and to appeal to their buyers. It may not be necessary to perfect your product before presenting your idea since they may make slight modifications to the product(s) should the licensee accept your product into their product line. Protecting your product can be important – either via a patent, a trademark, or both. Again, doing your own research will determine if your product is indeed different from others currently known. You do not want to infringe on someone else’s intellectual property. Another important aspect of intellectual property protection is increasing asset value. If you truly want to build a brand and a business, choose a good product name and apply for a trademark. Similarly, apply for a patent and be sure to follow through on the steps necessary to get see it to the end as an issued patent. RH:  What was your most important lesson? BF: It is important to do research on the opportunity. That includes knowing who you are working with. Get references and talk to people who have been in your shoes. Learn what to expect. Do your due diligence with regard to people and resources. When discussing your product, or idea, with a potential licensee or manufacturer, you are not obligated to work with them. However, be sure you have vetted the manufacturer as recommended. A licensee or manufacturer may be interested in adding your product to its product line, but may change your product slightly. This could be to fit certain specifications or to make the product easier to manufacture. Thus, you do not have to perfect your product if you plan to license it. RH:  What is your proudest moment? BF: I actually have two. Being on television representing and promoting your very own invention now a product and seeing it on a store shelf is amazing. Also, when I work with an inventor to bring his or her product on the shelf is also rewarding. Bottom line, seeing a product used as intended by others is satisfying and exciting. RH:  Do you have any final words for our readers? Perhaps a check list of “must dos”. BF: Sure. I tell the inventors that I work with several key things: Keep an open mind Listen to what people say, especially those you are working with Do your own research and due diligence Follow your dreams Bringing something to life and sharing it with others IS the ultimate goal Look at your idea as a business. Separate your emotions from the business in order to make clear decisions. BOTTOM LINE – will you make money from your idea? Timing is everything. The market may not support your idea today, but months or years later the idea could take off. For example, I began selling “Eggstra Space” via various distribution methods. Today, there may be an opportunity to sell it in a retail store. Attendees of Invention-Con 2018, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) conference for inventors, makers and entrepreneurs had the opportunity to hear Brian speak about his experience. Many inspiring inventors that attended the conference were also able to speak with Brian during the breaks and after the daily events to receive his expert advice and tips for success.   [1] In March 2017, the Office of Innovation Development conducted an Inventor Info Chat on Searching educating patent filers on performing a search as well as prevention information on submitting an application with an invention that is already described as an existing patent.
  • patent images of pinic bag and tablecloth combined together
    Congratulations you’ve made it through yet another winter! So long winter sweaters and snow boots; say hello to the beautiful sights, sounds, and smells of spring! Combined picnic bag and tablecloth U.S. Patent No. 4,337,812 With longer days and temperatures rising, this invention is perfect for any outdoor activity, from camping to an intimate outdoor dinner for two. U.S. Pat. No. 4337812 granted to Eileen Trinkner on July 6, 1982, was designed to provide a pleasurable experience for those who choose to dine away from the customary support facilities. A combined picnic bag and tablecloth allows for efficient organization and transportation of silverware, plates, food, and drink, while also serving as a table cover. Miniature Rose Plant named “Kay Denise” U.S. Plant Patent No. 10,946 April showers bring May flowers. The Kay Denise plant is a new, miniature rose plant distinguished by buds and blooms in shades of coral-pink with a paler reverse. Blooms are usually borne one to a stem with hybrid tea form, and in sprays of three to five or more. The bush is vigorous, well-balanced, and produces moderate to heavy blooms. On June 8, 1999, Cecilia Lucy Daphene Bennett was granted Pat. No. 10,946 for this beautiful invention! Kink resistant hose for spraying water U.S. Patent No.5,682,925 Having trouble watering your plants? Peter H. Seckel invented a hose with connector end fittings for carrying pressurized fluid. This hose has longitudinally displaced internal ribs which run along the internal walls of the hose to prevent inking or compression. On November 4, 1997 Pat. No. 5682925 was granted. Charcoal Grill U.S. Patent No. 3,209,743 Don’t burn the burgers! This charcoal grill was invented by Karl E. Stewart and Theodore H. Erwin and patented May 10, 1965. This outdoor cooking device is a staple appliance for summer grillers. Their invention allows users to safely and efficiently ignite charcoal. Insect repellent U.S. Patent No.5,589,181 Buzz buzz! Insect repellent fends off irksome, disease-carrying pests. For those who have summers a-buzz with outdoor activities, patent no. 5,589,181 is a must. Simply applying the repellent to skin allows users to enjoy summer activities without constantly being bugged by insects. Granted on December 31, 1996 to Franz Bencsits.
  • cropped hand entering CC info on laptop keyboard
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office has previously warned stakeholders about unsolicited communications regarding maintenance fees, but it’s something that bears repeating. Many patent owners have received unsolicited communications that at first glance appear to be “official” but are not actually from the USPTO. These communications usually contain warnings about the expiration of patents for failure to pay the maintenance fees of the patent. The communications often sound urgent, in hopes that recipients will be intimidated into paying the fees listed, which frequently include the cost to maintain the patent as well as a “service charge” for the third party’s trouble. While maintenance fees must be paid three, seven, and 11 years after the patent issues, a patent owner can pay the fee without the assistance of a third party. In fact, the USPTO has made it possible for a patent owner to pay the fee online easily and securely. Further, if you need assistance with determining when maintenance fees are due, you can check online for yourself or contact us at the Inventor Assistance Center at 1-800-786-9199 for assistance. If you receive a letter or an email that you suspect may be deceptive, contact us via email or telephone at 571-272-8877. Additionally, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will not resolve individual complaints, but they may initiate investigations and prosecutions based upon widespread complaints about particular companies and business practices.    
  • Invention Con logo
    Registration is now open for Invention-Con 2018, a free two day conference that will be held at the USPTO in Alexandria, Virginia, on August 17-18 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day. This year’s theme is "From Concept to Commercialization." You’ll hear from successful entrepreneurs and inventors about bringing ideas to market. You’ll also get practical advice on: Navigating intellectual property protection processes. Strategies to protect your innovations with patents, trademarks, and copyrights. If you are an inventor or business owner, make sure to register for Invention-Con 2018. Register early, space is limited.  For more information, email or call 571-272-8033. For more information, including how to register, visit our event page.
  • Rick Seidel official USPTO portrait
    Recently, I sat down with Richard (Rick) Seidel, deputy commissioner of patent administration, for a brief interview. The following is what transpired. Robin Hylton: Hello, Rick. Thank you for taking the time to introduce yourself and to highlight the services of your office to our readers. Rick Seidel: It is my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity to increase the awareness of our support and services to the independent inventor community. Hylton: Terrific. Let’s get started. Rick, you have served the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for many years and in many different capacities. You also have a long history of work with the independent inventor community. Can you share with us how you started working with those inventors and what sparked your passion for that particular community? Seidel: When I began my career at the USPTO as an examiner, I was in an art area where few independent inventors filed patent applications. It was after transitioning to another art area, mouse traps and fishing lures that I began to encounter pro se inventors and their applications. I realized they did not always understand the patent process (i.e.: how to draft claims that truly encompassed their inventions). I found that I needed to spend more time discussing the application with them to get a clear understanding of what was intended before I could conduct the search and prepare an Office action. Of course, once I became a supervisory patent examiner (SPE) I encountered even more pro se inventors through the examiners I supervised. Here was an opportunity to make a difference for each of those inventors. Hylton: You currently serve as the deputy commissioner for patent administration. Please tell us about that office and how it carries on your commitment to serving inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Seidel: Our work in Patent Administration is to ensure the patent process is transparent and accessible to all inventors. This includes all stages of the patent process -- from electronic filing, to obtaining priority documents, to examination, and ultimately to a granted U.S. patent. We realize that not every inventor knows how to navigate the patent system nor use the services of a registered patent attorney or agent. Therefore, programs, systems, and services must be in place to assist inventors in navigating the patent process as painlessly as possible. That is where the Pro Se Assistance Program comes in. The Pro Se Assistance Program is a collaborative effort of the Office of Innovation and Development and the Office of Patent Information Management. Like the name implies, it provides assistance to pro se inventors as they navigate the patent system. Hylton: You mentioned that DCPA includes the OID and the OPIM. Can you talk about programs/services that are available for, and tailored to, independent inventors through these offices? Seidel: There are many services available through both offices. Too many to discuss fully, so I will highlight just a few.  The Office of Innovation and Development has established programs and initiatives that assist independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. For instance, the Pro Se Assistance Center has a dedicated customer service telephone line (571) 272-8877, email address, and in-person service--at the USPTO Alexandria headquarters--available. A new service available is the Virtual Assistance Program, provided in partnership with select Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. This service allows inventors to speak directly with USPTO representatives and share documents via a secured web-based service for discussion. The program launched in May 2017. Four PTRCs are available in the following locations: • Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (Broward County Main Library) • Amherst, Mass. (University of Massachusetts Science and Engineering Library) • Morgantown, Ky. (Evansdale Library, West Virginia University) • Houghton, Mich. (Van Pelt and Opie Library, Michigan Technological University) This is an exciting development since it potentially alleviates the need for inventors to travel to Alexandria, Va. for a discussion that can take place remotely. Of course, the pro se assistance webpage is the first resource recommended. The site has helpful information such as application checklists, to guide inventors. Finally, there are outreach programs like Invention-Con and Inventor Info Chats available to inventors. More information regarding these events can be found on the pro se inventor’s webpage. OPIM also has services that assist pro se inventors. These include the Application Assistance Unit whose staff can assist with questions regarding application status, filing receipts, missing parts letters, power of attorney, and more. Inventors with questions regarding a specific application are encouraged to call AAU. My recommendation is to have the application number available when you call. That allows the customer service representative to assist you more efficiently. The Electronic Business Center is the office to call if you have questions regarding submitting your application via EFS-Web, viewing your application information via Public or Private PAIR, technical problems or errors with your Patent Application, PDX/DAS Registration Inquires, and Issues for priority document retrieval. The technical staff can help you navigate the USPTO’s Patent e-Commerce systems. An exciting initiative from OPIM, is the modifications to the Notice of Missing Parts. Right now, some of the language is a bit vague. There will be added clarification and information to specific areas, such as specification deficiencies, that will make the form more user-friendly. Finally, there are videos on the Pro Se Assistance Program webpage that are helpful. They include Application Data Sheet training videos as well as videos from prior Inventor Info Chats. As you can see, there is a lot of information, supporting materials, and staff available to assist pro se inventors and entrepreneurs through both OID and OPIM. I encourage our readers to take a look at what is available to assist them in their quest to secure a patent grant. Hylton: Invention-Con 2018 is fast-approaching. You were involved in some of the early inventor conferences. In your view, what is the value of that event to the inventor community? Seidel: Initially, I think that there were about 40-50 attendees at the first independent inventor conference in 1996. Back then, the attendees were given information in three-ring binders. The information was basically a “how to” guide for filing a patent or trademark application. In recent years the information has become more inclusive of success stories of independent, or garage, inventors. What were their challenges and strategies to overcome them? That not only inspires, but motivates people to continue to seek new ideas, driving innovation. People need to understand the complexity of intellectual property. It is not just about getting a patent grant. You also need to know how to move from concept to patent grant, raise capital, understand the importance of a business plan, and how to strategically and effectively market an invention. Learning those things is the value of the Independent Inventor’s Conference. The theme of Invention-Con 2018 is “From Concept to Commercialization;” attendees to the conference will learn just that, in addition to exposure to various networking opportunities. Note: Invention-Con 2018 will be held on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18. Registration is now open via Eventbrite. Hylton: Before we close the interview, what is the one tip that you would give an inventor who doesn’t know where to start with the patent process? Seidel: I would encourage an inventor to take advantage of the Pro Se Assistance Program. There are so many services available. The first place to start is our webpage. There you will find information on the patent process, a link to the Inventors Assistance Center, and many other services. You will find an application checklist, information on navigating the application filing system, and links to upcoming events. If you are visiting the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va., you should take the time to visit the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Museum. There you will find the names of inventors and various inventions that have heavily impacted society. I think you will find inspiration there. While visiting USPTO headquarters, you can stop by OID. Appointments are encouraged. Hylton: Rick, I want to again thank you for your time. As you know, the Inventor’s Eye reaches 30,000 subscribers quarterly. This current issue (as well as archived issues) is accessible via I am sure our readers will find this interview to be enlightening and helpful. And hopefully inspiring as well.
  • inventor Thom
    The Office of Innovation Development (OID) hosts several programs throughout the year for small business owners, inventors, and entrepreneurs. On May 2, 2018, at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, the USPTO hosted a forum where our staff met Thom Lindheimer, founder and chief operating officer of Lindheimer Associates Inc. Lindheimer Associates, which also operates under the name American Hygienics, manufacturers the USA Bidet. Lindheimer transformed the use of the regular domestic bidet and invented a medical toilet seat attachment known as the Perijett. His invention promotes better hygiene and self-care for customers. It also assists customers with health concerns and medical conditions suffering from a limited range of muscular motion. OID staffer Patrick Coates interviewed Lindheimer to learn more about this invention and the motivation behind it. Patrick Coates: To bring your invention to market, what was the first thing you thought about? Thom Lindheimer: This is a tough question. I believe there was a series of questions that I had to ask myself. They were: Was it done (invented) for personal gain? Was it to offer a novel solution to an existing problem? Was it a possible solution to a problem which was just over the horizon which the inventor saw coming in the near future? Was it simply the result of wishing to help someone out and it grew from there? Coates:  After the target market is chosen, what’s the next step an inventor should take? Lindheimer: Realization of the target market allows the inventor to focus attention on the challenges faced in the market. This is not to say that those challenges and fixes don’t spill over into other markets. It is simply concentrated to the field of view as a product is developed. Coates: What process did you follow to develop a prototype for your invention?   Lindheimer: We were already manufacturing our core USA Bidet products and were receiving inquiries from our customers for features which addressed their own health needs. Not exactly a practical approach. This needed to be focused and economically feasible. In this case, we had a Perijett customer who was suffering from some sort of neurodegenerative process. He was ultimately confined to a wheelchair that limited his ability to maintain good personal hygiene. He realized the advantage of a bidet but had limited access to the toilet and required timely assistance from friends and family. When that service wasn’t always available, it would become impossible for the customer to address his hygiene concerns. Unfortunately, at this point even an adjustable pressure bidet no longer filled the bill. The goal became figuring out a mechanism to target delivery of both a gentle soap solution--an OTC Perineal Rinse Product--and water to the ’target area’ while simultaneously reducing the risk of spreading the offending exudate to lowering the risk of bacteria. That eliminated the spritz bath, at least in my mind. Adult diapers were also eliminated, as they only the first step; they don’t take the problem away, they delay dealing with it. Once the problem was recognized, a solution was luckily forthcoming. I had worked in laboratories doing quite a bit of bench chemistry. It became a matter of looking at things from that perspective. The process to building the prototype was its own adventure. I had become a disillusioned grower of more blueberry bushes than I care to admit to. To water and feed my wards required an irrigation system, which delivered both water and fertilizer to the target plants without irrigating and feeding unwanted things. I hooked up a bidet and went to my irrigation equipment supplier who had become somewhat amused at my growing endeavors, but always willing to steer me back onto the right path. We had become friends and when I walked into the shop, there was the rolling of the eyeballs. I explained what I wanted and they were able to pull things from the shelf which should accomplish the mission. I went to a local hardware store and was able to couple the irrigation sized stuff onto the toilet sized stuff. I sent this first unit to my customer and he loved it. Coates: How difficult was it for you to find a manufacturer to make your product? Lindheimer: Different mechanical products require different manufacturing capabilities and capacities. Our Perijett products are class 300 stainless steel and a local business was able to manufacture the product at minimal cost. I was lucky in the sense that the manufacturing facility was a local business that had an opening to take on another item to produce. I went there with my prototype and was able to convince them to help me test and perfect it on the property. I was actually able to test the Perijett device in their bathroom to make sure it worked properly, and make the necessary changes onsite versus shipping overseas for them to make the modifications to the product. I simply did not want the inconvenience of shipping the product overseas because I knew that it would eliminate the risk of losing the product during shipment. As an inventor, saving money wherever possible without sacrificing quality of the product or materials is most important. I am forever grateful to that business for assisting me in that way. Coates: What was your motivation behind this invention? Lindheimer: Motivations are personal. In this case there was an existing USA Bidet customer who came to me asking for help because he needed a bidet with more functionality. He had purchased several bidets over the last 20 years which were installed whenever he relocated. I had personally spoken with him and found his conversation engaging. Throughout the years, I’ve heard pretty interesting things about the bidet industry. I never met him face-to-face. Once he had the prototype, he had it installed as he was no longer able to do so himself. Installation is geared to the average homeowner (ME!) but there are some things one is no longer able to do. The customer actually encouraged me to bring my enhancement to market. It was unique and its use was not simply limited to the people who suffer from limited muscular motion, but could be used to make routine elder care worry-free, along with providing perineal comfort to anyone of any age. With this understanding, the financial benefits associated with this product became evident. Coates: What motivated you to get intellectual property protection for your product? Lindheimer: I highly recommend the use of a patent attorney to help in the process. My attorney successfully prosecuted this with the USPTO and kept me in the loop the entire time. We underwent several reviews and his encouragement kept me from throwing in the towel. An attorney is definitely necessary. Period. Coates: What was your filing experience like with the USPTO as well as some life lessons learned in your journey that you would like to share with a young inventor or entrepreneur? Lindheimer: Overall, the experience taught me that my "good idea" is not always seen as such by others. In my case, it was necessary to take this idea and carry it to the point of feasibility. At this point the decision had to be made as to how far the refinements were to go. Do not over-think! You can nit-pick yourself into a corner while working to perfection. Now is the time for a patent attorney. Shop around and ask people. I also understand that there are even pro bono attorneys out there. Be ready to share the rewards with those willing to take the upfront risks on your behalf. This will also be a personal interaction and the further one goes down this road the more personal it may become. Not so different than a marriage with all of those possible outcomes. For example, I recently attended an inventor and entrepreneur meeting at the suggestion of the North Carolina Small Business Program. This is a university backed system and the resources are available to all. It didn’t cost anything. Attendees included inventors, businesspeople, patent office representatives, politicians, and attorneys. My eyes were opened to a formerly unknown opportunity offered by different states to small businesses. Your tax dollars pay for these things. Do not let them go by the wayside.
  • Collegiate Inventors Competition winners: left to right: Matthew Rooda, Ning Mao, and Abraham Espinoza.
    Cutting-edge inventions created by the nation’s brightest young innovators from colleges and universities across the country were on display November 3 at the 2017 Collegiate Inventors Competition, held at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Solving challenges from water decontamination to wearable power generation, 29 undergraduate and graduate students from 12 teams of finalists attended the competition’s public expo. It provided the students a forum to answer questions and discuss their inventions with USPTO patent examiners, patent attorneys, trademark examiners, corporate sponsors, members of the intellectual property community, and the public. Prior to the expo, the finalists had the opportunity to interact one-on-one with inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). These legendary innovators, who have invented many tools, processes, or devices that are now commonplace in our lives (like the optical fiber, implantable defibrillator, Post-it Notes, digital camera, and more), served as judges for the competition and provided advice and inspiration for the students. USPTO officials also served as judges. Abraham Espinoza and Matthew Rooda from the University of Iowa took top honors in the undergraduate division. Their invention, SwineTech, is an audio-processing technology that stops sows from accidentally crushing their piglets, saving farmers money. The graduate winner was Ning Mao from Boston University for Engineered Probiotics. Her probiotic solution is an affordable and convenient way to provide early detection of cholera and help further contain the spread of the disease. “It’s very rewarding to see my invention potentially help with a certain problem and have a social impact. I think it’s very exciting to take on the challenge of trying to solve a real world problem,” Mao said. The top undergraduate and graduate winning teams each received $10,000. Second and third-place winners received cash and prizes. Read more about all the 2017 CIC finalists and winners and hear what they love about inventing. The skills these students gained through the competition, the process of invention, and by learning about intellectual property will help them as they continue with their research or commercialize their inventions. Applications for the 2018 competition will open this spring. Students at any U.S. college or university with an original invention are encouraged to apply. More information is available about the application process. The Collegiate Inventors Competition is one of several programs that the USPTO and NIHF offer to inventors of all ages. Other programs include Invention Playground for preschool children, Camp Invention and Club Invention for elementary school children, and Invention Project for middle school students. Since 1990, NIHF’s education programs have served more than 1.25 million children and 125,000 teachers and leadership interns, promoting a better understanding of the vital role intellectual property and innovation play in our lives and our economy, and helping build entrepreneurial skills for the next generation of inventors.
  • Five members of the USPTO and MBDA pose in front of a media backdrop.
    To remain competitive, business owners must be knowledgeable about a variety of topics ranging from protecting intellectual property to shipping and hiring vendors. There’s much to do and a lot to know. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, inventor, investor, or a seasoned business owner, you must keep up with new tools, trends, and resources that can provide the competitive advantage you need to compete effectively in the marketplace. In December 2017, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) co-hosted an instructive, informative, and inspiring webinar targeted at small and medium-sized business owners. Specifically, the webinar covered the benefits of being well-grounded in business financial literacy while operating a business or actively engaging in the startup of a business endeavor. Additionally, the webinar also touched on how the audience members can leverage federal government resources to gain better insight on how to protect one’s intellectual property, how to protect and secure one’s data and the laws and policies that guide investing. General resources pertaining to consumer education from a federal and local government perspective were also covered. The panelists for the December 2017 webinar included Acting Deputy Chief Economist Amanda F. Myers from the USPTO; Attorney Lisa Schifferle, Division of Consumer and Business Education from the Federal Trade Commission; Attorney-Adviser OlaWale Oriola, Office of Investor Education and Advocacy from the Securities and Exchange Commission; and Program Manager Kate Mereand from the District of Columbia Office of Innovation & Equitable Development. The webinar’s moderator was Julius Maina, a policy and inclusive innovation specialist from MBDA. This unique financial literacy webinar series continued on February 7 and focused on the utilization of smart technology to enhance business practices.  The webinar touched on the benefits of using disruptive smart technology such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, educational webinars to scale up, grow or simply streamline one’s business practices and more. Additional topics included new approaches of acquiring business capital such as crowdfunding and how to protect your business from scams, phishing and identity theft while making this leap into the new digital age. Panel speakers for the webinar included Chief Data Strategist Thomas A. Beach and Portfolio Manager from the USPTO; Principal Consultant Isioma Orewa from Calculated Market Inc.; Special Counsel Jennifer Riegel from the Office of Small Business Policy, Division of Corporation Finance, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; and  CEO Maureen Murat of Crowdie Advisors, LLC. The next webinar series will be titled Embracing Online Smart Technology to Grow Your Business. To find out information about future webinars cohosted by the Office of Innovation Development and the Minority Business Development Agency, please check the USPTO events calendar.
  •  Kedar Narayan, 9-year-old inventor of Storibot, a game that teaches programming and is accessible to the visually impaired.
    Nine-year-old inventor Kedar Narayan (also known as the Little Code Ninja) pays very close attention to details. His keen sense of detail is sharpened through “play” with JavaScript and HTML5 (computer language and structuring tools), as well as Scratch (an MIT-derived website to create interactive stories, games, and animation). This continuous mode of learning has fueled a drive to solve innumerable problems. As a result, Kedar created two innovative designs that are receiving national recognition in youth and adult arenas. Kedar’s design for StoriBot, a board game that can teach anyone the fundamentals of coding, was awarded the 1st place toy design in the Chicago Toy and Gaming Fair in 2015. At the age of seven, Kedar and his StoriBot prototype appeared on Steve Harvey’s "Little Big Shots" television program. StoriBot has gone through several evolutions, improving its features and making it accessible to visually challenged children and adults.  The Storibot idea for teaching people to code can be used with any story.  Kedar and his mom toyed with the idea of using the "The Three Little Pigs" and "Three Billy Goats Gruff," but did not come up with prototypes for those stories. They settled on "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" in the first several phases. The coding character’s name is “Codeylocks,” and she assists visually impaired kids across the coding game board by using 3D game pieces with braille impressions.  Kedar was five years old when he came up with the idea of a coding game. He loves to play video games, but his mom encouraged him to find an alternative because the games were hurting his eyes. Kedar learned to code (with his mom’s help) and came up with the idea for StoriBot. He used dinosaurs in his first design and did not have a concrete story for the game. Neither was the game originally intended for visually challenged children. Patrick Timmony, (who, through the D.C. Library, does extensive work with the visually impaired community), gave Kedar the idea to make his game accessible to children who could not see the game pieces.  (The first game was more akin to a storybook with flat pieces; players could not differentiate between the pieces.)  After taking Mr. Timmony’s advice, Kedar was privileged to meet some new friends at the Center for Vision Loss, where he received more feedback. His new young friends told him to use fairy tales and folktales instead of the dinosaur theme. Though he loved dinosaurs, Kedar went with his friends’ fairy tale idea instead. He was also encouraged to make his game board (previously made out of cardboard) “stronger” and to add 3-D features.  Later, Kedar met leaders from the National Federation of the Blind where he received feedback to add reference points to his coding blocks, almost like the familiar "Battleship" game. He was also told that his character figurines (economy items purchased at the local dollar store) may need to have a stronger magnet on the bottom because the pieces were top-heavy. Kedar believes that getting feedback from others is important because his friends want to help him make a better product. While friends and family can make helpful suggestions, as the inventor Kedar must decide which changes to accept and then figure out how to implement them.  Kedar has even more ideas about making Codeylocks speak and move “on her own.” He is not yet certain how to accomplish these feats, but the ideas continue to flow. He admits that he has “millions” of ideas for inventions in his head and simply wants to “get them done.” On his most recent prototype, he was awarded a business accelerator grant from Penn State University’s LaunchBox Program.  With this award came 10 hours of mentoring and a $500 contribution towards patenting his idea. Kedar currently has a trademark, but no patent for Storibot. Kedar recently became a big brother, which limited his family’s travel time. This did not diminish Kedar’s enthusiasm for teaching or “show and tell.” He turned his attention toward his own community and designed a  game, teaching neighbors how to make a pollinator garden. With no previous gardening interests or abilities, Kedar took two months to research his topic after discovering the magnitude of yard waste and its negative impact on the environment. He teaches the community about invasive plants and pesticides while selecting environmentally friendly pollinators with his game. His idea for Pollinator Pet was announced as a finalist in Los Angeles’ Paradigm Challenge Youth competition in 2017 and is now available as a free mobile phone app. Kedar has also kept busy with local news blog spots and interviews. He was featured in the National Wildlife Federation blog, National Recreation and Park Association podcasts, and a Public Broadcasting Service documentary, among many other appearances.  Kedar is a home-schooled student who likes karate, creating doodle-art, and drawing stick-figures. He also enjoys learning and using Vedic Math (techniques for doing math in your head), but his favorite curriculum course is cursive writing. His all-time favorite love is for video games, which he channels through his continuously creative inventions. Kedar’s “next steps” are to bring Storibot and other ideas to market so that everyone can learn to code with Codeylocks and be inspired to solve problems.
  • Snowshoe and sled patent drawings
    There’s a lot of ways we manage to stay warm and enjoy outside activities despite the cold, snow and ice that winter brings, but the following five patents may bring you some warmth and even some fun on wintry days. In no particular order, here are our five favorite cold weather patents. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article the writer selects her five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from USPTO social media specialist Elizabeth Chu   Portable hand held automobile windshield deicer U.S. Patent Number 6,654,550 Spending a lot of time outside in the cold, trying to remove a layer of ice from your car’s windshield and windows can be an unenjoyable and very time-consuming task.  While many of the first deicer patents were for large, stationary apparatuses that removed ice from airplanes, the inventors of U.S. patent 6,654,550 have literally put the ability to de-ice in the palm of one’s hand. The portable hand held automobile windshield deicer allows one to get out of the cold and sit inside their car as they watch layers of ice quickly melt away.   Removable cleat for snowshoe U.S. Patent Number 6,247,253 In the winter when ice or snow covers streets and sidewalks, a walk that typically presents no danger can become a treacherous task.  Slipping on ice or snow has been the cause of many injuries, such as broken or fractured bones and serious back or head injuries.  Removable cleats provides traction to ordinary shoes to aid with conquering ice-covered pavements. By providing a sense of safety, removable cleats can calm fears of having a slip and fall and get people up and outside to enjoy beautiful outdoor winter scenery.   Disposable body warmer and heat generating material therefor U.S. Patent Number 4,925,743 Sometimes although there are frigid conditions, we still have to go outdoors and brave freezing temperatures to walk the dog, catch a bus, or run an important errand. Thick wool socks and gloves can add warmth to our feet and hands but sometimes those garments alone just don’t keep our toes and fingers warm enough. In an effort to avoid getting frostbite, it’s important to keep our extremities as warm as possible. Disposable body warmers are convenient, lightweight and can be easily slipped into our socks, gloves and even coat pockets to add warmth. Thanks to body warmers we can feel comfortable as we move about outdoors in freezing temperatures.   Sled U.S. Patent Number 5,810,376 Snow has covered the ground, most transportation is halted, schools are closed, and employees are excused from work. One option for getting outdoors and having some fun is to go sledding. Sledding is a favorite winter outdoor activity for many children and adults. While most see sledding as a fun thing to do and not a form of serious exercise, one form of sledding has been involved in competitive sports for decades. In 1939, the bobsledding event was included in the first Winter Olympic Games.  Sleds are also used to aid with saving lives. In the Swiss Alps sleds are used by rescue teams to get those that have sustained injuries transported out of the mountains and in Alaska sleds powered by teams of canines allow for transporting supplies across terrain not accessible by automobiles.   Electric seat heater U.S. Patent Number 6,093,910 Have you ever experienced getting into an automobile and having to sit on a very cold car seat? Despite a comfortable design, if a car seat is cold it is uncomfortable.  Inventions for heating seats in vehicles have come a long way; from a heating pad that is affixed to a car seat to a car seat that has a built in heater. The advancement of heated car seats has taken place while considering the impacts on safety, comfort and affordability. Thanks to inventions like 6,093,910, although someone may not have the luxury of storing their automobile in a heated facility when it’s cold outside, they may be able to afford an automobile equipped with heated seats that allow for a comfortable ride despite the temperature outside.  
  • Man and woman in dramatic marketing pose.
    You have a great idea for a new product, you’ve worked out the kinks, and your invention is complete. You’ve heard that patents are important to protect your invention, but you have no idea how to go about applying for one. What’s the next step? Applying for a patent is a complicated endeavor. In order to be granted a patent, not only must your invention itself be new and nonobvious, but the application must meet certain legal requirements (for example, it must disclose the invention in enough detail for someone in the field to reproduce it) and follow procedural requirements, such as detailed instructions on preparing drawings. Finally, a patent application must include claims setting forth what you, the inventor, consider to be the invention. Since the patent claims define the legal rights of a patent, it is important to craft these carefully. But if you’re an inventor, you probably aren’t an expert in patent law and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) procedure. You might want to hire a registered patent lawyer or agent. The office maintains a searchable list of active registered practitioners for this purpose. Keep in mind that In order to represent an inventor before the office, a person must be registered with the USPTO as a patent agent or patent attorney. The USPTO also supports two programs that provide free legal assistance in the form of patent application preparation, filing, and prosecution services to inventors who cannot afford an attorney or agent. One of these programs, the Patent Pro Bono Program, seeks to match eligible inventors with volunteer patent practitioners. The other program, the Law School Clinic Certification Program, allows law students to provide the services under the supervision of an approved supervising attorney, who is a registered patent practitioner and has experience practicing before the office. All volunteer practitioners, students, and faculty-supervising attorneys operate independently of the USPTO.  The Patent Pro Bono Program attempts to match inventors with registered patent agents or patent attorneys. These practitioners volunteer their time without charging the inventor. However, the inventor still must pay all fees that are required by the USPTO; these cannot be paid by the practitioner. The Patent Pro Bono Program consists of multiple independent pro bono programs, each of which covers a state or a few adjacent states. These regionally operated programs work to match qualified inventors with an attorney or agent. You can find more details about the Patent Pro Bono Program, including a map of the United States with links to each regional program, on the program’s website. The Law School Clinic Certification Program consists of independent law school clinics that provide free legal services to qualified inventors. However, an important difference is that law students provide the services under the supervision of an experienced law school supervising attorney. Over 50 law schools currently participate in the program. In each of the clinics, students are granted limited recognition to practice directly before the USPTO. The students receive real-life experience working with inventors to prosecute their patent applications by meeting with the inventors, drafting patent applications, and responding to office actions, all under the oversight of an approved supervising attorney affiliated with the law school clinic. Some of the participating law schools only accept clients from their home state or from a small region of the United States, whereas others accept clients from across the country. In addition, some of the participating law school clinics provide legal services only on trademark matters, some provide legal services only on patent matters, and some provide legal services for both patent and trademark matters. These programs were recently profiled in our monthly Inventor Info Chat series.
  • Author and humorist Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) with kitten in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., circa 1907. (Photo courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum.)
    “A day will come, when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whiskey, or any other of the necessaries of life.” — Mark Twain, speech in Montreal, Quebec, 1881. The popular image of Mark Twain is that of an old man with wild white hair, flaring eyebrows and mustache, grasping a cigar, standing resplendent in a white suit. But Samuel Langhorne Clemens did not adopt that celebrity look until 1906, when he was 71 years old. By the strictures of men’s fashion, white flannel was reserved for summertime and verandas. But this was a windy December day, and the setting was a Congressional hearing on copyright legislation. It was a dramatic unveiling. Clemens removed his overcoat in a sea of black and grey suits. “Resplendent in a White Flannel Suit, Author Creates a Sensation,” read the headline in the New York Tribune. Always quick to promote himself, Clemens ordered more of such suits, saying they displayed the purity of his motives as a lobbyist. He was lobbying for intellectual property rights, a concept that was fighting the tradition that an author was at the mercy of a publisher when it came to making money from his or her work. He was also fighting a long tradition of literary piracy. In 1867—39 years before he put on that suit—the author first published his wildly popular short sketches, including his reputation-making “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” He found that unscrupulous publishers were pirating his work, plucking short funny pieces he had written for newspapers and putting them into books. (In one such case, the judge held for the pirate, as the articles hadn’t been copyrighted and the publisher gave Clemens credit as “Mark Twain.”) But even when his work fell under U.S. copyright protection, publishers in the other English-speaking countries that loved his work—notably Canada and the United Kingdom—were reaping tremendous profits from his books without a thought to including Clemens himself in the take. He said of one British publishing pirate: “I feel as if I wanted to take a broom-straw & go & knock that man’s brain out. Not in anger, for I feel none. Oh! Not in anger; but only to see, that is all. Mere idle curiosity.” Canadian publishers in particular could publish cheap editions and export them easily to the United States, undercutting the editions for which Clemens was receiving royalties. He traveled to Canada on several occasions to establish residency in time for the publication of his books. British law provided for copyright protection as long as a book was published in England first; he traveled to England in 1873 to ensure that "The Gilded Age"—the novel he co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner that gave a name to the era—came out there two days before it came out in America, and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was published in London in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. When he became a publisher himself for a time, he warned his nephew and partner in the business, Charles W. Webster, against north-of-the border thieves, specifically regarding "Huckleberry Finn." “You want to look out for the Canadian pirates,” he wrote a few months before publication. “They could play the mischief with us now, if they should beat us out a month or two with this book. They will try.” And later, when his company was preparing to bring out the "Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant," he wrote: “Stop leaving those proofs on your table—keep them always in your safe. From now until the day of issue, the Canadian emissary will be around (how do you know but you’ve got him in your own employ) seeking to buy or steal proofsheets.” In 1885 Clemens’s Hartford, Connecticut, neighbor, Senator Joseph Roswell Hawley, introduced a bill that would extend copyright protection to foreign authors—another aspect of the issue that American authors believed would protect them from being undercut by foreign publications. The bill ultimately failed, but not before Clemens, who had testified in its favor before the Senate Committee on Patents, had enlisted the aid of President Grover Cleveland. Clemens wrote the president: “Although a most worthy cause has failed once more we who are interested have one large consolation: that the country has at last had a resident who appreciated its importance.” In 1900 Clemens actually appeared before a committee of Britain’s House of Lords to testify in favor of copyright protection, as he told the story later during his 1906 “white suit” speech: "When I appeared before that committee of the House of Lords the chairman asked me what limit I would propose. I said, "Perpetuity." I could see some resentment in his manner, and he said the idea was illogical, for the reason that it has long ago been decided that there can be no such thing as property in ideas. I said there was property in ideas before Queen Anne's time; they had perpetual copyright. He said, "What is a book? A book is just built from base to roof on ideas, and there can be no property in it." I said I wished he could mention any kind of property on this planet that had a pecuniary value which was not derived from an idea or ideas."  By December 1906, Clemens was willing to settle for less than perpetuity. Speaking in his glowing garb before the Committee on Patents of the Senate and the House, he hoped to see the 42-year copyright period extended “to the author's life and fifty years afterward.” Indeed, by this time he was thinking seriously about what he would leave his own children. His wife had died two years before, and he was keenly aware that his earliest books were nearing the 42-year limit decreed by copyright law. His two surviving daughters—Clara, 32 years old, and Jean, 26—might lose out on the royalties from these early works. Seeking a laugh (and he got many that day), he said that the two young women “can't get along as well as I can because I have carefully raised them as young ladies, who don't know anything and can't do anything.” (This was a blatant untruth. Among other things, Clara was an accomplished concert singer; Jean an animal rights activist and woodcarver. Their reaction to their father’s joke is not recorded.) But he progressed to a tone of seriousness, seasoned, as always, with wit: "I am interested particularly and especially in the part of the bill which concerns my trade. I like that extension of copyright life to the author’s life and fifty years afterward. I think that would satisfy any reasonable author, because it would take care of his children. Let the grand-children take care of themselves. That would take care of my daughters, and after that I am not particular. I shall then have long been out of this struggle, independent of it, indifferent to it." Four years later, in 1910, Clemens was out of the struggle. By then he had seen and praised the passage of the Copyright Act of 1909, which allowed for renewal of copyright, bringing it to a total of 56 years. It was not until 1976 that American authors were finally granted Mark Twain’s “life and fifty years afterward.” ♦ Steve Courtney is a Curatorial Consultant at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford and the author of "Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend" (Georgia, 2008) and “'The Loveliest Home That Ever Was': The Story of the Mark Twain House in Hartford" (Dover, 2011).
  • Inventor Lucca Riccio demonstrates his invention, the Tube Talker.
    Lucca Riccio is a high school sophomore who places a premium on family and community, deftly balancing school and extracurricular activities, such as inventing new technology. His latest invention was inspired by his paternal grandmother, Grandma Ruth. Grandma Ruth provided Lucca with his best childhood memories—Sunday pasta dinners, ransacking the home as he and his cousins played hide-and-seek, and the annual Christmas meal. His family is close-knit, so when Grandma Ruth was unexpectedly given 48 hours to live, it was devastating. (She had been a recent breast cancer survivor, set to receive her final treatment when an error occurred). As relatives assembled in the hospital room, Grandma Ruth had difficulty expressing her final messages to them; similarly, the family had difficulty hearing and understanding those messages. Ruth had so much to say, from making funeral arrangements to voicing wishes and words of love. The oxygen mask over her mouth was stealing the final moments of communication away from the family.  “Why couldn’t they put a microphone in the mask?” Lucca thought to himself on the ride home after his grandmother passed. With an initial brainstorm born out of frustration and regret, Lucca began to work on a prototype for his idea, which later became the "Message Mask." While he is proud of his invention, he is sorry that the technology was not able to help Grandma Ruth. “My Bluetooth-enabled noise canceling microphone would have picked up her voice and relayed it to the smartphone as well as to a local speaker, so everyone could hear.” Lucca has been overwhelmed by positive responses to the Message Mask. Neighbors in Grandma Ruth’s New England community have shown tremendous support.  “People stop me in public and congratulate me.” He also receives positive feedback from social media outlets, which helped Lucca get support at “pitch” competitions. He uses social media to garner votes and earn money to help defray legal fees and engineering costs.  Lucca’s Message Mask received the Most Marketable Award at the 2016 National Invention Convention in Alexandria, Virginia. A patent application has also been filed, although it is going through many transitions. At present, Lucca is working on making adjustments to his prototype and negotiating with investors. He has changed the name to the "Tube Talker", as the microphone is now in the tube, which provides more clarity than the original design. Lucca plans to have his product in hospitals within six months to a year. One of Grandma Ruth’s final wishes was for the family to visit her homeland of Ireland. In the summer of 2016, that wish became one of Lucca’s most cherished memories. Another goal of Lucca’s is passing along the attitude of perseverance to other young entrepreneurs. “Don’t take ‘No’ or ‘It won’t work’ for an answer,” he said. This is the same motivation that Lucca received from his family, and particularly his grandmother. Now he carries on her legacy, enabling compassion through his inventive spirit.
  • Invention Con logo
    Invention-Con 2017, the USPTO's conference for inventors, makers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and IP professionals, was held at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, on August 11-12. Over 200 attendees came from across the United States, some as far away as California. Attendees heard first-hand how other inventors and entrepreneurs successfully maneuvered through the application process and eventually took their products to market. There was also plenty of time to network during breaks and after the daily events. Each day was packed with breakout sessions, keynote addresses, and panel discussions designed to teach inventors, makers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners more about the process of obtaining patents and trademarks. Breakout sessions covered topics including patent and trademark basics, services and features of the Pro Se Assistance Program, international patent and trademark protection, and the trademark examination process. During these sessions, attendees received the latest, most pertinent information from USPTO subject matter experts. Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld delivered the keynote address, highlighting the USPTO’s mission to support programs and services that foster the protection of intellectual property, which spurs job creation and economic growth. USPTO employees moderated expert panel discussions on resources and tips, resources beyond the USPTO, and free legal services. Many attendees said they were especially inspired by the panels’ young inventors and entrepreneurs. A special session on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings addressed a variety of inventor questions about PTAB proceedings.  “I learned so much. It was worth the trip,” commented one attendee.  “The kid inventors were so inspiring. I wish I had brought my son,” said another. If you missed this year’s conference, don’t worry; you can view the program agenda and several of the presentations at the convention webpage.  Look for more details about Invention-Con 2018 in the coming months. You won't want to miss it.
  • Patent Pick 5
    As we near the end of autumn, or fall (so named for the leaves falling from the deciduous trees), we appreciate the beauty of many trees as they change color, but we also dread having to clean up after them when the leaves fall to the ground. Throughout history, there have been numerous inventions directed to making the task of leaf removal easier.   Improvement in Rakes U.S. Pat. No. 148,660 One of the earliest patents on a rake, U.S. Pat. No. 148,660 granted to Edmund Brown, March 17, 1874, is directed “to iron-tooth handrakes, such as commonly used in cleaning leaves and other debris…” The main appeal of the rake was an automatic cleaning feature because conventional rakes required frequent cleaning of the teeth by hand. The additional movable bar (B) could be forced down to clean the teeth.   Rolling Leaf Removal Device U.S. Pat. No. 8,297,034 One inventor’s problem can be another’s solution: Edmund Brown recognized that leaves getting caught on the tines of a rake could be solved by being able to push the leaves off with a retractable metal bar. Brett Muller used this same principle to his advantage for his invention “Rolling Leaf Removal Device”, Pat. No. 8,297,034 granted Oct. 30, 2012.  In this instance, leaves catch on the spikes of the roller to collect them, and then the spikes are retracted to release them.    Hand Scoop for Grass and Leaves U.S. Pat. No. 4,378,670 Hands are a natural tool, but they are not the most efficient means by which to remove leaves. The innovation of Mathias Check and Ellia Goodby was to extend the efficacy of hands by making a pair of scoops, one for each hand, having a small rake at the end of them. The two scoops work together to sandwich debris between them, and they were granted Pat. No. 4,378,670 on April 5, 1983.    Yard Waste Collection System U.S. Pat. No. 8,429,887 A lot of tools have multiple functions. While it is conventional to have a grass catcher attached to a lawn mower, an ordinary grass catcher can be easily overwhelmed; leaves can quickly create a large volume of material. Alan Sadler invented a collapsible collection system that works in tandem with a lawn tractor, and for his efforts he was granted Pat. No. 8,429,887, issued on April 30, 2013.   Backpack Blower Pat. No. 5,813,088 Finally, one of the most efficient modes of leaf removal is the backpack blower. These are great at moving leaves and are not limited by the topography of the yard, but they are noisy and the leaves still have to be picked up (don't blow them into the neighbor’s yard). A backpack blower allows the user to carry a larger motor than the user would be able to fit comfortably in the hand.  Given the fixed position of the motor on the user’s back, the user still needs to be able to control both the speed and direction of the blower easily. Wagner et al. invented a backpack blower having a flexible arm with convenient hand controls and were granted Pat. No. 5,813,088 on Sept. 29, 1998.  
  • The place for inventors, makers and entrepreneurs
    Ideas that develop into inventions and businesses have the potential to drive progress at a rapid pace. Patents and trademarks can provide protection for these inventions and benefit those businesses. Perhaps you are contemplating applying for a patent or trademark. Or maybe you have questions about how to file for a patent or trademark. If so, Invention-Con 2017 is the place for you. Invention-Con 2017, USPTO's Independent Inventors Conference, is designed especially for inventors, makers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and IP professionals. It promises to be a fantastic opportunity to learn about intellectual property and incorporating intellectual property into one’s business strategy. The event will be held August 11-12, 2017, at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia. Attendees will learn more about patents, trademarks, and helpful tips or necessary steps to take in order to bring their inventions to market. This free, two-day conference will feature keynote speakers, plenary sessions, small-group breakout sessions, and information booths. By attending Invention-Con 2017, attendees seeking insight from experts will have the opportunity to learn from successful business owners and inventors who will share their personal experiences of bringing their inventions to market and how attendees can take their own inventions from concept to marketplace. Inventors and entrepreneurs like Louis Foreman, President of the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation, and Lisa Ascolese, aka The Inventress, will relay their stories and provide inspiration and advice. Attendees can choose from a variety of breakout sessions designed to cover a range of information from IP basics to detailed explanations on how to prepare and file a patent or trademark application. Patent-related topics will include defining the different types of patent applications and the usefulness of each, the requirements for filing a patent application, and how the patent examination process works. Similarly, trademark-related topics include defining the different types of trademark applications and the usefulness of each, the requirements for filing a trademark application, and how the trademark examination process works. Invention-Con 2017 attendees will also have the opportunity to hear a keynote address by Drew Hirshfeld, USPTO Commissioner for Patents, and to network with other attendees and presenters and to sign up for one-on-one sessions with USPTO experts. Invention-Con 2017 is going to be an event that every inventor, maker, entrepreneur, small business owner, and IP professional will want to attend. Make it part of your summer plans! 
  • Stock image of an inventor
    As part of the America Invents Act (AIA), the USPTO revised the rules of practice to permit a person to whom the inventor has assigned, or is under an obligation to assign, an invention to file and prosecute an application for patent as the applicant. The new rules also permit a person who otherwise shows sufficient proprietary interest in the matter to file and prosecute an application for patent as the applicant on behalf of the inventor (see MPEP 605 and Changes To Implement the Inventor’s Oath or Declaration Provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act; Final Rule). Accordingly, the term “applicant” is no longer synonymous with “inventor(s)” and it is important for independent inventors to remember this distinction. An “inventor” in a nonprovisional patent application must be a person who made a contribution, individually or jointly, to the subject matter of at least one claim of the application. The “applicant” can be a single inventor, joint inventors, a legal representative of a deceased or legally incapacitated inventor, an assignee, a person to whom the inventor is under an obligation to assign the invention, or a person who otherwise shows sufficient proprietary interest in the matter who is applying for a patent and is not the inventor, or a combination of two or more parties. If an application filed under 35 U.S.C. § 111 is made by a person other than the inventor, the application must contain an application data sheet (ADS) specifying the assignee, the person to whom the inventor is under an obligation to assign the invention, or the person who otherwise shows sufficient proprietary interest in the matter. This information must be specified in the “Applicant Information” section of the ADS (37 CFR § 1.76(b)(7)). Care should be taken when filling out the ADS to ensure that only applicable sections are filled out, keeping in mind that not all sections may be applicable to every case. See Common Pitfalls on USPTO Forms and Important Information for Completing an ADSS. In addition, if the applicant is the assignee or a person to whom the inventor is under an obligation to assign an invention, documentary evidence of ownership (e.g., assignment for an assignee or employment agreement for an obligated assignee) should be recorded with the USPTO no later than the date the issue fee is paid in the application. Providing assignment information in the ADS does not substitute for compliance with any requirement of 37 CFR Part 3 (Assignment, Recording and Rights of Assignee) to have the USPTO record an assignment.  While there may be advantages to filing as an assignee-applicant (e.g., business considerations), there are other factors that must be kept in mind when choosing who to name as the applicant in a patent application. These factors most notably include: The requirement for juristic entities (e.g., corporations or other non-human entities created by law and given certain legal rights) to be represented by a patent practitioner; and The difficulty in changing the applicant once it has been established. The majority of papers submitted on behalf of a juristic entity applicant must be signed by a registered patent practitioner (i.e., a patent attorney or patent agent who is registered to practice before the USPTO), including responses to office actions. Patent practitioners may or may not be attorneys, but they must meet the requirements of 37 CFR § 11.7 including the legal, scientific, and technical qualifications, as well as good moral character and reputation. More information on becoming registered to practice in patent matters before the USPTO, and thus able to sign papers for juristic entity applicants, is available online. A limited number of papers may be signed by an appropriate official on behalf of the juristic entity (e.g., an officer or chairman of the board of directors). These papers include substitute statements, small entity assertions, terminal disclaimers, powers of attorney, and submissions under 37 CFR § 3.73(c) for an assignee to establish ownership of patent property if the assignee is not the original applicant. Sometimes, inventors who own a small business are represented by a patent practitioner when filing an application but later decide to continue prosecution pro se (i.e., without using the services of a registered practitioner) and must change the applicant from a juristic entity to a person or persons to do so. Changing the applicant is governed by 37 CFR § 1.46(c). If there is no change other than the applicant’s name (e.g., due to a minor typographical error or name change), the applicant need only submit a request to correct or update the applicant under 37 CFR § 1.46(c)(1) (essentially a signed transmittal letter) and a “Corrected” ADS marked up to show the misspelled or former name with strikethrough and the correct or updated name with underlining in the “Applicant Information” section. However, any other change to the applicant must include a request to change the applicant under 37 CFR § 1.46(c)(2), the  “Corrected” (marked-up) ADS and comply with 37 CFR §§ 3.71 and 3.73, which require the new applicant to establish ownership of the application to the satisfaction of the USPTO director. Since patents confer legal rights, there must be no ambiguity about who is the patent owner. The statement establishing assignee’s ownership under 37 CFR § 3.73(c) must contain:  Documentary evidence of a chain of title from the original owner to the assignee (e.g., copy of an executed assignment submitted for recording) and a statement affirming that the documentary evidence of the chain of title from the original owner to the assignee was, or concurrently is, submitted for recordation pursuant to 37 CFR § 3.11; or   A statement specifying, by reel and frame number, where such evidence is recorded in the USPTO. Each individual inventor may only assign the interest he or she holds; thus where there are two or more joint inventors, assignment by less than all joint inventors renders the assignee a partial assignee. It is important to note that all parties having any portion of the ownership in the patent property must act together as a composite entity in matters before the USPTO and therefore must be named as the applicant.  There is a form (Form AIA/96) available to assist applicants with the statement for establishing ownership under 37 CFR § 3.73(c). The establishment of ownership by the assignee and the request for change of applicant must be submitted prior to, or at the same time as, the paper requesting or taking action is submitted. For example, if a paper requesting or taking action is submitted and signed by the intended new applicant but the establishment of ownership and request for change of applicant are not present and sufficient, the submitted papers would be treated as not signed by the applicant in accordance with 37 CFR § 1.33(b). In situations where there has been no assignment (or there is no obligation to assign) between the applicant and the inventor(s) and the applicant was named by mistake, the inventor(s) may need to file a petition under 37 CFR § 1.182 to correct an error in identifying the applicant. Applicants should keep in mind that any applicable time period for response will continue to run even if a petition is filed under 37 CFR § 1.182 (i.e., the applicant must submit a complete response to an office action within the statutory time period to avoid abandonment) and that the applicant will not be changed until the petition is actually granted by the USPTO. Regardless of who the applicant is, all named inventors must execute an oath or declaration in accordance with 37 CFR § 1.63. The applicant may, however, execute a substitute statement in lieu of an oath or declaration if the inventor is deceased, is under a legal incapacity, has refused to execute the oath or declaration, or cannot be found or reached after diligent effort (see 37 CFR § 1.64). Joint inventors may only execute a substitute statement on behalf of a joint inventor who cannot be found or reached after diligent effort or who has refused to execute the oath or declaration. All joint inventors who are the applicant would need to execute the substitute statement on behalf of the non-signing inventor. Joint inventors may not execute a substitute statement on behalf of an inventor who is deceased or under a legal incapacity. Where one of the joint inventors is deceased or legally incapacitated, the legal representative (e.g., executor or guardian) would need to execute the substitute statement. Instructions for completing the USPTO’s substitute statement form (Form AIA/02) can be found here. Submission of the inventor’s oath or declaration may be postponed until payment of the issue fee if a properly signed ADS is filed that identifies the entire inventive entity, including legal name, residence, and mailing address for each inventor. However, to avoid payment of a surcharge under 37 CFR § 1.16(f), an inventor’s oath or declaration, including a substitute statement, executed by or with respect to each inventor, must be submitted on the same day the nonprovisional application is filed. For more information, please see the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) sections 602 and 605 and 37 CFR §§ 1.46, 1.53 and 3.73.     Pro Se Assistance is a current USPTO pilot program that offers customer service to applicants filing patent applications without legal representation. While an applicant may prosecute the application and file papers in their application, lack of skill in this field usually acts as a liability in affording the maximum protection for the invention disclosed. Applicants are advised to secure the services of a registered patent attorney or agent to draft and prosecute a patent application, since the value of a patent is largely dependent upon skilled preparation and prosecution. USPTO employees (including Pro Se Assistance and the examiner of record) cannot give legal advice. To assist applicants in making informed decisions, Pro Se Assistance can help applicants navigate and the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) to locate publically available educational resources.
  • Patent drawings -- Cushioning and  absorptive for footwear, and hiking and survival backpack
    Whether you’re climbing the highest mountain, hiking around the neighborhood, or camping out in the backyard, the latest Patents Pick 5 features some useful patents to keep your sense of adventure fresh all summer long. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article the writer selects her five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from USPTO social media specialist Elizabeth Chu.   Cushioning and Absorptive Means for the Feet U.S. Patent No. 4805319 Runners and joggers aren’t the only ones who need shock absorption for their feet. For those of us hiking this summer, cushioning and impact absorption can go a long way, especially on a two, five, or 10-mile hike! The “encapsulation of a cellular insert” described in U.S. 4,805,319 is meant to provide comfort for any wearer due to the specially woven material, such as polymer or nylon.   Backpack Cooler Construction U.S. Patent No. 4673117 How do you keep a stack of six packs cool on a long and hot hike? U.S. 4,673,117 is one useful way. This patent is for a backpack cooler that specifies an insulated foam core with a cloth sheath and a reinforcing liner to keep drinks cool. It’s an easy way to make hiking a group activity, or a convenient way to pack multiple drinks for a camping trip. The next challenge is to figure out whose job it is to carry it up the mountain...   Hiking and Survival Backpack U.S. Patent No. 3144014 If your camping survival plan goes beyond carrying six packs, then consider the subject matter in U.S. 3,144,014. This portable camp stove can be carried comfortably on a user’s back. Its advantages include the use of liquefied petroleum gases so campers can spend more time cooking and less time searching for firewood. Bottle Nesting Cup with Three-position Handle U.S. Patent No. 4505390 Hydration—it's important and necessary for any hike and especially if you’re going camping. Therefore, containers like the one described in U.S. 4,505,390 come in handy when you need to travel light and there’s no room for bottles, cups, and pots. In 1985, Ronald K. Kirk, Jr. received a patent for a bottle nesting cup with a three-position handle. Hang it over a stove, hold it while drinking water, or heat it on a stove-top with the handle outstretched. Kirk not only thought of the many uses campers and hikers could get out of this device for food and drink, he also thought of storage; the cup conveniently nests underneath a hiker’s water bottle. Great for light packers!   Camp Fire Utensil Holder U.S. Patent No. 670144 Once you make camp, it’s time to eat! Charles E. Bond received this patent, U.S. 670,144, in 1901 to keep utensils clean and within reach on a camping trip. The campfire utensil holder described in this patent provides adjustable arms used as shelves or support for utensils, pots, and cups. 
  • R.J. Batts, inventor of the Tip Tough
    Inventor, entrepreneur, and ninth grader R.J. Batts is a multi-tasking extraordinaire. In between school, soccer, violin lessons, and speaking to school groups and other inventors’ and entrepreneurs’ organizations, R.J. is the CEO of Picklehead LLC and inventor of the Tip Tough®. R.J. and his mother, Lori Batts, graciously agreed to an interview to share R.J.’s story and inventive passion, as well as their combined experience developing his innovation and entrepreneurial journey, especially in filing his U.S. patent application. I hope you enjoy meeting them as much as I did!   Elizabeth Dougherty: Congratulations on becoming an inventor and entrepreneur! How did this become your path, particularly at such an early age? R.J. Batts: My mom can tell you I have always been interested in tearing things apart and building things out of available parts. Being curious and inventive has been a part of my nature for as long as I can remember. The idea for Tip Tough, which is a protective kitchen tool to guard one’s fingers when using a knife and to aid in stabilizing and cutting food, came to me three years ago. My father is a professional chef and often came home with knife cuts on his fingers. I thought to myself that there has to be a way to help him, to make his job easier and safer. Thinking of a cassette case, I quickly sketched the idea which came to my mind. However, at the time, I put the idea aside and did not try to pursue it until two years later when I joined a local program, The Young Entrepreneurs Academy, through the local Chamber of Commerce. I was one of 24 students participating in the academy, most of whom were in 7-10th grades. The academy helped me develop my business plan, and I went on to use CAD software to design and then ultimately 3D print a prototype of the first version of the Tip Tough.   ED: What types of intellectual property protection have you secured for your company and product? RJ: We have a federally registered trademark on the Tip Tough and have also filed both a U.S. provisional patent application and a U.S. nonprovisional utility patent application on the device. We additionally have a copyright on a number of materials, including our website,    ED: What was the experience of filing for a U.S. patent like and do you have any words of advice for other inventors who may be thinking about or preparing to file a U.S. patent application? RJ: Yes! Hire the assistance of a good patent attorney. I first tried to prepare and file an application on my own and found the process too complicated. Wanting to be successful, through the help of a friend I was able to find a really great patent attorney. I provided her with my CAD drawings and she was able to write an application that covered all of the features of my invention. She was incredibly knowledgeable and understood the right language to use when drafting my claims. My nonprovisional application has been assigned to a U.S. patent examiner and is in line to undergo examination.   ED: What is the makeup of your company and how does the work of running it happen? RJ: The company is Picklehead LLC, and I am its CEO. As the CEO, I conduct all demonstrations, product pitches, and am the face of the company. I am integral to all decision making in the company. Additionally, there are three other employees: my mom is COO and Picklehead’s bookkeeper. We also have an executive assistant and director of sales. The four of us are currently able to run the company, and we have received our first run of product. It is important to me and the company that Tip Tough is manufactured in America, specifically in Maryland, and employing people in our local area and producing our product locally. Made in America is a strong part of our recipe for success and something which I recommend other inventors and businesses consider.   ED: What have you learned as you have traveled the road of invention and entrepreneurship and can you share any tips or tools for success? RJ: I have learned to look for and take advantage of opportunities, especially where money is involved. There are a lot of resources, like the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, where federal, state, or local organizations want to help small business by providing things like education, funding, and mentoring. Look for these organizations and what they have to offer. I have been able to get quite a bit of funding from organizations and competitions, and I was able to put that money towards getting my prototype made and other costs of bringing my invention forward. Starting a business isn’t inexpensive but it is incredibly rewarding.  I would also encourage inventors and entrepreneurs to become superheroes when it comes to networking. I am constantly networking wherever I am; networking is incredibly valuable and sometimes you can’t predict where a connection might lead you or the help a person can offer to you.  Last but not least, keep an invention notebook. I have always kept a journal of my ideas and inventive thoughts and am already working on new ideas for Picklehead. While I can’t tell you what they are right now, I know they are going to be awesome!   ED: You were recently featured at the International Home and Housewares Show (IHHS) in Chicago as the youngest inventor ever at the IHHS. How has the IHHS helped move your invention forward and what do inventors need to know about participating in a trade show? RJ: The IHHS was an amazing but tiring experiencing! I definitely recommend that inventors trying to sell their product participate in a trade show, but be prepared. Be prepared to talk to everyone and anyone. Bring lots of business cards and ask everyone for their business card. Be sure to write critical follow-up information or points to remember on the back of their business card as it all becomes a blur with the large number of people you meet. Participate in as many pitch opportunities as possible; you never know who might be in the audience and interested in your product. Make sure you have a good team in place; it is impossible to participate in a trade show without good help and backup. The company hired a public relations company in advance of the show and they created a media kit for us in addition to securing local media attention and developing a social media buzz. It was a valuable investment!   ED: Do you have a favorite inventor, and if, so who? RJ: I sure do: Aaron Krauss, inventor of the Scrub Daddy. Aaron is a cool guy and we have a lot in common. I am super impressed by how far he has taken his company and how he continues to pursue new things. I’d like to have his kind of success. ### I wish R.J. the best of success in his innovation journey and would like to thank him and Lori for their time and information. Both R.J. and Lori are committed to helping other inventors and entrepreneurs, including students, through regular community outreach and engagement. Interested in meeting R.J. in person? Come to the USPTO’s Invention-Con 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia, August 11-12, where R.J. will be a featured speaker. 
  • graphic illustrating two computer users interacting with each other with business and networking symbols
    In an effort to expand the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Pro Se Assistance program, the Office of Innovation Development (OID) has launched a brand new Patent Virtual Assistance Pilot Program in partnership with select Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) throughout the United States. The first partnership is with the PTRC at the Broward County Main Library, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As the pilot program proceeds, we will look to expand it to other PTRC locations throughout the country.  The purpose of the new pilot program is to offer one-on-one virtual assistance with a USPTO representative using a PTRC’s privately located, secure computer for a WebEx video conference. This service is available to individuals who have questions about the patent application process or would like to present a draft of their patent application for a cursory review, among other options. The purpose of these meetings is to provide education and assistance with the patent application process. USPTO employees, however, cannot give legal advice or make patentability determinations prior to an application being filed. One of the advantages of using the WebEx video conference is the ability to share a computer screen. By doing so, both parties are able to look at the same document(s) together and have a knowledgeable discussion. In order to fully utilize this service, applicants are asked to bring any documents they would like assistance with in electronic form (such as on a USB drive). This will allow the files to be opened on the computer at the PTRC and shared via the screen-sharing feature.  One early user of this new pilot program saw great value to the services offered and really appreciated the help he received, saying that he felt relieved about the application process because of the assistance he received. For questions about this program, please contact OID at 866-767-3848 or
  • Deborah Campbell and her 2 Minute Sushi invention
    Deborah Campbell is no stranger to entrepreneurship. Since her first business venture selling Christmas cards at the age of 14, she has owned and operated a variety of businesses, including a clothing store and coffee shop. But one night as she was making sushi with her son, an idea was born that took her in a new entrepreneurial direction. At their home in Grand Junction, Colorado, the sushi making was not going smoothly. Rice was sticking to everything, leading to sanitation concerns. It was time-consuming to use the traditional bamboo rolling mat. And the resulting rolls were less than ideal due to their messiness.  “My son said, ‘There’s got be a better way to do this',’’ Deborah remembered. What if they could take all of the difficulty and guesswork out of sushi making and deliver a consistent result every time? They began brainstorming a sushi rolling machine. Deborah first made a wooden prototype to capture the idea. She then moved on to one made entirely out of Legos, which allowed her to get the placement exact. Using the measurements of the Lego prototype, Deborah built an acrylic version with her husband’s help, but it was large, and at a cost of $500 too expensive for regular production. Undaunted, Deborah scaled down and fine-tuned the design to a sleeker and more cost-effective version, ultimately going through 20 to 30 prototypes. Her daughter pitched in to help aesthetically with the logo and color variations, making the project a true family affair. The final version is made of acrylic pieces that pop together, removing the need for glue and allowing it to be dishwasher safe. So just how effective is Deborah’s invention? After the ingredients are placed inside, a crank is all that’s needed to churn out a standard-sized sealed sushi roll within seconds; hence the name “2-Minute Sushi.” “We once made 64 pieces of sushi in about 15 minutes,” Deborah said. “It truly streamlines sushi making to be much cleaner and faster.” Like most inventors, Deborah understood the importance of getting a patent to protect her intellectual property, but the cost of hiring a patent attorney was daunting. Then, through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website, Deborah discovered the ProBoPat program at Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver. ProBoPat, which serves inventors in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, is part of the nationwide Pro Bono Program that connects low-income inventors across the entire United States with volunteer patent professionals providing patent legal services on a pro bono basis. She was paired with attorneys at Merchant & Gould who helped her navigate the complex journey of obtaining a full patent. “In many cases, the ProBoPat program is the bridge that makes access to the patent process a possibility for small business owners,” said Jennifer Rothschild, ProBoPat Program Administrator at Mi Casa Resource Center. “I don’t think I would have obtained a full patent without the help of the ProBoPat program,” Deborah said. “I didn't have the stamina to keep up with the back and forth process with the USPTO. And the claims have to be worded in a particular way, which is what the attorneys I was paired with specialize in.” “The program pairs qualifying inventors with a volunteer professional who has patent experience and can help them through the complicated process and the many decisions along the way,” said ProBoPat volunteer attorney Ben Fernandez. “It’s a long process with many phases. Even for sophisticated companies, it’s a high-risk, high-cost endeavor.” Within two years of contacting the ProBoPat program, Deborah and her family were granted a full patent in May 2016, thanks in part to an acceleration she was able to apply for due to her husband’s age. Deborah plans to go into production with 2 Minute Sushi and make purchases available online. Future goals include obtaining a trademark and licensing the patent for production as well as selling through stores and television programs. Deborah’s advice to other inventors centers around perseverance: “Just keep at it and don’t give up,” she said. “I made it minute-by-minute doing the best I could.” “And get help,” she added. “The ProBoPat lawyers did a wonderful job and were very kind. I wouldn't have made it through the patent process without them.” To learn more about all of the regional pro bono programs, visit the USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono page.
  • Publisher and serial entrepreneur Ramon Ray
    Do you have a “BIG” idea that you think will revolutionize the world or even solve a local community need?  Are you prepared to take the next steps to give life to your idea?  Or are you stuck and overwhelmed by the sheer size of the challenge that you’re having trouble taking the plunge into entrepreneurship? Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and stimulating America’s economy through their introduction of robust innovations. The Office of Innovation and Development (OID), a national outreach office within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), offers inventors and businesses help with all phases of their application processes and other educational programming. The mission of OID is to foster invention and entrepreneurship by providing full access to the U.S. intellectual property system. It also conducts national training programs for pro se inventors (filing without an attorney), colleges and universities, and underserved businesses in urban communities through national webinars, conferences, and town hall meetings. OID staffer Dennis Forbes recently interviewed seasoned entrepreneur Ramon Ray, publisher of Smart Hustle Magazine, an online publication, and a recently tapped council advisory team member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. A longtime champion and advocate for entrepreneurial inclusion of disadvantaged communities in urban areas across America, Ray is frequently consulted for his insights on how to progressively grow and sustain incubator entrepreneurial efforts in America. Ray’s knowledge and experiences covers a broad range of innovative business startups that he has launched in a variety of business markets.   Dennis Forbes: What are some common mistakes that you have observed over the years that are made by entrepreneurs? Ramon Ray: Thinking sales will come faster than they do, not having a well-thought marketing plan, not knowing their target market, and not listening enough to their customers. DF: What are your thoughts about using resources such as business angel investors and others for startups to grow their business? RR: Anytime you use an investor, you are adding complexity to your business. Unless you plan to go very big and have a company worth several millions, it's best to bootstrap, self-fund, even get a line of credit or other financing. Most small businesses don't need investors. However, if you do use investor money, get investors that are smart, care about you, and love your idea. DF: At what point do you feel that is it necessary for young entrepreneurs to detach from competitive comparison? RR: Always. Be sure to know your market, but focus on executing as best as you can. Know your customers better than you know your competition. DF: What is your best advice that you can give to entrepreneurs from your personal lessons learned? RR: Get a mentor. Be thoughtful. Don't knee jerk. I've started four companies. DF: In today’s rapidly changing times, is having an entrenched mindset a pro or con? RR: It’s terrible. You can be focused but still willing to learn and adapt to new information or a changing environment. DF: When it comes to entrepreneurs adapting or dealing to contrary game-changing business friction, what advice can you give? RR: The marketplace will always change. Customers will always want new things. New competitors will come to the market. If you are listening and innovating, you should be okay. Having great customer service and a great product can reduce friction in many markets. DF: When it comes to obtaining financing, what is your advice to startups? RR: Act like you’re poor. Too much money can hurt you. Spend less; however, do not be afraid to take calculated risks. DF: Do you have a marketing strategy model that you rely on? If so, what is it? RR: It really depends on the product, but for me, some things are (a) get others to talk about your product; (b) launch, then listen and innovate; and (c) build a list of those who might not buy your product today and educate them to buy later on. DF: Is there a sound recommendation that you can offer to young entrepreneurs for coping with high levels of stress? RR: Prioritize and schedule time to decompress. Know there is always tomorrow. And always know that stress is not healthy. DF: What was history-making for you as an entrepreneur? RR: I don’t have one defining moment. But I do have a few standouts such as my first Smart Hustle Small Business Conference that I hosted 12 years ago, and the rise of video. Some other personal highlights that I'm proud of include my invitation to the White House, my testimony to Congress, and  interviewing former President Obama, just to name a few! DF: What advice do you have for business owners to cope with disruptive business practices that become the “new normal?” RR: Read, read, read! Be informed. Get close to your customers. As an entrepreneur, be disruptive too!   The USPTO, America’s innovation agency, helps inventors, innovators, students, and business owners achieve impactful business platforms for their intellectual property inventions and trademark branding. For more information about useful programming events offered nationally by the USPTO, check out the current events page. 
  • Global Dossier logo
    The international market is no stranger to the small business owner. In fact, 97 percent of all U.S.-originating exporters are small businesses[1]. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside U.S. borders, many business owners have at one time or another thought about entering the international market. Although entrepreneurs face many challenges, including financial hurdles and complex legal rules, when making the leap abroad, a brand new market of consumers can make the effort worthwhile. Of course, whenever a small business owner expands to a new country, intellectual property protection should be a top priority. Generally, each country has its own patent system, and patents have effect only in those countries for which they are granted. Because U.S. patents provide protection only in the United States, potential patent owners should file a patent application for their invention in each country they wish to gain protection, which can be especially important when marketing, selling, exporting, or manufacturing inventions internationally. Read more about protecting intellectual property rights overseas.     Historically, slow communication between various countries’ patent offices has hindered the process of obtaining a patent on an international level. The Global Dossier Initiative, launched November 2015, aims to facilitate more efficient access to different patent systems, saving inventors and business owners time and money when expanding to markets abroad. The “IP5,” comprised of the USPTO, the European Patent Office, the Japan Patent Office, the Korean Intellectual Property Office, and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China, have collaborated to provide the Global Dossier Initiative. Its purpose is to modernize the global patent prosecution process for both public users and examiners. The Global Dossier portal provides access to information from applications related to the searched patent document filed at participating offices. It allows small business owners to get access in real time to related applications in all IP5 Offices. Recently, the USPTO entered an agreement with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to integrate its Centralized Access to Search and Examination (WIPO-CASE) system with Global Dossier. This enhancement expands Global Dossier access to include all international applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty as well as patent applications from WIPO-CASE participating Offices, including the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, the Australian Patent Office, the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office, and others. A complete list of WIPO participating offices and additional details are available at WIPO-CASE.  Global Dossier not only makes the international filing and prosecution system more efficient for U.S. users and examiners, but also for examiners around the world, especially in terms of improved access to information to the work conducted by other offices on the same invention. Future development of Global Dossier is intended to progress toward an end goal of cross filing. This process, however, must be cognizant of each country’s legal frameworks and carried out in incremental steps. The level of difficulty to cross file became apparent during one of IP5’s first tests of the Global Dossier: legal and security issues arose when evaluating something simple as an applicant change of address, proving that even a routine task on a domestic scale grows exponentially harder when put on the international stage. Despite these challenges, the IP5 Offices are committed to continuing to collaborate, keeping in mind the varying resources, legal framework, and internal plans of each individual office. The USPTO strongly believes that higher quality solutions to complex problems are often found through a collective effort of dedicated and invested individuals. In this spirit, the Global Dossier Initiative makes use of the Ideascale platform, a forum where users can post feedback and offer suggestions for the improvement of Global Dossier. Members of the Global Dossier development team visit the forum regularly and often respond to individual suggestions and consider them for implementation. To further involve the public, the Global Dossier team has also used Ideascale to propose new ideas and receive feedback. The USPTO is always looking to improve the experience of inventors and aspiring business owners. With Global Dossier, inventors in the United States and around the world can set new horizons for their products and businesses. In a globalizing world, the Global Dossier Initiative will help businesses large and small adapt and succeed in new markets by making it easier to quickly view, monitor, and manage their intellectual property.   [1] Patrick Delehanty. Small Businesses Key Player in International Trade, Small Business Association Office of Advocacy Issue Brief, 11. P. 1
  • Pick 5 patents
    The snow melts from the ground, the flowers begin to bloom, and people come out of their homes to enjoy the change in weather. Out with the heavy jackets and boots, and in with the new spring fashions. Below is a list of interesting patented designs you might want to consider adding to your wardrobe, or maybe not… Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Office of Innovation Development intern Rachel Cotton.     Beach Towel and Garment U.S. Patent No. 2,420,344 I love the beach. I was practically raised on one. But I was always irritated when putting my clothes back on over a wet bathing suit. What was the answer to my lifelong problem? U.S. 2,420,344. In May of 1947, Verna Cook Alexander patented a multi-purpose beach towel. When laid out on the sand it works as any ordinary beach towel, but it has a few quirks that make it worth checking out. It can be transformed into a garment to wear. The detailed patent drawings show how it can be tied around your neck like a cape and then tied again at the waist, or wrapped around your body like a dress. Although it never caught on, this towel serves as an interesting addition to the beach life and style.   Method and Means for Creating Anti-Gravity Illusion U.S. Patent No. 5,255,452  The King of Pop was talented in many aspects. Michael Jackson's music and dancing continues to inspire many entertainers today. His dancing skills in particular made a mark on the entertainment industry, most notably his gravity-defying “smooth criminal” lean. How did he do it? It was all in his shoes, which he patented in 1993. U.S. 5,255,452 describes how the specially designed heel slot can engage with a hitch projecting through the surface of a stage. Dancers would just slide their feet forward to engage with the hitch member, creating the infamous gravity-defying lean. Maybe you want to consider this legendary move as part of your fashion repertoire?   Date Hat U.S. Patent No. 2,749,555  This one made me laugh when I found it. At first I thought that it was just a hat that told what day it was, but that isn’t the case. The hat described in U.S. 2,749,555 does display the days of the week, a 12-hour clock, and dials to point to at the date desired. The inventor, Edward T. Oliveira, patented this hat in 1956. Its intended purpose was for girls to wear it in order to indicate what day and time they had a date with a boy, since it was a “disadvantage not to be able to tell whether a girl is already dated for the particular day and hour.” Oliveira claimed it was meant to save boys time and even embarrassment from rejection. Definitely a relic of a bygone era.   Improvement in Tournures U.S. Patent No. 114,624  When thinking about women’s fashion from the 1800s, I realize I really take my sweatpants for granted. U.S. 114,624 is an example of one of the many bustle types popular in the late 1800s. A bustle is a type of framework made out of flat skirt wires to expand the fullness of the back of a woman’s dress. It’s a wonder how they were able to sit down in them.   Baseball Cap with Interchangeable Logos U.S. Patent No. 5,509,144 With spring comes the great American pastime of baseball. Going to a ballgame usually consists of being decked out in your favorite team’s gear: jerseys, foam fingers, baseball gloves, and most famously the baseball cap. Wearing your team’s logos shows your pride and support, but what happens when you aren’t sure who to root for? Why not just bring a baseball cap that allows you to change sides? U.S. 5,509,144, patented in 1996, is a hat that permits interchangeable logos. Although this could be used to promote any kind of logo or label, I would find it useful to bring it to a baseball game and just change the logo of the hat to whichever team is winning. Sure you’ll most likely be called for jumping on the bandwagon, but at least you’ll always be rooting for the winning team.
  • inventors at a USPTO inventors conference all raising their hand
    Do you have questions about how to file for patents and trademarks? Want to learn more about taking your invention from concept to marketplace? Looking for insight from the experts? The 2017 Annual Independent Inventors Conference promises to be a fantastic opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to learn about intellectual property and incorporating it into your business strategy. Save the date and be on the lookout for more information. When: August 11-12, 2017 Where: USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia For more information, email
  • Undergraduate winners Ameer Shakeel and Payam Pourtaheri of UVA
    Every new generation faces increasingly complex problems. And while there’s always a grump or two that laments the future, we needn’t look far in America to see just how capable and technologically adept our young people are. At every university across the country, students are engaging in groundbreaking research and development that addresses tomorrow’s—and today’s—problems. Once a year at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), they get to put those achievements on display. The 2016 Collegiate Inventors Competition was held at the USPTO November 4, 2016. Sponsored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the event has become one of the premiere competitions for college students to showcase the innovative projects and research they engage in. The 2016 event featured some of the most impressive entries yet from perennial powerhouses such as Columbia and Johns Hopkins as well as newcomers like the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Cooper Union. The competition is divided into both graduate and undergraduate divisions. In the graduate division, Carl Schoelhammer from MIT took home the top prize for his invention of the SuonoCalm, a device that uses low-frequency ultrasound to rapidly expedite the absorption of medications directly into tissue in just one minute. Schoelhammer’s advisor is the noted professor and engineer, Dr. Robert S. Langer. In the undergraduate division, the gold medal went to Payam Pourtaheri and Ameer Shakeel from the University of Virginia (UVA) for their invention, AgroSpheres, an exciting new class of engineered biological particles that help degrade residual pesticides on the surface of plants.  Inventors Eye was lucky enough to sit down with Payam and Ameer prior to their winning for a brief conversation about their invention. “We wanted to do something that had an actual social impact,” said Ameer. “We looked around and found great work that informed us about the toxicity of pesticides and the magnitude of the repercussions they have on developing countries that don’t have safeguards to protect against exposure.” Essentially, AgroSpheres are biological particles that have been trained to eat specific chemical compounds. “So AgroSpheres is Pacman, and the pesticides are the ghosts,” said Payam with a surprising knowledge of a video game preceding his birthdate. “What we have done is put enzymes on these biological particles that helps Pacman find the ghosts. He’ll then break up the ghosts and turn them into safe waste products.” “The enzymes we express are very specific to the chemical makeup of pesticides,” added Ameer. “They look for the pesticide itself. It is a toxic compound, and [AgroSphere] speeds up its degradation.” The enzymes are naturally occurring, coming from bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. AgroSpheres harness the organisms’ own evolutionary processes that have allowed them to overcome poisons and adjust to man-made chemicals and use them as energy sources. Just how effective is this “Pacman” at eating pesticides? “We tested it with a commonly used pesticide that the California Department of Pesticides says takes 7 days to degrade on its own. We tested the runoff with our product; it degraded completely in just two hours.” Payam and Ameer are quick to point out that their invention is not intended to encourage more pesticide use but to be one more tool and method at the disposal of farmers who want to practice safe, productive, and sustainable agriculture. Both Payam and Ameer were born outside the United States—Payam in Iran and Ameer in Pakistan—and cite being immigrants as an important motivation for their work. “Thankfully my parents restarted their lives here in the United States,” said Payam. “We wanted to use the abilities and opportunities we have been blessed with to make an immediate social impact.” Ameer agrees: “Being aware of the limited resources in the countries we grew up in, once we came here we just wanted to make the most of the opportunities presented to us. Environmental engineering is what we found and worked hard at, and we’re really thankful to be here.” In addition to their family, Payam and Ameer also cite the support of their mentors and the University of Virginia as encouraging their research and making their success possible. “We are very blessed to have been supported by incredible mentors, incredible faculty who believe in us. Even when we run into obstacles, they're there to pick us up,” said Payam. AgroSpheres has benefited from several incubator programs at UVA that connect students with local and regional companies.    Both Payam and Ameer had planned on attending medical school once they graduated, but having now followed AgroSpheres to the brink of commercialization, they are focusing on a new goal beyond college: starting a company and bringing their technology to the world. The team now consists of several other UVA students and graduates, as well as their faculty advisor, Dr. Mark Kester. “Maybe one day. Yeah. A couple years down the road,” said Payam with a smile when asked if he still planned to attend medical school. The twinkle in his eyes, however, betrayed something many inventors already know: once you go down that road of finding solutions to big problems, it’s hard to stop. Inventors Eye congratulates Payam and Ameer and all of the 2016 CIC Finalists. Stay tuned for future stories featuring CIC alumni. As many of the finalists and winners continue with the dreams of entrepreneurship and innovation, we will follow up with them and tell their stories. Humanity’s hope for a safer and kinder world already feels safe in their hands.  
  • Inventor Walt Augustinowicz and his patented badge holder
    The inspiration for many great inventions strikes when ordinary people grasp a solution to a common problem. For Walt Augustinowicz, creator of ID Stronghold, his inspiration comes from a relentless drive to protect the personal information of others. Radio frequency identification (RFID) is now ubiquitous technology. Nearly every credit card has a “smart chip,” and many identification badges use RFID chips to activate entry to buildings rooms. In fact, here at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “smart” badges are used by employees. And though all patented technology in the United States ultimately passes through the agency, they don’t often end up being used in the by the office on daily basis. That’s where Walt’s story and the USPTO’s meet.     As someone who intimately understood the dangers of “wireless pickpocketing,” Walt was concerned when the federal government, among many other entities, began using RFID badges. He immediately began working on a way to defend these types of IDs from third parties who can use sophisticated devices to remotely scan cards and steal the information to gain access to government buildings. Following 9/11, the U.S. government set a requirement for all agencies to use RFID technology as a way to standardize security screening. Walt knew there was going to be a commercial demand for his product, but more importantly, he knew there would be security risks. The government knew it too. “When they came out with that card, they issued a mandate saying, ‘We know there's a potential that the radio chip in these cards could be compromised or scanned unintentionally by somebody else.’ So they added a specification for an electromagnetically opaque sleeve.” Walt was already working on RFID protection. He had created a sleeve that eliminated the risk of RFID interception, a maneuver where someone uses a scanning device (or even a smartphone) to steal credit card information from an oblivious bystander from a few feet away in just a couple of seconds. The basic concept of Walt’s invention was to function as a Faraday cage, a barrier that shields the RFID chip from the electromagnetic field created by any device trying to activate the chip. The card is protected through capacitive coupling; as metal is put close to the surface of the card, the tiny antenna embedded in the chip is no longer efficient at the correct frequency. With the antenna detuned, the card can never absorb the required energy to broadcast its information. Walt’s original protective sleeve was designed for everyday consumers and had the appearance of a wallet more than an ID holder, but he pitched it to federal agencies as the answer to their “electromagnetically opaque sleeve” requirement. Feedback from different agencies and private companies made it clear that IDs must be visible while still being protected by the ID holder. So Walt went back to the drawing board and put himself in the shoes of government employees. “I began to think about the nature of its use. I knew the employees would be walking in and out of buildings all the time, usually with stuff in their hands. They would not want to take the ID card out of a sleeve every time just to walk through a door.” After brainstorming, Walt came up with a simple “pinch and squeeze” mechanism that allowed the RF antenna to broadcast when the user pinches the springs to open the case. When the cardholder is closed, the private information of the user stays secure. Limiting the shield to one side of the ID would also keep the ID card visible to the rest of the agency but was still sufficient enough to create the Faraday cage necessary for protection. Although Walt now had the basic idea for the design, he knew he needed to develop the cardholder further. “The original design of the pinching mechanism was much too big, while the front of the badge holder was too small. The shield ended up being way too heavy, and the card holder was not very comfortable to wear.” He continued to make adjustments to ensure a better user experience. “We needed to come up with a way to lighten the fully formed metal plate that was acting as the shield. That is where we were actually able to change the shielding into an adhesively applied label.” The new design with the protective label was much lighter. He also included an open face for the design, so the card could be easily removed, if it was needed to plug into a computer. The open face was met with skepticism by some agencies at first, but Walt reasoned there would be less wear and tear on the card and less trapped dirt and grime in the case. The open face both kept the card clean and easy to use when removing it from the holder to insert in a computer. Walt had finally reached an elegant solution, and the government seemed to agree. The final product was sold to multiple agencies including the USPTO and the Executive Office of the President while the patent was still pending. It issued on December 22, 2009, as U.S. patent no. 7,635,089. Today, the vast majority of USPTO employee badges are kept secure in the badge holder.   Demand for Walt’s holder remains high. Although he had filed and received a patent before (his first for a device that automatically rolls up car windows when rain is detected), this was the first time Walt turned his invention into a company. Today, ID Stronghold has 20 employees and sells a variety of devices and products that ensure greater safety for consumers and government employees alike. In addition to the badge holder, Walt has patents pending on several other inventions, all of which are designed to improve security for RFID and other personal identification devices. When he’s not running his company, you can find Walt at his home near Sarasota, Florida, where he and his family live on six acres in the country and keep a few laying hens. But just because he enjoys the peace and quiet outside the hustle and bustle of town doesn’t mean Walt turns off his innovative mind. “I've always been the kind of person that sees a problem and tries to think of, okay, how could I fix that or go around that?” Case in point: Walt came up with a system for mechanizing a roll of cardboard material to catch chicken droppings in the coop. When it fills up, he cranks the roll and tears off a fresh sheet. “It probably could be a patent, but we only do it for ourselves so far,” Walt said with a laugh. From wallets to government badges, the chicken house to the White House, Walt Augustinowicz has made an impact in the market and the area of RFID security as both a small business owner and a true innovator in his field.
  • Football patents
    The first snows have fallen, a whiff of hot wings and barbecue mix in the frigid air, and you’ve sworn off at least one coworker since “wear-your-team-jersey-to-work day” at the office. It can only mean one thing: the playoffs are here. Each week millions of Americans join in the quest for football glory as they gather around flat screen TVs and pitchers of cold beer to root for their favorite teams. The sport they are watching has changed considerably since its early days when the forward pass was considered a trick play and helmets were optional. Here are some of the patented inventions that have helped along the way.   Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from USPTO public affairs specialist Jon Abboud. Helmet U.S. Patent No. 2,293,308 Legend has it that the first football helmet was made out of moleskin by a local shoemaker at the request of a U.S. Naval Academy player whom doctors had warned might suffer “instant insanity” if he took another hit to the head. Thankfully, helmets have come a long way since, and their importance has garnered significant attention in recent years. The design detailed in U.S. 2,293,308 is an early predecessor to the one fans are familiar with today. Innovations like extra padding, face guards, visors, and even a coach-to-player radio system continue to shape helmet design in the 21st century. Ten Yard Line U.S. Patent No. 1,684,566 Sideline officials have long used a 10-yard length of chain to measure if a team has advanced the ball far enough to earn a first down. This is where the popular phrase “moving the chains” comes from, and we have patents like U.S. 1,684,566 to thank for it. Moses H. Winkler’s 1927 invention of the Ten Yard Line was one of the earliest devices patented for such use. Winkler hoped his invention would prevent what he called “ugly situations” from arising over disputed calls from the officials. Accomplishing that particular goal remains elusive, but most football fans don’t seem to mind.  Football Trousers U.S. Patent No. 1,573,212 Football players have worn a variety of different trousers over the decades. Invented by William P. Whitley and Robert C. Zuppke, the trousers shown in U.S. 1,573,212 were one of several designs. These trousers allowed for the insertion of pads which were intended to protect a player’s lower body and abdomen. While they may not have been the most stylish pants around, they probably saved at least a few players from being carted off to the locker room on a stretcher. Athletic Shoe and Cleat Therefor U.S. Patent No. 1,782,569 Today, many professional football players wear custom made shoes that might look more at home in a modern art exhibit than on the football field. However, in the 1930s most players could afford only a single pair of shoes, and wearing the wrong ones spelled disaster in rain or snow. So what were players to do? One solution was provided by U.S. 1,782,569, a design which allowed the wearer to screw interchangeable spikes of varying length into threaded metal receptacles on the soles of a single pair of shoes. Interactive System Allowing Real Time Participation U.S. Patent No. 5,860,862 Fantasy football lets fans combine dreams of managing a professional team with the thrill of real-time interactive participation. Fantasy team “owners” fill a roster with professional players during a preseason draft and can make trades and transactions throughout the season. Once the season (and the ritualistic trash-talking) begins, individual player statistics are converted to points in real-time, head-to-head matchups with other fantasy teams. Rewards for a hard won season range from simple bragging rights among friends to lucrative cash winnings. The system detailed in U.S. 5,860,862 is not quite as intricate as the smart phone applications and other fantasy football services available today, but it certainly helped pave the way for the recent explosion of this popular trend.
  • Guide to filing a provisional patent
    One of the most frequent questions independent inventors ask is whether they should file a provisional patent application. But there is no surefire answer. Every situation is unique, and what works for one inventor might not work for another. Only you, the inventor, can decide what is best for your situation, but here are some insights that may help you determine if filing a provisional patent application is right for you. The most important thing to keep in mind regarding a provisional application is that it is not a “provisional patent.” Essentially, a provisional patent application is a placeholder with a low filing fee (currently $65 for applicants who qualify for micro-entity status) that establishes a filing date for an invention but will not result in a patent on its own. A filing date is essential in the patent application process because it establishes a starting point for the protection that is being sought for an invention. Once a provisional patent application is filed, the applicant then has up to one year to decide whether to proceed with obtaining a patent. This 1-year period allows applicants to take on several tasks important to the commercial process, which might include: Investigating market potential Finding investors Searching public documents and sources to see if the invention already exists or has been previously disclosed by someone else Evaluating the need to hire a patent attorney or agent   A major advantage of a provisional application is that applicants are allowed to use the term “patent pending” in conjunction with the invention (including marketing and packaging) during the 1-year period to alert the public that an application has been filed with the USPTO and as a warning to potential infringers. If, during the 1-year period, the applicant decides that they do not want to pursue the patent process any further, there is nothing more to do. The provisional patent application will automatically be abandoned at the one year mark, but the term “patent pending” can no longer be used. On the other hand, if the applicant decides to seek patent protection, a nonprovisional patent application must be filed within one year of the filing date of the provisional patent application. That application must claim the benefit of the provisional patent application. Any claimed subject matter in the nonprovisional patent application that is supported by the provisional application will receive the benefit of the earlier filing date of the provisional patent application. Consider another big advantage: if the nonprovisional patent application results in an issued patent, the patent term (the amount of time the patent is in force) is measured from the filing date of the nonprovisional patent application, which means it may be extended by up to 12 months. There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind if you decide to file a provisional application: Provisional patent applications are not examined, meaning they will provide no indication as to the patentability of the subject matter. Provisional patent applications cannot be filed for designs. Claims are not required in a provisional application, but it is recommended that the disclosure of the invention in the provisional application be as complete as possible.   If you are considering patenting your invention in foreign countries, a provisional application might be a good option for you. Provisional patent applications can provide a foreign priority benefit for applicants seeking international patent protection. Applicants can also take comfort knowing that provisional patent applications are not released to the public unless the application number is referenced in a later-published application or patent, such as through a priority claim.  Before you decide to file a provisional patent, with or without the help of a patent attorney or agent, you’ll want to study the advantages and limitations as much as possible to gain a better understanding. And remember, if you are proceeding without the help of an attorney or agent, the Pro Se Assistance Program can help answer your questions. 
  • Voting machine patents
    With the presidential election just around the corner, this Pick-5 is inspired by your Constitutional right to vote. A big challenge is finding the best way to collect and count those votes. Who can forget the controversies of the 2000 election regarding ballots? Whether it’s a punch card or a touch screen, inventors have worked hard to get your vote… counted that is.  History shows that we may yet still have improvements to make, but here are some of the inventions that shaped our voting process over the decades. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Office of Innovation Development Program Planner and Analyst Sean Wilkerson.   Electronic Vote-Recorder U.S. Patent no. 90,646 Thomas A. Edison’s first patent, issued June 1, 1869, for an “improvement in electrographic vote-recorder” may be one we could all use today. This device allowed legislators to vote by flipping switches: - one end would signify a "yes" vote, and the other a "no" vote - and deliver the information via electric current to a main recorder, which would dispense the votes into two columns. After the legislators voted, a clerk would feed a piece of chemically-treated paper, which would then be used to "print" the votes out for everyone to see. The plan was to speed up the voting process by putting an end to filibustering and coercing others to change their votes. It seems to have been “vetoed” on the spot and despite advancements in technology, legislative votes are still often done by voice to this day.   Voting Apparatus U.S. Patent no. 248,130 This “voting apparatus” patent was issued to Anthony. C. Beranek of Chicago on October 11, 1881. In his patent, Beranek claimed “by means of this device all fraud is prevented and ballot-box stuffing impossible,” but this design still needed to answer the question of is the hand quicker than the eye?  It seems that one could easily press a button twice, if fast enough. This was the first official voting machine patented for use in an American general election.   Ballot Holder U.S. Patent no. 440,547 Taking accountability, security, and technology to the next step, this patent was issued to Kennedy Dougan of Missoula, Montana on November 11, 1890. Dougan’s “ballot holder” had a roll of paper that allowed a voter to make a perforation for a candidate. The roll would then be advanced to a clean ballot for the next voter. Simple, efficient, and a paper trail. It seems effective as long as you don’t misplace the paper.   Voting Machine U.S. Patent no. 628,905 This may be my favorite. Issued on July 11, 1899 to to Alfred J. Gillespie of Rochester, N.Y., for a “voting machine.” Gillespie already had a patent on a previous voting apparatus. This particular machine pulled a curtain around the voter in preparation for the votes to be recorded.     Method and Apparatus for Voting U.S. Patent no. 5,585,612 Nearly 150 years after Edison’s effort to simplify the voting process, technology reached another electoral milestone—maybe not with speed but with accessibility. Patent no. 5,585,612 was issued to Roland J. Harp Jr. of Winchester, Kentucky, on December 17, 1996, for his “method and apparatus for voting. Using an audio presentation, Harp’s machine enabled illiterate and sight-impaired individuals to select the candidate of their choice in private without need for assistance by a third party.    Now get out there and punch, press, or mark your ballot to be counted!
  • Historic Patent found in Attic
    It happens more often than you might think; someone contacts the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by phone,  email, or sometimes even in person, and says, “I’ve got an old patent. What should I do with it?” The answer is, it depends.  Sometimes old patents are found in trunks, suitcases, or briefcases left behind by a family member or distant relative; other times, they are found in the back of a picture frame bought at a yard sale, estate sale or auction.  However it happens, finding a patent can be exciting but also confusing as to what to do next.  Is there value in the document?  How should it be preserved?  Should I contact the USPTO? Individuals who find patent documents that appear to be old and historic in nature are encouraged to search the database of U.S. patents on our website to determine if the USPTO has record of the patent in its electronic database. In all likelihood, it is included in the archive of U.S. patent documents, but in certain instances that may not be the case. For example, in 1836, a fire destroyed the Patent Office. All records of patents issued to that point (some 10,000) were lost to the government. These patents are referred to as “X” patents. Over the years, the USPTO has been able to reconstruct a small portion by making copies from still-existing patents retained by the inventors. In some cases, the patents have been held in the family and passed down for over a hundred or even two hundred years.  If you’re unable to determine whether a patent is in the USPTO patent database, contact the Office of Innovation Development by email or call us at 571.272.8877 for assistance. When an individual brings an X patent document not already in the USPTO database to the attention of the office, the USPTO will work with the document’s owner to obtain a copy of the document so that it may be added to the electronic database for the use and enjoyment of all. So what can be done with a historic patent document (and one presumably not still in force due to its age)? Obviously you could choose to keep the document because of its sentimental significance, whether it is a familial or personal connection to the inventor, or simply because you appreciate historical documents. There are also numerous avenues for selling historical documents, including specific historic document sellers, online auction sites, and antique shops.  A historic patent owner might also consider gifting or donating the document. To whom, you might ask? How about the company to which the patent was assigned, if any, or a local museum associated with the life of the inventor. The Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, and even the Smithsonian Institution are also good candidates depending on the significance of the inventor or the invention.  The federal government and most museums have set policies—usually available on their websites—regarding gifted objects and artifacts. If you also happen to be in possession of related artifacts, news articles, or photographs associated with the inventor or invention, keeping these associated with the patent document can add more value to the sale or gift of the patent document. Though patents often include interesting contextual details, related items help tell a more encompassing story beyond what is found in the technical and legal language of the patent. They can help to bring to life the success or failure of the inventor or invention, the role it played in a community or industry, and perhaps how it may have influenced the creation of new or different technologies. To best care for a historic patent, there are many good online sources for tips and tools for the care and conservation of documents. One recommended site is the U.S. Library of Congress, which provides information for the care, handling, and storage of works on paper.  Additionally, the National Archives and Records Administration provides detailed information on how to preserve family papers and photographs. A U.S. patent is an exceptional piece of American history.  It serves as a lasting record and reminder of the novel creation by an inventor, or group of inventors, who successfully participated in the promise of the U.S. Constitution to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Anyone in possession of one of these historic gems has a truly unique antique to share and enjoy.
  • Ford Mustang exhibit in the National Inventors Hall of Fame
    Every day, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosts hundreds of visitors from around the world. While the vast majority are here to conduct business related to protecting intellectual property in the United States—patent and trademark applicants, inventors, business owners, and attorneys, to name just a few—other visitors come for a different reason: to be inspired by innovations that shape our world. The main floor of the USPTO campus’ James Madison Building houses the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) and Museum. NIHF, in partnership with the USPTO, bestows one of the most prestigious honors on American innovators and inducts a new class every year. The museum features a wall of recognition, the Gallery of Icons, in which visitors can browse through names and patents that have shaped our society. More than 500 inventors have been inducted since 1973. On the opposite end of the museum is a new exhibit, “Intellectual Property Power,” installed in May 2016. The exhibit celebrates the story of intellectual property, inviting visitors to learn about how patents and trademarks have played an integral role in the establishment and continued expansion of America’s economic strength. At the center of this exhibits an eye-catching “split personality” Ford Mustang that combines the driver’s side of a 1965 model with the right-hand driver’s side of a 2015, showcasing 50 years of automobile advances. There’s nothing quite like it, and best of all you can sit in it and experience it for yourself (makes for some fun pictures, too!). There’s lots more to see at the museum, including interactive exhibits on the development of the camera from the George Eastman Museum, smartphones from Qualcomm, and the history of the USPTO and patent examination, as well as the impact of trademarks on our daily lives. But don’t take our word for it! The USPTO invites all Inventors Eye readers to visit the museum and come see for themselves what makes this shrine to our nation’s most creative and innovative minds so special. If you can’t make it to Alexandria, Va. in person, you can take a virtual tour of the museum, hosted by Mo Rocca, Emmy award-winning CBS Sunday Morning correspondent and host of the Henry Ford's Innovation Nation on the museum’s webpage. Be prepared to be challenged, entertained, and inspired. The museum is collaboratively managed by the USPTO and the National Inventors Hall of Fame, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity, and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • First wing of old Patent Office
    Since the passage of the first Patent Act of 1790, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)* has figured into an expansive list of interesting historical factoids. One is the origin of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   The United States was founded on an agricultural economy. At the time, over 75 percent of the nation’s exports were agricultural products. It was apparent to the first four presidents (all farmers) that a strong economy depended on having an innovative agricultural industry, and they called for the establishment of a department of agriculture to foster improved farming practices and technologies. Congress did not, however, act on their recommendations. At the time, many Americans were economically independent farmers who had just fought the Revolutionary War to guarantee their self-determination. The challenge in creating the new nation was how strong to build the central government. Many farmers believed that a centralized department of agriculture would become too powerful and control their lives (Hagenstein et al., 2011). By the 1830s, significant agricultural problems stressed the economic health of the nation. Standard farming had left a substantial amount of land in the Eastern states unproductive due to pests, diseases, and lack of fertilization. There was a need for a systematic collection and distribution of information on farming practices, as well as new and improved cultivars that could thrive and produce better harvests. To address these needs, Congress established the Agricultural Division within the Patent Office in 1839. The decision to designate the Patent Office for oversight of agricultural improvements was advocated strongly by the Commissioner for Patents at the time, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth. In an 1838 report to Congress, he had written that “the Patent Office is crowded with men of enterprise, who, when they bring the models of their improvements in such implements, are eager to communicate a knowledge of every other kind of improvement in agriculture, and especially new and valuable varieties of seeds and plants.” He described at length the benefits of specific cultivars developed by farmers or collected by travelers, particularly members of the Navy, in foreign countries and sent to the Patent Office. Congress was convinced. The mission of the Agricultural Division would be to acquire, propagate, evaluate, and distribute seeds and plants to farmers, and to collect agricultural statistics and production information. The grounds around the Patent Office were used as the garden to grow the nation’s living plant collection. For plants that were not winter-hardy in the Washington, D.C., area, two 50-foot long greenhouses were constructed (Weber, 1924). In 1849, however, the land that the greenhouses and garden occupied was needed for an expansion of the Patent Office Building. Congress appropriated $5,000 to relocate the greenhouses and garden to a site on the National Mall just west of the Capitol. This new and improved garden opened in 1856 and was known as the U.S. Propagation Garden (Holt, 1858). By the 1860s, the Agricultural Section of the Patent Office was annually distributing over 2.4 million packages of seed from the basement of Patent Office Building. In 1864, Lois Bryan Adams, an Agricultural Division employee, news correspondent, and one of the first women employed by the federal government, described the basement area in a dispatch to the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune: “Before us is a room 50 feet long by 25 feet wide; down the center nearly the whole length extends a table, on each side of which sit women and girls, forty in number, gray-haired, middle-aged, and youth scarcely past childhood, all closely crowded together, and bent over the work of filling and stitching up the piles of little seed bags before them. Between these busy workers and the wall, on either side, in rows three deep, stand casks and barrels, and piled upon these are other barrels, sacks, and boxes, containing seed prepared, or to be prepared, for distribution by mail or express to country homes far away.” The Civil War demonstrated that the government needed to be more involved in advancing agriculture and addressing agricultural issues. Science was beginning to play a major role in agricultural production. For example, the scientific study of fertilizer resulted in the discovery that nitrogen was an essential plant nutrient. In order to advance science-based agriculture, President Abraham Lincoln and Congress established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1862. The Commissioner of Agriculture was authorized “to receive & have charge of all property of the Agricultural Division of the Patent Office including fixtures & property of Propagating Garden” and to appoint a statistician, chemist, entomologist, and botanist. The statistician, chemist, and entomologist in the Agriculture Division of the Patent Office were retained and became employees of the USDA. Isaac Newton was appointed the Commissioner of Agriculture and he appointed William Saunders as the botanist. Despite its autonomy, the newly founded USDA was still housed in the basement of the Patent Office, which it quickly outgrew along with the U.S. Propagation Garden. In 1868, the USDA moved into its own building on 20 acres just east of the Washington Monument. John Ellis (1869) described the Agricultural Building’s offices and laboratories in detail: “The basement is well lighted, and contains, besides furnace and stove rooms, a laboratory and folding rooms. Upon the first floors are the offices, the library, and a second laboratory for the lighter work ... Upon the second floor is the main hall, fitted up with massive walnut cases, made air-tight, for the specimens which compose the museum ... On this same floor are rooms in which work connected with preparing specimens is done, and also the Statistical Bureau of the Department … The fourth floor, which is immediately under the roof, extends over the whole building, and resembles in all respects a great grain warehouse. An elevating platform connects it with the basement, and gives an easy method of raising the supplies of seed-grain, which are kept in this thoroughly dry and well ventilated space.” Today, the USDA continues its important work to propagate and disseminate better farming practices and cultivars. Plants developed by the USDA can be found in supermarkets across the country, from blueberries to peppers and soybeans, but it all took root at the USPTO, over 150 years ago.     *Though the 1790 Patent Act established a federal patent system, an autonomous Patent Office is not considered to have begun until 1802 with the appointment of its first full-time employee, Dr. William Thornton. The designation “Patent and Trademark Office” was not instituted until 1975.   References Adams, L.B. 1863. Life in Washington. Detroit Advertiser and Tribune, Dec. 1, 1863. p. 2. Adams, L.B. 1864. The government propagating garden. Detroit Advertiser and Tribune, Feb. 5, 1864. p. 4. Capron, H. 1868. Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture.  U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. p. 1-14. Ellis, J.B. 1869. The Sights and Secrets of the National Capital.  U.S. Publishing Co., New York. p. 351-357. Hagenstein E.C., S.M. Gregg, and B. Donahue. 2011. American Georgics. Yale Univ. Press. Holt, J. 1858. Report of the Commissioner of Patents, Agriculture. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. p. 3-7. True, A.C. 1937. A history of agriculture experimentation and research in the United States. U.S.D.A. Misc. Publ. 251. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. p. 42-43. Weber, G.A. 1924. The Patent Office: Its History, Activities and Organization. Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, MD. Weber, G.A. 1924. The Patent Office: Its History, Activities and Organization. Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, MD.
  • Snorkel patent
    I can still relive the excitement from the last time I visited the ocean: pulling off the interstate after a long drive to see gulls flying by, a quick rolling down of the windows to flush the stale car air with a salty-sandy mixture that seems to bring high-tide to the worry-filled mind. It’s beach time and whether you relax with a cold drink and a book in a hammock or by cruising the waves out past the buoys, you will be using an invention that was once just a patent waiting to be issued. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Office of Innovation Development extern James Higgins.   Breathing Apparatus for Swimmers U.S. Patent No. 2,317,236 One of my favorite things to do while at the beach is to search for sand dollars in the deeper waters. For me, a key piece of equipment for this activity has always been a snorkel. Patented by Charles H. Wilen and Alexandre Kramarenko on April 20, 1943, the snorkel was initially used as a tool to facilitate spear fishing.  Instead of swimmers having to lose eye contact with their possible prize while they caught their breath, they were now able to keep their face and focus underwater for long periods of time. This piece of equipment is a key part of any beach toy arsenal.   Metalloscope U.S. Patent No. 2,066,561 Before it was used to scour beaches for buried treasure, the metal detector  was hastily created by Alexander Graham Bell for a different purpose. President James Garfield, who had been shot in an assassination attempt, had a bullet lodged in his back. Bell attempted to locate the bullet using his new invention, but he was unable to distinguish the metal of the bullet from the metal springs supporting the surface on which Garfield was resting. Garfield eventually succumbed to the assassin’s bullet, but this "live" test established the groundwork for Gerhard Fisher to patent a more modern device, a “metalloscope,” issued on January 5, 1937. Today, metal detectors can often be seen tracking bracelets, watches, or even an “X” on a map.   Hammock U.S. Patent No. 552,229 Although the hammock can be traced back centuries ago to Central and South America (and was one of the first things to catch the eye of Christopher Columbus), the standard hammock was patented by John A. Bidwell on December 31, 1895. Since then, it has been used across the globe and even during the construction of the Panama Canal where they were easily encased by mosquito nets to protect the sleeping workers.  Of course, today it is mainly used near the coastlines. Tie one up between two palm trees, add the sound of crashing waves in the background, and you will be rocking to sleep in no time.   Power-Driven Aquatic Vehicle U.S. Patent No. 3,426,724 If you prefer a more action-filled beach venture, you may have found yourself on this invention once or twice. Clayton J. Jacobson, a man looking for thrills on water comparable to a skin-shaving experience on his motorcycle, patented the Sea-doo on February 11, 1969. His invention offered a similar adrenaline bump with a lower risk of injury. The Sea-doo was designed to be able to function in shallow waters and be safe to use around swimmers. This invention has turned into a nice alternative for those who like their vacations a little more lively.   Insulated Beverage Cozy U.S. Patent No. 4,293,015 Throughout the 20th century, beachgoers struggled with keeping their beverages cold. The portable ice box helped a bit, but if a vacationer wanted to go for a swim or play volleyball mid-drink, it was going to be hotter than blue blazes on their return. The country needed a bright mind to step up and solve this problem. Bonnie McGough answered the call with her Insulated Beverage Cozy, patented October 6, 1981. Its simple design with insulated fabric made it cheap, effective, and durable. No longer would warm half-filled cans plague the soft sand of America’s beaches. Whether you find yourself dipping your toes in the ocean or taking a snooze on a hammock, raise your cold drink not only to Bonnie McGough, but to all of the inventors who have improved the beach experience forever.
  • Go with me chair advertisement
    Persistence and passion are great traits for an inventor, but usually it takes something more. Sometimes you need inspiration. When that inspiration comes from a desire to keep your children safe and secure, it can be powerful indeed. What started as a way for inventor Kristi Gorinas--a mother of four daughters at the time (she’s since added a fifth) from Lawrenceville, Georgia--to keep her baby safe, while she gardened or looked after her other young children, turned into a patented invention. Kristi envisioned an outdoor baby jumper that could keep her child secure while also allowing her to stretch her legs or stand. “Before I knew it, I had a removable tray for snacks and toys, a cup holder, and a sun shade,” she said. Kristi describes herself as a “type-A” person with a strong drive to get things done. Without really knowing what to do next, she began researching product development online and enlisted the help of several experts, including a graphic artist and, eventually, a patent attorney. Despite her strong enthusiasm, Kristi faced what seemed like an unending slew of challenges, and she struggled for years to commercialize her invention. At the outset, she had little experience as either an inventor or an entrepreneur. She cold-called scores of manufacturers before piquing the interest of one in California. After four months of communication, however, the company pulled out of the deal. Undeterred, Kristi pressed on. With the help of a friend she secured the services of a design engineer and factory in China. The assistance of the design engineer proved critical as his adjustments improved the chair’s safety. “The first prototype was a cheap kid’s camp chair with only two big holes for the child’s legs during the standing stage,” explained Kristi. “It had safety issues, but it did provide inspiration for the finished leg pockets that connected to the safety bucket underneath.” The new arrangement with the addition of outward angled legs, the most difficult component of the chair to design, ensured safe sitting “even for a rabid monkey,” according to Kristi. At this point, two and a half years had elapsed since she first thought of the idea. While pushing the chair through the manufacturing phase, Kristi simultaneously began working on another idea: a designer diaper bag with a built-in baby wipe system. After eight months of searching, she found a company in California that was willing to produce the handbags. Balancing the production of two different items proved to be a formidable challenge for both her mind and wallet. Facing a mountain of debt and two unfinished products, Kristi decided to double down on her investments and continue with the development and manufacturing for both the chair and the handbag. Sensing the potential in Kristi’s chair, a supporter was able to arrange a meeting for her with a company that sold similar outdoor products. The president of the company liked the idea and offered her a licensing contract, which allowed Kristi to secure U.S. Patent No. 8690236, as well as a corresponding Chinese patent. Later, when the agreement ended, Kristi retained the rights to her patent and the trademark. Kristi is confident about the future of her products. She has since licensed the chair to another interested party, a “juvenile company whose main focus is on babies and not outdoor camping,” she explained. It seems that her chair has found its niche. Kristi continues to innovate in the realm of safety, but has now shifted her focus toward adults. With her current project, dubbed Defendables, she hopes to help curb violence by putting power into the hands of the innocent. The wearable safety device, which is patent pending, is intended to defend users against assault or other physical danger. According to Kristi, “Defendables is non-lethal and can give potential victims time to get away from imminent danger. It’s the most exciting product I have worked on.” Kristi created Defendables with a global outlook. While she is well aware of the time and effort required to bring an invention to life, her determination for the well-being of others trumps adversity every time.  “My main goal with Defendables is safety. I would like to help further the efforts of organizations that advocate on behalf of those affected by sexual assault and domestic abuse so that we can help prevent violence against women and all of mankind.”
  • Image montage
    Cathie Kirik retired from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at the end of June after 29 years at the USPTO. Cathie, whom many Inventors Eye readers know from countless conferences, trade shows, and other events, was one of the biggest champions of independent inventors at the USPTO. She was part of the first agency program to assist inventors that developed into the current Office of Innovation Development. She helped design and launch many of the programs and resources the USPTO now offers for inventors, including this publication. Through it all, she’s helped thousands achieve their dreams of invention and entrepreneurship. We sat down with Cathie in her final days at the office and asked her to reflect on her inspiring career.   What are some memorable moments you’ve had working with inventors and the public? That’s a tough one, but during the Texas Regional Conference in 2012 at the University of Texas in Austin, there was a bomb threat. We evacuated over 150 attendees to the parking lot for hours. Everyone was safe, but the interesting part was that we continued the conference in the parking lot and covered all the material planned for the day. I have been part of some great initiatives to help inventors through the years. I planned and implemented 15 annual Independent Inventor Conferences and many regional and Saturday seminars throughout the country.  One of the most recent initiatives I was involved with was the Pro Bono and Pro Se Programs. Having dealt with inventors for many years, the question that always arose was “Can I do it myself because I can’t afford an attorney?” I had a lot of emails from the public that helped demonstrate the need, and I had talked to thousands of inventors that asked the same question. The Pro Se initiative has shown significant growth over the past two years, from the number of phone calls received to the number of inventors that come to the Office before they even draft their application.   What will you miss the most? I will miss talking to the inventors, sharing their excitement and passion for their creation, helping to demystify the USPTO, and making them understand we really are here to help. I will miss feeling that, in small ways, I made a difference to their understanding of the patent process when I helped them respond to a notice or pointed them to a resource on our website.     Who is your favorite inventor? How do you pick just one? I have met so many truly creative and inspiring people in my time at the USPTO—people like Art Fry, one of the inventors of Post-It Notes or Woody Norris, who created Hypersonic sound; Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet technology; Nancy Tedeschi, Snap-It screws; Aaron Krause, Scrub Daddy; Jennifer Briggs, Drain Wig; Sandy Stein, Finders Key Purse; Forrest Bird, baby respirator; and Ron Popeil, the godfather of infomercials, to name just a few! What I think they all had in common was the desire to make a difference, the passion to take the leap of bringing a product to life. One year we were conducting a conference in Philadelphia where Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee Ray Kurzweil was a keynote speaker. He talked about how he was working on computer technology and that one day computers were going to communicate with us. I turned to my colleague and said “Is that for real? I don’t have a clue what he is talking about.”  A few years ago, he appeared in a Super Bowl commercial and demonstrated a phone with speech-to-text, and I thought back to the conference and thought, oh my gosh, he did it!   After all these years, what’s the best piece of advice you can give inventors? The one piece of advice I always give to inventors is “do your homework.” Try to gather as much information about intellectual property from the USPTO as possible. It has many resources. Go to a Patent and Trademark Resource Center and do a patent search. Be careful of the companies that promise to do it all for you. Also, network; there are many inventor organizations out there that provide insight to marketing, prototyping, funding, and licensing. They are listed on the USPTO website under State Resources.   How do you plan to enjoy retirement? Retiring was a tough decision for me. I have been one of the fortunate people to have a job that I truly love. I could have retired five years ago, but I just couldn’t see myself walking away from something I was so passionate about. For now, I think I will enjoy the summer at the beach.  A while back, three inventors came to the office for assistance, and I told them they could contact me only until June 30 because I was retiring. One of the gentleman said to me, “You’re not retiring; you’re just in the fourth quarter of the game.”  So I guess I’ll see what the fourth quarter holds for me.
  • Common pitfalls on USPTO forms
    The patent application examination process is complex, with nearly all aspects of it governed by rules. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has developed numerous forms to aid with the filing and prosecution of patent applications. Although one is not required to use USPTO forms, they can be extremely helpful in complying with the requirements of the rules. However, the forms may contain legal terms that may be confusing to inventors filing without the assistance of a registered practitioner, also known as “pro se” applicants. Two forms of particular importance to pro se applicants are the micro entity certification form and the Application Data Sheet (ADS). For qualifying applicants, micro entity status offers a 75 percent reduction in most fees. An ADS must be submitted if an applicant wishes to claim the benefit of an earlier filed application. Because many pro se applicants often file a provisional application, the ADS is necessary when they eventually file a non-provisional application. Below are some of the most common pitfalls found in these forms and tips for avoiding them. In general, every applicable section of a form should be completed, but not all sections of a form are applicable to every case. For example, a “registration number” will be left blank by a signer who is not a registered patent practitioner. It is important to carefully read the entire form and contact the USPTO for clarification if anything on the form is unclear before filing it. Incorrectly filling out forms can cost applicants time, money, frustration, and sometimes even their patent rights.   Micro Entity Certification Form Signature In order to qualify for micro entity status, the certification form must be signed in accordance with 37 CFR 1.33(b), which means the only parties who may sign the form are: A registered patent attorney or agent An inventor who is named as the sole inventor and identified as the applicant; or All of the joint inventors who are identified as the applicant. Joint inventor applicants should sign separate copies of the micro entity certification form.   A proper signature can be either handwritten or an “S-signature” (37 CFR 1.4). The S-signature must consist only of letters and Arabic numerals, with appropriate spaces and commas, periods, apostrophes, or hyphens for punctuation, and the person signing the correspondence must insert his or her own S-signature between first and second single forward slash marks (e.g., /Dr. James T. Jones, Jr./). In addition, the signer’s name must be printed in the name boxes located under the signature on the form for an S-signature. If the signer is an inventor applicant, the printed name must match the name on record as the inventor applicant.   Identifying information The top of the micro entity certification form includes boxes for identifying the application by application number, first named inventor, patent number, and title of invention. The applicant should fill out all known information at the time of filing. The first named inventor is a single name that will be the same on every micro entity certification form submitted in an application. Likewise, the title listed should match that in the ADS or specification. If the certification of micro entity status does not properly identify the application to which it relates, a notice will be mailed and a fee assessed. For micro entity certifications filed before an application number is assigned, the application must be identified with both the first named inventor AND the correct title of invention. All application-identifying information on the micro entity certification must be consistent with the application in which it is filed. Each application filed with the USPTO, whether a provisional application or a non-provisional utility application, is given a unique identifier by the USPTO. If the applicant is filing a non-provisional application, it will be assigned an application number unique from any previously filed provisional application having the same subject matter.  Correspondence filed after the initial filing of the application must include the application number and filing date.     Application Data Sheet Signature Every ADS must be signed in accordance with 37 CFR 1.33(b) by either a registered patent practitioner or the applicant. When a named applicant in the “Applicant Information” section is a juristic entity (e.g., a company-owned by the inventor), the ADS must be signed by a registered patent practitioner.   An unsigned ADS will be treated only as a transmittal letter (37 CFR 1.76) with limited information being made of record from it. Inventor residence and mailing address, small entity status, establishment of inventorship, non-publication requests, benefit claims, and applicant information will NOT be made of record from an improperly signed ADS.   Domestic benefit If an applicant wishes to claim the benefit of an earlier-filed application, the claim must be made in the “Domestic Benefit/National Stage Information” section of an ADS (37 CFR 1.76). Applicants should take extra care to fill the correct information for each box and are strongly encouraged to read the detailed instructions online for filling out the ADS.   File by reference In an overwhelming majority of filed applications, the “Filing by Reference” section of the ADS should be left blank. This section is unrelated to claiming benefit to establish an earlier effective filing date. Completing the filing by reference section invokes specific laws that limit the application’s original disclosure to that of a previously filed application. Overcoming the mistake of completing this section can be particularly costly and time consuming.   Showing changes to the record Any time an ADS is filed after the initial  of filing the application, regardless if it is the first submission of an ADS or a corrected ADS, the ADS must identify the information being changed on the record (37 CFR 1.76). Identification of these changes must be shown by underlining (underlining) for insertions and strikethrough (strikethrough) or double brackets ( [[double brackets]] ) for text removed.   Typographical errors Applicants should be sure to carefully check each entry in the ADS for typographical errors. Errors in the spelling of names, prior application numbers, addresses, etc. are not always easy to fix and can cost applicants money, time, and additional paperwork.   Hopefully, by being aware of these common mistakes, carefully reading the entire form before filling it in and carefully proof-reading your entries, applicants can avoid the unnecessary time and expense that comes from correcting mistakes on USPTO forms.
  • Financial Manager Patent Maintenance Fees storefront infographic
    Earlier this year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched two new online fee payment tools: Financial Manager and the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront. Financial Manager is an easy-to-use online fee payment management system for USPTO customers. It provides flexible options that make submitting and keeping track of payments faster and more efficient. The new Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront makes viewing and paying patent maintenance fees easy and intuitive.   What’s New in Financial Manager? In Financial Manager, customers can store payment methods, including credit cards, deposit accounts, and electronic funds transfers (EFTs). This makes paying fees more efficient by allowing users to select a stored payment method to check out instead of reentering payment information each time a fee is paid. The new user permissions feature allows multiple Financial Manager users to access, help manage, or pay fees using a stored payment method. Permission levels include “administrator,” “fee payer,” and “reporter.” A fourth permission level, “funds manager,” applies to deposit accounts only. These permissions are flexible and easy to change; users can have one or multiple permissions, allowing for combinations that best suit their business needs. Financial Manager provides email notifications to help administrators keep track of changes made to stored payment methods. These include updates to payment method details (e.g., billing address), status (e.g., active or inactive), and user permissions. A detailed list of administrative updates, including information regarding which user made a particular change, is also available to administrators in the Administrative History section. With a few clicks, reporters can generate and export reports, such as recent transactions and monthly statements, for each stored payment method. These reports are available as Excel, PDF, or CSV files and can be customized to display tailored information.   What’s New in the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront? The Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront allows customers to view and pay up to 10 patent maintenance fees at once. Customers can view all maintenance fee due dates for specific patents and easily determine whether or not payment is needed to keep the patents in good standing. Customers can also check on previously paid patent maintenance fees by quickly pulling up a statement showing what patent maintenance fees have been paid, payment amounts, and payment dates. In the new Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront, signed-in users with fee payer permission for a stored payment method have access to convenient payment options. After selecting one or more patent maintenance fees to pay, signed-in fee payers can quickly check out using a stored payment method from Financial Manager. A new online shopping cart also makes it possible to save fees for later payment and continue searching for additional fees. The new Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront is the first of many USPTO storefronts to allow customers to check out using a stored payment method. Eventually, USPTO customers will be able to complete most financial activities online with speed and accuracy.   Want to Learn More? Visit and to learn more about these new fee payment tools and to access a list of frequently asked questions. Additional resources are also available on our Fee Payment Transition Resources page. New information will be added to these webpages on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently and stay up-to-date on the latest news!  
  • Mindy Bickel portrait
    Greetings Inventors Eye readers! As Associate Commissioner for Innovation Development, I oversee the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) outreach to independent inventors, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and university-affiliated inventors. These stakeholders are critical to innovation, creating jobs, and sustaining the American economy, and I am excited for the opportunity to serve them. A little about me: I began my career at the USPTO in 1989 as a patent examiner in biotechnology and have held many positions throughout the agency. Most recently, I was the USPTO’s outreach coordinator in New York City, where I managed the agency’s partnership with Cornell University and spoke to thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs, providing intellectual property (IP) education in the Big Apple. Before that, I oversaw the Patents Ombudsman Program, which helps inventors get their applications back on track when a breakdown in prosecution occurs. I have always gravitated toward helping inventors and entrepreneurs, and this new position allows me to continue doing what I love. You’ve probably noticed a few recent changes with Inventors Eye: we have a new look and functionality, and going forward we will have a quarterly publication cycle aligned with the seasons. This will allow for more in-depth news and stories regarding your favorite IP topics. So what is my vision for the Office of Innovation Development (OID)? First and foremost, we will continue providing high-impact outreach and education while always looking for ways to improve efficiency and accessibility for stakeholders. I envision expansion of our online resources, including informational videos, webinars, and chatroom discussions. We will also continue providing excellent customer service for the Pro Se Assistance Program, which has helped hundreds of inventors navigate the patent process without an attorney. I’m extremely lucky to have a staff of consummate professionals and seasoned experts in IP outreach who have been interacting with inventors from all across the country and the world for decades. Some of you have attended one of our many Independent Inventors Conferences held throughout the country and can attest to their level of quality and usefulness. In addition, the frequent one-day seminars offered at USPTO regional offices provide the same information in a free and compact format. Not only will this all continue, but the openings of the Texas and West Coast Regional Offices in late 2015, along with the existing offices in Detroit and Denver mean that inventors around the country can expect more opportunities to attend these valuable seminars. I also hope to improve OID’s presence on university campuses. IP awareness is vital to ensure that the discoveries and products generated in these crucibles of innovation are commercialized successfully. In the past, our academic outreach focused on campus visits, but I want to utilize our webinar and virtual meeting capabilities to expand the amount of universities we can help, regardless of their size or geographic location. If you’re a campus administrator, professor, or student leader interested in enhancing IP education on your campus, please contact us today!   Lastly, I want to acknowledge the service of longtime OID and Inventors Assistance Program manager Cathie Kirik, who retired at the end of June after 29 exceptional years at the USPTO. Check out this issue’s interview with Cathie looking back on her career as a champion for American inventors and small businesses. And now I’ll let you get back to the rest of this Inventors Eye issue. In the months to come, I hope to see you at one of our events. Remember, you can always contact the Office of Innovation Development if you have general questions regarding IP or filing a patent application. Call us toll free at 1-866-767-3848 or email Wishing you all the best, and happy inventing! -Mindy  
  • Patent drawing - brewing beer and ale
    When the cold weather sets in, many responsible adults like to retire by a warm fire with a hearty beverage in hand, and sometimes that beverage could consist of three simple ingredients: hops, barley, and water. But what mug hoisters might not stop to consider is the long history of innovation spurred by the production of beer. In fact, archaeologists have theorized that the rise of agriculture and civilization began 13,000 years ago with the Natufian culture, who raised cereal grains in order to make—you guessed it—beer. In modern times we can trace the development of brewing technology by looking at examples from the large body of related patent literature. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects his five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Inventors Eye managing editor and home brewing enthusiast Alex Camarota. U.S. Patent No. 135,245 Brewing Beer and Ale This is the granddaddy of all beer patents. Louis Pasteur's new method of making beer revolutionized the fermentation process so that beer both tasted better and could be produced in more quantities. Pasteur is of course most famous for his contributions to medicine and microbiology, but his method of beer making detailed in U.S. 135,245 laid down the principles on which all modern day brewing is based. Bonus: Pasteur’s patent attorney, Charles M. Keller, is an important figure in U.S. patent history. Before becoming an attorney, he was the first to hold the official title of “patent examiner,” and helped Senator John Ruggles of Maine write the 1836 Patent Act, on which much patent law is still based. U.S. Patent No. 1,094,469 Beer Stein The traditional Bavarian beer mug with its hinged pewter cover and ornate designs, is an iconic symbol for beer worldwide. Steins (from the German steingut, meaning “stoneware”) became popular in 14th century Europe amid the bubonic plague, when covers were added to drinking vessels to keep them sanitary and prevent bugs from entering. The stein detailed in U.S. 1,094,469 featured an improvement that allowed the cover to easily detach and be interchangeable with other mugs. U.S. Patent No. 6,032,571 Automated Home Beer Brewing Machine and Method Brewing beer requires multiple containers, tubes, and valves, not to mention all the space to fit them. The idea of a self-contained unit for the home brewer that can sit on the kitchen table and make beer with the push of a button has been around for quite a while, though with limited commercial exposure. Thanks to Improvements in electronics and manufacturing, that is all changing, and such devices are now widely available for sale. The machine detailed in U.S. 6,032,571 may be one of the first to be patented. U.S Patent No. 6,167,636 Process for Thermally Utilizing Spent Grains It takes quite a bit of malted grain to make beer, but once the sugars have been extracted to create the wort (unfermented beer), their work is done. So what to do with all that leftover organic matter? Many breweries donate their spent grain for livestock feed or composting, but in Austria, one group of inventors figured that the best way to use all that barley, oats, wheat, and other grains was for, well, making more beer. U.S. 6,167,636 details a method for turning spent grains into fuel that can be burned or gasified to create heat energy, which is necessary to boil liquid for beer.   U.S. Patent No. 8,584,665 Brewery Plant and Method Solar power promises to free humanity from finite energy sources. Today, innovations in solar technology have made it possible to capture the sun’s energy in a variety of means and for many different applications. So why not use the heat of the sun to make beer? That’s exactly the idea in U.S. 8,584,665, which describes a method of collecting solar radiation for conversion to thermal energy necessary for brewing. While the system is not completely self-sufficient, it reduces the amount of energy needed to brew, thus improving efficiency and lessening the burden on the planet.
  • SBIR group photo
    Ever have the feeling you’re talking to someone you know but just can’t remember their name or where you met? Maybe it will be a little easier to remember if they also invented something cool. While recently touring with the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Road Tour, a couple of gentlemen approached me and said, “Hey, we know you. We met at the VentureWell (Formerly NCIIA) Open Minds Competition a few years ago.”   We re-introduced ourselves, and when they refreshed my memory about their invention, it all came back to me. When someone has a really cool invention, it’s hard to forget. Their invention, MaxQ, is an ultra-thin insulating material that also provides structural support. Saravan Kumar, Balaji Jayakumar, Shoaib Shaikh, and Jessica Shelton competed in the 2012 Open Minds Competition. The invention aids the healthcare industry by reducing weight and the cost for shipping blood, pharmaceuticals, and other materials that must remain cold when shipped. When I met for the second time, the team’s first U.S. patent, no. 9,027,782, had just issued, and they were in the process of securing funding for their growing venture. That’s where the SBIR Road Tour or Small Business Innovation Research Road Tour comes in to this story. The SBIR program is administered by the Small Business Administration with 11 participating federal agencies offering grants to inventors and entrepreneurs to help commercialize inventions that offer solutions to specific technical problems. While the solutions belong to the inventors, the technical problems are provided by one of the participating federal agencies. What makes this all very interesting to inventors is that many of the technical problems agencies face are also faced by businesses and consumers. This means that sometimes it is the problem that sets the stage for the invention and other times it is adapting an already-existing invention to solve the problem and secure funding. The MaxQ team initially got their problem from NASA and developed a solution along the way. While NASA ultimately did not fund them, other federal agencies expressed interest in their invention. So it doesn’t matter which agency provides the problem; any of them can provide funding. The guys at MaxQ have this advice for any inventor trying to commercialize their invention: be flexible to get opportunities. You have to get out of the building and talk with people to develop your invention into something that people will purchase. Access to capital is always a challenge for any budding entrepreneur, but the SBIR program is a great opportunity. In the next issue of Inventors Eye, we will have more on the SBIR Road Tour and feature a teacher that attended the National Summer Teacher Institute on Innovation, STEM and Intellectual Property this summer, so stay tuned!
  • Fee reminders for micro entity
    Inventors Eye likes to remind readers that it is common for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to implement new fee changes as a new fiscal year begins. Now is a great time for patent holders and applicants to review fees and avoid headaches that might occur from making any fee-related mistakes.   For fiscal year 2016, which began October 1, 2015, the current fee schedule will remain in force without change. Applicants are encouraged to review the Current Fee Schedule available on the USPTO Web Site, via to confirm proper fee amounts prior to payment of any fee. Now is also a good time to remind readers about micro entity status, which is particularly relevant to independent inventors. Applicants interested in establishing themselves for micro entity fee reductions should keep the following help tips in mind when preparing a certification of micro entity status: A complete and acceptable Certification of micro entity status for each named inventor must be filed before any micro entity fee reduction takes legal effect. It is recommended that applicants use the appropriate certification of micro entity status forms provided by the USPTO, i.e., the PTO/SB/15A (Gross Income Basis) or the PCT/SB-15B (Institution for Higher Education Basis). For applications with multiple inventors, each co-inventor must submit a complete and acceptable micro entity certification. Submission of any unacceptable micro entity certification with the filing of a newly filed application, with or without the attempted payment of reduced micro entity fees, will cause the issuance of a pre-examination notice requiring payment of all fees due at their regular non-discounted fee amounts. Acceptance of any unpaid, or previously submitted, reduced micro entity fee(s) will not be accepted as payment in full until a complete and acceptable micro entity certification (executed by each of the named inventors) has been received and the requisite surcharge for the late submission of the filing fee, search fee, examination fee, has also been submitted. Each inventor identified in or executing a micro entity certification must be identified exactly as that inventor has been identified in the Application Data Sheet (ADS) or in an oath or declaration when no ADS is submitted. This will reduce delays in establishing micro entity status. The ADS, or oath or declaration when no ADS is being filed, are the only two documents that establish inventorship, and they establish inventorship in the exact order each inventor is listed therein. One big problem for the USPTO is a mismatch of the identified names between the document that establishes inventorship and the signature on other documents, such as, for example, the micro entity certification.
  • Smithsonian Innovation Festival
    Over 30,000 visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., got a chance to experience innovation from multiple perspectives during the 2015 Innovation Festival. Perhaps the first thing visitors noticed about the Innovation Festival was the engaging and welcoming environment. Part of an ongoing collaboration between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Smithsonian, the Innovation Festival, held September 26-27, was set within the new Innovation Wing of the American History Museum. From the ultra high–tech (turbine engine technology) to the ultra-tasty (flavor innovations in candy), an eclectic range of technologies and industries were represented. Along with industry giants, exhibitors also included multiple independent inventors, small businesses, and university- and government-affiliated inventors. One table drawing a constant crowd was manned by former NASA astronaut Dr. Scott Parazynski. The only person to both reach the summit of Mt. Everest and orbit the Earth, Parazynski invented a fluid storage pack that  keeps water from freezing in the harshest locations on the planet (or off of it). Parazynzki, whose accomplishments stretch for pages and include being a physician, university professor, and licensed commercial airline pilot, said he is driven by a need to push the boundaries of his abilities and come up with creative solutions to problems. Another exhibit featured the Human Engineering Research Lab from the University of Pittsburgh, led by Rory Cooper, Ph.D. The lab focuses on researching and creating improved assistive technology for people with disabilities. The patented technology on display included a wheelchair suspension device and a robotic lifting arm that enables wheelchair users to lift themselves out of a chair without assistance. Cooper, whose work is divided between both robotics and mechanical engineering, said that he does not have a preference for either field. “I just go where the problem-solving takes me,” he told Inventors Eye. Exhibits from iconic American companies were also crowd favorites at the Innovation Festival. Ford Inc. showed off a new patented technology that assists drivers in backing up with a trailer. On the other side of the exhibit space, candy maker Mars Inc. laid out a cache of sweet treats and explained the process and technology behind their creations. One of them attempts to solve an age-old cacao conundrum: “White chocolate is one of those things that people either love or hate,” explained inventor John Munafo. By extracting a compound from the cacao bean and adding it to white chocolate, Munafo and his co-inventor, Mark Mackey, were able to create a taste and texture that appealed to a wider range of chocoholics. Of course, it’s hard to make such a claim without backing it up, so attendees were given the opportunity to test the patented new chocolate side by side with an unenhanced control. Predictably, they had no issue finding test subjects. For younger attendees, another exhibit easily caught their eye. Innoskate, an endeavor by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, featured a display showing the evolution of skateboarding technology. Standing behind the table was Paul Schmitt, also known as “Professor Schmitt” in the skateboard community for his expertise on skateboard design. Schmitt is the inventor behind much of skateboarding’ s technological evolution, from improved shapes to the construction of more durable and lighter boards. Innoskate perfectly captured the festival’s ambitious goal of showing how a broad spectrum of technologies can be linked by the process of innovation. While attendees roamed the exhibition, inventors delivered presentations and informal question and answer sessions every 30 minutes from a central stage area. These presentations included demonstrations of technology, discussions from the inventors about how they came up with the ideas, and even group activities led by presenters. “The whole setup of the event was awesome,” said one attendee from the Washington, D.C., area. “I feel like it really made the invention process accessible and shows that everyone has the ability to become an inventor.”  For a full list of exhibitors and presentations, see the Innovation Festival page.
  • Prosthetic leg
    Innovation changes lives every day. It makes many of our daily tasks easier, more efficient, or more affordable. But sometimes it does more. Sometimes an invention has the power to not only change lives, but to give people back a life. Dan Horkey’s life changed drastically and suddenly in 1985 at the age of 21. A motorcycle accident had left him with an amputated left leg below the knee. After a lengthy recovery, he received a prosthetic leg and began the arduous task of learning to walk and function with it. It was the mental challenges, however, that proved most difficult to surmount. “I sought to cover up my disability,” said Dan. “I didn’t want others to know, and I wanted to avoid a lot of the questions I would get—like, how did you lose your leg?—when I was transitioning from crutches to a prosthetic.” Dan lost more than his leg in the accident. While doctors, physical therapists, and rehabilitation therapists could help him adjust to the various physical challenges, they had little to offer that might help him accept this new, foreign part of his body or regain his self-esteem. His response was to conceal it with a fake skin cosmetic cover. At the time of his accident, Dan had been a carpenter, and before that he’d grown up on a farm. He was accustomed to physical labor, but it was now a challenge to work at the same level he was used to. The advice he received from rehabilitation specialists was to retrain and take a desk job—a difficult pill to swallow, but he did what was necessary to make ends meet. For many years, Dan helped manage his family’s construction business, gaining a lot of important business experience in the process. In public, though, he continued to hide his prosthetic. In 2002, an opportunity opened up for Dan to work at a prosthetics manufacturing firm making custom prosthetics. It was during this opportunity that he realized he didn’t have to accept his prosthetic’s appearance anymore; he could change it, and he was now learning how to do it. “I wasn’t going to let the prosthetic define me anymore,” said Dan. Dan conceived the idea to infuse prosthetics and orthotic braces with art using vibrant, durable designs, colors and a chroming system. Essentially, it would be a way to personalize—or tattoo—prosthetics. He just needed to develop a process for applying the paint, which he eventually created by adapting automotive airbrushing techniques and materials. The very first image Dan created for his own prosthesis was flames, which represented the burning sensations that he felt after his leg was amputated.    Right away, Dan knew something had changed. When he was out in public, people no longer gawked or asked questions. Instead, they told him how cool his leg looked. “It made me walk taller,” he said. “I'm proud to show this now, and I'm not hiding it.” Dan explained that not only does prosthetic tattooing change the perception of the amputee, it also changes the perception of onlookers. “It can change an able bodied person’s mindset of people that are disabled. They see the artwork, and the best thing, instead of asking anything or not saying anything, is they compliment you on your art. They are no longer avoiding eye contact.” After realizing the process he created was unique and something nobody else was doing, Dan found a patent attorney to help him protect his intellectual property. He received U.S. patent no. 9,032,606 for “systems and methods for personalizing prosthetic and orthotic devices.” The process embodies a method for applying high quality and extremely durable pigments to prosthetic limbs and orthotic braces. The application can encompass solid colors or complex, intricately detailed art. For Dan’s rapidly growing customers, the responses to their prosthetic tattoos have been universally and overwhelmingly positive. Whether it is simply a color that happens to be the prosthetic-wearer’s favorite or a patriotic mural featuring the stars and stripes and a bald eagle, each prosthetic that Dan tattoos is a personal expression for the wearer. In making that statement, a transformation occurs. The prosthetic is no longer just an object attached to their body; it becomes an extension of who the person is. There are added benefits, too. On a regular basis, people approach Dan to compliment his leg, and before they know it, they are engaged in conversation and moving on to different subjects.  “It’s an icebreaker,” he said. “It’s a way to meet someone new.” One memorable design Dan completed for a customer mimics the machine arm of the famous T-800 cyborg from the popular “Terminator” films. Though powerfully ironic, it also reveals the wearer’s sense of humor and determination. “Art is really healing,” said Dan.  While Dan’s customers come from all walks of life—firefighters, retirees, single moms—one segment in particular is responding well: combat-wounded veterans. “I’ve had soldiers call me from Walter Reed, right in the hospital,” said Dan. According to him, they are eager to get back on their feet as soon as possible and do something to take control of their injuries. Dan is currently in discussion with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and members of Congress to bring the process to all veterans who desire to customize their prosthetic devices. “I've always been in the business of helping people,” said Dan. “I guess that is where I get my nature, you know, my inner soul.  And now I've found something that can help people feel better, and change their whole outlook on their new life.” 
  • Laptop displaying the USTPO homepage
    To compete in today’s innovation-driven economy, inventors and entrepreneurs need to get an invention from initial idea to submitted patent application as quickly as possible. Filing electronically is the fastest, most efficient, and cost-effective way to file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO’s online Patent Electronic Filing System (EFS-Web) was designed with extensive input from the intellectual property community, including small businesses and independent inventors. Over 98 percent of all patent applications are filed electronically through EFS-Web. To help applicants file electronically, the USPTO’s Patent Electronic Business Center (EBC)—a dedicated technical support desk for the USPTO's online systems, including EFS-Web—is available to the public for extended hours, Monday through Friday. See the end of this article for more contact information. You can avoid many filing mistakes when armed with a little knowledge up front. Save yourself time, money, and (most of all) headaches by understanding some common mistakes and following some helpful tips to avoid problems. TIP: In addition to other benefits, filing electronically avoids incurring a surcharge for paper filing (reduced by half for small and micro entities). See fee code 1090/2090 in the current fee schedule. This surcharge applies to new nonprovisional utility applications and does not affect follow-on correspondence.   Problem #1: Application Documents Not Prepared Before Filing EFS-Web transmits patent applications to the USPTO. EFS-Web does not provide tools to author patent application documents. Before signing in to EFS-Web, applicants must fully prepare their patent application. All new patent applications consist of a combination of USPTO-provided forms and applicant-created documents (e.g., a specification, drawings, etc.). The exact configuration can vary widely depending on the application type, the invention itself, and several other factors.  Generally, any required USPTO forms can be downloaded from our website and are already compatible with our system, but documents drafted by applicants are often in various formats and tend to have the most problems when uploaded to the system. Before uploading through EFS-Web, all patent application documents must meet the following criteria: Must be in PDF format Must be 8½ x 11 inches or A4 size, portrait mode All fonts must be embedded For assistance with PDF document creation or how to embed fonts in PDF documents, contact the EBC. See the PDF Guidelines for instructions on creating PDF documents for EFS-Web.   Problem #2: No PKI Certificate or Customer Number A Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) digital certificate allows applicants to securely access their patent application information and communicate online with the USPTO. A PKI is not required when filing a new patent application as an unregistered EFS-Web user. However, in order to add documents to an existing patent application or to respond to a USPTO communication, applicants must be registered users of EFS-Web. Becoming a registered user of EFS-Web requires obtaining a free PKI digital certificate. Applicants should also have a customer number in order to access Private PAIR, the USPTO’s secure means for applicants to view their filed applications. See Getting Started - New Users for steps to register for a customer number and PKI certificate. Many applicants receive a notice from the USPTO requiring the submission of additional documents or fees when they do not already have a PKI certificate to file the response online. Keep in mind that it can take 5-7 business days to obtain a new PKI certificate and customer number, so apply for them as early as possible. TIP:  After setting up your PKI Certificate, remember to also request PKI self-recovery codes. These codes provide a quick way to generate a new certificate in the event your PKI certificate becomes expired or corrupted. Contact the EBC for assistance with PKI registration or recovery.   Problem #3: Software Configuration Issues Java EFS-Web uses Java in order to authenticate users when logging in. You can obtain the latest version of Java by visiting the Java website. The EBC is available to help if you experience issues installing Java or logging in after Java is installed.   PDF Viewer A compatible PDF viewer is required to work with the forms and documents in EFS-Web. When working with EFS-Web Fillable PDF forms, we recommend using the latest version of Adobe Reader to ensure compatibility. To download a current version of the free Adobe Reader software, visit the Adobe website. Web Browser EFS-Web software updates are extensively tested with the “big three” browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome), and the USPTO attempts to maintain maximum compatibility with all standard Web browsers. The EBC is available to troubleshoot issues you may experience when using a supported browser. If you are experiencing problems logging in or using the system, make sure your Java, Web browser, and PDF Viewer versions are compatible with the EFS-Web system requirements. If you are unsure whether a piece of software you are using is compatible with our system, please contact the EBC in order to verify whether or not this is the case. When the USPTO becomes aware of compatibility problems with EFS-Web, we will post an advisory on the EFS-Web announcements page.   Problem #4: Indexing Documents Incorrectly When uploading documents in EFS-Web, filers must index each document by choosing an accurate document description to identify it. Upon submission, USPTO internal systems use this index to alert the appropriate business units of incoming documents. You should select the most appropriate document description in order for the document to be routed quickly to the correct USPTO processing unit.  Of course, patent applications can be very complex.  If you need help understanding indexing requirements, see the EFS-Web document description list, which includes a business process for each description, and the “Indexing Guides” section on the resource page. If you have further questions about which document description to use for a particular document, please contact the EBC. If you need to file immediately and are unsure what document description to choose, but unable to contact the EBC, we encourage you to select the closest document description choice and follow up with the EBC as soon as possible to verify the correct indexing of your submission. If any potential problems are identified, a re-indexing request can usually be submitted through the EBC.   Problem #5: Waiting Until the Last Minute to File Don’t wait until a deadline to file or submit materials. Applicants may run into potentially time-consuming technical problems with only hours or minutes left before a midnight deadline. Be sure to file early to allow enough time to resolve any unforeseen problems that might occur, and so that you can contact the EBC or other USPTO Customer Support Call Centers for assistance if necessary. If you encounter an EFS-Web system problem, please check the USPTO System Status and Availability Page for announcements about scheduled and unscheduled system outages.   Additional Resources The USPTO has many resources to help e-filers use EFS-Web. The EFS-Web landing page provides a wealth of useful information, including comprehensive resources, training materials, and important e-filing announcements.  The EFS-Web team is constantly working to improve EFS-Web and implement new features to support our users’ needs. We welcome your feedback to help us do a better job. If you have suggestions for improvement or to report problems please email the EBC. The EBC is open 6 a.m. to 12 midnight, Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. Telephone: 1-866-217-9197 (toll-free) 571-272-4100 (local) E-mail:
  • Jennifer Briggs and her invention, the DrainWig
    Free couples counseling doesn’t sound like a pitch for a drain cleaning product, but that’s exactly what one inventor has been told her device provides—in addition to getting a dirty job done. “You don’t even realize what my wife’s long hair does to our marriage!”—it’s a variation on a theme Jennifer Briggs, Inventor of the DrainWig, has heard many times. “They say, ‘I love her hair, but I hate it in the shower,’” said Jennifer. A long-haired wife herself, Jennifer explained how “Couples argue over whose job it is to clean the drain.” According to her, the DrainWig, a small device that collects hair and is easily removed and disposed, saves people the conflict over deciding who has the unpleasant task of unclogging the drain. “You don’t realize the psychological aspect to DrainWig until you experience it,” said Jennifer. But that’s the way these simple, yet life-changing, inventions affect people’s lives. Jennifer’s inspiration for the DrainWig came one day as she stood in the shower and looked down at a massive wad of hair dangling in the drain. After calling in her husband, Gifford, and telling him she thought there was a “gopher in the drain,” they did some investigating. Gifford ran to the garage for his tools, and together they unscrewed the drain cover and pulled out what was inside. “I’m one of those crazy people who floss in the shower,” said Jennifer, which explains how a piece of floss had become snagged on the drain cover. When they pulled it out, there was a huge tangle of hair hanging from the floss. At first they were confused. How could hair stick to a strand of dental floss? Then they got curious. They tied another piece of floss to the drain and after months of experimenting they discovered that as the hair entered the drain it actually floated on top of the water in the p-trap and then twisted and tangled the hair around the piece of floss. As a mother of five girls, finding any solution to help with clogged drains was a win for Jennifer. Recognizing that she had a potentially game-changing idea that needed further development, for the next year Jennifer and her family created and tested different prototypes, running into a few problems along the way. Tying floss to the shower drain cover meant they had to unscrew it every time they replaced the floss. Inevitably a screw would roll down the drain, which meant more hassles and a trip to the hardware store. By tying the floss to a black ring washer, it could sit on top of the drain, but it wasn’t ideal. “Every time I got into the shower, I thought it was a bug,” said Jennifer. The solution showed itself one day while Jennifer was looking at her earrings. They were shaped like flowers. “Let’s make a product that’s attractive and practical,” thought Jennifer. Thus was born the plastic daisy that holds the DrainWig in place over the shower drain. Another problem they came across was that the hair would slip down the floss when they tried to pull it up through the drain. They needed to anchor the hair somehow. Jennifer’s children had some balls that had rubber whiskers all over them, which she noticed always collected hair and dirt. So they tore apart one of the balls and tied the whiskers along a chain at different intervals. Now the hair would tangled all along the chain, making it easier to pull through the drain cover. In all, Jennifer said they made about a dozen different prototypes the first year. “Looking back, we have to laugh at our first prototypes. But that’s what led us to the final product solution.” Jennifer and Gifford received U.S. patent number 8,910,322 on December 16, 2014. “When my husband called to tell me ‘We got it,’ I cried,” she said.  “As a stay-at-home mom without the resources of a large corporation, I finally felt a sense of security once we received our patent. That is when the investors started taking the DrainWig seriously.” With patent in hand, Jennifer “felt a weight off my shoulders.” Throughout her journey bringing the DrainWig to market, Jennifer has attended conferences and tradeshows and grown more confident speaking in public. In fact, she loves talking with others about her product. While attending many conferences and tradeshows, Jennifer learned to really listen to the comments she was receiving about her product. Carrying a notebook around with her, she wrote down everything, positive or negative. Talking with people helped her improve the product, from changing the original name, to making it a disposable product that people can just get rid of instead of touching the disgusting hair. All the advice and criticism she received helped her product succeed and get to where she is today. She even won first prize in a new product category contest her husband signed her up for during a Las Vegas international tradeshow. DrainWig is currently licensed to a direct-response company that aims to get the product into major retailers. But that’s not the only future Jennifer hopes for her invention. “So many people have helped my husband and me along the way,” Jennifer said. “Being able to give back, helping other people, and creating jobs for others some day is my dream.” She especially desires to be able to help other women who haven’t had the same opportunities as her. “There are so many women I know—divorced, single, abused—that I would love to give a job to, help them get on their feet, and help bring them happiness. That means more to me than money. My husband and I would be happy forever if we could do that.” Jennifer’s advice for other inventors is simple: “A good patent lawyer makes all the difference.” Also, “Have an open mind and be open to what people suggest. The consumer ultimately tells you if you have something good or not.” For now, Jennifer is looking forward to the future of DrainWig with her family beside her. “It’s been a life changing experience, one I would do all over again and wouldn’t change a thing.”
  • US Patent Number 8283794 of a Floor Suitable for Generating, Converting and/or Storing Energy
    “Everything you can imagine,” Picasso once said, “is real.” Fueled by the desire to push the envelope of innovation, the inventors in our latest edition of Patents Pick-5 have attempted to craft reality by way of their imagination. These patents detail renewable energy technologies that try to lessen the burden on the planet in unexpected ways. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Office of Innovation Development Extern André Palerm-Colón. U.S. Patent No. 7,270,295 Solar Thermal Aircraft The summer of 1990 is a milestone in American aviation. It marked the first time a solar-powered plane flew across America, a trip that appropriately ended on a landing strip not far from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903. We live in exciting times for renewable energy transportation, and innovation promises new frontiers in the coming years. That’s what U.S. patent no. 7,270,295 represents: ideas taking flight. U.S. Patent No. 8,994,224 Solar Roof Shingles and Underlayment with Wireless Power Transfer “Renewable energy with curb appeal”—that’s what some are calling the millions of solar shingles being installed across the nation at a rapid pace. Solar shingles are becoming increasingly attractive due to their seamless appearance and enticing tax breaks. And because they generate electricity whenever the sun is shining, solar shingles can potentially produce more energy than needed, allowing you to sell unused watts back to the local utility for a credit. The solar roof shingles on U.S. patent no. 8,994,224 are for the tech-savvy; they have individual wireless resonators that transfer power from the shingles to the underlayment. U.S. Patent No. 8,330,296 Hybrid Renewable Energy Turbine Using Wind and Solar Power In Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote, the delusional knight-errant title character tangles with windmills that he imagines to be giants. A battle against U.S. patent no. 8,330,296 would have been the loftiest of Don Quixote’s quests, even with the help of his loyal squire, Sancho Panza. This green energy tower comprises both a wind turbine and a solar photovoltaic material covering the surface area of the turbine’s body. U.S. Patent No. 3,876,925 Wind Turbine Driven Generator to Recharge Batteries in Electric Vehicles Marty McFly would be jealous of the automobile featured in the drawings for U.S. Patent 3,876,925. This 1970s patent is for a wind turbine-driven generator that recharges automobile batteries. The invention never really took off. U.S. Patent No. 8,283,794 Floor Suitable for Generating, Converting and/or Storing Energy Now you can really light up the dance floor! The piezoelectric sensors detailed in U.S. patent no. 8,283,794 capture the kinetic energy produced by people dancing to light up the floor’s LED and create a disco atmosphere. The more people dance, the more the floor lights up! And what about energy-generating roads, or sidewalks? Seems like a bright idea!
  • TrackOne Logo
    Independent inventors are increasingly taking advantage of a service that puts their patent applications in the examination fast lane. Since 2012, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has offered a prioritized examination process called Track One, which potentially reduces the amount of time for a patent to issue. Track One is a type of petition available to utility or plant patent applicants. Applicants must satisfy the requirements for Track One and pay the required fees, but they can expect a final disposition in an average of just 12 months after being granted Track One status. The USPTO accepts up to 10,000 Track One cases per year, and the number of applications the office has received has steadily increased since inception. Currently, 52 percent of all Track One users are small and micro entity applicants (see slide 10 of May 2015 Patent Public Advisory report). One reason many small and micro entities are turning to Track One is the steep discounts they receive when using the program. The Prioritized Examination fee for Track One, which is additional to the other fees associated with filing and prosecuting a patent, is currently $4,000. However, for small entities that amount is reduced 50 percent to $2,000 and for micro entities it is further reduced another 25 percent to just $1,000. The corresponding Track One processing fee, which is normally $140, is reduced to $70 and $35, respectively. Applicants should be sure to check that they meet the definitions of small or  micro entities. Getting a patent issued sooner provides many competitive advantages for inventors. Research shows nearly three quarters of investor-backed firms in the United States indicate their patents were a key to obtaining funding. Track One users should keep in mind that under the program, the USPTO processes applications faster, but times for applicants to respond to office actions are also reduced. If applicants are late in responding, the examination will continue, but the application will lose its Track One status, and the applicant will not be refunded the Track One fees. Requesting prioritized examination is simple, but is only available when filing online using the USPTO’s online filing system (EFS-Web). Please visit the Track One Web page for more information. The Office of Petitions also provides detailed instructions regarding requesting Track One prioritized examination.
  • Drew Hirshfield, the newly appointed Commisioner of Patents
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation Drew Hirshfeld Appointed Commissioner for Patents Last month, Drew Hirshfeld was sworn in as the new Commissioner for Patents. Hirshfeld began his career at the USPTO in 1994 as a patent examiner and brings a wealth of experience to his new position. He was Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy before being named the new Commissioner. He succeeds Margaret (Peggy) Focarino, who retired at the beginning of July following a successful 38-year career with the USPTO. Read more about the new commissioner in the press release.   Save the Date for Startup Conference in Silicon Valley in October Individuals interested in learning about the business tools and resources to help launch and run a successful startup won’t want to miss this special event hosted by the USPTO’s Silicon Valley satellite office in San Jose on October 10-11, 2015. Topics will include licensing, incorporating patents and trademark protection into business models, and building successful business relationships and networks. Stay tuned for future announcements regarding the conference, but in the meantime you can call 866-767-3848 for more information.
  • Futuristic image of man wearing glasses representing innovation
    Scientific inventions and discoveries have advanced civilizations from time immemorial. The long trajectory of patents in the United States is a story both timeless and ever-evolving. The American Founding Fathers regarded innovation so highly that they laid the foundation for a patent system without debate in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which grants “Inventors the exclusive Right to their… discoveries.” In the first two years following the Patent Act of 1790, 36 patents were issued. Today, 225 years after the enactment of the first Patent Act, over 9 million U.S. utility patents have been granted. The current patent numbering system began in 1836, and every patent issued since is a continuance of this line. Some 10,000 patents were granted prior to instituting the numbering system. If the number assigned to each patent marks a sequential record, the ones assigned with six zeroes on the end are often given some extra notice. It’s kind of like the odometer in your car turning to the next 10,000 miles. Each millionth patent is a testament to the progress of science and technology. The first-millionth patent was granted to Francis Holton on August 8, 1911, for developing an improvement to traditional air-filled tires. Holton claimed an alternative: tires that were solid at the core and surrounded by flexible material. Issuing the first-millionth patent was a substantial moment in patent law. The New York Times even devoted a full page to the celebratory moment in American history. Nearly a quarter century later, transportation and shipping by rail was omnipresent. As advancements in speed made railroads more efficient, safety advancements became necessary. Joseph Ledwinka, received the two-millionth patent on April 30, 1935, for an improvement where tires were mechanically secured to the rim to prevent slippage or other relative movements between the tire and wheels during acceleration and deceleration. A lull in patenting occurred during World War II but began to pick up in the Atomic Age. Before computers evolved to perform all the amazing tasks users have grown accustomed to, they were primarily used as data processing machines. Data-processing machines represented a leap for innovation, but they also had major problems. Because the machines did not interpret data using human language, the data had to be transcribed in a form the machine could understand. The human element of the process caused errors. Kenneth Eldredge received the three-millionth patent on September 12, 1961, for an apparatus that solved this problem by allowing machines to read human language. Fifteen years later, environmentally conscious citizens were becoming familiar with paper, plastic, and glass recycling. On December 28, 1976, Robert Mendenhall made a substantial contribution to the recycling industry when he received the four-millionth patent for a method for recycling the most unlikely material: asphalt. Ethanol is found in a variety of commonly used products from libations to gasoline. By the early 1990s, an increased demand for ethanol had driven development of innovative production methods. The inventors of the five-millionth patent, granted on March 19, 1991, engineered a strain of E. coli bacteria to break down wood, whey, plants, and other biomass to produce ethanol. It didn’t take long for inventors of the six-millionth patent to seize an opportunity created by society’s reliance on handheld devices. As more day-to-day tasks, such as maintaining to-do lists, address lists, and calendars became electronic, it became necessary to access information on the go. This patent was granted on December 7, 1999, for a synchronization method and apparatus to transfer information between computer devices such as desktop and handheld computer systems. Civilizations around the world have used the cotton plant for over seven centuries. Cotton fibers, which are about 90 percent cellulose, are used to construct mediums of expression and basic clothing fabric. On February 14, 2006, John O’Brian was granted the seven-millionth patent for inventing polysaccharide fibers that mimic the quality of cotton. The invention frees textile manufacturers from relying on the seasonal harvest of cotton plants. Scientists have conducted experiments with electrical stimulation of visual perception since the 1700s, and the inventors who received the eight-millionth patent on August 16, 2011, carried that torch into the 21st century with a new type of visual prosthesis. The patent claims an apparatus that includes a camera, video processing unit, and retinal stimulation system. The patent also claims a method for limiting the power consumption of the visual apparatus. Drivers are often annoyed by splattered insects that may impede their vision while behind the wheel. To clear the windshield, most drivers employ windshield wipers and fluid. Likewise, in the winter, wiper fluid is used frequently to thaw snow and ice or clean salt from windshields. This all quickly depletes the washer fluid. But what if you never had to replace it? What if wiper fluid could be replenished by snow or rain? Matthew Carroll, granted the nine-millionth patent on April 7, 2015, invented the Windshield Washer Conditioner to do just that. The invention claims a system that collects and conditions rainwater before replenishing the washer fluid reservoir in an automobile. One can only imagine how far innovation will progress before the next millionth patent issues. Better hurry up with that thought, because the future will be here before we know it!
  • Lightbulbs of various colors representing networking
    Organizations and resources for the independent inventor community Inventors Eye maintains a list of local, national, and international organizations that provide forums and resources for inventors and small business owners. Many groups keep up-to-date schedules of meetings and events in their local areas. Visit the list below and find one close to you! Browse inventor groups by state
  • Screenshot of USPTO website Pro Se Assistance Program Page
    Since October 2014, the Pro Se Assistance Program has provided inventors and entrepreneurs with critical information and assistance. Read on to learn what the program has to offer and success stories of inventors who have used it. The Pro Se Assistance Program is a pilot program launched in response to a White House initiative to “bring about greater transparency to the patent system and level the playing field for innovators.” The program Web page contains a slate of resources, including an informational video, a checklist of the basic components of a nonprovisional utility patent application, and links to other information and resources on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.           Users are able to interact with Pro Se Program representatives through a variety of channels: over the phone, by email, or even in-person during a pre-scheduled walk-in appointment. As the pilot approaches its first full year in operation, the amount of assistance it provides inventors filing for patents without an attorney (known as “pro se” applicants) increases steadily. To date, Pro Se Program representatives have answered thousands of phone calls and responded to hundreds of emails and letters. At the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, program representatives provide direct assistance to dozens of inventors and entrepreneurs every week. Many walk-in customers are in the pre-filing stages of their patent application. The opportunity to sit down one-on-one with a pro se representative and discuss the requirements and components of a patent application has proven to be a great benefit for both applicants and the USPTO. Applicants leave with a better understanding of the process and filing requirements, as well as a packet of all the necessary forms. They also are able and encouraged to contact the same representatives later if they have follow-up questions. Well-equipped applicants such as these are likely to submit applications that are compliant with statute, potentially resulting in a more efficient examination and a higher quality patent.   All pro se applicants, from those just starting out to those that may have questions about a notice they received or want to confirm the forms they are sending, can benefit from the Pro Se Assistance Program. In some cases, inventors have not yet filed for a patent and are looking for guidance on filing an application. The program is staffed by experienced primary examiners who specialize in pro se applications. Additional customer service is provided by representatives from the Office of Innovation Development, which oversees the program. Success stories of inventors who have used the program stream in on a daily basis. Take Jerry,* for example, who had an application stuck in the pre-examination pipeline and had received two notices that he hadn’t completed a form properly. The Pro Se Assistance Program helped Jerry, who is elderly, understand the deficiencies and how to correct them. His application finished processing and has now been assigned to an examiner. Sylvia,* a walk-in customer who had driven down to the USPTO from New York City, wanted to file a provisional application for a patent right away. The problem was Sylvia had not yet done a prior art search or completed a specification of her invention. After an in-depth meeting with a Pro Se representative who explained the process with her, Sylvia decided to stay overnight in Alexandria, Virginia, and work on her application. She returned the next day ready to file a completed provisional application. Sylvia recently contacted the Pro Se Program with the news that she is ready to file a corresponding nonprovisional application on her invention. It is stories like these that show the importance of the Pro Se Assistance Program. The words of one Pro Se customer say it best: “Working on a nonprovisional application can be challenging. However, with the help of Pro Se, people like me have the chance to bring our ideas to life. I now have the opportunity to fix missing parts in my application. I am thankful for that, and these services should continue in order to maintain the flow of ideas that will continue to create jobs here in the United States. Thanks again!”
  • The 2015 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees
    Each year, America celebrates its inventors who have contributed immeasurably to the progress of science and technology and, in doing so, indelibly influenced our way of life. It does so through their induction into  the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which inducted its 2015 class during a ceremony at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. on May 12, 2015. The location was most fitting, as the American Art Museum is housed in the historic old Patent Office Building—the home of the United States Patent and Trademark Office from 1839-1932. The 14 newest inductees include innovators from the modern era and the past, representing technologies ranging in diversity from Bluetooth technology to the waterproof diaper cover. Collectively, the newest inductees hold more than 1,000 patents. In addition to the inductees, the ceremony was attended by many current members of the Hall of Fame, as well as U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and various officials and leaders in the innovation community. During the opening, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee told the audience, “The National Inventors Hall of Fame is America’s national monument to innovation. It’s where we celebrate the greatest U.S. intellectual property owners, individuals who have improved the world in which we live.” Inventors Eye salutes the 2015 class of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Inductees: George Alcorn invented the x-ray imaging spectrometer during a distinguished career with NASA. John Burke and Ioannis Yannas worked together to develop the first commercially successful artificial skin. Mary-Dell Chilton conducted groundbreaking research that would eventually form the basis for a major method used in plant biotechnology. Edith Clarke invented a graphical calculator that assisted in determining electrical characteristics of long electrical transmission lines. Marion Donovan created a waterproof, breathable diaper and eased the frustrations of many parents. Charles Drew saved the lives of millions with his research into storage, processing, and shipment of blood plasma. Jaap C. Haartsen laid the foundation for what became known as Bluetooth Wireless Technology. Thomas Jennings is credited as the first African American to be granted a patent (in 1820) for inventing a process of cleaning fabric called “dry-scouring.” Kristina M. Johnson is a pioneer of optoelectronic processing systems, 3D imaging, and color management systems. Gary D. Sharp worked with Kristina M. Johnson on birefringent materials, which have important applications in the fields of electronics and entertainment. Paul B. MacCready is known as the “Father of Human Powered Flight” for inventing the first bicycle-powered aircraft. Shuji Nakamura invented the blue, green, and white light emitting diode (LED) allowing for a full-spectrum of LED light that can now be used in countless applications. Stanford R. Ovshinsky held over 400 patents across a wide range of technologies, many focused on sustainable technologies. To read full profiles of each inductee and learn more about the Hall of Fame, visit The National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum is located at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Alexis Lewis and her wheeled travois, US Patent number 8,979,095 represented as the manufactured product and the drawing
    Many Inventors Eye “Spark of Genius” stories feature individuals who only began to think of themselves as inventors after stumbling across a solution to a problem. For one 15-year-old patent holder, the opposite proved to be true. In 2011, Alexis Lewis read a news article documenting the extreme famine conditions in Somalia that year. One of the most heart-wrenching effects of the famine was parents having to leave their children along roads because they could not carry them on the long journeys to refugee centers. “When I saw this, I thought, ‘That is really awful that people are having to make decisions like that,’” said Alexis. Where others might have remorsefully moved on, Alexis knew she could do something. After all, she already knew she was an inventor, and problems like this are an inventor’s motivation. After further research, she discovered an underlying issue. “There is a tremendous dearth of wheel transportation in Africa,” Alexis explained, “so bad that people are forced to carry the sick, weak, elderly, or those in delivery distress from small villages to larger villages with doctors using makeshift stretchers or, if available, in a wheelbarrow.” Alexis aimed to develop a device that could make manual transportation more efficient and easier to use for long periods of time. Most importantly, it had to be realistically obtainable in impoverished rural regions. She ultimately found the inspiration for her solution in a much older innovation: the travois used by Native Americans of the Great Plains, which employed two long teepee poles crossed at a vertex and holding cargo or passengers at the opposite end. The ends of the poles were dragged along the ground by horses, dogs, or sometimes humans. “I took that old, antiquated design and modernized it.” The new travois added inexpensive solid wheels and a belt to attach the puller’s waist for more efficiency over long durations. But perhaps the most innovative feature of her design is the material from which it can be made and proliferated. “The current version is made out of bamboo due to the fact that it is abundant in Africa,” explained Alexis. On March 17, 2015, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued U.S. patent no. 8,979,095 to Alexis, a rewarding and satisfying moment for the young inventor. “[Getting a patent] was validation of my idea. It said that—at least from a theoretical standpoint—it certainly seems to work.” Alexis’ intention is to deploy the travois as a kit, assembled by combining the manufactured parts with locally collected bamboo. Once the idea starts to take hold, the parts can be switched out, allowing for a basic framework and design that could be made from a variety of parts of similar function. For example: lowering costs by using salvaged bike tires instead of the kit’s non-pneumatic wheels. “The idea is that people will be able to make their own modifications, hopefully leading to the seeding of an idea in Africa, as opposed to the sale of a product.” Quite visionary for a 15-year-old, but Alexis began her journey on the path to invention much earlier. She credits her grandfather, retired Grumman Aerospace rocket scientist Dr. Edward Stokes Fishburne who worked on the Apollo missions, with instilling in her an appreciation of science and curiosity for the world. At the age of seven, Alexis accompanied her grandparents on a road trip to the western United States. Along the way, her grandfather enthusiastically explained the physical properties and causes of many of the iconic geographical features they encountered: Yellowstone Park’s Old Faithful Geyser, the Grand Canyon, and the majestic giant rock formations of the West.  “I’ve been looking at the world differently ever since,” confessed Alexis. “A lot of science isn't necessarily the lab work. It isn't necessarily the textbooks or the formulas. It's just looking at the world around you, breaking it down into little pieces and finding out how each piece interacts with the other, to form a functional, giant system.” Today, Alexis is passionate about spreading that enthusiasm to others. She has even started a campaign called “Inventing 101,” a movement to have classes on invention offered as electives at middle schools across the country. “Inventing isn’t something just for the Edisons and Teslas; it’s something that everybody can do. There is so much untapped potential in this country because people don’t think of themselves as inventors. If they did, we would see a lot more people out there with their inventions making the world a better place.” In addition to the travois, Alexis has a pending patent application on an invention to help firefighters deliver breathing masks to occupants trapped in smoke-filled buildings. While her initial inventions tended to be “low tech,” Alexis said she has begun to focus on higher-tech innovations, delving into the world of ion engines and rail guns. When she isn’t busy thinking about new technologies and life-saving devices, Alexis speaks frequently on the subject of invention to audiences. She is adamant that anybody can be an inventor. “Without human inventiveness, we never would have had the Stone Age. And without the Stone Age, nothing else would have happened. Any time something is standing in our way, it's human nature to try to find a way around it. Often the way around it is, in fact, an invention.” More recently, Alexis traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Smithsonian-USPTO Innovation Family Festival on May 2, 2015, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. While explaining the travois to attendees, she shared her passion for problem solving and innovation with crowds consisting mostly of younger children whom, it is hoped, were inspired and instilled with the same sense of curiosity that has already served Alexis well. And for those youngsters who may even one day decide to follow in her footsteps, Alexis has a simple piece of advice: “First, just try picking up and looking at a problem from a slightly different perspective.” You can read more about Alexis Lewis on her website at There, you will find more information about her Inventing 101 campaign and be able to watch her presentation at a TEDx event at the University of North Carolina. Alexis was previously known as “Chase.” Since January 2015, she has identified as a female.
  • US Patent Number D487,714 of the Flamingo plant feeder
    Spring and summer means sun, flowers, and of course working around the yard and in the garden. But where would we be without all those helpful gadgets that make it easier, perhaps even fun? From lawn mowers to garden walls, there are so many tools and accessories green thumbs can indulge in for the love of their yards, but here’s five you might recognize. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Visual Information Specialist Messina Smith. U.S. Patent No. 73,807 Lawn Mower Amariah Hills was the first American to patent a lawn mower in 1868, which was actually 38 years after the first lawn mower was invented by Edwin Budding. Hill’s patent was for a new and improved device for mowing grass by hand. In the decades since, the lawn mower has endured as one of the staples for homeownership, and these days there are more choices than ever. Riding mowers that allow the user to sit and drive, hover mowers that slide above the grass using an air cushion to lift it off the ground, and mower bots that use border wires to define the area to be mowed are just three examples of the choices we have today. U.S. Patent No. 3,826,068 Rotary cutting assembly In 1974 George C. Ballas patented the first version of the string trimmer, or weed whacker, after taking his car to be washed and noticing the revolving action of the cleaning. He went home and attached pieces of fishing line to a popcorn can and then bolted that to a lawn edger. Weeds haven’t stood a chance since. Gas-powered or electric, string trimmers and lawn care go hand in hand, and it’s a common sight to see one being used during the spring and summer months. U.S. Patent No. 6,520,513 Garden Cart Many inventions help gardeners transporting and holding heavy loads, and in 2001 Martha Presley-Mays added her innovation to the mix. The garden cart she dreamed up tried to add a level of comfort and organization to the task of gardening. Wheeled with a handle, the cart also sports a removable tool box, a padded seat, brackets for holding larger items like shovels, and even a sun umbrella. The cart also doubles as a wheelbarrow. Clearly Presley-Mays did her best to think of everything a gardener would need while in the yard. U.S. Patent No. 8,689,485 Vertical planter and gardening wall So, you live in an apartment? That’s where vertical planters come into play, and they are becoming ever more popular with more people living in urban settings. Maybe you have a small balcony or no outdoor space at all. No worries; this vertical planter, patented in 2014 by Jared Friedman, can be used indoors or outdoors. There are planter blocks and end blocks, and they interlock together to be as wide or as tall as the user wants. Each individual block can be filled with what the user wants to grow—flowers, vegetables, or herbs. Now there’s no reason to not have a beautiful garden filled with a plethora of colorful plants. U.S. Design Patent No. D487,714 Flamingo-planter-feeder The plastic pink flamingo. Is there a more iconic yard ornament in America? In 2004, Isaac and Margaret Weiser took this much-loved (or loathed) novelty and made it functional. Their design calls for the body of the flamingo to be hollow, allowing it to be used as either a planter or a bird feeder. Add a bunch of flowers for ornamentation or bird seed to attract feathered brethren. Either way, the pink flamingo will no longer stand in solitary watch over yards.
  • Screenshot of a news article on the USPTO website about the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs
    Thanks to the recent U.S. implementation of the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague Agreement), a new option now exists for inventors looking for more global protection of their inventions for ornamental designs. While the vast majority of patent applications filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are for utility patents, design patents are also an important form of intellectual property protection available to inventors. Design patents are used to protect the ornamental appearance of an article, such as its shape or the surface ornamentation applied to it, or both. On May 13, 2015, the provisions of Title I of the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 implementing the Hague Agreement took effect in the United States. Under the Hague Agreement, an applicant having a U.S. nationality or having a domicile, a real and effective industrial or commercial establishment, or a habitual residence in the United States can file a single international design application in a single language through the USPTO or with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to obtain protection for up to 100 designs in the contracting parties to the Hague Agreement. Prior to May 13, U.S. applicants generally had to file a separate application in each jurisdiction they wished to protect their designs. In addition to the new option for filing an international design application under the Hague Agreement, U.S. design patents resulting from both regular design applications and international design applications filed on or after May 13, 2015, will have a patent term of 15 years from issuance. Foreign applicants filing international design applications on or after May 13, 2015 can also designate the United States in their international design applications in order to pursue design patent protection in the United States. For more information, including a list of frequently asked questions and applicable fees, visit the USPTO’s informative Hague Agreement Web page.
  • Exterior of the National History Museum
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation Inventing Exhibition Opening at National History Museum On July 1, 2015, the much-anticipated “Inventing in America” exhibition opens at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The exhibition features iconic items from America’s history of innovating, including Samuel F.B. Morse’s original telegraph prototype from 1837 and the workshop of Ralph Baer, inventor of the first video game. If you plan to visit the U.S. capital area this summer, you won’t want to miss this! The exhibition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Smithsonian Institution to promote and inspire innovation in the United States.
  • Portraits of Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow and the patent application drawing of US Patent number 2,929,922 for the Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
    In honor of the 225th anniversary of the first Patent Act on April 10, 2015, Inventors Eye explores the evolution of an iconic technology and the many innovators who have contributed to its development. Four years ago, scientists, technologists, and innovators celebrated the 50th anniversary of the laser, reminding us of the many ways in which patented laser technology—like other forms of intellectual property (IP)—has transformed our way of life by creating tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars of business in the United States and around the world through a continuous process of what is commonly called follow-on innovation. The Founding Fathers would no doubt have taken pride in the laser as yet another shining example proving the value of the “progress clause” in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, and of the first Patent Act that soon followed it. Alternately known as the copyright or patent clause, the progress clause, written in 1787, empowered Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Rooted in British common law and European history, the limited term of that “exclusive right”—as a patent, copyright or, later, a trademark—was, much like the Constitution itself, a judicious balance, one that could provide an incentive for invention and disseminate knowledge while also guaranteeing that others could, after an appropriate period of time, freely incorporate these “Writings and Discoveries” for their own purposes of creativity and innovation. The Patent Act of 1790 further defined the subject matter of a patent as “any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement thereon not before known or used,”—any improvement thereon being an early and explicit acknowledgement of the importance of cumulative or follow-on innovation. The cumulative innovation that provided myriad forms of laser technology we enjoy today began in 1917 with Albert Einstein, the first to theorize the process of “stimulated emission.” But it wasn’t until 1954 that Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow turned theory into practice with their invention of Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, or maser, using ammonia gas and microwave radiation, for which they were granted U.S. Patent 2,929,922 in 1960. Publication of their findings in 1958 generated a race among researchers and innovators to build the first laser. Gordon Gould, a student of Townes’, built the first optical laser in 1958. In 1960, Theodore Maiman invented the ruby laser and Ali Javan the first gas laser. In 1962, Robert Hall invented the semiconductor injection laser, which is still used in many electronic appliances and communications systems. Gary Starkweather invented the laser printer in 1969. And in 1981, Samuel Blum, Rangaswamy Srinivasan, and James Wynne co-invented a process using a short pulse ultraviolet laser to etch tissue in minute increments and in a highly controlled fashion. Gholam Peyman improved upon their discovery in his invention of LASIK eye surgery, patented in 1989. In his 2002 autobiography, “How the Laser Happened: Adventures of a Scientist,” Townes wrote that the “development of the maser and laser, and their subsequent applications in my career and in science and technology generally, followed no script except to hew to the nature of humans groping to understand, to explore, and to create.” Over that same period of exploration and creation, more than 55,000 laser-related patents were granted in the United States. Those same patents have generated billions of dollars of business since 1960, through licensing fees and the many laser-based products created in the lab, manufactured at home and abroad, and sold and employed for the benefit of consumers in the marketplace. The “exclusive right” guaranteed in the progress clause of the U.S. Constitution made that possible. It provides companies an incentive to innovate in the knowledge that a patented invention can not only help them recover the costs of research and development, but allows them to reap profits from licensing and sales that can in turn fund more innovation, while simultaneously disseminating the information needed for others to explore, create, and improve upon previous patented technology. But for scientists like Townes, the thrill of discovery and creation will always be a compelling incentive of its own, not to mention the recognition of their achievements that survive long after they’re gone. In addition to several Nobel Prizes,, many of these pioneers of patented laser technology have since been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, maintained in partnership with Invent Now Inc. at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia. They include Charles Townes (1976); Theodore Maiman (1984); Gordon Gould (1991); Robert Hall (1994); Arthur Schawlow (1996); Samuel Blum, Rangaswamy Srinivasan, and James Wynne (2002); Ali Javan (2006); and Gary Starkweather (2012). Blum, Peyman, Srinivasan, and Wynne were also recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement, administered by the USPTO on behalf of the Department of Commerce. “I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators,” President Obama said, in awarding the medals in early 2013. “They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great—and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.” Fostering that creative and entrepreneurial environment remains the central promise of the progress clause, 227 years after it was written and 225 years since the Patent Act of 1790. Ensuring that our nation’s IP laws continue to spur the kind of innovation that made the evolution of the laser possible remains one of the key missions of the USPTO. 
  • Robot hand reaching out to human hand
    Many of us today still recall our mothers telling us to stop “living in a fantasy world” or to “put down that comic book and go outside!” The concern being that our brains would rot if we didn’t get the fresh air needed to grow and succeed. Little did our mothers know how inspirational fantasy books, movies, and comic strips have been to American innovation. Some of the most well-known inventions, past and present, can be traced back to science fiction. Of course there’s no way to list every invention that has its roots in fiction, and in many cases it is simply a coincidence that someone invented a device that another person first imagined in a story. But with every new sci-fi book, movie, or video game that is released, there’s no knowing if it will be the spark of inspiration for the next flip phone (aka the Star Trek communication device). In the 1899 novel “When the Sleeper Wakes” by H.G. Wells, the main character sleeps for 200 years and awakens in the future. At one point, the narrator describes “a long strip of this apparently solid wall rolled up with a snap, hung over the two retreating men and fell again.” Readers at the time may have had difficulty imagining such a contraption or understanding its purpose, but just over 60 years later, Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt invented the automatic door, now a common component of buildings all over the world. In 1967, the pair were issued their first patent for the sliding panel traversing housing and supporting means (U.S. Patent no. 3,327,428). Then, in 1969, a second patent was issued for the swinging slide panel construction (U.S. Patent no. 3,464,159). Today, Horton Automatics is still selling doors to commercial, industrial, and institutional locations. Another book that heralded a very popular invention is Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” published in 1953. In it, Bradbury describes “little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in” that people put in their ears—a pretty fair description of what we would come to call “earbud” headphones. Earbuds are now a common sight on the street for the young and old. Inventors have been playing with the concept for decades, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s when Sony released the Walkman that earbud headphones gained popularity. A gradual incline of users through the ‘80s and ‘90s led to a boom when Apple came out with the iPod. With every purchase, users received a pair of white earbuds. These headphones became a mark of owners’ brand loyalty and pride, and since their introduction, earbuds have become even more popular and iconic. Children of the 1960s and later will remember “The Jetsons,” an animated show produced by Hanna-Barbera. There were many futuristic inventions portrayed in this show, but the one with the biggest personality was Rosie the Robot. Serving as maid for the Jetson family, she also helped raise the children and dispensed advice (along with food pills) as needed. Today, a less humanlike robot can be found helping with the cleaning in many a home. Roomba, the autonomous robotic vacuum, was launched in 2002 by iRobot.. Today, more than 10 million have been sold, with multiple model versions released to the public. iRobot holds many patents for the Roomba’s technology, but the first was U.S. 6,594,844 for a robot obstacle detection system. And finally, the one the world has been waiting for with bated breath: the hover board. In 1989, Amblin Entertainment released the feature film “Back to the Future 2,” in which Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) travels forward in time to 2015. Yes, his future is currently our present. There were a multitude of futuristic inventions portrayed in this film, some of which have come to pass, but the most beloved and wished-for invention—the one that stoked the imagination of many ‘80s kids (and adults for that matter), was the hover board. As of 2014, we finally have one. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Hendo Hover created a working hover board. The device is based on magnetic technology, and though it can only operate above a non-ferrous metal surface (for now), it has piqued many people’s interests. You can go online and watch legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk test the device, and though it’s a little bulkier than what was in the movie, the design is nonetheless breathtaking. The human imagination has taken us from living in caves to the technologically advanced world we now inhabit. With every step forward, we create a wealth of possibilities for the next generation of humanity. Writers, filmmakers, artists—they are all dreamers who foresee a world that is often unimaginable to the rest of us. Of course, it takes a lot of time and work, but there’s no denying that what was once science fiction can eventually become science fact.
  • US Patent number 8,025,526 of the Self Powered electric vehicle charging connector locking system
    Ideas are a dime a dozen for those who strive to make changes in something already existing or to create totally new technologies. Everyone has their own list of what they consider “milestones” in technology. Sometimes our lists are similar, sometimes not, and sometimes they contain technology that we would have never thought possible. For me, that’s what these patents represent, and I cannot wait to see what future inventors have in store for the world to see. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Management and Program Analyst David Jones. Hybrid Electric Vehicle U.S. Patent No. 5,343,970 Cars have evolved into something we thought could never be. With this invention, patented on September 6, 1992, the automobile went to the next level. Hybrid technology introduced a car with two motors—one electric and one gasoline—and have great fuel efficiency. Inventor Alex Severinsky wanted to make a car that was cleaner than the current automobiles on the road. The battery motor runs when the car is at low speeds to prevent the loss of gasoline and less carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere. When the speed increases the gas motor kicks in and recharges the battery motor while driving and braking.   Self Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Connector Locking System U.S. Patent No. 8,025,526 When I was a kid, I plugged in my remote control car to recharge its batteries. Today you can plug in your everyday car. The technology detailed in this patent from September 27, 2011, literally breathed life into an electric car by allowing the car to plug into a house socket or a charging station on city streets. Who would have thought that your cell phone and car could both plug in to the same outlet and be ready for the next day? I know I did not predict that forecast.   Automatic Parallel Parking System U.S. Patent No. 4,735,274 It would be nice to have that can car park itself and fit without having to try more than once to get into that perfect parking space. Inventor Warren Good and Jacob Vihauer, Jr. decided to make this into a reality and invented a system that would parallel park the car for those is who have trouble with parallel parking (even if we won’t admit it) Published on April 5, 1988 this invention has reduced stress for many a harried driver along a busy city street.   Traffic Light Control for Emergency Vehicles U.S. Patent No. 4,443,783 Cars have changed a lot, but what about traffic lights? Though it seems hard to improve the basic red, yellow, green system, somebody figured out how to do it. This invention, patented on April 17, 1984, allows emergency vehicles to communicate with traffic signals and clear an intersection ahead of time.   Media Device U.S. Patent No. D650,355 The days of music being stored on physical devices like CDs and records is almost past. When I think of music, I think of the iPod. Published on December 12, 2011 this design patent is not for the actual functions and utility of the iPod, but rather the ornamental shape of it, which became a hit among new and old users alike.
  • Inventor Paul Ashman and patent attorney Amy Salmela discussing his innovation of the throttle lock
    In 2012, one of the first patents  with help from  the Patent Pro Bono Assistance Program was granted, but where is the inventor now? Paul Ashman learned to ride a bicycle at age six. By high school, he had built a car using old plumbing and junkyard parts in metal shop. “I've been doing things that I don't officially know how to do and building things I've never built before since I was a little kid,” said Paul, a self-professed “gearhead.” In college, Paul’s interests in the nontechnical diverted him from a formal engineering education. He ended up receiving a degree in philosophy—critical thinking skills that would influence the way he approached technical problems later in life.    By the time Paul began operating his own online shop retailing (and later wholesaling) motorcycle parts and accessories, he had already created several motorcycle-related products, but he had never attempted to patent one. That changed when a client asked Paul to create an elegant solution to a common motorcycle problem. In order to maintain speed on a motorcycle, riders must apply continuous wrist tension to the throttle. “And that's just fine in town, or when it's necessary to change your throttle all the time,” explained Paul, “but when you're out on the highway, it's nothing but a burden. Your wrists can get tired, and you can have circulation trouble in your hands from having to hold the grip so hard for so long.” Paul created a simple yet effective device called a “throttle lock,” essentially a mechanical cruise control, to maintain constant speeds on motorcycles. He filed a provisional application for patent and, after the allotted year, followed up with a corresponding nonprovisional application and began filing it without an attorney (or “pro se”). Paul’s story is intertwined with the Patent Pro Bono Program, which connects inventors with volunteer patent attorneys to ensure that no deserving invention goes unpatented for lack of its inventor’s financial resources. The program started as a pilot initiative of LegalCORPS, a volunteer attorney organization in Minnesota, and was subsequently validated and expanded by the America Invents Act of 2011. No sooner had the ink dried on President Obama’s signature when Paul sat down for his first meeting with Amy Salmela, a patent attorney who volunteered to take his case. “We knew there were many inventors that didn't want to, or couldn't afford to work with an attorney, and therefore were prosecuting their applications pro se and maybe running into challenges,” said Amy. “What we were looking for when we launched were clients that were further along in the process and really needed some help.” By the time Amy had signed onto the case, Paul’s had more or less completed the application on his own, but Amy helped straighten it out and prepare it for the prosecution ahead. “Amy totally straightened it out and did what I consider to be the indispensable work, expertise‑wise of dealing  back and forth with the patent examiner.” The application issued September 25, 2012, as U.S. patent no. 8,272,294. Today, applicants to the Pro Bono program apply directly online to regional programs that cover one or more states. Applications are screened by the respective programs, who then decide whether to accept the cases. The USPTO provides support and oversight, but each program operates with a degree of autonomy. Since inception, hundreds of inventors have been accepted into various pro bono programs across the country, with dozens of patents issued or receiving a notice of allowance. As a patent attorney, the motivation for and benefits of working pro bono are easy for Amy to identify. “It all comes back to access to justice. And if you have inventors that need assistance in prosecuting an application in order to protect their idea and they can't get access to the legal assistance they need because it's complicated or expensive, then that's a lack of access to justice. If we can help folks do that, all the better.” Amy said Minnesota’s reputation for a strong culture of pro bono legal assistance was also a factor in encouraging her to volunteer. “A lot of patent attorneys were like me and had never really done any pro bono service because we couldn't find a way to do it in our area of expertise. So, for me, this was fulfilling something that was personally important to me: giving back, providing pro bono service, but doing it in a way that was very much in my wheelhouse.” Becoming involved in the pro bono program also gave Amy opportunities to network with other attorneys in private practice, not just in Minnesota, but all across the country. For her continued work with the pro bono program, Amy was named one of LegalCORPS Volunteers of the Year for 2014. Unfortunately, the story of Paul’s throttle lock and the patent he received is not one of financial reward. But it also illustrates the important point that a patent is never a guarantee for success in the marketplace. “It never occurred to me to go out and do all the outreach and talking to people and doing marketing and glad handing and doing all these things that I see entrepreneurs doing all the time. It was so distasteful to me. I was hoping with the website [the throttle lock] would sell itself. Bottom line: it didn't.” Paul also explained that a trend in motorcycle development has been to include electronic fuel injection, which makes cruise control a somewhat simple programming matter. But that doesn’t stop Paul from thinking about his next move or from extrapolating useful knowledge from the case of his throttle lock—an ability acquired, perhaps, from his training in philosophy. The experience taught him a lot  about the patent process, and also about his own approach to innovation and product development. “You won't be successful if you're not playful, open minded, looking around constantly, all around you for the little piece that might solve a problem. You can't be thinking linearly, and that's where I thrive. I belong on the line between chaos and order.”   Visit the Patent Pro Bono Program on the USPTO website for more information about pro bono assistance. Financial need is one of the requirements to be accepted into a program. For inventors who do not qualify for pro bono but still intend to file for a patent on their own, the Pro Se Assistance Program provides helpful resources and assistance.
  • Finger reaching to search bar
    One of the first steps toward patenting an invention is to make sure the invention does not already exist. But with close to 9 million issued U.S. patents alone (not to mention the many more millions of foreign patents and technical documents), how is anyone able to quickly search and locate prior art during the course of an examination? All patent office around the world use some sort of classification system that is capable of organizing and cataloging all of the technologies known to mankind. By learning and using the appropriate patent classification system, patent applicants that locate technology related to their own inventions. The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) effort is a joint partnership between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) to “harmonize” patent classification. The new system takes components from each office’s existing systems—European Classification (ECLA) and United States Patent Classification (USPC), respectively—and migrates toward a common classification scheme for both offices. On December 31, 2014, after a year-long transition, the USPTO began exclusively using CPC to classify utility patent applications. The old USPC system is now a static document collection that remains searchable. Design and plant applications will continue to be classified in USPC. Among the many benefits from using this new classification system are: Access to a greater number of documents from patent offices around the world Improved navigation and understanding of a single classification system Improved consistency of classified search results across intellectual property offices Maintained classification schemes through active and adaptive examiner and user involvement. There are many resources to help new CPC users learn the system, including various CPC computer-based training modules that provide an introduction and detailed discussion of the new classification schemes and definitions: CPC for USPTO - Overview CPC and the Classification Intranet Site CPC Classification Structure Complete Classification in CPC Overview of Tools and Resources CPC Definitions All USPTO search tools currently available to users on have been updated to include CPC symbols. User search tools currently available are: Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT) - Using PatFT, users have access to a collection of full-text patents issued from 1976 to the present and PDF images for all patents from 1790 to the present. Patent Application and Image Database (AppFT) – AppFT provides access to a collection of full-text and image versions of published patent applications. Global Patent Search Network (GPSN) – GPSN gives users full-text access to multiple international patent collections. The initial collection available is Chinese patent documentation from the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of the People’s Republic of China. Users can search published applications, granted patents, and utility models from1985 to 2012. The data available includes full-text Chinese patents, English machine translations, and full document images. To search CPC schemes and definitions, users can access various Office of Patent Classification (OPC) tools, including: Search CPC Schemes and Definitions – Find CPC scheme or definition information by CPC or USPC symbol. Browse CPC Scheme - Access the CPC scheme by way of its alpha numeric category. Additional support for users is provided through the Public Search Facility at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) across the country. While PTRCs maintain local search resources and may offer training in patent search techniques, the USPTO Public Search Facility provides the public access to patent and trademark information in a variety of formats including online, microfilm, and print. Whether in the Public Search Facility or PTRC, trained staff is available to assist public users. Lastly, visit for additional information on bilateral CPC training initiatives, press releases, CPC revision projects, publications, and upcoming CPC-related events. The CPC Implementation Team contributed to this article
  • Logo of Smithsonian US Patent and Trademark Office
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation 2015 Innovation Festival Accepting Applications The USPTO and Smithsonian Institution continue working together encouraging exploration and engagement of invention and innovation in society. The signature event of this collaboration is the exciting Innovation Festival, to be held September 26-27, 2015, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Inventors and patent holders are encouraged to apply to exhibit their cutting-edge patented technology. At the 2014 festival, more than 30,000 visitors attended the event over two days. This year’s event promises to be bigger and better. Visit the festival Web page and apply to exhibit today!    Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium in New York City The USPTO and the New York Intellectual Property Law Association host the 4th annual Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium on March 28, 2015, at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, New York. The FREE one-day seminar focuses on women entrepreneurs, intellectual property, and strategies and opportunities for women-owned businesses. Visit the symposium Web page for more information and to reserve your place today.    USPTO at the Inspire Innovation Festival in Minneapolis Representatives from the USPTO will be at the Inspire Innovation Expo in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 30-May 1, 2015, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from an impressive lineup of speakers, network with other inventors and entrepreneurs, and view exhibits featuring the latest innovations. Exhibitors receive additional opportunities and workshops. If you’re in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, stop by and talk with USPTO personnel. The Inspire Innovation Expo is sponsored by the Minnesota Inventors Congress.   USPTO Unveils Improved Patent Assignment Search Patents always include the name of the inventor(s), but the people with their names on it may not own the rights to the patented invention for which they are credited. Whoever owns the rights to the patent is referred to as the assignee. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has released an improved online tool that makes patent assignment information more transparent and easier to find. The new tool is user-friendly and adds additional fields and filters to the search options. It’s all part of the president’s Open Data and Open Government initiatives to improve data transparency and accessibility. Visit the assignment search page for more information. The public’s feedback is encouraged.
  • Logo of Smithsonian US Patent and Trademark Office
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation Saturday Seminar in Detroit Nov. 15 The next Saturday Seminar at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Detroit satellite office is just around the corner on November 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This free workshop provides a broad overview of intellectual property and is designed specifically for independent inventors and small business owners. Visit the seminar Web page for more information.   Pro Bono Patent Assistance Comes to Michigan The USPTO and the State Bar of Michigan’s Intellectual Property Law Association and Pro Bono Initiative are hosting a kickoff event at the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office in Detroit on November 18, 2014, at 4 p.m.  The event celebrates the establishment of the Michigan Patent Pro Bono Project, which seeks to connect low-income inventors with patent professionals for free patent preparation and prosecution legal services. The event represents a critical milestone in the expansion of the pro bono program and the march toward the ultimate goal of providing patent pro bono coverage to all 50 states. For more information on the event, or if you are interested in attending, please visit the State Bar of Michigan website. Please join us in celebrating the event, which will be simultaneously webcast.    Intellectual Property Webinars in December Earlier this year, in April and August, the USPTO’s Office of Innovation Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) joined together to conduct two  three-part webinar series to help business owners understand intellectual property and processes to protect it. A third USPTO-MBDA webinar series will be held December 9-11, 2014, with a focus on interacting and conducting business with the USPTO or the U.S. Copyright Office. For more information, visit the Intellectual Property Webinar Series page.   USPTO and Smithsonian Team up to Showcase Innovation The USPTO and the Smithsonian Institution announced a new agreement to develop innovation-themed programing at different venues over the next five years. The first event was the Innovation Festival at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., November 1-2. This family event was attended by 36,000 visitors and featured exhibits of cutting-edge patented technologies, games and activities, and presentations and movie screenings about innovation and how it happens. A website to explore innovation has also been created. Stay tuned for news of upcoming events.   After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 Extended Through September 30, 2015 The USPTO's popular After Final Consideration Pilot (AFCP 2.0) authorizes additional time for examiners to consider proposed amendments after final rejection. It is particularly useful in a situation when an examiner and applicant are close to an agreement. The extension of AFCP 2.0 is part of the USPTO's ongoing effort towards compact prosecution and increased collaboration between examiners and stakeholders. Visit the AFCP 2.0 Web page for more information.
  • Patent Examiner Technical Training Program where Patent Examiners are listening to panel discussion
    For over 200 years the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has advanced the state of science and technology by issuing patents for new inventions and discoveries. In exchange for the powerful business incentives that patents provide, inventors disclose the inner workings of their technology so that others may understand it, add to it, and innovate around it. This innovation ecosystem relies on the expertise of inventors and patent examiners alike to ensure that patents are issued for novel inventions. And right now, USPTO is expanding its efforts to help experts share their knowledge with patent examiners. The Patent Examiner Technical Training Program (PETTP) was created to put industry experts in front of the examiners who examine patent applications in related fields of technology. PETTP is a voluntary program that gives technology experts the opportunity to provide relevant technical training and expertise to patent examiners. Presenters often provide illuminating perspectives of specific technologies, explanations of their histories and the challenges, how breakthroughs happen, and where the future of the technology is headed. It is vital that experts share these wide views of technology with those who review patent applications. This allows patent examiners to stay on the cutting-edge of their field of technology and it helps ensure that the quality of examination will be the highest possible. Examiners who have attended PETTP presentations have reported a positive impact on their work. (View the PETTP brochure for specific examples of technologies and presenters.) Individuals interested in presenting as guest lecturers must be willing to volunteer their time and travel expenses, but the USPTO is working hard to make it easier for everyone to share their expertise. Historically, PETTP events have been held at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, but with the opening of USPTO satellite offices in Detroit and Denver experts are now able to present at these regional offices in addition to headquarters. And, regardless of where they take place, presentations can be webcast to all examiners working across the country. The planned 2015 opening of satellite offices in Silicon Valley, California, and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, will further expand opportunities for participation. Please visit the PETTP Web page to learn more and sign-up to share your expertise today!
  • Man reading the Guide to Filing a Utility Patent Application
    Independent inventors and small business owners have a long tradition of creating innovative products and opening up new sectors of the American marketplace. Some of today’s most well-known companies and innovators started small in someone’s garage or basement. While many factors contribute to the road to success, it is critical for innovators to take steps to protect their intellectual property to hone a competitive advantage. This often means filing a patent application. But filing for a patent takes time and expertise. Many patent applicants enlist the help of a registered patent attorney or agent. For some inventors, however, this is not an option and they choose to file an application for a patent on their own, a process known as “pro se” filing. Earlier this year, President Obama called on the USPTO to strengthen the patent system and expand opportunities and outreach to pro se inventors. One reason for the focus on these inventors is statistics that show that applications filed pro se have an exponentially higher rate of abandonment and improper filings than those applications prepared by an attorney. Even when pro se applications mature into full patent grants, they sometimes embody weak legal protection, which places the invention at risk for infringement. In responding to this call, the USPTO has launched its Pro Se Assistance Program, which is a comprehensive pilot initiative to provide targeted outreach for pro se inventors and to enhance the examination practice of pro se applications. The new program offers a variety of resources for inventors, including: Walk-in assistance at USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia Pro se-specific educational resources on patents and electronic filing Dedicated customer service and targeted assistance Enhanced examiner-applicant interaction Through the Pro Se Assistance Program, applicants will get better guidance and assistance during their application filing and prosecution. The program consists of a customer service unit staffed by dedicated personnel that connect applicants with the information they need. Walk-in customers at USPTO headquarters can work one-on-one with program personnel, and a public computer workstation equipped with public search and examination tools is available for use. The other component of the Pro Se Assistance Program is not as visible, but it is just as important: a new, first-of-its-kind, pro se patent examination unit created to solely examine applications identified as pro se. Examiners in this unit have a wealth of experience and enthusiasm for examining pro se applications and are encouraged to communicate frequently and closely with applicants to solve any issues that arise during the course of prosecution. For more information, visit the Pro Se Assistance Program online, call 1-866-767-3848, or email
  • US Patent number 4,910,814 of the Fielder's glove
    Cooling weather, changing leaves, and the start of holiday preparations – for many, these signs of the changing season are first in mind when autumn arrives. But for me, the fall means something else. The crack of the bat, a 98 mph heater in the crucial 9th inning, and the champions of so many memorable World Series, including the 1979 Pirates, the 1983 Orioles, and the 1988 Dodgers. Along with all the memories and fun, baseball would also be less enjoyable without proper equipment to keep the players safe. And guess what, there are patents for all of that! Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Management and Program Analyst Bruce Mihalick. Baseball Cleats U.S. Patent No. 1,867,219 This invention by George W. Harper of McNeil, Arkansas, was patented on July 12, 1932. While spiked shoes had been in use for quite some time, Harper’s baseball cleats changed the way sports footwear was designed. His innovation, was not only essential to running and the protection of a player’s foot, but also provided the traction necessary for stopping while being safer for defending players. As we all know, Ty Cobb had other (infamous) uses for the metal spike cleat prior to Harper’s invention. Armor for Base-Ball Players U.S. Patent No. 925,851 Having received a patent for this chest protector on July 7, 1908, former White Sox catcher Billy Sullivan was one of the few professional baseball players who actually invented equipment for the game he played and loved. I like this invention for obvious reasons: imagine unsuccessfully trying to catch a 95 mph fastball with no chest protection . . . ouch! Fielder's Glove U.S. Patent No. 1,426,824 Other than the ball itself, a glove (or mitt) is the most basic and essential piece of equipment a baseball player needs. Most every kid who has played the game from little league on up has that favorite glove that they took months to break in just right. While players had been using gloves at least 50 years earlier, William L. Doak of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned a patent for this fielder’s glove on August 22, 1922. Doak’s glove uniquely employed a net between the thumb and the index fingers, an important innovation in glove design that is still used today. Improvement in Masks (Catcher’s Mask) U.S. Patent No. 200,358 Before the invention of this mask, which has been said to resemble a very sturdy birdcage, baseball catchers played bare faced. Even today, with all the refinements and improvements that have been made to face mask technology, catchers are injured more than any other player besides pitchers. Imagine trying to catch a curve, slider, or fastball and you miss and take it squarely on the mouth, or your nose, or in the eye! First introduced by Harvard University’s baseball team, this innovation was patented by Frederick W. Thayer, the team’s manager, on February 12, 1878. Adjustable Batting Tee U.S. Patent No. 2,616,692 Batting tees have been a training aid for many years and are key to helping youngsters learn the game of baseball. However, one of the primary challenges with many tees is that they are not height adjustable. This invention, patented by Roy C. Bird from Ann Arbor, Michigan, on November 4, 1952, helped players set the tee’s height to find their correct swing plane. What better way to learn and develop hand-eye coordination and proper swing mechanics? No doubt this invention has been used by many a little leaguer dreaming of being the next Bryce Harper!
  • President Obama meeting with members of the Flying Monkey's FIRST LEGO League Team
    Four years ago, the Flying Monkeys, a FIRST LEGO League team consisting of six Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, embarked on an expedition into the world of invention that would change their lives—and the life of one little girl in Georgia—forever. For the girls of team Flying Monkeys—Mackenzie Grewell, Zoe Groat, Gaby Dempsey, Maria Werner-Anderson, Courtney Pohlen, and Kate Murray—it was a journey that would also take them across the country and world, bring them face to face with distinguished inventors and public figures like President Obama, and culminate in the issuance of a U.S. patent for a cost-effective prosthetic hand device that has already made a difference in the world. The Flying Monkeys’ tour through the world of invention began when they entered the FIRST Lego League’s (FLL) 2010 Body Forward Challenge, which challenged teams in more than 56 countries to explore the field of biomedical engineering and discover innovative ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body’s potential. With the help of their coaches, Melissa Murray and Claire Reifert, the Flying Monkeys set out to prove that their all-girl team, aged 11-13 years old, could deliver a game-changing invention. After brainstorming ideas, the Flying Monkeys decided to look for solutions to help people with the congenital absence or malformation of limbs (limb differences). While conducting preliminary online research, the team came to learn about 3-year-old Danielle Fairchild from Duluth, Georgia, who was born without fingers on her right hand due to the condition symbrachydactyly. Danielle’s limb difference posed special challenges because she is right-hand dominant and wanted to be able to draw and write using her right hand. The team focused their efforts on helping Danielle. They had the unique opportunity to learn from team member Kate’s personal experience with limb differences. Born with five-and-a-half fingers, Kate already had a special prosthesis that allowed her to hold and play a violin and bow. Using Kate’s prosthesis as a jumping off point, the team then set to work creating a new device that would allow Danielle to write and draw. The team may not have been aware of it at the time, but they had already started the invention process in a time-honored way: understanding the current state of the art, identifying the problems in it, and then figuring out how to improve it. “They internalized the natural process of trial and error,” said team coach Murray. “It's okay to make a mistake; figure out where it went wrong, change it and try it again.” After countless brainstorm sessions, concepts, and meetings with prosthetics manufacturers and doctors, occupational therapists, designers, and engineers, the team arrived at a prototype device they called the “BOB-1.” Costing less than $10 to build, the device was made from moldable plastic and a pencil grip, and was designed to be strapped onto the user’s hand to hold a pen, brush, or other devices. But would it work? “We put so much effort into that one tiny thing, and even when we finished we weren't sure how well it really turned out,” said Kate. The answer fell to Danielle, who put on the BOB-1 and drew with her right hand for the first time. At the FLL Global Innovation Award ceremony at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in spring 2011, the Flying Monkeys took top honors. As part of their prize, they received $20,000 from the X-Prize Foundation. A series of other honors followed, including an invitation to present the BOB-1 at the White House Science Fair and travel to Brazil to present at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference. Even before winning the FLL prize, the girls had begun working with two patent attorneys, learning what exactly a patent is, and even writing the provisional application themselves. “The girls learned, as many have, that filing a patent does not happen overnight. In fact, when the application was filed, none of them had started high school. Today, they are getting ready to enter college,” Coach Murray noted. The moment everyone had been waiting for arrived on September 23, 2014, with the issuance of U.S. patent no 8,840,157 for a “Terminal end mounted prosthetic device.” “This patent means a lot to me because it shows all of the hard work that we have done throughout the years as Flying Monkeys,” said Gaby. “It is good to know that something that you worked really hard at has paid off in the end.”  While earning a patent was a huge accomplishment, knowing what they had created made a measurable difference in someone else’s life stood out for the team. “Seeing it work and hearing how pleased Danielle was [with it] was definitely the best part,” added Kate. Today, Danielle continues to use the BOB-1 to write and draw with her dominant hand. And while there are no plans to mass-produce the BOB-1, several other children with limb differences across the country have also received the device, including Danielle’s little brother—although he prefers to call it “Fred.” Coach Murray reflected that the project “Made the girls more aware of people with differences of all kinds. They noticed them, they watched and marveled at how creative and adaptable the body can be.” As the girls now approach the end of high school, they’ve agreed that receiving a patent will close this chapter of their lives. While none of them have quite decided on career paths, they all believe that the experience of creating and patenting the BOB-1 has left them with a lasting appreciation for science and technology. Kate, who will start applying to colleges next year, has begun leaning toward creative writing or art, but STEM will still be an important part of her life. The other girls echo this. “I wasn’t quite as interested in science or anything of that type before,” said Zoe, “but now I’m more interested in it and pursuing it.” Gaby is also interested in a career in the medical field and hopes to attend the University of Minnesota. Don’t let their age fool you. These “Monkeys” are wise, as Kate demonstrated with some parting advice: “Science and technology aren't quick things. It takes time and effort, and you will change along the way whether you realize it or not.” Whatever paths the Flying Monkeys continue to choose as individuals, we are entirely certain they will be lit by the bright light of their innovative minds. Inventors Eye congratulates the Flying Monkeys on all their success and the issuance of their U.S. patent. To learn more about young innovators, visit USPTO Kids on our website.
  • Man holding credit card above laptop keyboard
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office has previously warned stakeholders about unsolicited communications regarding maintenance fees, but it’s something that bears repeating. Many patent owners have received unsolicited communications that at first glance appear to be “official” but are not actually from the USPTO. These communications usually contain warnings about the expiration of patents for failure to pay the maintenance fees of the patent. The communications often sound urgent, in hopes that recipients will be intimidated into paying the fees listed, which frequently include the cost to maintain the patent as well as a “service charge” for the third party’s trouble. While maintenance fees must be paid three, seven, and 11 years after the patent issues, a patent owner can pay the fee without the assistance of a third party. In fact, the USPTO has made it possible for a patent owner to pay the fee online easily and securely. Further, if you need assistance with determining when maintenance fees are due, you can check online for yourself or contact us at the Inventor Assistance Center at 1-800-786-9199 for assistance. If you receive a letter or an email that you suspect may be deceptive, contact us via email or telephone at 571-272-8877. Additionally, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will not resolve individual complaints, but they may initiate investigations and prosecutions based upon widespread complaints about particular companies and business practices.
  • 16th Annual Independent Inventors Conference
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation   Right Around the Corner: Annual Inventors Conference at the USPTO         The 16th Annual Independent Inventors Conference takes place at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, August 15-16, 2014. A pre-conference workshop will take place the evening of August 14. This year’s speakers include an all-star lineup of intellectual property experts, including Commissioner for Patents Margaret A. (Peggy) Focarino and founder of IP Watchdog Gene Quinn. The 16th Annual Independent Inventors Conference promises to be a fantastic opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to learn about intellectual property, particularly patents and trademarks, and how to leverage it in the business cycle.  There’s still time to register. Visit the conference Web page today for more information.   Intellectual Property Webinars The USPTO’s Office of Innovation Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) have joined together to conduct a three-part webinar series to help business owners understand intellectual property and processes to protect it. The webinar series will be held August 12-14 and the first topic will focus on filing an electronic application with the USPTO. For more information, visit the Intellectual Property Webinar Series page.   Trademark Expo Coming in October The USPTO’s National Trademark Expo is set for October 17-18, 2014. A popular public event since 2008, this year’s expo at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, features fun and educational activities for the whole family, including interaction with familiar costumed trademark characters, numerous exhibits featuring trademarked brands, and small giveaways. Free seminars include topics such as trademark filing basics, counterfeiting and piracy, and using USPTO trademark resources. Visit the Trademark Expo Web page for more information.
  • Human face represented in galaxy colors
    Ideas. They pop in and out of our minds a thousand times a day, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, one of them is good enough to launch an invention, a story, or a life-long pursuit. But where do ideas come from in the first place? Inspiration seems to strike out of nowhere and during times when we least expect it or even think it is possible. The Internet is brimming with stories about inventions and discoveries that appeared in dreams. Einstein is said to have begun contemplating the theory of relativity after dreaming about cows when he was a teenager. There’s also the story of Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, who got the idea for a needle with the eye at its tip after dreaming about an incident involving spear-wielding cannibals. The list of dream-born creations goes on and on, from the lyrics of famous songs to the molecular structures for common chemicals. Are these stories true? We’ll have to take the Internet’s word for it, but there’s no denying we can have ideas in our dreams, and for many inventors they can be a source of inspiration. In fact, Inventors Eye has featured more than one independent inventor who literally had dreams of invention. Remember Spark of Genius Sandy Stein? She got the idea for the Finders Key Purse in a dream where her deceased father instructed her on how to create a device that helps women prevent their keys from becoming lost in the bottom of their handbags. Inventors Eye’s most recent spark of genius, Kim Meckwood, also got the idea for her Click & Carry in a dream. She needed to solve the problem of carrying multiple bags of groceries up long flights of stairs to her apartment, and that’s exactly what she did. But for Kim, getting ideas while asleep is nothing new. She said dreaming is a way for her to process her thoughts and allow ideas to percolate and rise to the surface. As it turns out, this is also what some experts say dreaming is all about. Most dreaming occurs during rapid eye movement (REM), the period of sleep when the eyes erratically dart to and fro beneath the eyelids. REM sleep is also marked by increased brain activity. Various theories attempt to explain the purpose of dreaming and REM (none of which have a consensus in the scientific community). According to one, REM is the result of the brain processing and organizing the day’s thoughts, sights, and sounds. In this way, dreams might be a way for us to contemplate things that we are unable to or unwilling to contemplate during waking hours—or a way for us to finally grasp the solution to a problem that puzzled us. Aside from the occasional dream, inventors get their ideas in many different ways. While stories of invention often start with a common problem that needs fixing, the way inventors arrive at the solution can be varied. Most solutions are the result of trial and error, thinking and perseverance—like the Wright Brothers’ flying machine. Others still are the result of mere accident—Post-It Notes and vulcanized rubber were stumbled upon while their inventors were pursuing a different angle. And then there is the proverbial light bulb moment, when inspiration feels so new and disruptive it seems almost miraculous. But there’s a rub: it turns out a lot of good ideas are really just additions to, or new directions taken from, already existing ideas. One thing is clear: innovation happens in increments. Even during today’s rapid technological expansion, most new mindboggling creations are the result of teams of researchers and engineers analyzing previous devices and processes, and figuring out how to make them better. Even independent inventors solving everyday problems are adding their own ideas to ones that already exist. Invention does not occur in a vacuum. This collaborative system of productivity is common today, but that wasn’t always the case. Ideas have not always had free reign to intermingle and bounce off each other. In fact, some experts, including notable science and technology writer Steven Johnson, credit the arrival of a truly collaborative “marketplace of ideas” to something that many of us take a warming to: coffee. First appearing on the European continent in the mid-1600s, coffee houses quickly took hold as everyone from noblemen to street sweepers clamored in for a caffeine kick. The result, says Johnson, was that people from all walks of life began mingling and rubbing shoulders. Naturally, so did their ideas. Coffee houses were a gathering place to talk about every subject, from politics and philosophy to science and technology. The collaborative environment that sprung up in European coffee houses in the 17th century gave rise to what became known as the Enlightenment, itself leading to scientific and technological revolutions and even the modern patent system. Just as most good ideas are not as isolated as they appear, the majority of patents do not detail entirely new inventions. Rather, they show novel improvements to existing technology. And while patents protect inventors’ exclusive rights to their inventions for a limited time, the U.S. patent system, as it is enshrined in our Constitution, is uniquely designed to “Promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts.” Every time an inventor receives a patent, he or she adds to the archive of mankind’s collective good ideas. Patents force new ideas to enter the marketplace and replace or improve the old. The state of the art advances, and the process repeats itself ad infinitum. You might even say that the patent system is the coffee house of intellectual property, where inventors and their inventions come together to mingle and learn and take new directions. So go ahead: have another cup of Joe, but always remember to dream.
  • Invention Ambassadors at a panel discussion
    The role of inventions in our enjoyment and quality of life cannot be understated. From the first stone tools to the photovoltaic cell, humanity has come a long way. On July 2, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in partnership with the Lemelson Foundation, kicked off the inaugural Invention Ambassadors Program with an event at the AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The new program celebrates and highlights the importance of invention and inventors in society. Chosen for their accomplishments and their commitment to invention, ambassadors will enthusiastically support invention and invention education by attending speaking engagements and other events across the country and help disseminate the program’s message across broad audiences. At the kickoff event, each member of the inaugural class of Invention Ambassadors made a short presentation, demonstrating their impressive and diverse spectrum of fields and specialties. The presentations were recorded and are available for viewing. Inaugural class of Invention Ambassadors: Karen J.L. Burg - A pioneer in breast tissue engineering and newly appointed vice president for research at Kansas State University. Rory Cooper - One of the country’s leading experts on assistive technologies for people with disabilities, he holds several prestigious academic appointments at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Sorin Grama - Cofounder and CEO of Promethean Power Systems, a clean-energy startup committed to improving conditions in developing regions of the world. Paul R. Sanberg - Founder and president of the National Academy of Inventors and Senior Vice President for Research & Innovation, among other distinguished academic titles, at the University of South Florida, Sanberg is an inventor listed on approximately 100 health-related patents. Steve Sasson - Inventor of the digital camera, recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee. Paul Stamets - Noted mycologist and founder of Fungi Perfecti and Host Defense Organic Mushrooms, he holds nine patents for innovative fungi-based solutions to a variety of problems facing human populations. Vinod Veedu - Director of strategic initiatives at Oceanit and inventor of the world’s smallest nanobrush. Read each ambassador’s full bio and impressive list of accomplishments at Invention Ambassadors website. Among the program’s several goals is to increase society’s awareness of invention and inventors and support and foster the conditions necessary for innovation and a robust technological economy. The program also seeks to heighten awareness about the role of invention in finding solutions to global challenges and celebrates inventors and inventions that improve and sustain the Earth’s environment.  Inventors Eye congratulates the inaugural class of Invention Ambassadors and looks forward to following their efforts to promote invention, science, and technological progress.
  • US Patent Number 4,910,814 of the Splash Pool for Recreational Waterslides drawing
    Options for summer fun are limitless: cookouts, picnics, barbeques, ice cream socials, camping, riding bicycles, and so much more. But how fun would summer be without some of the great inventions that help us enjoy the season?  Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Outreach Coordinator Dennis Forbes. Portable Barbeque Grill Assembly U.S. Patent No. 4,878,476 Over the years, outdoor grilling has become a favorite pastime for many even after summer is over. I like this grill because it is an on-the-go grill that is easy to set up and break down. It can be carried to parks, campsites, tailgate parties, family reunion picnics, or whatever other summer shindig you have planned. Portability has advantages for both fast- and slow-paced lifestyles. Ice Cream Scoop U.S. Patent No. 4,721,449 As a kid, I loved eating ice cream, and I still do. My grandmother would use a scooper to serve up a curled wad of ice cream on cone, bowl, or homemade blueberry pie. As I got older, I too began using an ice cream scooper to serve up good sized helpings of deliciousness. The device used for scooping has changed since my childhood, but there’s still nothing like seeing a scooper full of delicious ice cream. Take it from me; the ice cream scooper is a great invention.   Splash Pool for Recreational Water Slides U.S. Patent No. 4,910,814 Whether you get a rush or you scream all the way down a waterslide, the sheer thrill will make you want do it again and again. When my daughter was younger, she and I spent hours in the waterpark, and frankly I would just lose all sense of time. Hearing, “Daddy, can I do it again?” caused me to stand in the waterslide line quite a bit.  Once you finish the slide, you suddenly realize that the thrill of going down was just too short, and you want to do it again. Gone are my days of waterslides, but I have lots of fond summertime memories sliding down them for a splash of fun. Beverage Mixer U.S. Patent No. 1,480,914 Drinking a cold refreshing drink on a hot and muggy day brings welcome relief.  Likewise, drinking an organic smoothie can cause you to uncontrollably blurt out a loud sigh of “Ahhhh” after your first gulp. The fun part about using a smoothie blender is that you make a drink that the whole family will enjoy. Because you can make all kinds of icy cold concoctions with a blender, it’s an indispensable kitchen gadget. Digital Camera U.S. Patent No. 4,131,919 As a former photographer for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I loved the fact that digital camera technology gave me instant digital images, which I could either save or delete.  Eliminating the step of having to send out a roll of film for development enabled me to quickly post and circulate photos taken at breaking news events at the USPTO. The first digital camera was invented in 1978. It was not portable, but starting in the 1990s, widespread commercial introduction of small digital cameras disrupted the market and made film cameras obsolete for practical use. Today, digital cameras allow you to instantly capture keepsake summer moments. Have you taken a “selfie” lately?
  • Dr. Nate Storey, inventor of the ZipGrow Tower and co-owner of Bright Agrotech
    If you find a problem that needs solving, chances are there are others who have the same problem. Sometimes, however, you need to convince them they have a problem. This was the case for Dr. Nate Storey, inventor of the ZipGrow Tower and co-owner of Bright Agrotech in Laramie, Wyoming. The region’s climate presents particular problems for growers; most produce must be grown in greenhouses for at least part of the season. “Those heating costs are high,” Nate said, “and they are something that a lot of cold-climate growers deal with.” ZipGrow is an innovative way of gardening that differs from traditional soil gardening in several ways. It uses a soilless hydroponic or aquaponic method where the plants are arranged vertically rather than horizontally. According to Nate, “That's what the methodology comes down to: analyzing the production potential of an area based on volume as opposed to square footage.” Essentially, the ZipGrow Tower vastly increases the amount of vegetation that can be grown in a small amount of space. While Nate developed the technology specifically for commercial growers, it is versatile enough for urban and home garden applications as well.    After recognizing that his invention had many advantages over traditional gardening, Nate took on the task of educating and convincing others that he’d found the solution to a problem they did not know they had. Nate received both a master’s and a doctorate in agronomy from the University of Wyoming and came up with the invention while doing research for his master’s degree. Nate did not begin his education with the thought of becoming an inventor or starting a business, but after trying to use some of the systems available at the time, he realized that “none of them really worked for the applications I wanted to use them for.” An innovation was born. Nate knew he wanted something modular, easy to move, and easy to use. Typical hydroponic systems use a “growing medium”—often small rocks or pebbles submersed in water that allow plant roots to bind to for support while absorbing nutrients from the water. “I wanted a media-based technique, but one that was not any of the traditional plant production media.” So, he set out to create a better solution. Nate’s invention process was not without its problems. Since he was developing his idea as part of his master’s degree studies, he had access to the Research Product Center at the university, which Nate credits for giving him and his two partners the ability to start their business. “We were a bunch of poor kids who had no business starting a business,” said Nate. “Without the Research Product Center, we would not have a business.” Nate indicated that the most difficult part of the invention process was sourcing the material for the growing medium. “It took me a long time to find a material similar to what I wanted and then work with a supplier to develop a material specifically for my application.” The final product was composed of a polyester matrix. In starting the invention process, Nate did not necessarily think of commercializing the idea or starting a business. “I was just looking for a better way to do something that would solve my problem at the time,” said Nate. “It’s very selfish. But, once you fix it you say, well maybe other people have this problem.” It was around this time that Nate and his partners thought it would be a good idea to create a company and take the invention to market. Thanks to the Research Product Center’s help during the filing process, Nate’s invention received U.S. patent no. 8,327,582. Because the idea was developed while Nate was working toward his degree at the University of Wyoming and with the university’s resources, the patent is assigned to the university and Nate is listed as the inventor. Nate said that it was the protection of the patent that encouraged and enabled him and his partners to start the company. “We spent every penny we had to get started—buy our initial inventory, get going, and figure out manufacturing,” said Nate. “That would not have been possible without feeling like our idea was protected.” Because the university owns the patent, Nate’s company licenses the use of the technology for its product. Nate said that “for [student] inventors who have interest in commercializing their patents, oftentimes there is an opportunity to come in and license the patents from the university on very good terms,” adding that “it’s really a leg up if you’re a small business.” Nate currently has several patent applications pending at the United States Patent and Trademark Office for improvements and other innovations based on the technology he developed. “The beautiful thing about being an inventor is that you really are the first person to know about what you invented. So if you are doing something really unique that could spawn a bunch of other technologies, you have the opportunity to develop your tech and then to build on it and continue to file patents on all the other great things that you can invent in the same line.” Nate indicated that one of the hardest and most challenging things has been figuring out how to run a business and get it off the ground. “You are up and down a lot,” said Nate. “It took many, many years of me working for no pay—working 80-100 hours per week for no pay. You never get that time back. A lot of people told me to quit.” But determination and a good product paid off. “We’re trying to scale our business like a software business, but we’re manufacturers,” said Nate. This model has worked for the company, as Bright Agrotech grew by 800 percent last year and is on target to do at least the same this year. The company started with all of its manufacturing in Laramie, Wyoming, but as Nate said, “We can’t scale our personnel at the rate we are growing our business if we’re going to do all the manufacturing in-house.”   Although the company has had to find manufacturers outside of Laramie, everything is made in the United States and assembled in Laramie. While running and making a go of the business has been the most challenging and difficult thing, Nate also said it is one of the most rewarding aspects as well. “There aren’t a whole lot of people out there who have the opportunity to build equity in themselves. I love the idea that when I go out and I break my back and I sacrifice things and I work long hours for years on end . . . that sacrifice is rewarded, and it’s mine and not someone else’s.” When asked what advice he would give to others, Nate said “You have to be wise and you have to listen to the people you respect as far as the value of the product and the potential of the product. If the product doesn’t have the potential then it’s not something you should be doing, but at the same time, there is always a certain rebellion that has to go with it too because a lot of people tell you you’re an idiot for even thinking about it or starting. And you pretty much just have to fly in the face of conventional wisdom on some issues and do it anyway, and that’s the hard thing—making that judgment call, but once made it’s 100 percent about endurance.”
  • US Patent Number 5,996,127 of the Wearable Device for Feeding and Observing Birds and Other Flying Animals
    Every patent examiner has a list of patents that hold special meaning to him or her, from the first application they examined to the one for a groundbreaking new technology. As I get ready to retire from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) after 24-plus years, I have been looking back at the many people who have been part of my life during my career. It has been a privilege to work with a number of great examiners, managers, attorneys, agents, and so many wonderful and inspiring inventors. I have seen many interesting and not-so-interesting inventions and patents. These five have special meaning to me. Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff's favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects five patents under a given theme. This list is from Senior Advisor John Calvert. You can read more about John's career helping independent inventors in our April Spark of Genius . U.S. Patent No. 4,951,357 Stop Motion Apparatus for a Roving Drafting Device of a Textile Machine My career as an examiner started in 1990. After two weeks of training, I began examining real applications in the technical area of my college education and work experience: textiles and knitting technology. The very first application I sent a Notice of Allowance for was a stop motion device that helps eliminate excessive fiber waste when a particular part of the machine fails to have the proper amount of fiber moving through the device. While other stop motion devices were previously known, I found that the improvement in this device was new and nonobvious. And so it began. U.S. Patent No. 5,515,585 Process for Forming Needled Fibrous Structures Using Determined Transport Depth When I first read this application, I knew it was different from any other I had ever examined. The subject matter was intriguing; it used mathematical calculations to determine the proper depth of penetration of a needle, so that fiber could be transported without breaking or slipping back and entangling. The invention was intended to create a brake pad disk for use on an aircraft. After extensive searching, I failed to find any patents that disqualified the application. I did find one article in Russian that appeared to show that the invention was not new. However, after a complete translation, I discovered the article did not describe the same invention. For me, this application was one the most difficult and most rewarding. U.S. Patent No. 5,590,548 Circular Knit Legged Panty Having Knit-in Shaping Panels and a Blank and Method for Making This was one of many garment patents I examined during my career. The technology provided areas within the legged panty that had more elastic properties for increasing pressure, which resulted in a slimming feature. The real significance of this application for me is not the technology but the attorney who filed the application. Before I joined the USPTO, I worked in a job that I hated. I called my graduate faculty mentor from college for guidance, and he suggested I talk with an examiner at the patent office to inquire about open positions. This eventually led to my work at the USPTO. As it happens, the examiner I spoke with eventually left the office to work as an attorney. She is the one who filed this application. The circle was complete, so to speak. U.S. Patent No. 5,996,127 Wearable Device for Feeding and Observing Birds and Other Flying Animals Shortly after I became a supervisory patent examiner in 1998, a new examiner showed me the application that would eventually issue as U.S. Patent No. 5,996,127. It was for a helmet that had a holder for a bird feeder and a place to mount a camera. As soon as I looked at the application I knew it was a candidate for the "Patent of the Month" display. The display showed the most "interesting" issued patent for each month and was placed where almost every patent examiner, manager, and executive would see it. Nobody wanted a patent they had examined to make the display. Once we found there was no way to reject the application, I got a primary examiner to sign with the junior examiner. It did make Patent of the Month, but we all had a good laugh. U.S. Patent No. 8,151,720 Open Eye Sewing Needle My first article in Inventors Eye was about the invention described in U.S. Patent 8,151,720. I met the inventor at the Minnesota Inventors Congress and wrote about how she came up with her invention. The patent issued about two years ago, allowing the inventor to move forward with marketing and protecting her device. While the invention is essentially a sewing needle, the technology she used in engineering the needle allows for a great advancement in that particular technology. Her invention makes it easy for anyone to thread a needle, even folks with large hands and weak eyes like me. My time at the USPTO is coming to an end. However, my memories of those I have worked with for these many years and have met along the way will stay with me forever. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your exposure to the world of intellectual property. Keep inventing and innovating.
  • 16th Annual Independent Inventors Conference
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation Save the Date: Annual Inventors Conference at the USPTO The 16th Annual Independent Inventors Conference dates have been announced! This year, the conference will take place at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, Va., August 15-16, 2014. A pre-conference workshop will take place the evening of Aug. 14. Canceled in 2013 due to the federal government shutdown, the Annual Independent Inventors Conference promises to be a fantastic opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to learn about intellectual property, particularly patents and trademarks, and how to leverage it in the business cycle. Mark your calendars and be on the lookout for more information.   National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductions The National Inventors Hall of Fame inducted its class of 2014 on May 21, 2014. This year's inductees included five living innovators and nine who are no longer with us, all whom have made immeasurable contributions to the progress of science and technology and our way of life. During the induction ceremony at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va., Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee congratulated the 2014 class and honored past inductees, who watched on from the audience. For more information about this year's class of inventors, visit   Intellectual Property Webinars The USPTO's Office of Innovation Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) have joined together to conduct a three-part webinar series to help business owners understand intellectual property and processes to protect it. The webinar series will be held August 12-14 and the first topic will focus on filing an electronic application with the USPTO. For more information, visit the Intellectual Property Webinar Series page.
  • Front lawn of White House
    Patents are a hot topic these days. Sometimes it seems everyone is talking about them. The White House is no exception. Back in February, President Obama called on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to work on implementing eight executive actions designed to make the patent system more transparent and accessible for the public. (Five of the actions were previously announced in June 2013.) Since then, the USPTO has been hard at work on these actions. So what's the buzz all about and, more importantly, what's in it for independent inventors and small businesses? More engagement with the USPTO, better quality patents that provide stronger protection in the marketplace, tools and information for consumers and small businesses confronted with patent infringement letters or lawsuits, and assistance for inventors and small businesses in preparing and prosecuting applications through the USPTO. What exactly do these executive actions entail? "Claims" are the part of a patent that define the scope of its legal protection. They are the heart and soul of the patent, but they can be complicated and difficult to understand for people who are not patent examiners or attorneys. The president has called for better clarity in the way claims are written so that the boundaries for what is legally protected by the patent can be clearly understood by anybody who reads it. In addition to clearer claims, we are exploring ways to make sure that the most pertinent and relevant technical information is considered by examiners. This is one of the keys to ensuring that claims are not overly broad. To do this, we are looking to enhance the use of "crowdsourcing" for these publications, which harnesses the power of the Internet to find relevant publications that can be submitted to the patent examiner for consideration. Finally, we are enhancing examiners' training so that they stay up to date on the latest technological developments. President Obama has also directed the USPTO to seek more public engagement through the use of round table discussions on such topics as glossaries in some patent applications and examiner access to documents that may not be in the public domain. Several sessions have already been held, and valuable data has been collected, which we are currently analyzing. We were also called upon to provide a tool that small business owners, entrepreneurs, and consumers can use if they are confronted with the threat of a patent lawsuit. This patent litigation tool kit provides useful links to resources and information about the legal process. In this same vein, we are also exploring new rules that allow the public to know clearly the actual owner(s) of a patent, and to store their information in a database at the USPTO for all to see. We have referred to this as naming the real party in interest or "attributable patent ownership." Finally, we're examining ways to provide more assistance to inventors and small businesses that may not have the income or other financial resources needed to get started in the patent application process. We are currently expanding the Pro Bono program to cover the entire United States so that under-resourced inventors may find an attorney that they can turn to for free services. Additionally, we are looking to expand our own services for under-resourced inventors and small businesses with assistance before their applications are filed. Stay tuned to Inventors Eye for more information about this exciting service.
  • Members of the Office of Innovation Development
    If you're a regular reader of Inventors Eye, you've probably heard of our Office of Innovation Development (OID), but what exactly does OID do? OID was formed in 2011 within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with the goal of ensuring entrepreneurs, independent inventors, small businesses, and pro se applicants better understand, secure, and utilize patents. Since 1999 the USPTO had assisted these stakeholders under the old Office of Independent Inventor Programs. The creation of OID allowed the USPTO to refocus and expand outreach to additional segments of the inventor community, including university-affiliated inventors, and inventors from minority and underserved communities. Since its formation, OID has provided a national campaign of education and awareness regarding all forms of intellectual property (IP) in a variety of ways. In fulfilling that role, the office plans and participates in a number of events to support innovation. In fact, things have been pretty busy since the start of our current fiscal year back in October, with lots of events and programs. We'd like to take a moment to share some of the highlights. Last fall, we launched a new program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. OID partnered with the USPTO's Office of Education and Outreach, Trademark Outreach, and Global Intellectual Property Academy to offer the community a chance to learn from patent, trademark, and copyright experts from the USPTO. It was a big success, and we learned a lot from it. We hope to try this program in other locations in the future, including our satellite office locations. OID continues its popular Saturday Seminars in the Detroit Satellite Office, and just recently we wrapped up our first Saturday Seminar in New York City, as part of our Department of Commerce partnership with Cornell University. Much like the D.C. library program, Saturday Seminars are an opportunity for the community to talk with IP experts from the local community, including attorneys and individuals from the Small Business Administration or local Small Business Development Centers. OID continues to lead the USPTO's collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, which has led to several innovation-focused activities at various Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. Last November, our "Innovation Explorations in Sound" family event took place at the National Museum of the American Indian. Along with bringing an interactive exhibit on how sound works to the event, OID sponsored a meet-and-greet with Inventors Hall of Fame member James E. West, co-creator of the electret foil microphone. A speaker forum on Dec. 8 brought together innovators and intellectual property policy experts for a day of stimulating conversation on the future of innovation at the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley Center. Several more exciting collaborative events with the Smithsonian are planned for 2014, so be on the lookout for more information! Other highlights from the past year include participating in the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, where we shared information on patents and trademarks with the thousands of attendees who have dreams of invention and entrepreneurship. We also participated in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Innovation and Entrepreneurship Collaborative; America Makes Program Management Review; National Science Foundation SBIR/STTR Phase I and Phase II Conferences; "From Your Garage to the Assembly Line," an Inventors Conference sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.); and the Minnesota Inventors Congress Invention Expo. Along with public engagement at many events, OID provides outreach focused on institutions of higher learning. Our experts visit classrooms, technology transfer offices, and university-affiliated businesses to provide information for innovators pursuing exciting technologies. Visits this year have included institutions in Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Oregon, Colorado, California, Texas, and the District of Columbia. OID also partnered with the Minority Business Development Agency to create a series of free webinars on patents, trademarks, and copyrights. These webinars are designed to teach entrepreneurs and business owners what they need to know about intellectual property when creating and operating their businesses. Last but not least, OID's year-to-date efforts culminated in the Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium, which just wrapped up in Denver at the end of May. The USPTO partnered with Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), the Colorado Bar Association, the University of Denver, the Colorado Small Business Development Center, and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce to organize this program that spanned two days and focused on women entrepreneurs. Attendees learned about the importance of intellectual property protection for their innovations and how to leverage economic opportunities for women-owned businesses. OID staff is always available to assist independent inventors with specific patent questions. Give us a call at 571-272-8877 or email For general questions about patents and the application process, you can also call the Inventors Assistance Center at 800-786-9199.
  • Kim Mechwood, the inventor of the Click and Carry demonstrating her device
    The road to inventorship is unique for everyone. This is the story of one inventor who took the long way but eventually realized a dream. It's interesting how one change in our daily routine can have a cascade effect on everything else in life. Even something as small as how we bring our shopping bags from the car into the house can set us on a trajectory nobody could have predicted. For Kim Meckwood, inventor of the Click & Carry, that's exactly what happened. Ten years ago, Kim was living in an upstairs apartment in Los Angeles. Carrying groceries up several long flights of stairs and through multiple doors was a real pain, physically and figuratively. After finishing shopping, she would call her boyfriend from the car to come down the stairs and help bring up the groceries. Then life happened; the two parted ways, and Kim found herself struggling to carry the shopping bags herself. "I stopped shopping and was eating out all the time and ordering takeout," said Kim. "My life became very unhealthy." Kim knew she needed to come up with something that made shopping easier. Like the beginnings of so many inventions, she had identified a common problem that many people dealt with. The stirrings of a solution began to take hold in her subconscious. "I'm the kind of person where I have to think about it for a while, and usually the ideas come to me in dreams," she said. In fact, that's how Kim got the idea for the Click & Carry. She dreamt of a simple, strong device that could hold multiple bags and be placed on the shoulder for easier carrying. "The original incarnation was just the bottom portion," said Kim, "There was no top." The prototype did not have a mechanism to lock bags into place. It was functional, but it wasn't ideal. Three years passed after her dream. While she struggled with the right design to complete the device, Kim continued her career as a successful saleswoman for medical devices, but she would often discuss her idea with close confidants. "My clients were neurosurgeons and movement disorder specialists. One of my clients, who also happens to be one of my best friends, said, 'Kim, will you shut up and stop talking about Click & Carry and do something about it.'" And so she did. She hired a design student to help her refine the device. A locking swivel mechanism was added on the top to keep things in place, and a gel non-slip grip along the bottom allowed it to be comfortably placed on the shoulder or held in the hand. Now she had an invention. But there was just one last issue; when the prototype held more than 20 lbs., it bent and opened a gap between the locking top mechanism and the bottom, negating its usefulness. It would be a few more months before she found the answer. "One day at work, I was talking to an orthopedic surgeon about 'favorable fractures.' In a favorable fracture, a bone is broken at a diagonal, so there is resistance to pressure on both sides of the bone. Even though the bone is broken, it is stronger than if the break were not diagonal. It gave me the idea to redesign the Click & Carry." Kim had a new mold made with the favorable fracture-inspired design, and the final piece fell into place. She only guarantees the Click & Carry to carry up to 50 lbs., but thanks to the favorable fracture-inspired design, it it can carry three times that amount. "You don't even see the Click & Carry bend," she said. Kim hired a patent attorney who had her best interests at heart. "He sat me down and said 'Before you do this, I want you to do a patent search. I want you to make sure you are spending your money wisely.'" Kim received two patents on the Click & Carry. U.S. Patent No. 7874602 protects the original invention while U.S. Patent No. 8182008 incorporates the favorable fracture-inspired innovation. She said that hiring a patent attorney was one of the best decisions she made. Her attorney foresaw that the device would be used for other functions and wrote the patent to encompass a wide range of purposes and materials, things she likely wouldn't have addressed on her own. "People have to know their limits," said Kim. "It was less expensive for me to hire that 'expensive' attorney than to sit down and try to figure out how to do it properly." Though it took almost 10 years to get to the stage where she is now, it is in the last six months that things have really taken off, and Kim credits part of that success to social media marketing. Kim gained a following of loyal customers on Facebook-people like her, living in urban centers where an easy trip from car to front door just isn't an option-but it was the non-shoppers who opened up her eyes to what she had created. What started as a device for carrying grocery bags quickly revealed itself as highly versatile. Construction workers sent her pictures of the Click & Carry hoisting buckets of material around the worksite. An avid skier showed her how he used it to carry his boots, and it became a lifesaver for people picking up large orders from their dry cleaners. And then something funny happened. "As more and more people used the Click & Carry and joined my Facebook page, they started taking photographs of it around the world," said Kim. "I have pictures of the Click & Carry from Italy, France, Argentina, and even from Sochi, Russia." A novel marketing idea occurred to her. "I hosted contests. I would have a picture with the Click & Carry in, say, Argentina and ask if anyone could guess where it was. The first three who answered correctly got a free Click & Carry." The social-media exposure proved game-changing. Since May, Kim has appeared on the nationally syndicated "Bethenny" show and on QVC, where her product run sold out quickly, and there's no slowdown in sight. She has ideas for new designs that expand the applications of the technology as well as diversified marketing plans. "A major goal for the next two months is to really learn to utilize Twitter," she said, "and I have done this all by myself, so I can't wait until I can afford to pay someone to help me." In time, all the pieces will certainly click into place for Kim Meckwood. "My advice for others is to not give up," said Kim. "So many people are naysayers and they will shoot down your idea, but do your own research to ensure you aren't wasting your time. Once you get to that stage and you realize, hey, this is a viable product, that's when you know that you have something good."
  • Alarm Clock
    Did you miss the deadline for responding to an office action or pay a maintenance fee? Don't despair; you've got options. At the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), we often speak with applicants on the telephone. Occasionally we hear, "Oh no, I missed the deadline for responding to an office action. Is the application considered abandoned?" To this, we unfortunately will have to respond with "Yes, see the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, section 711.03(c)." While applicants often purposely abandon their applications, sometimes they don't mean to. Thankfully, they have options in this case, and their next question is "What can I do?" Before December 18, 2013, applicants who missed the deadline for responding to an office action but wanted to continue prosecuting their application would have filed a petition to the Commissioner for Patents requesting that the application be reinstated and pay the applicable fee. Sounds simple enough; however, there were two different petitions that could be filed. The first one was a petition under the "unavoidable" standard, and the second was a petition under the "unintentional" standard. The two petitions are similar but have very different standards. The unavoidable standard was less expensive, but the showing to be made was more rigorous. Thus very few of these were granted. The unintentional standard was less rigorous and thus easier to get approved, but it was more expensive. On December 18, 2013, changes to the law eliminated the unavoidable standard. But the process for getting an application reinstated has been simplified, and the great news for independent inventors is that fees have been reduced. The America Invents Act of 2011 gave the USPTO the ability to set its own fees. As a result, the USPTO lowered the cost for petitioning to revive an abandoned application. For someone filing as a small or a micro-entity, the petition filing fee is less than the old unintentional standard petition fee. The current fee schedule should always be consulted to ensure that petitioners are submitting the proper fees. To make the process even easier, we created an electronic petition, or e-Petition, a Web-based form that allows filers to enter the relevant data and, in most circumstances, get a decision as soon as they press the submit button. Note that users must be registered EFS-Web filers to make use of e-Petition. Additionally, the standard for reinstatement of a patent for failure to pay a maintenance fee has also changed. Similar to the petition for revival, there is now only one standard for reinstating a patent: the unintentional standard with a lower fee for small and micro-entity filers. Yes, there is an e-Petition for this situation as well. While missing a deadline for responding to an office action or paying a maintenance fee is frustrating, the solution for getting back on track is now easier and more-affordable for independent inventors. If you unfortunately find yourself in this situation, you can give us a call at 800-786-9199 to discuss the matter further.
  • Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium The 2014 Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium (WES) has been rescheduled to May 30-31 at the University of Denver in Denver, Colo. This is a unique opportunity for current or aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors to learn how intellectual property works, develop effective business strategies, leverage local and federal resources, and much more. Past WES speakers include successful female entrepreneurs, inventors, and policy makers. A networking reception and catered luncheon are included in the $50 registration fee. Visit the WES page for more information and to reserve your place today.   World IP Day is April 26 The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and its members-186 countries including the United States-designates April 26 of each year as World IP Day. This year's theme is "Movies-A Global Passion" and pays tribute to the silver screen and the profound impact it has had on modern society. Intellectual property is integral to the motion picture industry-from copyrights of scripts to patented camera technology. Visit the WIPO website for World IP Day and find out how to celebrate and commemorate this important day and the ways IP improves our lives.   Patent Litigation and Patent Demand Letters You've likely seen a lot of recent news about "non-practicing entities," "patent assertion entities," and "patent trolls." Much of that news has centered on patent infringement demand letters and patent litigation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has created a series of Web pages to provide useful information to innovators, entrepreneurs, consumers, and others regarding patent demand letters and patent lawsuits. If you have received a demand letter or have been threatened with a patent lawsuit, information about your options is now at hand for you in plain English. Some of the topics discussed on the Web pages include: Basic information about patents What is a patent demand letter What are your options if a lawsuit has been filed How to tell if others are being sued by the same patent owner In addition to these topics, you can find additional resources from the USPTO, other U.S. government agencies, and from the private sector.   Saturday Seminar in Detroit The next Saturday Seminar in Detroit will be April 12, 2014. Saturday Seminars are part of ongoing outreach efforts in the Detroit area to bring resources and IP expertise to inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. This free, day-long seminar features presentations from subject-matter experts and hands-on workshops that are all designed to educate attendees about patents, trademarks, and business cycle best practices, and how to access local, state, and federal resources. Attendance is free, but registration is required. For more information, please visit the Saturday Seminar Web page.   Saturday Seminar in the Big Apple On May 17, 2014, the USPTO will host a Saturday Seminar in Brooklyn, New York (location TBD). This day-long event will cover many of the same resources and topics as the Detroit Saturday Seminars, including workshops and interactive presentations. If you live in New York, don't miss this great opportunity to hear from both USPTO and local experts about intellectual property and its importance to entrepreneurs and small business owners. For more information, please contact
  • Man in shirt and tie swimming underwater
    What's that ominous music playing in the background? Did a shadow just pass beneath the water? Stay calm because help is on the way. In the reality-based television show "Shark Tank," inventors from across the country pitch their inventions to a panel of potential investors, looking for a billionaire to take an interest and invest in their products. But television isn't the only place this kind of feeding frenzy occurs. Every day at tradeshows and conventions, in boardrooms and on showroom floors, inventors make sales pitches to potential investors. What do the successful inventors often have in common? They know the most important aspect of safeguarding their product or service: they can tell the world with confidence that the invention is theirs because they have applied for or have been granted a patent. As small business owners and inventors pitch their inventions to potential investors or partners, the question arises: what proprietary information, if any, should an inventor disclose? Some inventors feel inclined towards secrecy, because "If I keep it a secret no one will be able to steal it." That's true; however, if you keep it too secret no one will ever know about it either. So what's an inventor to do? Protect your intellectual property! Independent inventors often first file for a Provisional Application for Patent. This is a cost-effective initial step towards securing patent protection. A provisional application establishes a "priority date"-a date that you can claim as the effective filing date when you later file a full, nonprovisional application. A provisional application also provides a 12-month period (and further extendable using the Extended Missing Parts pilot) to mark your invention as "patent pending," which is a strong warning to would-be infringers. With a provisional application, you can also disclose your invention to others without losing the ability to get a patent later. Inventors may ask, "But if I make a disclosure without filing an application, don't I have a one-year grace period to file a patent application?" The answer is yes. In the United States you have a one-year grace period from the date you first publicly disclose your invention to when a patent application must be filed. But you need to be aware of a few things. The grace period is only for the invention disclosed. If you want to avoid triggering the grace period, the safest course is to file a patent application. And very important is to also remember is that if you plan to seek patent protection in a foreign country, you may be barred from doing that because the patent laws in many countries do not allow a grace period like the United States. These countries often require that your first disclosure of an invention is in a patent application. Learn more about international patent protection on the USPTO's website. If you haven't filed for a patent, should you get nondisclosure agreements from anyone who's getting your product pitch? Nondisclosure agreements offer some protection and can be a way for you to safeguard your ideas and inventions. But if you're going on television or showing your invention at a tradeshow, you'd have to have every single person who will see it sign an agreement. That means every person who watches television or every person who goes to the tradeshow. Obviously that's impossible. Nondisclosure agreements can be useful tools, but not in all situations. Visit the USPTO's Inventors Resources page to find out more about what help the USPTO provides independent inventors as they take their invention from idea to commercialized product. These tips and tools include: Tips and information on scam prevention Instructional aids and training videos Information on Pro Bono patent representation Events for independent inventors sponsored by the USPTO Whether you're jumping into the tank for the first time or have already begun pitching your product, consider the available options to safeguard your inventions. Knowing that your intellectual property is protected while you pitch them will give you confidence and assurance that nobody can take advantage of you without risking strong legal consequences.
  • US Patent number 8,289,433 of Mounting and bracket for an actor-mounted Motion Capture Camera System
    Pass the popcorn and get ready for some special effects! A lot of fascinating inventions keep us entertained at the box office. Hollywood's award season has come and gone, but World IP Day on April 26 celebrates the silver screen and the intellectual property that has made it possible. This issue's "Patent Picks" focuses on patents that have enhanced filmmaking over the past 100 years. From new innovations in camera technology to motion capture devices that have become the norm in Hollywood, these patents have undoubtedly shaped the movies we love to watch. Here are my top five film-inspired patent picks! Note: This article is part of an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff's favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects his or her five favorite patents under a given theme. This list is from Inventors Eye graphic designer-animator Messina Smith. U.S. Patent No. 2,198,006 Control Device for Animation The multiplane camera was patented by William Garity in 1938 for Walt Disney Productions. It has seven different layers and a moveable camera that shot vertically, creating an illusion of depth that had so far been impossible to obtain in animation. The first test film for the multiplane camera was the Silly Symphony cartoon "The Old Mill," which won the Academy Award for animated short film in 1937. Following the success of "The Old Mill," Walt Disney used it in his production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and the rest is history. In today's animation, the illusion of depth is created using computers, but the multiplane camera stands out as one of the most important innovations in animation. U.S. Patent No. 2,224,901 Camera Dolly In the film industry, a "tracking shot" is made using a camera mounted on a wheeled platform, known as a camera dolly. Before 1907, this innovation didn't exist. Camera angles were stuck in one spot. By using a camera dolly, directors were able to follow the action and create dynamic sequences. Today, dollies have four wheels and can be moved in any direction, whereas the original was used on round rails to create a smoother movement. Dolly shots are the norm for audiences today, but their introduction to moviemaking was a game changer for filmmakers and moviegoers alike. U.S. Patent No. 4,017,168 Equipment for use with Hand-Held Motion Picture Cameras In the past, filmmakers trying to accomplish a "tracking shot" had two options: use a camera dolly (see above) or hold the camera while moving, which creates the shakiness that can be seen in home videos, documentaries, and similar film footage. Hollywood cameraman Garrett Brown's 1975 invention of the Steadicam solves this problem. His system uses a harness to hold a camera, monitor, and battery pack, which all counterbalance each other and absorb shock. The operator wears the harness and is able to shoot smooth, gliding footage while on the move. Many famous movie scenes have been made using this technology. During the iconic training scene in "Rocky," Brown filmed while running alongside Sylvester Stallone up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The speeder bike chase scene in "Return of the Jedi" also used a Steadicam. During filming, Brown walked through a forest shooting film at 1 frame per second, which created the illusion of a high-speed chase. In 2013 Brown was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame at a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. U.S. Patent No. 5,222,059 Surround-sound system with motion picture soundtrack timbre correction, surround sound channel timbre correction, defined loudspeaker directionality, and reduced comb-filter effects Anyone who has been to a cinema in the last 20 years has probably seen the THX logo appear on the screen along with a deep tone that gets progressively louder. This audio quality control system was invented by Tomlinson Holman for Lucasfilm in 1983. It was designed specifically for the release of "Return of the Jedi" so across the country, no matter the theater, viewers would hear sound reproduced the same way. This technology helped standardize audio across the board, improving the movie-watching experience in theaters and at home. U.S. Patent No. 8,289,443 Mounting and bracket for an actor-mounted Motion Capture Camera System Motion capture is a big player in the making of today's movies. Gollum from "Lord of the Rings," the Na'vi in "Avatar," and the Hulk in "The Avengers" were all created using this technology. Prior to computers, animated films relied on a system called "rotoscoping,"where actors were filmed and then animators would trace over the film frame by frame to get realistic movement from their characters. Today, actors are outfitted with body suits containing special markers that track their movement and recreate them in a digital model. The device covered by this recent (2012) patent affixes markers to the actor's face and captures facial expressions and features using small cameras that extend from a head piece. We'll likely see many more patents related to motion capture as the technology's prominence increases in the coming years.
  • John Calvert, Senior Advisor for the Office of Innovation Development at the USPTO
    In this special edition of Spark of Genius, Inventors Eye honors an individual who has helped spark the passion for innovation in countless inventors and business owners across the country. For the past four years, our "Spark of Genius" stories have featured individuals who have successfully created new inventions, launched companies, and in some instances changed our lives with their innovations. We've brought you their stories in an effort to inspire future inventors. Our story this time is about one of our own, a man who has inspired and encouraged many of us here at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to think like an inventor. He taught us to better understand and appreciate the challenges faced by inventors and to come up with ways to assist and encourage them to move to the next phase in realizing their dreams. We want to share his story because at the end of June 2014, he will retire after a very successful 24-year career at the USPTO. Many of you may know him or know of him, but if you don't, let me share a bit about my colleague John Calvert, Senior Advisor for the Office of Innovation Development and OUR spark of genius. John joined the USPTO in 1991 as a patent examiner, reviewing applications in the fields of wearable apparel and textile manufacturing, thermal and combustion technology, and motive and fluid power systems. I used to tease John, "So you examined sewing machines, socks, and underwear?" His return quip would be, "I (as a patent examiner) examined in the early soft-wear arts!" But his expertise was actually much more expansive. John moved up the ranks, serving on a variety of work assignments throughout the USPTO, but it wasn't until he became administrator for the Office of Independent Inventor Programs (now the Office of Innovation Development) that he realized his real passion: helping inventors understand the patent process. In 1999, the USPTO created the Office of Independent Inventor Programs and John became a resource for its efforts to assist inventors. Over the years, he has given presentations and led workshops for inventor groups across the country, explaining the patent process and answering inventors' questions. In the early days, I prepared his travel arrangements, and he would tell me he wanted to go "south in winter and north in the summer." Unfortunately for John, it never really worked that way. One time, I sent him to Bismarck, N.D., in January. With the wind chill, it was -20 F. Sorry about that, John. He enhanced the Inventors Resources pages of the USPTO website to include plain language text about the patent process, created podcasts and computer-based training modules, and also helped develop the IP Awareness Assessment Tool in partnership with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. All of this was to assist inventors and small businesses through the journey of innovation. One of our early podcasts was quite popular and received a lot of views, but it also showed our inexperience at the time. John and his co-presenter were both filmed wearing dark suits on a dark backdrop, and the final result appeared to be two talking heads without supporting bodies! John has a passion for teaching. As a job recruiter for the USPTO, he traveled frequently to universities and quickly realized that students often created intellectual property in their engineering and design classes, and many had questions about patents. This led John to expand our university outreach efforts to engineering and law schools to educate students about the patent process. Oftentimes these trips crammed multiple lectures in multiple classes with hundreds of students. Occasionally, John had no voice upon his return-and if you know John, you know that not talking is truly out of character for him! John has been a part of all 18 independent inventor conferences the USPTO has hosted. (One year we did a conference while a large Star Trek convention was also happening in the same city. It made for some great pictures, but that's another story!) As the conferences have grown, so has John's "rock star" status. I've participated in 15 of the 18 conferences, and have seen attendees literally follow him back to the hotel to continue conversations and ask more questions about the patent process. Over the years, John and I developed a sign to keep things moving. John knew if I gave him "the sign" it would be time to tell the group, "I have to go or Cathie will get me," but even that didn't always work. I often had to pull him away from the crowds. He has always been very generous and genuine with his time and information, and many inventors have learned and benefited from his expertise. During implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011, John was instrumental in standing up the Pro Bono Program and a revamped Ombudsman Program as prescribed in the AIA. The Pro Bono Program is near and dear to John. Over the years, one of the comments the USPTO has heard the most is that "it costs too much to get a patent." Creating and shepherding the Pro Bono Program allowed John to put some muscle behind one of his frequent statements, "so no deserving invention lacks patent protection as a result of the inventor being financially under-resourced." To date, the Pro Bono Program serves 20 states and connects low-income inventors with volunteer pro bono attorneys. Throughout his career, John has received recognition with a U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal award, a USPTO Exceptional Career award, and most recently the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal award for his leadership in developing the Pro Bono Program. The Gold Medal is the highest award given to employees by the Department of Commerce. John has been a true and tireless champion for independent inventors, pro se applicants, and entrepreneurs. We wish him well and want to offer sincere and heartfelt thanks for his strong leadership, extensive efforts, and unfaltering guidance and vision as he passes the torch. Thank you and good luck, John. Enjoy your retirement!
  • Multiple Calendars with the text 12 more months
    Are you looking for a way to increase your options and maximize your resources as you protect your invention? This pilot program might be for you. The Provisional Application for Patent is a powerful tool that allows independent inventors to claim a priority date for their invention. This gives inventors 12 months before they must file a corresponding nonprovisional application-valuable time to test the marketplace, gather investors, or take other important steps toward commercialization. The cost to claim this priority date through a provisional patent application is highly affordable: $130 for small entities and just $65 for micro entities. Nevertheless, some applicants might need more than 12 months. What then? The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched the Extended Missing Parts Pilot Program in December 2010 to make provisional patent applications even more beneficial to inventors. This pilot program permits an applicant to request an additional 12-month period that effectively gives applicants up to 24 months to consider the significant investment of time and money needed to move forward with prosecution of a nonprovisional application. It was created by the USPTO following feedback from independent inventors and universities. Both utility and plant patent applications are eligible to participate. The Extended Missing Parts Pilot Program has been renewed regularly and the current renewal runs until December 31, 2014. Here's how it works: an applicant files a nonprovisional application no later than 12 months after the filing date of a corresponding provisional application and requests a delay in payment of the search and examination fees using form PTO/AIA/421. The applicant must claim the benefit of the provisional application filing date in an Application Data Sheet. The nonprovisional application may be filed online via EFS-Web or in paper, but applicants filing by paper should be aware they will need to pay an additional non-electronic filing fee (currently $200 for both small and micro entities). The applicant will receive an additional 12 months to pay the search and examination fees for their nonprovisional application and move forward with prosecution. Only newly filed nonprovisional applications directly claiming benefit of an earlier filed provisional application within the previous 12 months are eligible. Nonprovisional applications for which a 12-month extension is requested must have a written description clearly describing the invention so that someone with ordinary skill in the same technology can make and use it. The nonprovisional application must have at least one claim and, when necessary, drawings to understand the invention. (Drawings are necessary to understand practically all inventions.) The applicant must still pay the basic filing fee for a nonprovisional application at the time of filing (but not the search and examination fees). Currently, the basic filing fee for small and micro entities when filing a utility application via EFS-Web is $70. Visit the fee schedule for a complete list of USPTO fees. A nonpublication request cannot be submitted with the nonprovisional application. If the application is not in condition for publication, the applicant will be required to place the application in condition for publication within a two-month time period. In order to participate in the Extended Missing Parts Pilot Program, follow these steps: File a nonprovisional application (including a specification) via EFS-Web or paper Claim the benefit of the filing date of a corresponding provisional application filed within the previous 12 months in an Application Data Sheet (e.g. PTO/AIA/14, Domestic Benefit Information section) included when you file Include at least one claim Include drawings, if necessary Request a delay in payment of the search and examination fees at the time of the non-provisional application filing using form PTO/AIA/421 As always, independent inventors can contact the Inventors Assistance Center at 800-786-9199 or email with any questions.
  • Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium
    Upcoming events and news in the world of innovation   Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is pleased to announce the next Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium (WES) will be held March 20-21 in Denver. This is a unique opportunity for current or aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors to learn how intellectual property works, develop effective business strategies, leverage local and federal resources, and much more. Past WES speakers include successful female entrepreneurs, inventors, and policy makers such as QVC’s Lori Greiner and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Save the date and be on the lookout for more information and announcements!   NAI Conference at USPTO Headquarters The 2014 Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) will be held March 6-7 at USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, Va. This event brings together experts in technology, science, and intellectual property for an exciting program of talks and presentations. The USPTO and the NAI have enjoyed a strong working relationship since the NAI’s inception in 2010, and the USPTO looks forward to having the conference on its campus. For more information, registration, and a full list of speakers and events, please visit the conference website.
  • Flower suspended on a piece of aerogel which is suspended over a Bunsen burner
    What will we see at the 2014 Winter Olympics? Aside from some amazing athletics, we could also witness the next trend in winter fabric technology. If you caught the perennial motion-picture classic “A Christmas Story” over the holidays, you saw Ralphie Parker’s little brother, Randy, bundled up in a snowsuit resembling the Michelin Man. Perhaps your well-meaning mother dressed you like that when you were young. Many of us remember bulky, marginally warm snowsuits with something less than love. But fabric technology has come along way over the years. The gear that will be worn by athletes competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is a far cry from Randy Parker’s snowsuit. The next generation of lightweight, high-tech materials will heat your body and keep you dry, even in extreme weather. Winter sports fabrics evolved at a leisurely pace until the 1990s, when things changed dramatically. The Olympics have a tradition of introducing us to these changes. Remember those sleek spider web suits worn by the U.S. Ski Team at the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway? Besides bringing a new look to the games, they contained patented technology that increased aerodynamics of the wearer. Innovations in fibers, fabric construction, and design have led to technical textiles becoming a part of nearly all modern outdoor wear. One of the most exciting innovations involves the use of aerogels for insulating clothing layers. Aerogels, first patented in the early 20th century, are created from a process of removing the liquid from silica gel crystals. They also happen to be the least-dense solid material known to man, composed of up to 99 percent air, and offer superior insulating properties. In fact, a single 3 millimeter layer can keep you warm in subzero temperatures. For most of their existence, aerogels were too costly to manufacture commercially and had limited applications due to their brittleness. That has all changed. In 2012, NASA researchers discovered a way to exponentially strengthen aerogels so that they could be stretched, compressed, and manipulated in a variety of ways. Subsequent developments in the academic world led to new and less-expensive manufacturing processes. So far, only experimental clothing has been created using this technology. While there’s no word yet if we’ll see aerogels in Olympic uniforms this year, it wouldn’t be surprising. Another promising development is the arrival of air-permeable fabrics. For a long time, cold weather athletes have had to compromise between staying warm and staying dry. Materials such as Gore-Tex offer excellent waterproof capabilities—so excellent, in fact, that they trap sweat and moisture that needs to escape. New air-permeable fabrics completely block water on one side while allowing water vapor to escape from the body. This technology is the result of new manufacturing processes that treat micro-porous material with waterproofing agents without covering the pores, preserving the fabric’s breathability. Outerwear incorporating this technology has already hit the shelves, and you’ll no doubt see it on some Olympic athletes in Sochi. Many other fabric technologies are continuously in the works as manufacturers continue to push the envelope of innovation. At the United States Patent and Trademark Office, patent applications for new technologies arrive at a blistering pace. Patents are not just business tools for financial gain: they’re a way to chart the progress of human development. Even one hundred years ago, many of today’s popular sporting activities would not have been possible in cold weather. Fabric technology has come a long way in a short amount of time, allowing humans to compete harder, stronger, and faster in the most unforgiving of conditions. While only a fraction of this technology has made its way to department store shelves, the consumer demand for continuously fashionable, lightweight, and warm performance clothing makes it all but sure we’ll see more soon. What will we see during the 2014 Olympics? Besides awe-inspiring skiing, skating, and sledding—among many other sports—it could be the next trend in cold weather wear. Whatever we see, one thing is certain: the fabric of history is in the making.
  • US Patent number 7,631,443 of the Wheeled Shovel with hinge apparatus
    Bunkered in during a snow advisory? Had enough of that polar vortex? We’ve got just the thing to bring you a little cheer when the weather outside remains bleak. There’s a lot of ways we escape winter’s grip, but the following five patents may bring you some warmth, some joy, and even some relief from the cold and wintry days. In no particular order, here are my five favorite cold weather patents. Note: This article is the first in an ongoing series detailing some of the Inventors Eye staff’s favorite patents. For each article, the writer selects their five favorite patents under a given theme. Our first list is from Acting Associate Commissioner for Innovation Development Anthony Knight.   U.S. Patent No. 3,612,075 Aircraft Deicing Apparatus When I originally saw U.S. patent no. 3,612,075 years ago, I thought, “Wow! It’s a carwash for airplanes.” Well, not exactly. It looked pretty wild, but at the time I wondered whether it could be practical. Fast forward a few years and I found myself at the Pittsburgh airport on a very cold day in January. My plane had landed for a short layover, and as I looked at the accumulated ice on the wings I thought, “We’ll never take off again.”  Ice on the wings of an airplane adds weight and makes it hard to control. But then the plane pulled up to a deicing station—just like the one I’d seen in the patent—and within minutes the plane was treated and we were in the air. Deicing stations like this have kept many an airport open and airline passengers safe.   U.S. Patent No. 5,864,886 Article of Thermal Clothing for Covering the Underlying Area at the Gap Between a Coat Sleeve and a Glove Despite the long title, U.S. patent no. 5,864,886 is so deceptively simple even a kid could make it. In fact, a kid did invent it! It is a wrap for the wrist. Those of us in cold climates know that the space between the glove and the sleeve is the Achilles heel of every good pair of gloves. This invention covers the wrist and keeps heat from escaping. It can also be used without gloves or mittens if the wearer needs to handle small items.   U.S. Patent No. 7,631,443 Wheeled Shovel with Hinge Apparatus For those of us with bad backs, the wheeled snow shovel (U.S. Patent No. 7,631,443) is a great invention. This device pushes snow along the ground and throws it without the operator having to bend or use his or her back. Just simply step forward and push down on the handle and the snow flies. It almost makes me want to get up from my cozy seat on the couch and go outside to shovel the sidewalk. Almost.   U.S. Patent No. D503,125 Two Piece Snowman Mold No collection of winter themed patents would be complete without a snowman mold. One of my favorites is D503,125. This mold has everything you need for a proper snowman. Not only do you get the basic shape of the snowman, but you also get the nose, the eyes, and even the hat! This is an excellent invention for those of us who, like me, are artistically challenged.     U.S. Patent No. 4,169,709 Artificial Fireplace Logs My last selection is U.S. Patent No. 4,169,709, which doesn’t have a drawing, so you’ll just have to imagine a wood-like log. Interestingly, this is not the first artificial fuel ever patented—you would have to go back to 1864 for that. While some people may not favor artificial fireplace logs, they do have some advantages over natural wood. Many of them are composed of waste materials, so using them reduces the number of trees cut for firewood. And the Artificial Fireplace Log does make a crackling sound similar to a natural log. They also burn clean and can create a fun display of colors.
  • Dr. Patricia E. Bath and her drawing from her patent number 4,744,360 of a method and apparatus of removing cataracts
    February and March are Black History Month and Women’s History Month, respectively. Inventors Eye takes a look at past and present to salute the many Black women inventors who have contributed to the growth of innovation in America. Black women throughout American history have impacted and contributed to our nation’s culture of innovation. Patents offer a unique lens through which to view history. By tracing the technologies patents protect—or once protected—as well as the inventors listed on those patents, an image of the past emerges. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents for more than 200 years. That’s a lot of history, and it contains many stories of successful black women who have changed the technological face of America. Today, black women continue to ignite the spark of genius and make key and meaningful contributions to America’s inventive process. The trove of historical information locked in patents can be a challenge to extract, as patents do not record extensive personal details about inventors such as race. Adding to the difficulty is the common practice of early inventors to use initials as a way to conceal their identity or gender. There is ongoing debate about the first black woman inventor, but modern research tools have made it less difficult to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. Though we may never be able to tell the full story of black women inventors, the findings reveal that they have consistently conceived innovative ideas and aggressively filed patent applications throughout history. Martha Jones of Amelia County, Va., might have become the first black woman to receive a United States patent. Her application for an “Improvement to the Corn Husker, Sheller” was granted U.S. patent No. 77,494 in 1868. Jones claimed her invention could husk, shell, cut up, and separate husks from corn in one operation, representing a significant step forward in the automation of agricultural processes. Five years later in 1873, Mary Jones De Leon of Baltimore was granted U.S. patent No. 140,253 for a novel cooking apparatus. De Leon’s invention consisted of the construction and arrangement of a device for heating food by dry heat and steam. The design of the apparatus shows that it was an early precursor to the steam tables now found often at food buffets. Other documented 19th century black women inventors include Judy W. Reed and Sarah Goode. Reed, from Washington, D.C., was granted a patent in 1884 for a dough kneader and roller (U.S. patent No. 305,474) and Goode, from Chicago, was granted a patent in 1885 for a folding cabinet chair (U.S. patent No. 322,177). While it is unknown if any black woman received a patent prior to the Civil War, there is irony in the fact that black women obtained patents long before passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote or the advances in civil rights during the 1950s and ‘60s. Starting in the 20th century it became far easier to determine the identity of inventors thanks to improvements in archiving information. Modern black women continue to make significant innovations in a variety of technological fields. One such inventor is Dr. Patricia E. Bath, who invented a widely used method and apparatus of removing cataracts (U.S. patent No. 4,744,360). This invention uses lasers to remove cataracts from the eye in a less-invasive way and has helped restore or improve vision to millions of patients worldwide, making it one of the most important developments in the field of ophthalmology. Sandra Johnson, the first black woman to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering in the United States, has made many contributions to computer architecture during her career with IBM. She was part of the team that designed the prototype for IBM’s “Deep Blue”—the chess playing computer that defeated Garry Kasparov. Johnson is listed on over 40 U.S. patents. Although compiling a complete list of black women inventors may be impossible, their influence is felt by us every day through their inventions that have changed how we work and play. As we observe both Black History Month in February and Woman’s History Month in March, let’s take time to honor these individuals who have contributed so much to our way of life and to the progress of science and useful arts.
  • Woman shaking hands with another woman in an interview setting
    Tips and information regarding patents and trademarks from the experts at the USPTO One of the most useful tools during the patent prosecution process is an examiner interview. Interviews allow applicants and examiners to meet in-person, over the phone, or via video-conference to discuss particular issues during patent prosecution. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) encourages interviews to clarify issues and advance prosecution because they have been shown to increase efficiency and patent quality. As a result, the number of interviews has doubled between 2008 and 2013. Inventors should ask themselves a few questions when determining whether to have an examiner interview: Do I wish to explain how my invention differs from the prior art? Does the technology need further explanation? Do I feel the examiner’s interpretation of the prior art is different? Maybe there are better ways to claim my invention to capture the patentable features? Before having an interview, consider that time is limited for all parties, so coming to the table with well thought-out issues can make a good first impression. When inventors employ an attorney, any examiner interaction they have must be through that attorney. Many times the attorney will do an interview without the inventor. Inventors should discuss with their attorney if it is necessary to participate. If an interview does occur, they should ask the attorney to discuss the content ahead of the interview and then meet afterward to review results. A common reason attorneys exclude inventors from interviews is because the outstanding issue  has to do with claim interpretation. Claim language defines the legal boundaries of an invention and is the most scrutinized component of the application. Oftentimes, the examiner and attorney will discuss claim wording and not the invention itself. The USPTO hires scientists and engineers with the technical background to understand your invention and see how it differs from the prior art. However, the examiner must also ensure the claims are sufficiently different. If the attorney does want the inventor to participate in the interview, it is most likely to provide the examiner with technology specific information. Preparation for the interview should begin with a thorough review of office communications and references cited by the examiner. The applicant should also draft a detailed interview agenda for the interview. If the applicant feels the prior art differs from his or her invention, an interview is a good opportunity to ask the examiner how to amend the claims to better define the invention over the prior art. When looking at prior art, inventors should remember to look at the entire document and not just the claims.    More information on interview practice can be found on the USPTO’s Interview Practice webpage. This page is dedicated to information to assist applicants and their attorneys with interviews. It includes: FAQs Interview Practice Guidelines Various training modules given to examiners on interviews Video Conferencing and Virtual Interviews Also of interest is the First Action Interview Pilot Program, which can help examiners and applicants identify issues early in the prosecution. Interviews are a great tool, but applicants should take time to consider if one is right for their case and how to get the most out of it. A little bit of preparation goes a long way.
  • Cartoon people holding hands
    Below is a list of independent inventor groups across the United States. Many groups keep up-to-date schedules of regularly occurring meetings and events for their local areas. Visit an individual group's website for more information. The United States Patent and Trademark Office does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites and does not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites. List your organization in Inventors Eye Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRC) United Inventors Association Alabama Invent Alabama 866.745.6319 Alabama Inventors Clubs 256.229.5551 Columbus Phenix City Inventors Association Attorneys General State House 11 S. Union St. Montgomery AL 36130 Alaska Alaska Inventors & Entrepreneurs Inventors Institute of Alaska 907.376.5114 Attorneys General 907.465.3600 P.O. Box 110300 Diamond Courthouse Juneau AK 99811-0300 Arizona Inventors Association of Arizona, Inc. TechShop Inventors Club Meets Fridays 9 a.m. 249 E Chicago St. Chandler, AZ 85225 602.303.6272 Attorneys General 602.542.4266 1275 W. Washington St. Phoenix AZ 85007 Arkansas Arkansas Inventors' Network Attorneys General 800.482.8982 200 Tower Bldg. 323 Center St. Little Rock AR 72201-2610 California Inventors Alliance Inventors Forum San Diego Inventors Forum Thomas Jefferson School of Law Patent Clinic Attorneys General 916.445.9555 1300 I St. Ste. 1740 Sacramento CA 95814 Colorado Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Attorneys General 1525 Sherman Street Denver CO 80203 List your organization in Inventors Eye Connecticut Inventors Association of Connecticut Connecticut Invention Convention Attorneys General 860.808.5318 55 Elm St. Hartford CT 06141-0120 Delaware Delaware Entrepreneurs Forum 302.652.4241 Attorneys General 302.577.8338 Carvel State Office Bldg. 820 N. French St. Wilmington DE 19801 District of Columbia Inventors Network of the Capital Area Attorneys General 202.724.1305 John A. Wilson Building 1350 PA Ave NW Suite 409 Washington DC 20009 Florida Edison Inventors Association, Inc. Tampa Bay Inventors' Council Inventors Society of South Florida Attorneys General 850.414.3300 The Capitol PL 01 Tallahassee FL 32399-1050 Georgia Inventors Association of Georgia, Inc. Columbus Phenix City Inventors Association Attorneys General 404.656.3300 40 Capitol Square SW Atlanta GA 30334.-1300,2705,87670814,00.html Hawaii Hawaii International Inventors Association, Inc. 808.523.5555 Attorneys General 425 Queen St. Honolulu HI 96813 Idaho Inventors Association of Idaho 208.255.4321 x223 See for meeting place directions East Idaho Inventors Forum 208.346.6763 Attorneys General Statehouse Boise ID 83720-1000 Illinois Illinois Innovators and Inventors P.O. Box 58 Edwardsville IL 62025 Chicago Inventors Organization INVINT Innovation Viability Network Central Illinois Attorneys General 312.814.3000 James R. Thompson Ctr. 100 W. Randolph St. Chicago IL 60601 Indiana Indiana Inventors Association 765.674.2845 Inventors Council-Wabash 219.782.2511 Attorneys General Indiana Government Center South 5th Floor 402 West Washington Street Indianapolis IN 46204 Iowa Iowa Inventors Group Drake University Inventor Program 515.271.2655 Attorneys General 515.281.5164 Hoover State Office Bldg. 1305 E. Walnut Des Moines IA 50319 Kansas Inventors Assoc. of So. Central Kansas 316.681.2358 Mid-America Inventors Association 913.371.7011 Inventor's Club of KC Attorneys General 785.296.2215 120 S.W. 10th Ave. 2nd Fl. Topeka KS 66612-1597 Kentucky Central Kentucky Inventors Council Attorneys General 502.696.5300 700 Capitol Ave. Capitol Building Suite 118 Frankfort KY 40601 Louisiana Attorneys General 225.326.6000 P.O. Box 94095 Baton Rouge LA 70804-4095 Maine Attorneys General 207.626.8800 State House Station 6 Augusta ME 04333 Maryland Inventors Network of the Capital Area Attorneys General 410.576.6300 200 St. Paul Place Baltimore MD 21202-2202 Massachusetts Inventors' Association of New England Innovators' Resource Network National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance Attorneys General 617.727.2200 1 Ashburton Place Boston MA 02108-1698 Michigan The Entrepreneur Network Inventors Council of Mid Michigan The Flint and Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce Attorneys General P.O.Box 30212 525 W. Ottawa St. Lansing MI 48909-0212 Minnesota Inventors' Network Minnesota Inventors Congress 235 S. Mill St. P.O. Box 71 Redwood Falls MN 56283 Attorneys General 651.296.3353 State Capitol Ste. 102 St. Paul MN 55155 Mississippi Society of Mississippi Inventors Assistance Attorneys General 601.359.3680 Department of Justice P.O. 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  • Poinsettia patent
    Children are said during the holidays to have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads-although it is unclear how many children today know what a sugar plum is-but the poinsettia remains the favorite of holiday home decorators. Its multitude of colors, range of sizes, and rich varieties make the poinsettia a classic touch for holiday decorating at home, office, or school. Who can resist picking up one or many for a pop of color as the season gets into full swing? It is estimated that poinsettias contribute more than $250 million to the U.S. economy in annual retail sales. Not surprisingly, the poinsettia is the most popular potted plant in America, with the most concentrated sales during the six-week period leading up to Christmas, generating $60 million. California ranks as the top poinsettia-producing state in America. But just where did this vibrant, festive plant come from, and how does it relate to patents? History and Origin America is not the only country producing poinsettias, nor was it the home origin of the plant scientifically known as Euphorbia pulcherrima. The poinsettia is native to Mexico. It can be found in deciduous tropical forests at moderate elevations down the Pacific coastline from Mexico to Guatemala. They also thrive in the interior of Mexico in some hot, seasonally dry forests. In Mexico, cultivation of poinsettias has been traced back to the Aztecs. They used parts of the poinsettia to create reddish-purple dyes for fabrics as well as medicine. It is said that Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, had poinsettias delivered by caravan to his capital at what is now Mexico City because they could not be grown in the high altitude. The poinsettia was first introduced to the Unites States in 1828 by botanist, physician, and first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett. He had come across the plant in southern Mexico and sent cuttings of it back to his home in Charleston, S.C. The poinsettia subsequently received its name in his honor. The Ecke Family In 1900, Albert Ecke emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles, Calif., where he opened a dairy and orchard. He began selling poinsettias on city streets. His son Paul and grandson Paul Jr. took the small business to new levels by developing a grafting technique to create fuller, compact plants. This change made it possible for every seedling to branch and thus produce a bushier plant rather than the weedy look of the naturally occurring poinsettia. The Eckes also marketed the plants as a holiday favorite. To increase the scope of their business, the family relocated to Encinitas, Calif., where they established the Ecke Family Ranch. For nearly 100 years, the Eckes produced variation after variation of poinsettias, featuring an array of colors and foliage shapes. With each new variety they developed, the Eckes acquired plant patents to protect their inventions. As a result of their ingenuity, the Eckes held a virtual monopoly on the poinsettia market until the 1990s when their grafting method was independently discovered and published by a university researcher, opening the door for competitors to join the marketplace. In 2012, Paul Ecke III made the difficult decision to sell both the family business and ranch, but the Ecke name lives on, as the company still produces a significant amount of the poinsettias sold in the United States and across the world. The Ecke family is credited with creating a unique and wonderful American legacy. The family holds roughly 500 U.S. plant patents, either granted to one of the Eckes or assigned to the Ecke Family Ranch. This vast and colorful patent portfolio is a tribute to the ingenuity and passion of their vision, technological talent, and business acumen. National Poinsettia Day is December 12th U.S. Plant Patents The patent most people think of is known as a utility patent, which protects new and useful processes, machines, manufactures, compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. The vast majority of patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are in fact utility patents. But you can also obtain a design patent-think of a unique product shape-or a plant patent. A plant patent is a grant by the U.S. government to an inventor (or the inventor's heirs or assignees) who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. By "asexually reproduced," this means that the plant is propagated without the use of genetic seeds, ensuring that an exact genetic copy of the plant is reproduced. There are a number of ways to asexually reproduce plants, including grafting, division, slips, rhizomes, and root cutting, among others. The grant, which like other patents lasts for 20 years from the date of filing the application, protects the inventor's right to exclude others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the plant so reproduced. More than 23,000 U.S. plant patents have been issued since the Plant Patent Act of 1930. Plant patent applications for years required full-color drawings of the new varieties embodied by the plant. The submitted drawings were often beautiful works of art, rendered in water color, oil paints, or color pencil. Today, color drawings may still be submitted, but most applicants prefer to provide a photograph of the plant instead. To learn more about U.S. plant patents, what they protect, and how to file an application, visit the USPTO's online guide to plant patents. Plant patents are an interesting and often overlooked part of the U.S. intellectual property system. These eye-catching patents provide protection for many of the trees, shrubs, flowers and other vegetation beautifying our homes and indoor and outdoor spaces, including more than 100 varieties of poinsettias. This holiday season, you just might find yourself marveling at the beauty of a poinsettia. While you're at it, take some time to reflect on how our intellectual property system helped bring you that beauty, and how less colorful our lives might be without patents and trademarks.
  • Collegiate Inventors Competition Awards Ceremony banner
    What does the future of medical technology look like? Imagine smarter devices able to find the optimal electrical path through a patient's body and zap the heart back into a steady rhythm. Imagine cheaper tests for detecting certain types of cancer more accurately and earlier than current methods. Imagine treatments that enhance the body's natural ability to fight cancer. These are just some of the exciting new technologies that might make it into our daily lives in the years to come. But what's more impressive than the technologies themselves? The fact that they were all created by college students. Attendees at the 2013 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) awards ceremony on November 12, held at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, Va., had a chance to see the exciting technological frontier up close and hear from some of these brilliant future leaders. The competition is open to all technologies, but the majority of finalists this year came from the medical technology fields-a reflection of the rapid expansion of biomedical engineering in the academic and research worlds as well as private industry. The competition consists of graduate and undergraduate categories, with teams and individuals representing schools such as Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, North Carolina State, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins University among others. The 2013 CIC awards ceremony brought together well-known figures in technology and intellectual property-including many members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame--to encourage and cheer the competitors. Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant from the Discovery Channel's "Stuff You Should Know" served as hosts, entertaining the crowd with their trademark wit and expertly pacing the high-energy event. Steve Sasson, the inventor of the digital camera, delivered well-wishes before the competition got under way. "[These competitors] have invention in their bones," he said. Sasson and outgoing Deputy Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea did the honors of unsealing the judge's envelopes and announcing winners. In the undergraduate division, a team of eight biomedical engineering students from Johns Hopkins University took the top prize for their invention of the PrestoPatch, a device that improves the way heart shock is delivered to patients experiencing arrhythmia. The PrestoPatch uses three conductive patches-as opposed to the current norm of two-providing doctors more options for producing an electrical current through a patient's body and shocking the heart back into a normal heartbeat and increasing the likelihood of successful use. The device also reduces impedance in the body prior to delivering the shock. With current shock treatment, doctors overcome impedance by pressing down on the shock pads with their fists. The PrestoPatch uses a tool to apply an exact amount of pressure. Asked by Sasson what their future plans were, the undergraduate winners said they hope to quickly commercialize the device and ensure its availability to health practitioners far and wide. In the graduate division, Stanford University's Aaron Ring and Kipp Weiskopf won first place for their engineered "high-affinity SIRPα variants." These greatly improve the body's natural ability to fight cancer by stimulating immune cells known as macrophages to locate and "eat" cancer cells. The SIRPα variants are not toxic to normal cells in the body, making them an exciting development in the field of cancer treatment. Answering Sasson's question about the future, Ring quipped, "Well, we have to finish school first," drawing laughter from the crowd. His response, however, was a humbling reminder of the remarkable achievement he and Weiskopf have reached so early in their lives. Following the awards announcements, Steve Katsaros, CEO of Nokero and himself the winner of the 1995 CIC, addressed the finalists and winners. "Think about the lives around you that you improve," Katsaros said. "You will make the world a better place." Nokero, founded by Katsaros in 2010, manufactures solar lights and products affordable in the developing world, which reduces the need for potentially deadly kerosene lighting. Nokero was a winner of the USPTO's pilot program Patents for Humanity, which celebrated patented technology used to improve the lives of those in need. Katsaros provided each student with one of his solar-powered light bulbs as a symbol of the positive influence they will have on the world. Sponsored by Invent Now, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the USPTO, and a list of corporate donors, the Collegiate Inventors Competition has recognized the most innovative and inspiring inventions produced by college students since 1991. Judging panels are composed of recognized experts in the fields of science and technology, drawn from academic, private, and government organizations. For a full list of finalists and winners, visit the CIC website. You can also watch video clips from the event and see the finalists present their inventions at the CIC YouTube channel.
  • W. Richard Frederick and his invention the LightKeeper
    Any of us who has hung holiday lights has dealt with a string that goes dark because of one burned-out bulb. We might be tempted to simply throw out the string when it proves difficult to identify the bad bulb. That is not a problem with technology created by W. Richard Frederick, a self-taught engineer and inventor of the LightKeeper (U.S. patent No. 6,480,001). This device keeps holiday light strands or pre-lit Christmas trees bright. His practical little device works by forcing the electrical current to bypass burned-out bulbs. Mr. Frederick was kind enough to chat with Inventors Eye about his invention and career as an independent inventor. Inventors Eye: You are a named inventor on 24 patents and you have quite a bit of experience developing inventions and bringing products to the marketplace. How did you come by the idea for the LightKeeper? W. Richard Frederick: It's a long story. I assigned one of my earlier inventions to a company that employed me. In return, I received a small equity stake in the company. The market potential for the invention was huge. If it paid off, I would have received a seven-figure payment, enough to retire in style. Things didn't work out. One day, the other investors and I were called into a meeting and told that the funding was pulled. Our stock was worthless. The company could not afford to keep us, and we were fired. In order to pay the bills, I took a job working in a metal shop. The pay wasn't good and the working conditions were "difficult." I quickly started looking for a way out of the situation. IE: So, what spurred you on was the need for a better job? WRF: Yes, the need for a better job was my primary motivation, but doing something I knew a lot about and loved was important. My wife and I love Christmas. Every year, we put out over seven thousand outside lights and decorations, including some that I invented. The town trolley made our house a stop on its tour. IE: What was your experience with finding financing for your idea? WRF: I took a list of Christmas inventions to a trade show and began the difficult process of trying to find an investor who was willing to develop them. One dealer was actually insulting, but I kept going down the aisles and finally a vendor said, "Maybe." The vendor called a few days later and we met again to decide which products he might be interested in selling. He told me a device that fixed lights was at the top of his list. The vendor didn't have contacts that could make this type of product and suggested I consider finding someone who could manufacture the product for me. The skillset of a good inventor is not usually the same as a good businessman, and especially not a good salesman. A lot of inventors make that mistake. It's okay to love the invention, to make and use it yourself, but can you sell enough of them? There's a lot more involved in running a business. For starters, you need to comply with all safety and regulatory issues. You need to ask yourself and be honest: can I do this, can I sell this, or what portions can I do? Finally, you have to ask yourself: just because I can do this or that, will I love doing it? IE: How did you develop the idea into an invention? WRF: Development was tough. I still needed to work in the metal shop to pay the bills. I would work an 8-hour shift and then come home and work another 4-6 hours on the LightKeeper. I set up a used desk in the corner of the family room. My work bench was an old door set up in the laundry room. Most weekends were spent at that desk. My wife would sometimes bring me meals so I could work without stopping. Edison was wrong when he said invention is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration; mine was more like .01 percent inspiration and 99.99 percent perspiration. IE: So, did you decide to make the LightKeeper yourself or did you find someone to manufacture it? WRF: I decided that I would own and keep the patents. The vendor I met at the tradeshow would be my exclusive sales and marketing agent, and we would set up the manufacturing to make sure the product was made to the highest quality and worked to our specifications. The patents, design, and manufacture would be my active part. I got a good lawyer to draft the patent application. The president from my previous job-who was also fired in that same meeting-suggested a manufacturer. He is a real nuts-and-bolts guy with manufacturing connections in China, and he was still looking for a job. We paid him to help set up production in China. We tried having the LightKeeper manufactured in the U.S., but we just couldn't meet what we thought was a realistic retail price. At this point, I've taken so many trips to China I can eat peanuts with chopsticks. IE: What lessons have you learned from your experience as an inventor that you would like to share with others? WRF: Many people just want a patent and believe it is their golden ticket and will protect them from anything. What they don't realize is that a patent is only as strong as the claims. If you don't claim your invention in a specific way that makes workarounds difficult for infringers, you'll lose. Read and understand your patent and its claims. Help draft them if you can. It is also very important to know and obey the rules when filing for a patent. It is your responsibility to tell the patent examiner all the information and prior art that you know about that relates to your invention. This can save you later down the road. For example, after the LightKeeper had become successful and was in almost every hardware store, a few larger companies did a knockoff. They changed the shape and color, introduced a tooled product at a major tradeshow, and began taking orders. My patent attorney was great. I don't know what I would have done without him. He wrote them a "nice" letter explaining our position. The big companies said there was a factory light set tester used almost exclusively in China. They claimed we probably knew about it or should have known about, and in a backwards way it was relevant prior art, meaning it could invalidate my patent. That was the justification for introducing their similar product. I did actually know about this tester from my trips to China. I had an English version of the operator's manual. I had submitted this manual to the USPTO when the LightKeeper's patent application was still pending with a clear explanation why this was not applicable prior art. My patent attorney reminded the large companies to check the patent file, where they would see that this other technology had already been disclosed and reviewed by the examiner. The companies withdrew their product without an expensive court fight. IE: That's a great story. Do you have any last advice for readers? WRF: Your goal isn't to just get a patent-it should be to get real protection for products that make you money. A really successful product, one that lasts for years instead of being a gimmick, is an invention based on values. This creates a revenue stream instead of a single spike. Also, I always follow the golden rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. I had an overshadowing design goal: do your work as if you are doing it for God, and He will reward you. It really works. Finally, don't take shortcuts or be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Have you ever wondered who is the most expensive patent attorney? Well, it's the one that doesn't do the job that needs to be done when it needs to be done.
  • New lower Fees begin on January 1, 2014
    More good news is on the horizon for independent inventors and small businesses. Effective January 1, 2014, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will implement a revised fee schedule that reflects certain reductions in the cost of obtaining a U.S. patent. These reductions are in accordance with the USPTO's fee-setting authority provided by Section 10 of the America Invents Act. The new schedule also makes international patent protection more affordable for small and micro entities. Most people who have never filed a patent application might be surprised to learn that there isn't just one flat fee to pay when filing for a patent. While many factors determine which fees need to be paid and at what stage of the application process, there are several fees that apply to all granted patents. One of these is the issue fee, which is due three months after an application receives a notice of allowance. Starting January 1, the utility issue fee for small and micro entities will be reduced from $890 and $445 to $480 and $240, respectively. Reissue fees, design issue fees, and plant issue fees will also be similarly reduced, representing an approximate 45 percent across-the-board reduction in all issue fees. Additionally, after January 1, a publication fee is no longer required for all applicants-a further savings of $300. Visit the revised fee schedule to see the full list of patent-related fees. Small and Micro-Entity Fees for International Protection The revised fee schedule also makes it more affordable for small and micro entities to obtain international patent protection through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT is an international patent law treaty that provides a framework for applicants to file one international patent application and seek simultaneous patent protection in any of the 148 member countries, which include the United States and almost every major industrialized nation. Before January 1, 2014, PCT fees at the international stage do not have separate categories for small and micro entities, requiring all PCT applicants pay the same price, regardless of size. After January 1, PCT applications at the international stage will include categories for small and micro entities, representing 50 and 75 percent reductions in international stage fees, respectively. To learn more about the Patent Cooperation Treaty, visit the USPTO PCT page or the World Intellectual Property Organization's PCT page.
  • USPTO Sunday Seminar
    Detroit Saturday Seminar on December 7 The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host its next Saturday Seminar at the Elijah J. McCoy satellite office in Detroit on December 7, 2013. While all Saturday Seminars provide attendees with practical and valuable IP information and hands-on workshops, the December seminar will be particularly useful for aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs in minority and underserved communities. To view the full agenda and list of speakers, please visit the Office of Innovation Development's current events page.   Innovation Conversations in Washington, D.C., December 8 On December 8, 2013, innovators in science, technology, and the arts will come together in the nation's capital for a day of exciting talks and presentations exploring innovation: what is it? How does it affect our everyday lives? How are big ideas born? Speakers include inventors, technologists, and officials from government organizations including the USPTO, NASA, and the Smithsonian Institution. Hosted by the Smithsonian, "Innovations: Brainstorms, Big Ideas and the Creative Future" will take place in the Smithsonian's Ripley Center from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This program is open to the public and admission is free, but tickets are required. Visit the event website for more information and to reserve your seat today.   Smithsonian Unveils Innovation Website Since August, 2012, the USPTO has collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution on the planned Innovation Space at the Arts and Industries Building, a temporary use of the historic building on the National Mall. The Innovation Space will be a forum for the public and today's most innovative thinkers and creators to engage in conversations and activities that illuminate, inspire, and inform. The building is slated to reopen in late 2014, but in the meantime you can visit the Innovation Space website to stay on top of the latest developments in the technological and creative worlds. Add the site to your bookmarks because new content and event announcements are posted regularly.
  • USPTO Sunday Seminar
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host its next Saturday Seminar at the Detroit satellite office on December 7, 2013. This free event will feature intellectual property (IP) experts from private and public organizations, including the USPTO, the Minority Business Development Agency, and local businesses. Topics include building successful businesses, financing, and increasing your IP awareness. Further details and a full agenda are forthcoming. Information will be posted to the Office of Innovation Development's current events page as it becomes available, so please check it often.
  • Margaret (Peggy) Focarino, the Commisioner for Patents giving a speech
    As Commissioner for Patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I'd like to welcome readers of Inventors Eye to a special end-of-year message. As you may know, the USPTO operates on a fiscal year that runs October 1 through September 30. The year that just concluded for the agency was truly historic, as it saw the final implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA). But before I discuss the AIA, let me share some statistics from this past fiscal year. By the numbers, 2013 was an impressive showing for our patent examining corps. Both first action pendency and total pendency went in the direction we wanted to see: downward-and this was even as filings increased. Preliminary data shows that over 562,000 utility, plant, and reissue (UPR) applications were received in fiscal year 2013. Once application filings have been finalized, we anticipate a 6.5 percent increase over the number of applications filed in fiscal year 2012. Preliminary results also show that we issued 267,900 UPR patents in fiscal year 2013. This is an 8 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. All of this translates into a first action pendency of 18.2 months and a total pendency of 29.1 months in fiscal year 2013, and we will continue working to reduce pendency and the number of unexamined patent applications in the coming years. The faster the USPTO can award intellectual property rights to innovators, the faster those innovators can rely on that protection to bring products and services to the global marketplace. The patent process is not just about numbers: it's about people. According to the most recent Partnership for Public Service rankings, the USPTO ranks as the 5th best place to work in the federal government out of 292 federal agency subcomponents. While this is a tremendous achievement, we are striving to be the very best place to work in the federal government. We have been able to achieve a high ranking by investing in our people. The USPTO currently employs 8,054 highly skilled and trained patent examiners. Providing ample tools and work-life options for staff translates into an improvement in both the quantity and the quality of work produced. The preliminary fiscal year 2013 results for the Patents Quality Composite Score is 71.6 percent. According to our quality composite matrix, 96.2 percent of all examiners' final dispositions of cases were in compliance, and 96.3 percent of all in-process work was also in compliance. Now, let's get back to the AIA. On March 19, 2013, the USPTO was given the authority to set fees in accordance with Section 10 of the AIA. This is great news for independent inventors. Fee-setting authority allowed the USPTO to create a "micro entity" status. Thus, qualifying inventors are able to receive a 75 percent discount on most fees. Also, on March 16, 2013, the first-inventor-to-file provisions of the AIA went into effect. The Office for Innovation Development (OID) produced a series of videos that provide straightforward explanations of the important changes resulting from the AIA. The AIA also authorized us to open regional offices across the country. The agency had already chosen Detroit as a location-which officially opened in July 2012-and it is now working to open offices in Denver, Dallas, and Silicon Valley. Judges for our Patent Trial and Appeal Board are already working at those three new locations. Our pro bono program, which the AIA also authorized us to launch, helps inventors obtain free or reduced-cost legal services. It has expanded to cover 28 states and counting. On October 25, 2013, the USPTO oversaw the signing of a charter agreement for a newly formed advisory council that will be responsible for managing and growing the program. A signing ceremony was held with Chief Judge Randall Rader of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The OID also sponsored several nationwide events for inventors and small business concerns this year, including a regional conference in Kansas and four Saturday Seminars in Detroit. In addition to providing education on patents and trademarks at these events, the USPTO invited representatives from state, federal, and private entities to discuss resources in the regions where the conferences are located. Such entities included Small Business Development Centers, Service Corps of Retired Engineers, Patent and Trademark Resource Centers, attorneys from intellectual property (IP) law associations, and subject matter experts in marketing and business. These collaborations strengthen our relationship with other government and non-profit organizations so that we may provide you with the best customer service and information possible. Our goal is to help you understand how patents and trademarks can be used as important components of your business strategy. Lastly, in June we released an updated version of the IP Awareness Assessment Tool, a Web-based resource that helps users identify IP assets that may already be embedded in their businesses. By analyzing user-supplied answers to a comprehensive questionnaire, the tool generates a custom report with information and links to specific IP subjects relevant to the user. The tool was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership. And don't forget that the OID provides many types of assistance to independent inventors and small business owners on its Inventors Resources Web pages. Here you will find plain language information about the patent and trademark processes and links to many useful tools and resources. Included is the pro se and pro bono Web page, which is designed for inventors filing for patent protection on their own behalf or seeking free services or greatly reduced fees from patent professionals. As rules or practices before the USPTO change, the page will be updated with current information. Our goal is to be connected with you, the independent inventor, as you proceed through the inventing process. We are also available via telephone at 1-800-PTO-9199 or via email at IndependentInventor@USPTO.GOV.
  • Multiple prosthetics patents
    With rapid advances in technology for prosthetics in recent years, the field offers a good study in how patents help spur innovation. Prosthetic limbs available on the market today incorporate developments found in multiple fields, from biomechanical and precision engineering to rapid prototyping and electronic microprocessors. The synthesis of new technologies and scientific principles has led to devices that offer better mobility and comfort for users. The origins of prosthetics predate history, but Ancient Greek and Roman records indicate that early artificial limbs were fashioned from bronze, iron, or wood. Trends in early prosthetics focused on either cosmetic appearance or functionality, but rarely both. These designs sought to appear lifelike, often carved from wood or leather and painted in flesh tone colors but without articulation. Function trumped appearance. All of these devices were uncomfortable. Not much changed for centuries. The American Civil War is often regarded as a watershed moment in the development of prosthetics. As new weaponry, particularly the "Minie ball" bullet, regularly inflicted destructive wounds, advances in surgery allowed field doctors to amputate as a common treatment for limb injuries. These advances led to more soldiers surviving combat with amputated limbs. After four years of fighting, some 70,000 soldiers on both sides of the conflict had lost a limb. The U.S. government, recognizing a significant medical need among war veterans, initiated a program to supply prosthetic devices to every amputee. Almost overnight, a large demand for prosthetics emerged. Patents played an important role in the rise of the prosthetics industry. The incentive provided by patents to exclude others from making or selling their technology encouraged inventors to take new approaches in design and manufacture. Patents for artificial limbs and improvements to artificial limbs turn up frequently in prior art in the years following the Civil War. Among these is U.S. patent no. 111,741, a hinged design for a leg prosthesis invented by James E. Hanger. Hanger, reportedly the first documented soldier amputee of the Civil War, was awarded a government contract to manufacture and supply his invention to war veterans. The company he founded is still a leading manufacturer of prosthetics 150 years later. Today, examiners at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) continue to see new innovations in prosthetic technology. Among the trends is a shift from passive devices to those powered and controlled through electronic means. These microprocessor-controlled devices have advanced articulation and are able to analyze wearers' movements and make adjustments on the fly. Such devices allow users to perform movements and tasks with heightened agility and sensitivity. Also exciting is the incorporation of new manufacturing techniques that allow for better-fitted devices: doctors can use computer imaging to model the bones and physical features of a patient, design a custom prosthesis, and have a rapid prototype created in a matter of hours. During the Civil War, the Old Patent Office Building in Washington, D.C., doubled as a hospital for Union soldiers. Surrounded by agony and suffering, patent examiners must have found it heartening to review applications for new devices that would soon offer improved conditions for the wounded men around them.
  • Woody Norris and his invention of hypersonic sound technology
    Woody Norris never thought he'd tangle with Somali pirates. But when news outlets reported in 2008 that a "sound focusing weapon" had been used to thwart pirates threatening a cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden, Woody knew they must be referring to his hypersonic sound technology. Now called a long range acoustic device (LRAD), it emits a clearly audible sound when pointed directly at a person. Yet anyone else, even someone sitting right next to the target, hears nothing. The volume of an LRAD can be intensified from normal conversation levels all the way up to ranges that cause adverse physical responses and sensory pain, which is how it makes pirates scatter within seconds. Woody says the principle behind hypersonic technology is to focus sound waves the way a laser focuses light. "Efforts to focus sound have been attempted for the last 40 to 50 years," explained Woody, "but distortion was always too high. I tried a different approach and managed to make smaller, less distorted devices. My hypersonic device was the first to successfully focus high-quality sound by embedding audible sound on top of ultrasound and having the audible sound demodulate in the air itself, without needing a receiver. In essence, the room is the speaker box." Woody holds several patents related to the technology, including U.S. patent no. 6,850,623. The diverse applications of hypersonic sound range from home speakers and non-lethal weapons to targeted advertising-think of a talking vending machine that only the person directly in front of it can hear-enhanced movie and video game sound, and crowd control. It could even be considered a family peacekeeper: imagine different people in a room or car listening to completely different music or watching different shows without using headphones or fighting over controls. But apart from these uses, Woody's work affects everyday life for millions. In the early 1960s, Woody came up with one of his first inventions, widely considered a precursor to the sonogram. Inspired by the principles of FM radio, he developed a transcutaneous Doppler system. If something under the skin was moving, an emitted ultrasonic wave would bounce back and get decoded by the device. In essence, the movement was "heard" by the doctor or technician. Unlike a stethoscope, Woody's invention focused on specific objects and did not pick up background sounds. In about a month, he went from the idea to delivery of a working prototype, which he then sold. "I enjoyed the process-looking at a problem and identifying a way to solve it," said Woody, "but I was pretty sure I hadn't made any money. I got paid with what I thought was valueless stock. To my surprise, about a year later, the stock became worth what I considered a small fortune." A lifelong independent inventor was born. Audiophiles in the 1970s might remember the cutting-edge linear arm phonograph. The tonearm didn't pivot but moved along a horizontal track to minimize distortion. Woody invented that over a weekend. Woody is also a pioneer in the use of flash memory and invented the Flashback (U.S. patent no. 5,491,774), the first handheld digital recorder that recorded on flash memory rather than tape. Many Inventors Eye readers have probably used an ear-mounted speaker-microphone contraption that permits hands-free telephone use. Woody is behind that, too. His patents were sold to JABRA and were critical in the widespread use and development of Bluetooth technology. Although Woody's inventions are generally related to sound, it doesn't stop him from exploring other areas of technology. CBS's "60 Minutes" featured his AirScooter (U.S. patent no. 6,460,802) , a single-seat, double-rotor personal helicopter with a 4-stroke engine. Woody taught "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon to fly the AirScooter in less than an hour. While the gas-powered version was not produced commercially, Woody is working on a second generation all-electric AirScooter that utilizes recent advances in hybrid automobile batteries. "If you're flying an ultralight helicopter and it dies, so do you," he said. "It is absolutely critical that you have lightweight, reliable, predictable power." He plans to have the electric AirScooter on the market "in the next year or so." Woody's inventions have won product-of-the-year awards in various categories from both Popular Science and Business Week. A major honor was being awarded the 2005 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Inventor of the Year, which also carried with it a $500,000 honorarium. Not bad for a kid born outside Cumberland, Md., whose formal education ended with high school. But that doesn't mean Woody didn't study his subject areas intently. As a young man, Woody took a low-paying job at the University of Washington, which allowed him free access to classes. He attended whenever he could find time. Electronics, religion, languages, accounting, psychology, physics-he took them all in order to gain a well-rounded sense of the world. In his typical modest style, Woody argued that "I am no genius. I am just 'smart enough.' I still find wonder in the mundane. I like to question the unknown and undone, and I never think that I can quit learning and tinkering. I don't want to be so educated that I put on blinders to possibilities. Sometimes it is better not to know something can't be done, and then maybe you'll find a way to do it." But with all the success and fun he's had, Woody and his wife have also realized that giving back is both an honor and a responsibility. With the Lemelson-MIT honorarium and some additional investment income, they started the Elwood and Stephanie Norris Foundation in 2005. This foundation provides grants to young inventors and entrepreneurs and also provides four-year scholarships to the University of Maryland for selected students at Fort Hill High School, Woody's old high school in Cumberland. This year, Woody was honored for his continued support and generosity by being elected to the Fort Hill High School Hall of Fame. "They gave me a trophy and a Tee-shirt!" he said proudly. Summing up the keys to his success, Woody said, "I became an inventor by accident. I observe and question and read and tinker. I work hard. I communicate well. I look at things differently. I can usually look at my ideas objectively, but I also get lucky. I hope my experience and success as an inventor can help other inventors realize that virtually nothing has been invented yet-the really cool inventions are all out there just waiting to be invented."
  • Track One Prioritized Examination logo
    On some occasions, time can work against independent inventors and small business owners. The life cycles for many products are notoriously short, and infringement is always a concern. Investors often prefer to back technology that has been granted a patent, but without their financial support, every other operation in a business plan could stall. Speed is an important leverage factor when bringing products to market. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has made tremendous progress in shortening pendency from the time an application is filed to when a final decision is made. But even that shorter wait can feel too long for some independent inventors and small businesses. With the passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011, the USPTO implemented Track One Prioritized Examination to give applicants more options for moving their ideas quickly. What Is Track One? Track One expedites the examination process of nonprovisional utility or plant applications for an additional fee (Track One is not available for design patent applications). Track One is also available for request for continued examination (RCE) applications. The goal is to provide a final disposition within 12 months of Track One status being granted, but the program is currently producing final dispositions in an average of just six months. Be aware that applications are subject to certain restrictions for Track One eligibility. To find out more about these restrictions, read the Track One frequently asked questions. Who's Using It? Track One is used by a wide variety of applicants, from small and micro entities to major corporations and research institutions, from first-time filers to serial inventors. USPTO statistics show that over 48 percent of Track One users are small entities, including micro entities. Track One applications currently are receiving first office actions in an average of 61.6 days and final dispositions in an average of 184 days after being approved for Track One status. By comparison, the pendency numbers on non-Track One applications as of the end of fiscal year 2013-September 30-were 18.2 months and 29.1 months, respectively. How Do I Get It? When filing your nonprovisional utility application, you'll need to fill out a Track One request form and use the EFS-Web filing system. Acceptance into the program is not automatic. Currently, it takes an average of 48.7 days for Track One requests to receive a decision regarding acceptance. The AIA authorizes up to 10,000 applications per fiscal year to be approved for Track One, and Track One requests grow steadily each month. How Much Does it Cost? The cost for small entities to receive Track One prioritized examination is currently $2,000. That fee is reduced further to $1,000 for micro entities. For non-small entities, the fee is $4,000. When speed is of the essence, Track One may be worth considering when filing your nonprovisional application.
  • 18th Annual Independent Inventors Conference
    Annual Independent Inventor Conference October 11-12 at the USPTO The United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) 18th Independent Inventor Conference will be held October 11-12, 2013. After taking place in other regions of the country for the last few years, the conference comes home to the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va. This two-day event is tailored for prospective or established independent inventors and small business owners. Subject-matter experts from a broad spectrum of government, legal, entrepreneurial, and business development entities will deliver vital information regarding intellectual property and commerce best practices that can help attendees be better positioned for success. A special pre-conference workshop will be held the evening of October 10 to help attendees prepare to get the most out of the conference. For more information, visit the Office of Innovation Development's current events page and keep on the lookout for updates.   Pritzker Named New Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was sworn in as the newest member of President Obama's Cabinet when she took the oath to become the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Since taking the office on June 26, 2013, Secretary Pritzker has wasted no time in identifying needs and taking action to help American small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Department of Commerce issues a Week at a Glance email newsletter with information on all the secretary's activities, as well as recent accomplishments and efforts of the various bureaus of the department. Simply send an email to request a subscription to the mailing list.
  • John Calvert of the United States Patent and Trademark Office talking to attendees at the Maker Faire
    Do you consider yourself a creator, inventor, tinkerer, or crafter? Do you enjoy learning about new technologies and watching creativity and ingenuity come to life? Maybe you just want to be "wowed" by something new and different? If you answered yes to any of these questions, a trip to a Maker Faire might be right for you. Launched in 2006 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Maker Faires now take place around the world. These gatherings have been described as "part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new," and draw attendees from all walks of life, including engineers, scientists, authors, artists, and hobbyists. A Maker Faire is a family event, but what exactly occurs there? There isn't a specific answer, and that's what makes it so fun. Lasting either one or two days in length, a Faire is abuzz with creativity and alive with the sights and sounds of an amusement park. From traditional science and technology to fields as diverse as cooking and storytelling, a Maker Faire provides exhibitors a forum to display their innovations across all areas of human endeavor. Imagine one-person cupcake cars, fire-breathing mechanical dragons, and a life-size version of the game Mouse Trap: these are just a few of the things one might encounter at a Maker Faire. The creators and inventors of these and many other Maker Faire curiosities are bound together by both a love of learning and a desire to share their knowledge and expertise. Maker Faires embrace a do-it-yourself spirit and provide encouragement and an outlet for entrepreneurs and hobbyists to innovate, create, and ultimately generate value in communities through the creation of businesses and new products. For many of these makers, intellectual property (IP) is-or will be-a vital part of their creative endeavors. United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) representatives have participated in U.S. Maker Faires for years. These are opportunities to provide IP education to exhibitors and attendees who are creating, inventing, and innovating every day but who may not know if what they are creating can be protected. The USPTO distributes printed materials and online resources while providing one-on-one assistance to visitors to the USPTO Maker Faire booth. Whether it's a catchy trademark on a hot new game or patenting a unique way to convert solar energy, the USPTO encourages makers to continue creating while reaping the rewards of their ingenuity. During the past two years, the USPTO has partnered with BusinessUSA to provide even more information to Faire attendees. BusinessUSA is a centralized, one-stop, online platform to connect businesses with access to government services to help them compete, grow, and hire. The USPTO and BusinessUSA have co-hosted booths at San Francisco Bay Area, Detroit, and New York Faires. The USPTO was proud to participate in this year's Detroit Maker Faire held on July 27-28, and we'll be at the upcoming Mini Maker Faire in Silver Spring, Md., on September 29. We invite Inventors Eye readers to check out the Maryland Faire and say hello at the USPTO booth. We look forward to answering your questions, talking about all things innovation-related, and seeing some amazing inventions!
  • Select USA logo
    President Obama launched SelectUSA in 2011 as the first-ever U.S. government-wide initiative to attract foreign and domestic investment in the United States, thus stimulating U.S. job growth. SelectUSA provides resources, services, counseling, and advocacy to domestic businesses and localities looking to attract foreign investment, and connects with foreign companies wishing to build, source, and sell in the United States. The initiative's centerpiece is the SelectUSA Investment Summit, a two-day event geared towards both facilitating and showcasing America's dynamic business community. Register now for the SelectUSA Investment Summit. As a program of the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration-a sister agency of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office-SelectUSA serves as a single point of contact for investors and economic development organizations (EDOs) to receive counsel on investment attraction strategy, starting a business, accessing federal resources, and navigating government regulations. For current and prospective U.S. small business owners, it's a comprehensive ensemble of tools and resources for branching out into global development and attracting foreign investment. Through the initiative's ombudsman program, SelectUSA works on a case-by-case basis with businesses and EDOs to answer questions and provide guidance on navigating U.S. regulations. The Investment Summit will be held October 31-November 1, 2013, in Washington, D.C., providing opportunities for businesses and investors to network and meet one-on-one with subject-matter experts in a variety of fields. Representatives from industry, economic development, and federal, state, and local government will lead small group sessions and moderated panels on the latest investment trends and sector analysis. Senior White House officials, corporate leaders, academics, and technical experts will deliver plenary talks and keynote speeches. Along with the impressive array of presentations and workshops is an exhibition featuring innovative and influential American companies, organizations, and government entities. Attendees will have the chance to collect and pool knowledge, meet with foreign and domestic investors, discuss ideas, and forge partnerships under a single roof. As commerce grows more interconnected across borders and continents, it has never been easier for investors to find manufacturers and suppliers. Now more than ever U.S. companies need innovative tools and resources to stay competitive in a global economy. Whether you attend the Investment Summit or just browse the online platform, there are sure to be opportunities for you as an inventor or small business owner with SelectUSA.
  • Chelsea Ex-Lubeskie and Riley Csernica's invention of a shoulder brace that aids injured athletes returning to their sport without surgery
    What made two recent Clemson University graduates take on the daunting task of bringing their patent-pending shoulder brace to the market? Beaming with enthusiasm, Chelsea Ex-Lubeskie said, "We're young, passionate about our business, and we have energy!" For Chelsea, who received a master's in bioengineering, and Riley Csernica, who received both a master's in bioengineering and an MBA in entrepreneurial innovation, getting an early start on their entrepreneurial venture proved advantageous. "We don't have mortgages, families to care for, or huge financial burdens," added Riley. "We feel as if there is no better time than now to pursue an endeavor like this." Amid a recovering but still tepid economy, Chelsea and Riley's story demonstrates how enthusiasm and an innovative idea can create opportunities and potentially change lives. As undergraduate students working together on their senior project at Clemson, Chelsea and Riley were required to create a functional product prototype and use it to conduct market research and analyses related to patent activity, budgeting, manufacturing, and quality systems. They teamed up with two other students-Kaitlin Grove and Meredith Donaldson-and the orthotics and prosthetics division at Greenville Hospital in South Carolina to develop a viable medical device. Under the supervision of Professor John Desjardins and sports physical therapist Chuck Thigpen, the team uncovered a significant demand for a new kind of shoulder brace, one that aids injured athletes returning to their sport without surgery. The invention reduces the risk of secondary shoulder dislocations while allowing high performance levels during physically demanding sports activities. According to data the women collected, secondary dislocations are a recurring problem, reported 71,000 times per year in athletes whose shoulder sockets may be weakened from a primary dislocation. After extensive product studies and more than 100 consumer interviews, Chelsea and Riley found expanded potential markets for their invention: elderly individuals who experience physical impairment, individuals suffering from stroke, and individuals suffering from neuromuscular injury. "Among these groups are many individuals who experience shoulder instability, which can result in chronic secondary dislocations," Riley said. "This causes fear about when the shoulder will come out next, extreme pain when it does, restrictions in motion, unusual shoulder positions, and unusual sliding sensations." The new shoulder brace provides comfortable compressive support and protection at precise locations, helping to prevent dislocation without sacrificing range mobility in the shoulder joint. By the end of their senior year, the student team had won an inter-departmental design competition judged by a panel of surgeons and doctors at the Greenville Hospital. At Clemson, as at most universities, intellectual property created by students during coursework is owned by the university. In the wake of the brace's early success, the Clemson University Research Foundation saw the potential and filed a provisional patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. More recently, the university approved filing a non-provisional utility patent application for the brace and it will negotiate an exclusive option agreement with Chelsea and Riley. An anticipated exclusive licensing agreement will ensure all five inventors-which includes Kaitlin Grove, Meredith Donaldson, and Chuck Thigpen in addition to Chelsea and Riley-full protection and rights over the invention. While Kaitlin and Meredith decided to pursue other interests after graduating, Chelsea and Riley are currently working to identify key suppliers for materials, as well as manufacturers who produce on a small-scale. "The whole process has been a huge learning experience for both of us," said Chelsea. "There are just so many considerations to keep in mind when starting a business. Riley and I could have stopped at the first stage, but we both share a very strong passion for this technology and this business." To date, Chelsea and Riley have competed and received placement awards in six design and business pitch competitions, including the 2012 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC). "Everything changed after our success in the CIC competition," Riley said. "We realized how well-received our invention would be and the real market need for our product." Since competing in the CIC, Chelsea and Riley have won competitions for grant money from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program as well as the Clemson South Carolina LaunchPad business pitch competition, helping them take the next steps to commercialize their shoulder brace. Determination has carried them to this point, and they show no sign of stopping. "We have had a mixture of successes and setbacks," said Chelsea, "but through our perseverance in competitions and networking we have managed to come out with lessons learned that have helped us succeed in the long run." What started as a final project in a senior design class quickly escalated into a springboard for a startup small business. Incorporated in South Carolina on May 28, 2013, Chelsea and Riley named their company Tarian Orthotics LLC. "The name comes from a Welsh word for shield," Riley explained. "It complements the protective nature of the invention and the pliable mold that is incorporated into the brace right above the shoulder." Born and raised in South Carolina, both Chelsea and Riley have every intention of fostering their business and gathering employees from within the state. "There is a rapidly growing tight-knit entrepreneurial community in South Carolina," Chelsea said. "In addition, new investor-friendly legislation has just recently been passed here." In August 2013, Chelsea and Riley will set up shop and devote their full-time efforts to move their technology to market in Charleston, S.C. Riley offered final emphasis for their vision: "We both see an enormous potential for this device to penetrate the market and to be the new go-to brace. We feel we can make this business successful."
  • AIA Changes: Micro entity New Fees Follow-up
    When the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) adopted and adjusted fees while implementing the America Invents Act (AIA) earlier this year, the agency created a new category called "micro entities." Since the implementation of micro entity-and the 75 percent discount on fees associated with it-the Office of Innovation Development has not surprisingly received numerous inquiries about it. The reduction serves qualifying independent inventors, small businesses, and members of the academic community, providing an even greater discount than the one for small entities. You can see all fees, including micro entity fees, on the current USPTO Fee Schedule page. Here are a few things to keep in mind when determining if you qualify as a micro entity: There are two separate sections of law associated with micro entity status. The first section allows anyone meeting certain income levels and other requirements to qualify for the reduced micro entity fees. The second section of the law provides the same reduction for inventors who earn a majority of their income from an institution of higher education or have assigned, granted, or conveyed-or are under an obligation to assign, grant or convey-the right of their patent to an institution of higher education. For more on these requirements, read our original advice article on micro entity status.     To receive the micro entity reduced fees, you must file a form with your application showing that you meet the requirements as indicated above. These forms must be filed with every application for which you wish to receive the micro entity discount. Non-academic filers should use form SB/15A. For filers associated with an institution of higher education, use form SB/15B. These forms, along with all other USPTO patent-related forms can be found on our Patents Forms page.     Please remember that if you file a non-provisional utility application in paper, you are subject to a non-electronic surcharge in addition to the normal fees associated with filing a non-provisional application. There is no micro entity discount for this surcharge. That means if you are filing as a micro entity using a paper application, you will be required to pay the small entity non-electronic filing surcharge of $200. To avoid this surcharge, file electronically using EFS-Web, the USPTO's automated online solution for patent filing. The surcharge does not apply to reissue, design, plant, or provisional applications. Visit our EFS-Web resources page to learn more.
  • Patents for Humanity members
    The power to invent gives us the power to change lives, and every day we experience this through modern technologies that improve our standard of living and shape our lifestyles. But that same force can reach beyond our borders, bringing new tools and new hope to billions of people who struggle for life's necessities-often called the "base of the (economic) pyramid."* As part of its commitment to global development, the Obama Administration challenged government agencies and the innovation community to harness the power of science and technology to improve living conditions across the globe. Patents for Humanity, a pilot program launched at a White House event in February 2012, is the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) answer to this ongoing challenge. The Patents for Humanity prize competition recognized patent holders who successfully deploy their innovations to address global humanitarian needs. Participants submitted applications describing how they addressed challenges in four specific categories: medicine, food and nutrition, clean technology, and information technology. The first Patents for Humanity awards were bestowed in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on April 11, 2013. You can read more about each winner at the Patents for Humanity award recipients page. Winners received a certificate for accelerated processing of select patent proceedings at the USPTO. This program wasn't just about honoring charity. It demonstrated that the incentives and rights provided by patents are critical to building lasting solutions for progress. As reflected by several of the program's winners, small businesses and independent inventors are at the forefront of that trend. Many of the most innovative and sustainable models for reaching the less fortunate come from small businesses whose primary customers live on just a few dollars a day. Patents for Humanity recipients underscore the critical role of the independent inventor community in global development. The competition drew from a broad range of innovators and technologies, with submissions coming from 80 applicants across 24 U.S. states and five foreign countries. Submissions in each of the four categories were well-balanced, with medical technology attracting the most submissions at 36 percent, clean technology at 27 percent, information technology with 23 percent, and food and nutrition at 14 percent. Forty-three percent of applications came from small companies, with another 26 percent submitted by individuals. Large companies contributed 18 percent while universities and nonprofit organizations combined for the remaining 13 percent. The diversity of applicants is reflected in the winners. Of 10 awards given, three went to small businesses and individuals, one to a university, and one to a nonprofit. This shows that small entities compete effectively with large rivals when they employ focus, agility, and responsiveness. Patents for Humanity winners are pioneering innovative means to deploy technology across the globe in ways that are both profitable and affordable. Consider Nokero, a company started in June 2010 by inventor Steve Katsaros. Many of us take for granted that our homes will be lit when the sun goes down, allowing us to read, study, cook meals, and perform other household tasks. But in much of the developing world, access to electricity is limited. Indoor lighting is often generated by burning kerosene, which introduces the dangers of noxious fumes and fire. Nokero, short for "no kerosene," develops solar energy products for lighting and heating. Working with local partners, Nokero manufactures and distributes affordable and efficient solar lighting sources to more than 100 countries, including many in Africa. Their innovative distribution system empowers local entrepreneurs to sell the products, creating a sustainable business model that invigorates local communities and economies. Sproxil, another startup and Patents for Humanity award recipient, confronts the problem of counterfeit drugs. According to the International Policy Network, the counterfeit pharmaceutical market is estimated at $200 billion. More than 700,000 people die annually from fake tuberculosis and malaria medicines alone. This problem primarily afflicts developing countries, which lack the infrastructure for rigorous brand and quality control of medications. Victims of counterfeit drugs return to hospitals again and again, incurring repeated costs and health consequences for illnesses that should be cured on the first visit. Sproxil's Mobile Product Authentication solution ensures consumers can verify a drug's authenticity via a free mobile phone text message. Upon purchasing a drug, users simply scratch a label revealing a one-time-use code and text that code to a specific number. Sproxil's servers send a response indicating whether the drug is genuine; if fake, a hotline number is provided to report it. The system is currently available in Nigeria, India, Ghana, and across East Africa. Sproxil works closely with governmental regulatory agencies to raise public awareness about the dangers of counterfeit drugs while providing solutions. And then there's Intermark Partners Strategic Management LLC, a collaboration of Indiana inventors. Ph.D.s Larry Miller and Glenn Sullivan developed a process to extract edible foodstuff from waste rice bran that is high in antioxidants, nutrients, digestible protein, and carbohydrates. This technology can make available nearly 40 million tons of agricultural waste each year to reduce malnutrition in developing countries. In collaboration with Diabco Life Sciences, Intermark established the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Sustainable Nutrition International to commercialize the technology in developing countries. Sustainable Nutrition currently works with the governments of Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and El Salvador to deliver the technology and its derivatives through regional production facilities and private sector alliances. To date, they have fed thousands of chronically malnourished children in Latin America. These stories confirm something we already know: that independent inventors and small businesses are a vital part of moving innovation forward. Patents for Humanity emphasizes our responsibility to use intellectual property in ways that can solve the most pertinent issues and global challenges facing mankind. By recognizing and rewarding the ideas and actions of innovators large and small, we draw attention to the issues we face as a species while continuing to advance toward a better world for all. *See "The Globe: Segmenting the Base of the Pyramid" by V. Kasturi Rangan, Michael Chu, and Djordjija Petkoski. Harvard Business Review, June 2011.
  • National Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2013 with their awards
    The National Inventors Hall of Fame officially inducted its 2013 class during a ceremony at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on May 1, 2013. This year's inductees included many brilliant problem solvers and inventors who contributed to the scientific and technological progress of our society. Several of the inductees are independent inventors who have spent their lives creating and patenting technology benefiting the world. Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea said the inductees "have produced the world's most advanced communications technologies and provided some of the foundational tools of the entertainment industry-ones we now consider part of our homes, but only short decades ago were the stuff of science fiction." Many current members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame were in the audience as Acting Director Rea conferred a medal to each inductee. The inductees also had the opportunity to meet at the White House with Dr. John Holdren, the senior science and technology advisor to President Barack Obama, who congratulated them for their creativity, perseverance, and entrepreneurialism that exemplify the American "can-do" spirit. Inductees Arthur Ashkin invented optical trapping, also called optical tweezing, a process that traps molecules and macroscopic particles by using laser light. The process allows the study of small particles in many fields. Donald Bitzer, Robert Willson, and Gene Slottow (1921-1989) worked together to create plasma display technology, which is now used in many televisions. Garrett Brown invented the Steadicam body-mounted camera stabilizer. Brown, a Hollywood cameraman, created the technology and shot the footage for iconic cinematography in such films as Rocky and Return of the Jedi. He holds 50 patents worldwide. John Daugman, Leonard Flom, and Aran Safir (1926-2007) patented their invention for an iris identification system in 1987, basing their work on the fact that every iris is unique. Today, iris recognition is considered the most accurate in the field of biometric identification. Irwin Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi were major contributors to code division multiple access (CDMA) technology that is used in cellular telephone networks. CDMA now supports over 1.6 billion subscribers across the world with voice and high-speed Internet access. Joseph Lechleider was the first person to demonstrate the feasibility of sending broadband signals over copper. His work led to DSL and ADSL technology, turning the existing copper wire phone network into a high-speed broadband delivery instrument and allowing for transmission of data at equal or different rates in each direction. Samuel Alderson (1914-2005) was a pioneer in developing the crash-test dummy, which continues to provide automotive engineers with valuable information and enables them to design effective safety features, including seat belts and air bags. John Birden (1918-2011) and Ken Jordan (1929-2008) developed the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), a self-contained power source that obtains its power from radioactive decay. RTGs have powered most of the exploration vehicles the United States has launched into deep space. Alfred Loomis (1887-1975) created many innovations during his lifetime, but his Long Range Navigation System (LORAN) for marine and flight navigators is probably the best known. LORAN was an essential navigational tool for decades until the introduction of the Global Positioning System in the 1990s. Robert Moog (1934-2005) introduced the first complete voltage controlled modular synthesizer in 1964, contributing heavily to the development of electronic music. The "Moog synthesizer" opened up a new frontier of possibilities for musicians and composers. Moog is listed on 10 U.S. patents all related to electronic sound technology. Grote Reber (1911-2002) was a pioneering radio astronomer and built the first substantial radio telescope dedicated to astronomy. Radio astronomy uses radio receivers to amplify faint cosmic signals, allowing for the detection of objects and phenomena not possible with optical astronomy.
  • Grill filled with a variety of summer foods
    Nothing says summer like getting the grill out of the garage and cooking up a meal in the backyard, but how often do we think about the innovations behind that technology? In the United States, barbecue adherents tend to favor one of two grilling methods: some prefer the convenience and control of a gas grill while self-described "purists," are loyal to the flavor that comes from a charcoal-fired grill. The standard charcoal grill is often a round, spherical design, like the iconic Weber Kettle. In fact, that invention gave rise to the outdoor grilling culture so prevalent in America today. With that culture came a new technological ecosystem where innovations constantly enter the marketplace to complement and enhance earlier designs. The result is that the Weber Kettle and the various add-ons combine to create a cooking device that exceeds the capabilities of each individual product on its own. Today, the Weber grill is not just for hotdogs and burgers. Thanks to continued innovation, weekend barbecuers can quickly and easily configure their kettle to bake a pizza, smoke a turkey, or even cook a full breakfast with fried bacon and eggs. In 1951, George Stephen was working for Weber Brothers Metal works in Chicago. At home he grilled with a brazier, a lidless steel box incorporating a design in use for centuries. Dissatisfied with the inefficiency of open-air grilling, Stephen knew he could devise something better. He used the bottom of a sheet-metal buoy produced at the Weber Brothers factory for the grill portion and the top of the buoy as the lid. After adding a set of tripod legs and a handle, he had his first prototype. But all didn't go smoothly during the initial testing. While the lid retained heat and shielded the flames from wind, it had a habit of snuffing out the fire. Stephen recognized the need for a constant supply of air to keep the coals hot. So, he drilled three holes in the lid and completed his invention. In 1958, Stephen bought the Weber Brothers factory and established Weber-Stephen Products. Annual sales of Weber grills grew to 800,000 units by the 1970s. Eventually, gas grills dramatically cut into the sales and use of charcoal grills. But in recent years, charcoal has made a comeback, and with it has emerged a trove of inventions that add to the versatility of the Weber Kettle. Rolf Buerkle devised a cast iron grate system to replace the standard Weber cooking grates. Al Contarino's KettlePizza modifies the Weber grill so that you can replicate the high-temperature wood-burning environment of a traditional pizza oven. And the late Don Thompson created the Smokenator, which converts a standard Weber Kettle into a water smoker. Buerkle saw a need for a cast-iron grate when he noticed how many people bought replacement grates for their Weber grills. The unforgiving environment of heat and moisture can quickly ruin the plated steel cooking grate that comes standard with each Weber grill. Now grillers have a choice: keep replacing a grate when it rusts or upgrade to something that is going to last 10 years or more with proper care. The modular system also allows for different types of cooking surfaces, from standard grates and hot plates to vegetable woks and chicken holders. Contarino had other ideas when he invented the KettlePizza. The device adds an extension to the kettle design and a horizontal slit opening to slide in a pizza, which eliminates the need to take off the lid and allows for hotter and longer heat retention. Contarino calls himself a serial inventor, and he already had a number of inventions in the barbecue field, but it took going to a grilling tradeshow and talking about the growing trend of grilling pizza to move this idea forward. Thompson was searching for a way to smoke a turkey on his Weber grill when he came up with the idea for the Smokenator. He designed a sheet-metal baffle that, when inserted into the kettle, creates a separate compartment to hold coals and a water pan. It generates consistent low, indirect heat-an important requirement for American style "low n slow" barbecue. Thompson's simple yet novel design was so effective that he patented it and launched a successful home business, garnering a loyal customer following before he passed away from cancer in 2009. His wife, Stephanie, said her husband's goal was "to make it possible for the average person to be able to smoke meat easily." Today, Stephanie Thompson and her son and daughter continue running the family business. Buerkle, Contarino, and Thompson all had two things in common. Each of them was passionate about grilling, and each found a way to invent something that anyone could use on a Weber grill. But why make something that modifies another person's invention, and why Weber specifically? According to Stephanie Thompson, Weber grills are the "best known, the best-selling, and it's affordable." Weber grills and the many add-ons created by independent inventors also illustrate a key aspect of the innovation cycle. In the case of George Stephen's barbecue, it quickly established itself as a benchmark technology in the field of outdoor cooking. Over the years, different individuals saw limitations in the original design but also recognized that it was an integral part of the barbecue landscape. By innovating around and adding to what already existed, these inventors helped to push the capability and state of the art forward. Every inventor agrees that having a patent is very important, but they often have a unique personal philosophy regarding why they are important. Stephanie Thompson said it shows that "we have put a lot of thought into the product and that it is unique." Contarino said a patent is very useful when talking with retailers because "it shows that it is your product and that it can't be knocked off." "Barbecue products are very simple to produce and therefore copy," added Buerkle, "so patenting helps a lot." Contarino leaves us with one final piece of advice for those going into business: "Plan before you file for a patent-know what you are going to do before you move forward." In other words, do your homework and keep on grilling.
  • Chocolate cake sliced to pieces
    You've heard it before: "We make the best!" Be it barbecue sauce or brownies, it seems like everyone claims to have a unique and special food recipe. But can the culinary geniuses who came up with those recipes obtain a patent and exclude others from making, using, or selling their delectable creations? One of the most common questions the Office of Innovation Development receives is whether or not food recipes can be patented. Here's what you need to know. First, remember that patents may be granted for any "new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof" according to Title 35 of the United States Code, Section 101 (35 U.S.C. 101). A food product or recipe typically has three components: a list of ingredients, instructions on how to combine and cook them, and the final product resulting from the first two components. In terms of patentable subject matter, a list of ingredients can fall under the headings of a composition of matter and/or manufacture, and the way the food product is produced can fall under a process. So the short answer is yes, recipes are eligible for patent protection because they potentially contain patentable subject matter. But hold on. To be patentable, an invention must also be "novel" and "nonobvious," as determined by 35 U.S.C. 102 and 35 U.S.C. 103, respectively. That means a patentable invention can neither have existed before, nor be an obvious improvement or alteration of a previously known invention, which could be determined by someone with reasonable skill in the art encompassed by the invention. This is where patenting a recipe gets a lot trickier. Consider that people have been mixing together ingredients to produce different food products since the dawn of humanity-in fact, some of the earliest known examples of written language are food recipes. These days, most "new" recipes are merely combinations of known ingredients in varying amounts, separate discoveries of preexisting recipes, or variations on known recipes. Even if a previous version of a recipe cannot be found, a "new" recipe could still be considered obvious. A final food product typically is nothing more than the expected sum total of individual components. For example, the more sugar one adds to a cake batter, the sweeter the finished cake is expected to be. Similarly, adding tarragon to a dish that doesn't usually include tarragon may result in an unexpected taste for that particular dish, but not an unexpected result. When considering processes for food preparation, the ways different materials behave are well-understood, and making changes to the order or method of adding ingredients often results in something you've expected. For example, if a pancake recipe calls for adding an egg while the pancake is cooking on the griddle, while that may differ from what is commonly thought of as a pancake, it will produce a result that can be considered obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the culinary arts. There are exceptions in which the combination of ingredients used, or the way they are processed, results in a food product totally unexpected. That's something that may be patentable. Numerous patents on food products are issued each year. However, if you take a look at most of these patents, you'll find that the recipe was more likely to have been created in a laboratory than on a kitchen counter. A patent isn't the only way to acquire intellectual property protection for food products. Trade secrets are often used by companies to protect their recipes and processes, but they differ considerably from patent protection in a number of ways. With a trade secret, inventors do not disclose the inner workings or formula of the invention, and employees or collaborators usually sign non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from sharing the recipe. Many food companies and restaurants choose to use trade secrets to protect their recipes and methods because it allows them to use the secretive nature as a marketing tool. The recipes for Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Bush's Baked Beans, and KFC fried chicken are all trade secrets, and each company has, at some point, used that secret as a part of their advertising campaigns. It's important for inventors to understand that a trade secret is not the same thing as a patent. Trade secrets do not prevent others from independently discovering or reverse engineering a recipe or invention. Also, in the United States, trade secrets are enforced differently from state to state. Anyone considering protecting his or her intellectual property with a trade secret should be diligent about learning the scope of trade secret protection and how it is enforced.
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library sign
    Patent and Trademark Workshop Series in Washington, D.C. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the District of Columbia Public Library are currently sponsoring a series of free workshops at the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. The workshops cover a variety of patent and trademark topics. Inventors, small business owners, and students are invited to attend these free workshops. The next workshop will be held June 25, 2013, at 7 p.m. To register, call 202-727-1161 or email   National Small Business Week is June 17-21 Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America's entrepreneurs and small business owners. This year, the U.S. Small Business Administration is sponsoring a comprehensive list of events in multiple cities across the country. Programs include panel discussions on best global business practices, workshops on using social media to grow your business, and tools for leveraging intellectual property. Many events will be available to attend via online streaming. Check the schedule for more information on these fantastic opportunities.   Independent Inventors Conference at the USPTO Plans are in the works for the next Independent Inventors Conference to be held at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va., in early fall 2013. Independent Inventors Conferences offer a wealth of information for entrepreneurs and inventors at all levels. Whether you have a great idea but are not sure where to go next or already a patent holder, there is always something new to learn at these events. Check our current events page frequently for updates and look for announcements in upcoming issues of Inventors Eye for more information.
  • Attendees at one of the USPTO's regional Independent Inventors Conferences gathered together at a table
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) engages with the independent inventor community via regional Independent Inventors Conferences (IICs) around the country. Let's take a look inside the USPTO's premier event focused on independent inventors and small business owners. Many independent inventors who attend an IIC have a great idea-they just have no idea what to do with it. IICs are designed to provide information that helps you in all phases of developing your idea. The conferences are structured so that each day attendees participate in morning plenary talks, small-group breakout sessions, and a keynote lunch address. While the USPTO always recommends that you enlist the help of a USPTO-registered patent attorney or agent to file your application, we know this is not always possible for some applicants. Filing for patents and trademarks without an attorney-a process called pro se filing-is a daunting task for the first-time applicant. IIC events start with the basics. Attendees learn about the different forms of intellectual property (IP) protection and receive guidance on how they can protect your ideas. In the case of patents, IIC conferences demystify the patent examination process and give attendees an overview of how it works and what to expect during prosecution of their application. Every IIC also offers a class on patent claim drafting. Claims are really the core of a patent application, and examiners all agree that the most prevalent issue pro-se filers struggle with is the claims section. In this workshop, attendees have claims broken down in an easy-to-understand manner and learn how to draft them. In addition to claims drafting, another class demonstrates how to perform a basic patent search to check for pre-existing inventions and discoveries that may be similar, also known as "prior art." There are even classes on trademark searching and explaining basic patent terminology and concepts. Even though the majority of the USPTO's operations are focused on patents, remember that applications for trademarks are also examined at the USPTO. Patents protect your invention, but "marks," as we call them, can protect your brand, and they're an important part of any business strategy. Every IIC provides information on preparing and filing trademark applications. Experts from the USPTO partner with local attorneys to provide information about the application process, including preparation and examination, as well as enforcement and protection strategies once marks are registered. Every IIC usually contains at least one workshop focusing on special-topic IP issues. For example, the conference in Tampa, Fla., featured an exclusive session on protecting IP in China. As the globalized market continues to become more accessible for small business owners, topics like these are particularly timely to independent inventors, and hearing from the people who are at the forefront of global IP policy ensures you are armed with the most accurate information available. IICs have also brought in experts on crowdfunding and utilizing social media for marketing intellectual property. For attendees with questions about patents and trademarks that are specific to their own situations, the IIC provides confidential, one-on-one sessions with both the USPTO experts and local attorneys and other resources. Attendees don't receive legal counsel but can obtain practical advice. Every IIC also offers a wealth of information beyond the patent and trademark application processes. The USPTO brings together representatives from local government and community agencies in each region to showcase resources available for inventors and business owners in their own area. These entities may include local universities, Patent and Trademark Resource Centers, Small Business Development Centers, and BusinessUSA, among many others. Some of the most popular sessions at IICs are the success stories told by inventors themselves. Audience members may hear a lot that's familiar in these stories-some from inventors who have gone from a single invention at their kitchen table to a $500 million enterprise and large portfolio of patents. Every conference also includes a catered lunch and keynote speaker-often a USPTO senior executive or recognized leader in the inventor or business communities. And attendees also find time to mingle and network with presenters and other attendees. Independent inventors tend to be generous with their time and advice for each other. Whether you are a seasoned inventor or just starting out with a fresh idea, the USPTO's Independent Inventor Conferences have something for everyone. Check our current events page to see if one is happening near you.
  • Creativity, the next generation
    The important role intellectual property plays in innovation and creativity is marked each year on April 26, when organizations and individuals observe World Intellectual Property (IP) Day. Established in 2001, World IP Day is a creation of the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which now counts 185 countries around the world. World IP Day encourages engagement among governments, private industry, and the public on IP promotion and protection. WIPO has designated this year's theme to be "Creativity: The Next Generation." It is meant to emphasize the critical role that the next generation of innovators and creators will play in shaping and improving the world. Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and other forms of IP spur new technologies and creative content in several interconnected ways. Enabling innovators to protect their ideas and intellectual property provides a valuable incentive and motivation to create things that nobody else has created before. In the case of patented technology, exclusive rights are granted to the inventor in exchange for the full disclosure of the technology's inner workings. Those details, published in the patent, create new knowledge for innovators to study, learn, and begin developing the next iterative innovation. By protecting innovations and creative works, IP encourages others to innovate beyond existing technology. World IP Day events across the globe will include panels of experts discussing new developments in technology; art exhibits, concerts, and book readings that highlight the importance of copyrights in creative content; and demonstrations of emerging or existing cutting-edge technology. Visit WIPO's World IP Day Facebook page to find an event happening near you. You can also find a list of suggested activities for this year's observance on the WIPO website. April 26 marks the day on which the WIPO Convention came into force in 1970. WIPO is dedicated to fostering innovation and technological development through the use of intellectual property. Visit the official World IP Day website for more information.
  • Group of people gathered at the Inventors Network of the Captial Area watching a presentation
    Inspiration can find an inventor in a moment of solitude, often when working on an unrelated project. A great idea could emerge when encountering a flaw in a routine product process. And that "eureka" moment can also result from talking with other inventors. This last scenario is especially true when inventors meet at local inventor clubs. In each issue of Inventors Eye, we provide a list of inventor clubs across the country. These groups are important incubators of innovation and inspiration in the independent inventor and small business communities. For this special Spark of Genius, Inventors Eye caught up with one group that has been an important fixture in the inventor community surrounding the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a long time. The Inventors Network of the Capital Area (INCA) was founded in 1993 following a National Inventors Conference sponsored by the USPTO and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. At its second meeting, three executives from the USPTO gave presentations and lent their support to the fledgling group. This cooperation between INCA and the USPTO continues today, with INCA comprising more than 100 dues-paying members and over 380 subscribers to its Google Group. INCA President Glen Katopish said a typical meeting at INCA "includes experts who talk about the patenting process and entrepreneurship, including licensing, marketing, and other aspects related to building an idea into a product." Often, speakers include other independent inventors who have successfully developed their ideas and taken them to the marketplace. INCA also has roundtable discussions and occasionally critiques members' inventions prior to helping them navigate the ins and outs of getting the invention protected and marketed. There's also time for social interaction, networking, seeking assistance from others, and building friendships. According to Glen, there are many benefits of being a member of an inventors group. Besides getting a good overview of the entire invention process from various experts, "You gain a broad picture of many specific topics, and you become less intimidated in moving forward as more time passes." He said he has learned cost-effective ways to move through the invention process and that "relationships [with other members] are a strong plus." For him, the most important aspect of being part of INCA is that "you learn that you are not alone." In the 20 years INCA has been active, many of its members have found success patenting their inventions. The group's website highlights some devices that were patented by members and are now available for potential licensing or purchase rights. These inventions include a kayaking simulator (U.S. patent No. 6,328,677), a spray bottle nozzle that points upward (No. 7,007,867), and an automatic transmission for bicycles (Nos. 5,407,396, 5,571,056, and 5,618,240). At least a quarter of INCA's members have been to a USPTO Independent Inventors Conference. Glen said these conferences provide valuable information, giving participants an inside view of the examination process and how examiners look at patent applications. But according to Glen, the most important benefit from these conferences is "networking with USPTO experts and the guest speakers." Glen said that some of INCA's members got the information they needed and filed a patent application after attending an independent inventor conference. After 20 years, INCA continues to grow, adapting to changes in the patent process and the field of invention. As technology and the marketplace evolve, new concepts emerge for inventors and entrepreneurs to leverage. One of the more exciting recent developments for inventors, noted Glen, is crowdfunding, where inventors finance their inventions by soliciting many small contributions from individuals, as opposed to large sums from a single or small group of investors. According to Glen, we can expect more creative funding sources to appear in the future. These tools "help move people forward in their process faster," said Glen, but inventors should also be mindful to employ the same diligence in protecting their intellectual property when utilizing crowdfunding as they would with traditional avenues. Nevertheless, Glen says that INCA "isn't just about what not to do, but what to do." This is why INCA has grown and prospered over the years, providing a vital resource and source of inspiration for its members. Sometimes, it takes the feeling of community to spark a genius. To find out more about inventor groups in your area, list your own inventors group, or if you are interested in starting an inventors group in your area, please visit the Inventors Eye organizations page.
  • Map of the USA with the text "First Inventor to File" above it
    On March 18, 2013, the United States implemented one of the most important components of the America Invents Act (AIA) by adopting a "first-inventor-to-file" patent system. The new system brings more certainty and objectivity to the patent process. In addition, it brings the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in line with other nations and moves us closer to a harmonized global patent system. To help independent inventors understand the new law and how it affects them when filing a new patent application, the USPTO has created a set of easy-to-follow animated videos and slide presentations. All videos and presentations can be found under the Informational Videos section of the AIA implementation page. The videos break the law down into its basic components and are intended for newcomers to patent law. In the first video you will learn about what constitutes prior art under the new law. In the second video, you will learn about the exceptions to the prior art covered in the first video. In the third video, a few more types of prior art will be discussed. The fourth video will cover the exceptions to prior art listed in the third video. Together, these four videos cover Title 35 of the United States Code, section 102, which codifies the first-inventor-to-file system. There are four corresponding slide presentations that go into more detail and cover additional items. Keep in mind: First-inventor-to-file applies to applications filed after March 16, 2013. Any application filed prior to March 16 will be examined under the previous first-to-invent rules. Patent applicants still must sign an oath asserting that they are the true inventor of the invention claimed in their application. Only a true inventor (or an agent or attorney acting on the true inventor's behalf) can file for patent protection on the claimed invention.
  • Kansas Regional Independent Inventors Conference April 19-20 2013
    Upcoming Independent Inventors Conference in Wichita The Kansas Regional Independent Inventors Conference is almost here. From April 19-20, 2013, representatives from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will be in the Sunflower State to provide independent inventors and small business owners with valuable information on patent and trademark processes. Visit the conference website to register and to see the full list of speakers and activities.   USPTO and NBC Learn Launch "Science of Innovation" Videos The USPTO has collaborated with NBC Learn-the educational arm of NBC News-and the National Science Foundation to produce "The Science of Innovation," an 11-part online video series highlighting patented technologies. Each 5-7 minute video is narrated by NBC's Ann Curry and focuses on a specific invention or process and includes information on intellectual property and how the technology makes its way into the marketplace. Featured inventions range from the self-driving car to bionic limbs. These videos are intended for middle and high school audiences, but they will inspire inventors and creative thinkers of all ages.
  • 3D wooden man model thinking next to a trademark symbol
    Here's a scary situation: let's say you manufacture or sell your product outside the United States, or you plan to in the future. Things are going well. Orders are steady, interest is widespread, and you see demand in other markets. When you're ready to expand into one of those markets, you discover someone else has already registered your trademark there. Not only can you not register your own brand, but the current owner may now actually control your ability to manufacture and sell your product in that country. Unfortunately, many U.S. companies have confronted situations like this over the years. It's a practice known as "bad-faith trademark filing"-sometimes referred to as "trademark squatting." Most U.S. companies understand that trademarks are important to their business. Trademarks can include the product name, a graphic logo, a catchy slogan, or perhaps even the distinct shape of a product. Businesses rely on these marks to identify their products and distinguish them from those of their competitors. The public relies on them to distinguish among competing producers and to determine authenticity. What many U.S. businesses do not realize is that trademarks, like patents, are territorial. Protection derived from trademarks exist only within the country whose laws granted the rights. Research conducted several years ago by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) revealed that only 15 percent of small businesses doing business overseas know that a U.S. trademark provides protection only in the United States. This lack of knowledge about territoriality can create significant problems for U.S. companies, especially in today's global economy. Trademark squatting is when one party intentionally files a trademark application for a second party's registered trademark in a country where the second party does not currently hold a trademark registration. They take advantage of the "first-to-file" trademark system (not to be confused with first-to-file patent systems) in that country. While the United States has a "use-based" trademark system where trademark rights are acquired by "priority of use," most other countries around the world have a first-to-file system, awarding trademark rights to the first applicant. When bad-faith filers obtain registrations in a particular country, they are treated as legal trademark owners in that country. A bad-faith filer's intent is usually to get the true trademark owner to purchase the trademark registration. It can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming to have a bad-faith registration canceled. Moreover, as the owner of the mark, the bad-faith filer can even enforce his or her rights against the true owner for trademark infringement. The bad-faith filer could also ask foreign customs officials to detain products of the true owner that were manufactured in that country for export. Any company, large or small, is a potential target for bad-faith filers. In some cases, your own manufacturer, distributor, or retailer in another country might decide to file for your trademark. In other cases, it could be a person who approaches you at a trade show, asks about your plans for expansion to another country, and then registers your mark first. These are just a couple of the many ways trademark squatters can find out about your mark and register it. With 95 percent of the world's consumers living outside our borders, it is critical for all U.S. businesses to consider exporting their products and services, but it is equally important to prepare accordingly. The USPTO provides training for small and medium entities on protecting and enforcing intellectual property (IP) rights within the United States and abroad. Last year, the USPTO conducted 40 such training programs, reaching an audience of more than 4,200 people. The USPTO and other U.S. government agencies have also created a number of excellent IP tools and programs specifically developed for businesses on the website. The Business Tools section of this site is designed to help protect innovation, spur creativity, and market products safely at home and abroad. Offerings include "Country IPR toolkits" that contain information on protecting and enforcing IP in 19 specific markets, a webinar series on IP protection in China, and an international advisory program that lets you request a free one-hour consultation with a volunteer attorney knowledgeable in international IP issues. Because it is costly and difficult to cancel bad-faith trademarks, prevention is the best strategy for dealing with them. It's not always realistic for U.S. companies to register their marks in every country around the world; however, U.S. businesses should take proactive steps to discourage bad-faith trademark filers and make informed decisions on where to file for trademark registrations. Companies should consider registering their mark in countries in which: Your goods or services are sold. Products or parts for your products are manufactured. Research and development facilities are located. Your products pass through during shipping. You might expand your business in the future. Counterfeiting is likely to be a problem. Once you have decided to pursue trademark protection abroad, there are several ways to file an application, including: Filing directly with the foreign national (or regional) trademark office. Using a trademark application or registration issued by the USPTO as a basis for file through the Madrid Protocol, which provides a cost-effective and efficient way for trademark holders (individuals and businesses) to protect their marks in multiple countries by filing one application through the USPTO, in one language, with one set of fees in one currency. In many cases, it is possible to register your trademark before you have even started to do business in another country. Consult your attorney or use the STOPFakes International IP Advisory Program to find out which is best for you.
  • Portrait of Mary Anderson and her patent the windshield wipers
    March is Women's History Month. In observance, this article spotlights the creation of the windshield wiper blade. On a visit to New York City at the turn of the 20th century, Mary Anderson was caught in a sudden downpour while riding in one of New York's famous streetcars. She noticed the driver's windshield visibility diminished considerably due to rainy weather conditions. As Anderson continued to observe, she saw several streetcar drivers quickly and frantically roll down their windows and stick their heads out, unable to see out of the front windshield due to the rain's obstruction. The scuttle of activity and the immediacy of attention given to the situation by the drivers indicated to Anderson that panic was overtaking them in their attempts to clear the rain from their windshields. As Anderson pondered the chain of events occurring before her, she began brainstorming ways to fix a problem that she realized was universal. All Americans who drove cars experienced the same dilemma whenever they drove during inclement weather. Remember that the nature of personal travel during this time was significantly different. Homes did not have garages for cars-they had a stable for the family horse and buggy. The issue of windshield visibility was a dilemma that had no point of reference. Rolling down the window and sticking one's head out into the rain was accepted practice. Anderson sought a better solution. Her task coincided with an emerging modern age that saw car manufacturers increasing production to meet consumer demand. As a result, cars were replacing horses and carriages on city streets, interstate roadways, and rural roads. Anderson conducted many experiments, with many results not encouraging. She continued to work toward a solution, and the "ah-hah" moment occurred when she imagined a device that used rubber squeegees to remove water from windshields. After extensive trial and error, Anderson succeeded in producing a revolutionary hand lever device, operated by the driver or a passenger, that used rubber wiper blades to remove rain from car windshields. In addition, the device could be used to remove debris such as mud, dust, snow or sleet. With the installation of the manual windshield wiper device on cars, motorists or passengers no longer needed to stick their hand out the window during inclement weather conditions or pull over and exit the vehicle in order to remove debris from the windshield. Anderson was granted U.S. patent number 743,801 for her novel windshield wiper in November of 1903. By 1916, windshield wipers were standard equipment on all American cars. Although upgrades continue to be made to the windshield wiper, the basic principle and function that Anderson invented remains unchanged. Some notable enhancements include automatic wipers, which were patented in 1917 by Charlotte Bridgwood; intermittent wipers, which were patented by Robert W. Kearns in 1967; and heated windshield wiper blades. Windshield blades are also now available in silicone rubber. Thanks to the patented technology of the windshield wiper by Mary Anderson, modern car drivers, airplane pilots, and even spacecraft astronauts can see clearly when driving or flying in inclement weather.
  • Geneva Grainger and her invention the Belt Loopy
    Have you ever sat at your desk, performing the tasks of your job as usual, and realized that you wanted to do something more creative-that you wanted to be your own boss, bring your own products to market, and run your own company? Was your next thought something like, "That's ridiculous. I could never do that"? Meet Geneva Grainger, an attorney and Texas native who realized that sitting behind a desk and practicing personal-injury law was not the future she desired. But instead of putting aside the notion and resigning herself to a life of legalese, she chose to take a chance. Geneva dipped her toe into the entrepreneurial pool by launching an online business buying and selling "sample" designer bridal gowns. Offering a low-cost wedding dress option for brides-to-be turned out to be a profitable enterprise. "The experience gave me the confidence to branch out and launch my own products," said Geneva. "I wanted to create something from scratch and see if I could build a brand." Encouraged by the success of her first independent venture, Geneva turned her focus towards sustainability and natural products. "I've always been interested in healthy lifestyles, and tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can put in your body due to its high antioxidant levels and weight-loss properties," she said. Geneva worked with growers in China to develop proprietary tea blends, which led to the creation of her second business, Global Organix. Since launching with two certified organic tea blends, the brand now has 10 blends available nationwide in major nutrition stores. Geneva will soon expand into organic coffees and loose teas. Geneva's latest venture began when she was, like many independent inventors, trying to solve an annoying everyday problem. "Every time I wore a belt with clothes that didn't have belt loops-a dress for example-I'd get frustrated because there was no way to hold the excess belt in place," said Geneva. While researching the issue, she realized that she was not the only one seeking a solution. This inspired Geneva to spend several months test-marketing various prototypes on friends and family members, culminating in the invention of the Belt Loopy, a clever reusable product for holding a belt in place that looks and feels like a belt loop. To protect her idea, Geneva filed an application for a patent on the device, which is still pending. Geneva then set out to create practical and easy-to-use solutions to other annoying fashion challenges. She came up with the catchy brand name Fashionista Rx® and began marketing her subsequent inventions for the budget-conscious style guru. Among the Fashionista Rx line are a hook-and-loop fastening tape to adjust hemlines, a design-patented silicone heel adhesive (U.S. patent number D674587), and the Faux Paw lint brush and pet-hair remover (U.S. patent number D666835). In order to speed her path to market, Geneva researched and developed strategies for overseeing all aspects of the operation, including prototype creation, manufacture, shipping, distribution, and marketing of each Fashionista Rx product. It wasn't always easy, but her perseverance paid off. "I have never had a partner or outside investors, which forced me to become very creative when developing and marketing my products," noted Geneva. "As a result, I have learned to do everything on my own and wear many hats when it comes to business." By taking charge of her own marketing and public relations, Geneva positioned her products to be featured on NBC's "Today Show" and in such national magazines as Real Simple and Woman's World. Geneva is a firm believer in individuals having the ability to bring their products to market on their own. In June 2012, she shared her insights with an attentive audience at the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Texas Regional Independent Inventor Conference in Austin. Geneva plans to develop a jewelry line aimed at a unique market niche. In addition, she's looking to expand her market reach beyond the United States. She is researching international law regarding intellectual property (IP) protection so that she can be sure her IP is safe from the prying hands of imitators. Geneva is also in the process of writing a book about her journey as an entrepreneur. "I can't imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't taken that first leap of faith," said Geneva. "I literally wake up excited each morning to see what the day has in store. Everyone should be able to feel this way, and I encourage anyone who has a dream for a business to go for it!" So the next time you have a great idea for the market, don't think "I could never do that"-just remember Geneva Grainger and ask, "Why not?"
  • AIA Changes: Micro entity New Fees Follow-up
    Great news for independent inventors is on the horizon. On March 19, a new "micro entity" status will be available to many new patent application filers. It offers a steep discount on fees associated with filing and prosecuting U.S. patent applications before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The change is a result of the USPTO's implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA). The new micro-entity status is of particular interest to independent inventors. To qualify as a micro entity, an applicant must meet all of the following criteria: Qualify as a USPTO-defined small entity. Not be named on more than four previously filed applications.* Not have a gross income more than three times the median household income in the previous year from when the fee(s) is paid. For 2011, the most recent year that data is available, the median income was $50,054. Not be under an obligation to assign, grant, or convey a license or other ownership to another entity that does not meet the same income requirements as the inventor. Starting on or after March 19, if you meet the micro-entity requirements, you are eligible for a 75 percent reduction on most fees. To put this into perspective, the current filing fee for a provisional application for patent is $250 and has a small entity reduction of 50 percent, resulting in a $125 filing fee for independent inventors. Once fees change on March 19, the base cost of filing a provisional application will rise to $260. For small entities, the new price will be $130; however, for micro entities receiving the 75 percent reduction, this results in a provisional application fee of just $65. The cost of filing a nonprovisional patent application usually includes three components: the basic filing fee, the search fee, and the examination fee. Currently, this totals $533 if you file electronically or $630 for a paper filing. If you file by paper, there is an additional $200 surcharge. Under the new fees, a small entity will pay $800 for filing a nonprovisional utility application while a micro entity will pay half that at just $400. These prices will remain until they are adjusted by the USPTO. Additional information is available at the AIA Implementation Page on our website. Also, check the USPTO's complete fee schedule to see the current costs associated with all patent and trademark services. * The micro-entity definition states that applicants are not considered to be named on a previously filed application if he or she has assigned, or is obligated to assign, ownership rights as a result of previous employment. Applications filed in another country, provisional applications, or international applications for which the basic national fee was not paid do not count as previously filed application. The definition also includes applicants who are employed by an institute of higher education and have assigned, or are obligated to assign, ownership to that institute of higher education.
  • Map of USA
    February 2013 5th @ 2 p.m. Inventors Association of Idaho Sagle, Idaho 11th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Cambridge, Mass. 12th @ 6:30 p.m. National Society of Inventors Cranbury, N.J. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. San Diego Inventors Forum San Diego, Calif. 22nd @ 7:30 p.m. Inventors Forum Orange, Calif. 25th @ 5:30 p.m. Virginia Innovators Network Richmond, Va. 28th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo.   March 2013 5th @ 2 p.m. Inventors Association of Idaho Sagle, Idaho 11th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Cambridge, Mass. 12th @6:30 National Society of Inventors Cranbury, N.J. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. San Diego Inventors Forum San Diego, Calif. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 25th @ 5:30 p.m. Virginia Innovators Network Richmond, Va. 28th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 29th @ 7:30 p.m. Inventor's Forum Orange, Calif.
  • Multiple speed guages aligned in two rows
    Access to timely information and statistics is important for any business plan. For independent inventors and entrepreneurs, knowing the processing timelines for patent applications, as well seeing up-to-date statistics about other internal operations of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), helps them set reasonable expectations and business objectives. The Data Visualization Center is a quick source of USPTO information regarding processing and quality measures in the Patents, Trademarks, and Office of Policy and External Affairs business units. It is available on the USPTO home page in the left navigational menu, identified by a large icon. By selecting the Data Visualization Center link, users have the opportunity to see "dashboards" of specific data from each business unit. The staggering amount of information in the Patents dashboard is of interest to stakeholders engaged in or considering the patent application process. Users can readily see valuable statistics regarding: The average pendency, in months, for applications The backlog of pending unexamined patent applications The number of patent examiners on staff reviewing patent applications Quality related measures Pendency related measures The Patents dashboard is designed to be user-friendly, providing high-level visual and numeric information at-a-glance and then more in-depth information and explanation of the data. In some instances, up to two years of historical data is available. The data can be freely downloaded, saved, and printed for use in presentations and for dissemination amongst colleagues or interested persons. Each business unit regularly updates their visualization dashboard in a timeframe that reflects useful information, generally on a quarterly basis. The Patents dashboard is updated monthly. We encourage you to visit the USPTO Data Visualization Center frequently to see the progress being made by the USPTO and a record of many of the USPTO initiatives. How to Determine When Your Patent Application Will Be Picked Up for Examination Another useful data tool available on the USPTO website is the First Office Action Estimator. Users of the First Office Action Estimator can check current estimates on how long it will take for a first Office action on a patent application. This is done by entering the Art Unit or technology class and subclass associated with a current or potential patent application. The calculator will then supply an estimate based on the current inventory level of applications filed in the technology area and the current staffing levels in the Art Unit identified. Providing this information is part of the USPTO's desire for transparency when dealing with stakeholders. As always, the USPTO is dedicated to minimizing first action and total pendency, and we are targeting resources to help address backlogs in technology areas with high levels of new application filings.
  • Board game pieces and dice arranged on a game board
    Toys and games have long been an active and popular subject area for independent inventors, and there's no bigger month for toys and games than December. Coming up with the next must-have toy or the hottest new board game can be potentially lucrative. But even if you have a great idea, there are still a few key points to keep in mind if you plan to make a run at a finished and marketable product. In many industries, manufacturers and marketing agencies encourage inventors to approach them with ideas and products. The toy and game industry, however, is an anomaly in the inventing world. Many manufacturers in the industry today rely on a system of using agents, or "brokers," to go between them and inventors. Toy and game brokers evaluate products and make decisions on which to prototype and present to industry representatives. They also receive a percentage of sales if a contract is signed. While not all toy and game manufacturers use this approach today, the largest manufacturers still refuse to deal with inventors directly. Despite the idiosyncrasies of the toy and game industry, the universal truths about intellectual property still apply. Namely, it is vital for inventors to protect their intellectual property with patents and trademarks. Inventors Eye connected with two expert sources, one inside the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and one in the independent inventor community, to produce a brief but useful collection of questions and answers (Q&As) regarding toy and game inventing. Q&A with Gene Kim, Supervisory Patent Examiner Gene Kim is a supervisory patent examiner (SPE) in Group Art Unit (GAU) 3711, which is the main examining unit for toys and games. As a SPE, Kim keeps his finger on the pulse of applications and technology passing through his art unit. Incidentally, GAU 3711 receives the highest percentage of applications filed pro se (without an attorney) in the entire USPTO. We asked Kim about trends he is seeing in toy and game applications and tips for inventors planning to file application in the toy and game subject matter, especially pro se filers. What trends in toy and game technology is GAU 3711 seeing? We seem to be getting a lot of filings for the toy art and golf art. We have seen a decrease in the number of filings for certain technologies, such as card games and board games. What percentage of applications are allowed in your art unit? I would say roughly half of our cases are "allowed," meaning the subject in the application has been determined by the examiner to be patentable. What common issues do you see with independent inventor and pro se applications? I think the biggest issue is claim interpretation. Pro se applicants tend to focus on how their inventions are different than the examiner's applied prior art in a general sense. However, they don't always look at the differences in light of the claimed invention. Claims make up the legal language that defines the protection sought for the invention. Examiners read claims in the broadest, reasonable manner. How can inventors help make examiners' jobs easier and patent prosecution more efficient? Inventors should try to do research regarding patent prosecution on their own. Some pro se applicants are very knowledgeable and have obviously done their homework. On the other hand, some tend to just rely on the examiner to provide all the information regarding prosecution. This is not fair to examiners because they work on many cases and have strict deadlines. Additionally, I think inventors focus too much on functional limitations and not enough on structural limitations for apparatus claims. This means they put an emphasis on what the device does, rather than how it is constructed and the physical components that make up its composition. A lot of pro se applicants can advance prosecution by adding structure to their claims. Do you recommend interviews? Yes, I think interviews can be very productive for both examiners and inventors. The examiner can help explain legal concepts that inventors do not fully understand, but more importantly, the examiner can go over claim interpretation, which tends to be the biggest issue. From my experience with pro se applicants, they usually really appreciate this. What final piece of advice can you offer for independent inventors and pro se applicants? Have an open mind during prosecution. There is a lot of subjectivity in the process when it comes to claim interpretation, interpretation of prior art, and whether or not a clear case of obviousness can be established. Examiners are very good at what they do and they try to do the best job possible. Applicants should try to not take anything personally if their application is not allowed. Q&A with Mark Reyland, United Inventors Association of America Mark Reyland is the executive director of the United Inventors Association of America (UIA). The UIA is the largest and oldest nonprofit organization in the inventing industry and has a longstanding positive relationship with the USPTO. Their mission is to educate and support inventors throughout the United States. We asked Reyland for his insight on toy and game inventing and making use of the tradeshows associated with them. What tradeshows do you recommend for toy and game inventors to attend? Most tradeshows are not open to the public, but the Chicago Toy and Game Fair is the largest in the country that is. It has lots of seminars, educational programs, and discussion groups, and it can be a great way for inventors to network. Inventors that are interested in visiting or exhibiting at a tradeshow should visit the UIA website for more in-depth information regarding these events and for information regarding toy and game inventing in general. What is a good strategy for getting the most out of tradeshows? Break your tradeshow experience into three components: pre-show, show, and post show. If you are exhibiting, be organized and have all your materials ready to go before the show. During the show, be active. Get the most out of it by interacting with people, handing out your business cards, and networking. Just attending a tradeshow is not going to make you successful. You get out of it what you put in. After the show, go straight home and start digesting the information. Pull out business cards, review materials, make notes, and organize. Mine everything for new information and start following leads. What costs are associated with attending tradeshows? It can cost anywhere from one to three thousand dollars to have a booth at a tradeshow and up to $1500 to just attend. This is why it is vital to have a strategy ahead of time and get the most out of the event. What should inventors keep in mind when dealing with toy and game brokers? Toy and game brokers are not invention promotion companies. They work in different ways than promotion firms, and they charge different fees for different services. It can be quite costly to go through a toy agent, but in some cases, that's the only option. Educate yourself about the process and anticipate the disadvantages and advantages ahead of time. What final piece of advice can you offer inventors interested in the toy and game field? Take personal responsibility for your endeavors. This means going out and learning as much as you can about the industry, the market, the patent process, and anything else related to your invention. There is a lot of information out there. Start with places like our website, the USPTO website, and local inventor groups.
  • Calender
    events Where Inventors Meet December 2012 4th @ 2 p.m. Inventors Association of Idaho Sagle, Idaho 8th @ 9:30 a.m. Inventor Association of Georgia Norcross, Ga. 10th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Cambridge, Mass. 11th @ 6:30 p.m. National Society of Inventors Cranbury, N.J. 12th @ 5:30 p.m. Virginia Innovators Network Richmond, Va. 13th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 13th @ 6:30 p.m. San Diego Inventors Forum San Diego, Calif. 19th @ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Inc. Fort Myers, Fla. 27th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo.   January 2013 1st @ 2 p.m. Inventors Association of Idaho Sagle, Idaho 8th @ 6:30 p.m. National Society of Inventors Cranbury, N.J. 10th @ 6:30 p.m. San Diego Inventors Forum San Diego, Calif. 10th @ 6:30 Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 14th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Cambridge, Mass. 16th @ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Inc. Fort Myers, Fla. 21st @ 5:30 p.m. Virginia Innovators Network Richmond, Va. 24th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 25th @ 7:30 p.m. Inventor's Forum Orange, Calif. 26th @ 9:30 a.m. Inventor Associates of Georgia Norcross, Ga.
  • Legal scale silhouette
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) understands that one of the main barriers to getting a patent is cost-not necessarily the USPTO fees associated with patents, but the cost of hiring a skilled patent attorney to file and prosecute an application. On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law. Section 32 of the AIA specifies that, "The Director shall work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses." "Pro bono" is a Latin phrase meaning "done for the public good without compensation." With this directive, the USPTO effectively switched into full gear to implement its AIA Pro Bono Program, which it had already been developing in anticipation of the legislation. The president's ink was still drying when the first client signed with the pilot program in Minnesota. Since that date, the program has expanded to connect clients with volunteer pro bono attorneys across the country in multiple regional programs. Let's back up for a moment. The LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program opened its doors in Minnesota on June 8, 2011, as a pilot program to test how pro bono assistance in intellectual property (IP) could work. The pilot encountered both success and obstacles, as expected, and quickly led to the issuance of two patents in 2012. Important lessons learned from the first program included how to efficiently and fairly screen applicants, as well as how to set up effective communication methods and educate inventors. This pioneering work led to the creation of a general outline for creating IP pro bono programs. The USPTO immediately began using the outline to reach out to IP law associations across the country in an effort to help them start organizing regional pro bono programs. Fast forward to the end of 2012. Three new pro bono programs in Colorado, California, and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area have begun taking clients. Two additional programs in Texas and the New York City region are expected to begin operation before the end of the year. So far, more than 30 inventors and small businesses have signed for assistance with volunteer pro bono attorneys. In addition to the two patents issued through the Minnesota program, two other applications are currently on the verge of being allowed. As the AIA Pro Bono Program moves forward at a swift pace, one of the most exciting developments is the establishment of an online portal for all applicants. On October 21, 2012, a national clearinghouse began accepting inquiries from inventors and small businesses interested in obtaining pro bono assistance. The clearinghouse, administered by the Federal Circuit Bar Association, is designed to be a single entry point for anyone interested in pro bono assistance and can be accessed through the Inventors Assistance pages of the USPTO website. The new online portal is the easiest way to get started with pro bono assistance. The clearinghouse will essentially serve as an initial screening system. Users are required to provide contact information and answer a few questions to determine their potential eligibility for the program. It also requires users to provide basic invention information to assist in proper referral, including a brief description of their invention that will be kept confidential. The process is intended to be streamlined and completed quickly and painlessly. All users should keep in mind that acceptance into any pro bono regional program is not guaranteed. One component of the screening process gauges users' pre-existing knowledge of the patent system. Such information is particularly helpful for specific regional programs to determining how to best serve the user. Users can verify that they have patent knowledge by taking a certification training course, in the form of a video, found in the Pro Se and Pro Bono section of the USPTO website. The video offers viewers a better understanding of the patent process and what rights an inventor obtains when granted a patent. In 2013, an additional 10 regional pro bono programs will begin operations. The entire country is expected to be covered by mid-year 2014. With that said, you may not find a pro bono program in your city, but each area of the country will be represented by a designated program. The national clearinghouse will forward potential pro bono clients to the closest region based on the individual or business' location. The USPTO looks forward to the day when no deserving invention lacks patent protection as a result of the inventor being financially under-resourced. By working together with a growing cadre of professional and skilled intellectual property law practitioners, the USPTO is making sure that day will be a reality in the near future. If you have further questions about the AIA Pro Bono Program, please visit the program website or
  • Patent and Trademark Resource Centers logo
    Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the information involved in obtaining patent protection, registering trademarks, setting up business plans, or conducting market research? The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) partners with specially designated libraries nationwide to provide training and resources that can help you in your intellectual property goals. This library network of Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) is available in most states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. If you've been an inventor for several years, you may know PTRCs by an earlier name: Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries. The library network changed its name in 2011 to better reflect the electronic resources available in these libraries. The name may have changed, but the same great personal service is still available. And since then, we've added several new libraries to our list. While these libraries vary in type-some are public libraries, some academic, some state-they share a common goal of providing inventors and entrepreneurs with face-to-face guidance on how to successfully exploit and protect their intellectual property. The USPTO annually trains these librarians to keep up with the latest USPTO information products and services, and all PTRCs provide access to the frequently updated databases of the USPTO website, as well as PubWEST, the public version of the Web-based Examiners Search Tool, and various trademark products. The PubWEST portal has powerful search features that expedite searching and include full-text access to U.S. patents from 1920 to today in addition to dedicated databases for searching non-U.S. patents and published patent applications. Though PTRC librarians cannot provide legal advice or conduct patentability prior-art searches, they can show you a recommended step-by-step approach to doing a thorough job of a preliminary search of U.S. patents and published patent applications using a generic example and how to search effectively for trademark registrations. The PTRC librarians can also provide help in accessing non-U.S. patents and published patent applications as well as non-patent literature, though this access will vary by library and may have associated costs. PTRCs have both print books and e-books that you can use to tackle those challenging topics of how to create a business plan, how to conduct market research, and whether or not to license your invention. Many have partnered with their local Small Business Development Centers to provide informational programs. Find your Small Business Development Center at Others have partnered with SCORE, located online at, a business counseling and mentoring organization providing free counseling, resources, and advice to people who are in business or want to start a business. Many PTRCs also provide public workshops on how to conduct preliminary patent and trademark searches and other related business topics. And PTRC libraries are often selected as host sites for official USPTO information sessions regarding important initiatives underway. PRTCs hosted 13 USPTO-sponsored America Invents Act roadshows this year to explain the changes to patent law and get stakeholder feedback. The chief benefit inventors tell us they find in researching at a PTRC is that they can sit down and receive free, face-to-face help from information professionals who help them make the best use of their limited time. Ultimately, inventors may choose to hire a patent attorney or agent, but by spending time at a PTRC learning the language and concepts of patenting, inventors can potentially save time and money. With over 80 network libraries there is probably a PTRC close to you. Check for a complete list. PTRC librarians can often help answer your intellectual property questions by phone or email without necessitating a physical visit to the library. And if you do visit, it's a good idea to call first and make an appointment with the PTRC designated librarian. While assistance with U.S. patent and trademark searching is free, some libraries may have photocopying, printing, parking, or other typical library fees. Be sure to ask about this when you are calling ahead for your appointment. PTRCs are a great way to get started on your patent and trademark journey. Through collaboration with local libraries, the USPTO demonstrates its commitment to serving independent inventors and small business owners. Find a PTRC near you and come see what they are all about.
  • Richard C. Levy, and his design patent, the Furby
    'Tis the season, and the competition for our business has already begun. Over the next few weeks, many of us will find ourselves in the toy aisles, purchasing games and fun things for the youngsters in our lives. Perhaps, during your shopping travels-or travails-you will notice a familiar fuzzy face: the Furby. Yes, that little creature that became wildly popular more than 10 years ago by spinning and whirling and chattering is making a comeback. Whether you loved it or hated it in its past life, you'll probably meet the reincarnation of the Furby at some point this holiday season. Inventors Eye recently caught up with Richard C. Levy, a co-inventor listed on one of the design patents (U.S. patent number D423611) for the Furby and long-time independent inventor. According to Richard, manufacturer Hasbro has brilliantly brought the Furby's technology and design into the 21st century, making it more interactive and engaging. "How you treat Furby will actually shape its personality," said Richard. It will also feature LCD eyes that offer 430 different animations. It speaks 814 distinct phrases. "And, of course, Furby speaks Furbish," Richard added. First introduced in 1998, Furby is now in tune with the smartphone generation, featuring an free app that will, in part, translate Furbish to English. But how did Furby get so popular in the first place? In 1996, the virtual pet craze was sweeping Japan. Seeing the popularity of egg-sized gizmos with LCD screens that played out the lives of various digital animals, independent inventor David Hampton had an inspiration for the next generation of this toy genre: a three-dimensional robotic friend that would respond, learn, sing, and play games and move while displaying rudimentary artificial intelligence. As the idea came together, David enlisted the assistance of designer Caleb Chung. After two unsuccessful attempts at licensing the concept, they invited Richard, a fellow toy inventor, to join them. During the summer of 1997, Richard began his marketing initiative, and soon after they struck a deal with Tiger Electronics, which was then acquired by Hasbro. Hasbro provided the small team with a group of designers, engineers, and state-of-the-art-equipment. On October 2, 1998, at FAO Schwarz in New York City, Furby went on sale to the public. Within one week FAO had backorders of 35,000 Furbys. The rest is history. In 1999, Richard keynoted a USPTO Independent Inventors Conference. He was and still is a marketing wiz with a flair for invention and innovation, and he has a keen sense of timing for products and pop culture. He is president of Richard C. Levy & Associates, a product development and licensing company that specializes in the collaborative invention of toys, games, pet products, and housewares. During the past 35 years, he has licensed over 125 concepts, including Furby, which has sold more than 40 million units in 52 countries. He is author of 12 books, including The Toy and Game Inventors Handbook, a seminal text in the industry and which is soon to be released in a new, updated edition. His licensees range from Hasbro and Mattel to General Foods and Proctor & Gamble. Some of Richard's future endeavors include a camera accessory, a cutting tool, a toy for the pool, and a new piece of barware, all of which he expects to have licensed early in 2013. But toys and games are Richard's first love. Even so, he said the industry is extremely competitive. "It is a fashion industry where you can never get caught with your trends down. It is the greatest show on Earth, a high-wire act without a safety net in which manufacturers walk a financial tightrope that stretches from Christmas to Christmas." Every year thousands of concepts are presented to manufacturers. Hasbro and Mattel alone each see more than 2,500 licensing opportunities on an annual basis, and while the toy market can be lucrative for inventors, the number of companies marketing playthings is declining. Mergers have consolidated former competitors into larger corporate entities. Bankruptcies have stripped many brand names from retail shelves. And like in any business, companies that do not keep up with technology are often left in the digital dust. Richard said it is a mistake to think you can do it all yourself. "My success continues to be the result of unselfish, highly talented, and creative partners willing to face the frustrations, rejections, and seemingly open-ended timeframes characteristic of any product development and licensing exercise," he said. "I have also been fortunate to meet and work with inspired, understanding, and courageous executives willing to believe in me and gamble on our concepts. It is teamwork." Richard added that "one of an inventor's greatest downfalls is inventing in a vacuum and not in the marketplace. Know your market backward and forward." Richard had a few last succinct points he thinks are important for all inventors to keep in mind: Trust yourself and your instincts; they are anchors in a storm. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be greedy. Pigs get fat: hogs get slaughtered. Hire a great patent attorney. Business is about relationships, not transactions. When asked if the toy industry was attractive to him because it allowed him to remain a kid at heart, Richard said, "One of my sayings is, 'Never give up, never grow up.'" If Richard Levy's success is any indication, that is perhaps something we could all live by.
  • Innovation Expo 2013
    Innovation Expo Coming to the USPTO, Summer 2013 The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host its first Innovation Expo June 20-23, 2013. This event will vividly demonstrate how the United States promotes and protects innovation through its intellectual property system. Innovators selected from all fields of technology will feature their inventions in a public exhibition at the USPTO's campus in Alexandria, Va. By showcasing the most cutting-edge patented technology in the marketplace today, the expo will provide an opportunity for attendees to reflect on the current extraordinary state of the art while learning about the powerful incentives that drive innovation and economic growth in the United States. This all-ages event is free and open to everyone. If you plan to be in the Washington, D.C., area this summer, you won't want to miss this opportunity. For more information, please visit the Innovation Expo website.   Saturday Seminar in Detroit The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host a Saturday Seminar at its Detroit satellite office on December 15, 2012. Representatives from the Detroit satellite office and the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va., will conduct an all-day workshop for inventors and entrepreneurs. This free event will provide valuable information about various types of intellectual property protection, the patent process, and patent searching. A representative from the Department of Commerce's BusinessUSA initiative will also be on hand to discuss BusinessUSA's "no wrong door" approach for small businesses and exporters and provide an overview of the services the program offers. There is no fee to register, but space is limited. For more information and to register, please call 866-767-3848. The Detroit satellite office is located at 300 River Place South, Suite 2900, Detroit, Mich. 48207.
  • Cartoon figures arranged in a connected pattern
    Below is a list of independent inventor groups across the United States. Many groups keep up-to-date schedules of regularly occurring meetings and events for their local areas. Visit an individual group's website for more information. The United States Patent and Trademark Office does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites and does not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites. List your organization in Inventors Eye Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRC) United Inventors Association Alabama Invent Alabama 866.745.6319 Alabama Inventors Clubs 256.229.5551 Columbus Phenix City Inventors Association Attorneys General State House 11 S. Union St. Montgomery AL 36130 Alaska Alaska Inventors & Entrepreneurs Inventors Institute of Alaska 907.376.5114 Attorneys General 907.465.3600 P.O. Box 110300 Diamond Courthouse Juneau AK 99811-0300 Arizona Inventors Association of Arizona, Inc. TechShop Inventors Club Meets Fridays 9 a.m. 249 E Chicago St. Chandler, AZ 85225 602.303.6272 Attorneys General 602.542.4266 1275 W. Washington St. Phoenix AZ 85007 Arkansas Arkansas Inventors' Network Attorneys General 800.482.8982 200 Tower Bldg. 323 Center St. Little Rock AR 72201-2610 California Inventors Alliance Inventors Forum San Diego Inventors Forum Thomas Jefferson School of Law Patent Clinic Attorneys General 916.445.9555 1300 I St. Ste. 1740 Sacramento CA 95814 Colorado Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Attorneys General 1525 Sherman Street Denver CO 80203 List your organization in Inventors Eye Connecticut Inventors Association of Connecticut Connecticut Invention Convention Attorneys General 860.808.5318 55 Elm St. Hartford CT 06141-0120 Delaware Delaware Entrepreneurs Forum 302.652.4241 Attorneys General 302.577.8338 Carvel State Office Bldg. 820 N. French St. Wilmington DE 19801 District of Columbia Inventors Network of the Capital Area Attorneys General 202.724.1305 John A. Wilson Building 1350 PA Ave NW Suite 409 Washington DC 20009 Florida Edison Inventors Association, Inc. Tampa Bay Inventors' Council Inventors Society of South Florida Attorneys General 850.414.3300 The Capitol PL 01 Tallahassee FL 32399-1050 Georgia Inventors Association of Georgia, Inc. Columbus Phenix City Inventors Association Attorneys General 404.656.3300 40 Capitol Square SW Atlanta GA 30334.-1300,2705,87670814,00.html Hawaii Hawaii International Inventors Association, Inc. 808.523.5555 Attorneys General 425 Queen St. Honolulu HI 96813 Idaho Inventors Association of Idaho 208.255.4321 x223 See for meeting place directions East Idaho Inventors Forum 208.346.6763 Attorneys General Statehouse Boise ID 83720-1000 Illinois Illinois Innovators and Inventors P.O. Box 58 Edwardsville IL 62025 Chicago Inventors Organization INVINT Innovation Viability Network Central Illinois Attorneys General 312.814.3000 James R. Thompson Ctr. 100 W. Randolph St. Chicago IL 60601 Indiana Indiana Inventors Association 765.674.2845 Inventors Council-Wabash 219.782.2511 Attorneys General Indiana Government Center South 5th Floor 402 West Washington Street Indianapolis IN 46204 Iowa Iowa Inventors Group Drake University Inventor Program 515.271.2655 Attorneys General 515.281.5164 Hoover State Office Bldg. 1305 E. Walnut Des Moines IA 50319 Kansas Inventors Assoc. of So. Central Kansas 316.681.2358 Mid-America Inventors Association 913.371.7011 Inventor's Club of KC Attorneys General 785.296.2215 120 S.W. 10th Ave. 2nd Fl. Topeka KS 66612-1597 Kentucky Central Kentucky Inventors Council Attorneys General 502.696.5300 700 Capitol Ave. Capitol Building Suite 118 Frankfort KY 40601 Louisiana Attorneys General 225.326.6000 P.O. Box 94095 Baton Rouge LA 70804-4095 Maine Attorneys General 207.626.8800 State House Station 6 Augusta ME 04333 Maryland Inventors Network of the Capital Area Attorneys General 410.576.6300 200 St. Paul Place Baltimore MD 21202-2202 Massachusetts Inventors' Association of New England Innovators' Resource Network National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance Attorneys General 617.727.2200 1 Ashburton Place Boston MA 02108-1698 Michigan The Entrepreneur Network Inventors Council of Mid Michigan The Flint and Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce Attorneys General P.O.Box 30212 525 W. Ottawa St. Lansing MI 48909-0212 Minnesota Inventors' Network Minnesota Inventors Congress 235 S. Mill St. P.O. Box 71 Redwood Falls MN 56283 Attorneys General 651.296.3353 State Capitol Ste. 102 St. Paul MN 55155 Mississippi Society of Mississippi Inventors Assistance Attorneys General 601.359.3680 Department of Justice P.O. Box 220 Jackson MS 37205-0220 List your organization in Inventors Eye Missouri Inventors Association of St. Louis Attorneys General 573.751.3321 Supreme Ct. Bldg. 207 W. High St. Jefferson City MO 65101 Montana Montana Inventors Association 406.586.1541 Blue Sky Inventors 406.259.9110 Attorneys General 406.444.2026 Justice Bldg. 215 N. Sanders Helena MT 59620-1401 Nebraska Lincoln Inventors Association Attorneys General 402.471.2682 State Capitol P.O.Box 98920 Lincoln NE 68509-8920 Nevada Nevada Inventors Association Attorneys General 775.684.1100 Old Supreme Ct. Bldg. 100 N. Carson St. Carson City NV 89701 New Hampshire New Hampshire Inventors 603.228.3854 Attorneys General 603.271.3658 State House Annex 33 Capitol St. Concord NH 03301-6397 New Jersey National Society of Inventors 609.799.4574 New Jersey Entrepreneurs Forum Attorneys General 609.292.8740 Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex 25 Market St. CN 080 Trenton NJ 08625 New Mexico New Mexico Inventors Club 505.266.3541 Attorneys General 505.827.6000 P.O. Drawer 1508 Sante Fe NM 87504-1508 New York Inventors Society of Western New York Suffolk County Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club 631-415-5013 Inventors Association of Manhattan Attorneys General 518.474.7330 Dept. of Law, The Capitol 2nd fl. Albany NY 12224 North Carolina Inventors' Network of the Carolinas Attorneys General 919.716.6400 Dept. of Justice P.O.Box 629 Raleigh NC 27602-0629 North Dakota Northern Plains Inventors Congress 701.281.8822 Attorneys General 701.328.2210 State Capitol 600 E. Boulevard Ave. Bismarck ND 58505-0040 Ohio Inventors Connection Greater Cleveland 440.941.6567 Inventor's Council of Cincinnati Attorneys General 614.466.4320 State Office Tower 30 E. Broad St. Columbus OH 43266-0410 List your organization in Inventors Eye Oklahoma Oklahoma Inventors Congress 405.348.7794 Attorneys General 405.521.3921 State Capitol Rm. 112 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Oklahoma City OK 73105 Oregon Portland Inventors Group 503.288.4558 Micro-Inventors Program of Oregon South Oregon Inventors Council 541.772.3478 Attorneys General 503.378.4732 Justice Bldg. 1162 Court St. NE Salem OR 97301 Pennsylvania American Society of Inventors Pittsburgh East Inventors Club Attorneys General 717.787.3391 1600 Strawberry Square Harrisburg PA 17120 Rhode Island The Center for Design & Business 401.454.6108 Attorneys General 401.274.4400 150 S. Main St. Providence RI 02903 South Carolina Inventors Network of the Carolinas Attorneys General Rembert C. Dennis Office Bldg. P.O.Box 11549 Columbia SC 29211-1549 South Dakota South Dakota Inventors Congress 605.688.4184 Attorneys General 1302 East Highway 14 Suite 1 Pierre SD 57501.8501 Tennessee Inventors' Association of Middle Tennessee 615.681.6462 Tennessee Inventors Association Attorneys General 615.741.5860 500 Charlotte Ave. Nashville TN 37243 Texas Alamo Inventors Houston Inventors Association Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurs Association Texas Inventors Association Attorneys General 512.463.2100 Capitol Station P.O.Box 12548 Austin TX 78711-2548 Utah Utah Inventors Attorneys General 801.538.9600 State Capitol Rm. 236 Salt Lake City UT 84114-0810 Vermont InventVermont Attorneys General 802.828.3173 109 State St. Montpelier VT 05609-1001 Virginia Inventors Network of the Capital Area Virginia Inventors Forum, Inc. Attorneys General 900 E. Main St. Richmond VA 23219 Washington Inventors Network 503.239.8299 Attorneys General 1125 Washington St. SE PO Box 40100 Olympia WA 98504-0100 West Virginia West Virginia Inventors Council Inc. 304.293.3612 x 3730 Attorneys General 304.558.2021 State Capitol Complex Building 1 Room E-26 Charleston WV 25305 Wisconsin Inventors Network of Wisconsin 920.429.0331 Attorneys General 114 East State Capitol P.O.Box 7857 Madison WI 53707-7857 Wyoming Attorneys General State Capitol Bldg. Cheyenne WY 82002 _______________________ Australia Inventors Association of Australia (Federal), Inc. United Kingdom British Inventors Society
  • Different characters and mascots at the trademark expo including Thomas the Tank Engine
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is gearing up for the 2012 National Trademark Expo. This free two-day event located at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va., features fun and education for the whole family. Kids and parents alike will delight in seeing a cast of characters featuring their favorite registered trademarks, including Clifford the Big Red Dog, Bob the Builder, the Fruit of the Loom "fruit suits," and Rutgers University's Scarlet Knight among many others. In addition to exhibitors, there will be seminars and presentations on trademarks and intellectual property-valuable information for any entrepreneur or independent inventor. Dates and times: Friday, October 19, from 10:00 to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, October 20, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Last year's event was overwhelmingly popular with the public, drawing over 15,000 attendees. With more exhibitors and more great things to do this year, we're expecting an even bigger turnout. You won't want to miss it! Please visit the Trademark Expo homepage for more information.   Austin Wrap-up The USPTO held its Texas Regional Independent Inventors Conference over the weekend of September 14-15 in Austin, Texas. The capital of the Lone Star State showed us its best and brightest innovators and made the conference a huge success. Read the full wrap-up on the Office of Innovation Development Current Events webpage.
  • Street signs pointing in different directions with help terms such as "guidance", "assistance", "supports", and "advice"
    On September 16, 2012, several provisions of the America Invents Act (AIA) went into effect. One of these provisions allows any member of the public (a third party) the option of presenting the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with information that may be relevant in determining the patentability of a specific application. This sort of disclosure, known as a "third-party preissuance submission," is an important new tool in the examination process. It allows non-applicants the ability to contribute to the quality of issued patents by submitting for consideration patents, published patent applications, or other printed published material, along with a clear description of how each submitted document is potentially relevant to the examination of the application. According to USPTO Director David Kappos, "The preissuance submission provision in the America Invents Act aims to bring the most relevant prior art to the examiner's attention as early as possible during prosecution to enhance examination effectiveness and efficiency." For the independent inventor, this is a beneficial and cost-effective way to notify the USPTO of potential prior art relevant to a patent application. Additionally, to protect applicants, third-party submissions must follow established guidelines, including strict deadlines and explicit filing procedures. The following are helpful resources for understanding the new rule (37 CFR 1.290) governing third-party preissuance submissions: Quick Start Guide for step-by-step information on making third-party preissuance submissions electronically Instructions for Paper Filing for step-by-step information on making third-party preissuance submissions in paper using form PTO/SB/429 Listing of AIA Frequently Asked Questions AIA Implementation Information page for more information and materials regarding third-party preissuance submissions. The USPTO has also established two ways to obtain additional information on all changes to patent rules and regulations under the AIA: a help line (1-855-HELPAIA) and email address ( As always, you may contact the Inventors Assistance Center if you have further questions regarding third-party preissuance submissions or general questions about the patent process.
  • Calender page flipping
    October 2012 TeleBrands Product Search Competition Deadline: October 31 3rd @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of Arizona  Glendale, Ariz. 4th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Fort Collins, Colo. 11th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 11th @ 6:30 p.m. San Diego Inventors Forum  San Diego, Calif. 13th @ 6:30 p.m. Minnesota Inventors Congress - Invention & Idea Show  Minneapolis, Minn. 13th @ 6:30 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Cambridge, Mass. 16th @ 6:30 p.m. Minnesota Inventors Congress - Invention & Idea Show  Minneapolis, Minn. 16th @ 6:30 p.m. Innovation Viability Network Springfield, Ill. 18th@ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Inc. Ft. Myers, Fla. 25th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo.   November 2012 1st@7pm Inventors Association of Arizona Glendale, AZ 1st @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Fort Collins, Colo. 8th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 12th @ 6:30 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Cambridge, Mass. 15th@ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Inc. Ft. Myers, Fla. 20th @ 6:30 p.m. Innovation Viability Network Springfield, Ill. 22th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo.
  • Oscar Pistorius, running with his special carbon fiber "blade" prosthetics
    For many of us, the excitement of the recent summer Olympiad in London is still a fresh memory. There were countless enduring images from the games as newly minted heroes emerged and long-standing records fell. One of those images was of South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who became the first double-leg amputee to compete in the Olympics. Pistorius, running with his special carbon fiber "blade" prosthetics, competed in the 400m running event and the 4X400m relay. In September, Pistorius competed in another sporting event: the Paralympic Games. This major multi-sport event takes place following the Olympics during both the summer and winter games and includes world-class athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities. The Paralympics are an important event for many reasons; not only do they provide a forum for athletes to showcase their talent, but they also provide an incentive for developing adaptive technology that breaks down the barriers of disability. Dr. Rory Cooper is a National Science Foundation-funded distinguished professor in the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology and has his name on several U.S. patents related to adaptive technology. His team researches and develops wheelchair technology along with other assistive devices. According to Cooper, wheelchair technology has been making increasing strides, with both the United Kingdom and China elevating its status through their hosting of the last two Paralympic games. He says the technology of sports wheelchairs is moving towards an increased use of carbon fiber (as opposed to metals) and expects it to be the predominant build material in the next five to ten years. One event that Cooper's team has focused on is wheelchair rugby. Originally known as "murderball," it has quickly become one of the most popular sports in the Paralympics. Wheelchair rugby is a full-contact team event where high-speed metal-on-metal collisions are the norm and having an extremely durable and maneuverable chair is paramount. Rugby chairs are designed with a low center of gravity and angled wheels to make them more difficult to knock over. A former Paralympian who competed in wheelchair racing at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea, Cooper also analyzes wheelchairs for both racing and basketball. Common innovations for chairs in these sports include improving ergonomics, making them lighter and stronger, and building them specifically for individual body types. While much of Cooper's work on sports equipment is placed in the public domain, so that it can be utilized by the relatively small market and small businesses that produce the technology, he is a co-inventor of six U.S. patented devices and has several pending applications. The subject of patent number 6,276,705 for "an ergonomic dual surface wheelchair pushrim" is often used in basketball wheelchairs, as is the subject of patent number 8,264,458 for a "variable compliance joystick with compensation algorithms." Both inventions give users improved control over the wheelchair. From a social perspective, Cooper says the innovations in adaptive technology drive people to look at the beauty of the sport instead of the disability of the individual participant. Innovation also helps the athlete change his or her perception of the self, allowing the individual to integrate more seamlessly into society. In the coming years, Cooper foresees many more sports, from field hockey to triathlon events, becoming available at the Paralympics as a result of the advances in wheelchair technology. The innovations used by the athletes at the Paralympic games raise the bar for adaptive technology, and this technology in turn challenges all of us to rethink the word "disability." When we watch Oscar Pistorius blaze across the track at speeds few humans can achieve, or when wheelchair rugby players charge at each other with the same force of NFL running backs, it's hard to imagine any sort of limited ability. Technology and innovation allow human beings who are born with differences-or acquire them along the way-to contribute, compete, and excel at the highest levels humanly possible. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the many contributions that people with disabilities have made not just to the workforce, but also to society in general. -Supervisory Patent Examiner William Vaughn contributed to this article. -Photo by Jim Thurston, taken during the first round of the 400m at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
  • Patents Ombudsman logo
    You've filed a patent application without the help of an attorney (pro se), and now you have a pending utility application before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You're pretty happy with yourself. Then you receive an Office action-a letter informing you that some of your claims have been rejected. After reading the required action, you're confused, so you contact your examiner and have a conversation. Maybe you also contact the supervisory patent examiner (SPE) and have a conversation, yet after both of these communications you still don't feel the issue has been resolved. You've exhausted the normal channels and now you're stuck, like a roadblock has set across your path. Fortunately, that's when the Patents Ombudsman Program can step in and help. Under the America Invents Act of 2011, the USPTO established the Patents Ombudsman Program to assist small businesses and independent inventors during patent prosecution. At the USPTO, patent applications are examined in Technology Centers (TCs) staffed by thousands of examiners. The course of patent prosecution usually leads to back-and-forth communication between an applicant (or the applicant's attorney or agent) and the specific examiner assigned to the application. The complex legal and technical language involved, as well as the specific protocol that must be followed during patent prosecution, creates an environment where communication issues can arise. When you add the volume of patent applications the Office receives in a given year (over 500,000 in 2011), some applications can, from time to time, get stuck in the pipeline or seem to fall off the track. Realizing this, the USPTO designated a Patents Ombudsman representative in each of the Technology Centers. The Patents Ombudsman Program does not circumvent normal prosecution practice or channels of communication, nor is it intended to supersede the authority of patent examiners and SPEs. Rather, it provides two key benefits to applicants: it helps facilitate complaint-handling for stalled applications in both the pre-examination and examination processes, and it tracks complaints to ensure they are handled within 10 business days. Now in its second year, the Patents Ombudsman Program has assisted more than 840 users and fielded over 1400 inquiries. Since the USPTO began specifically tracking pro se data, 255 pro se applicants have used the program. While these statistics show the program is working, it's the appreciation users express and the expertise of the Ombudsman representatives that indicate it is a success. Here are examples of how two anonymous applicants used the program to reach favorable conclusions in the course of their patent prosecutions. "Adam" contacted the Patents Ombudsman Program about his utility application; the application had received a final rejection, and Adam was very frustrated. He insisted that he had a patentable invention. The Ombudsman representative carefully listened to Adam and his concerns, then spoke with management at the TC where the application had been examined. The representative was able to determine that what the applicant really wanted was to protect the design of his invention. Adam was put in touch with the Ombudsman representative for design patents, who then explained to him the protection available and the application involved in a design patent. Adam was happy to learn that there was, after all, protection available for his invention, and he proceeded to file a design application. "Belinda" contacted us after an appeal brief was filed by her attorney. She could no longer afford the attorney and didn't know how to proceed. Belinda was intimidated by the prospect of going at it alone and worried that her application would become abandoned. The TC Ombudsman representative explained that Belinda could revoke the power of attorney and showed her how to do that. The representative then discussed how Belinda could proceed with the prosecution on her own and helped to restore her confidence in her application. Both of these cases demonstrate how even seemingly small issues can be imposing during prosecution. The Patents Ombudsman Program is designed to ensure that the system works the way it should and that nobody is left standing in the middle of the road encountering an unnecessary barrier to his or her dreams of innovation. To find out more, please visit the Patent Ombudsman Program homepage.
  • Brad Rousseau, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe from North Dakota dressed in his traditional tribe attire
    Native Americans have always been industrious and creative. Few people, however, are aware of the full impact Native American inventions have had on our day-to-day lives. Maple syrup, kayaks, the game and sticks of lacrosse, and hammocks-these are some ready examples of everyday inventions mainstream society has adopted from Native American tribes. But the story does not end there. Native Americans are still inventing useful items today that we will no doubt depend upon tomorrow. Brad Rousseau is a celebrated independent inventor, small business owner, and enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe in North Dakota. He grew up on the Walhalla reservation in North Dakota, and he attributes his business success to the cultural values instilled in him as a young boy. Native Americans are convinced that everyone is a potential inventor if given the opportunity to analyze and solve a problem, and that was certainly true in Brad's case. Brad was taught to always look for ways to make things better and to find solutions to complicated problems. He had the opportunity to put such lessons to work when his mother, diagnosed with diabetes, was confined to a wheelchair and her doctor recommended she be transferred to a nursing home. Brad had a strong desire to help his mother remain close to the family, but he knew in order to do that, her mobility would need to be improved. Faced with such a challenge, Brad relied on the values he learned as a child and pushed himself to find a solution that would help his mother navigate the multiple-level house more easily. As a result, Brad came up with a device that could attach to his mother's wheelchair and allow her to be carried up and down the stairs with ease. The invention allowed Brad to better care for his mom in the comfort of their home. Most importantly, it allowed her to stay close to her family. In 2011, Brad received U.S. patent number 8,240,691 for his invention and named it the Easy Lifter. This device allows people with mobility impairments and their caregivers greater safety and freedom of movement in any location, and it provides them a handy tool in case of emergency or an unexpected evacuation. From this invention, Brad's company, Safe and Secure Products Inc., was born. Today, Brad's goal is to inspire other Native Americans to follow his lead-to develop their ideas, patent them, and allow everyone to benefit from their inventions. In addition to growing up on the Walhalla reservation, Brad worked for the Tribal Council as the Director of Utilities and has traveled extensively to other reservations in the United States and Canada. His experiences give him first-hand knowledge of the disadvantages many Native Americans encounter every day. In particular, he found there was little access to resources and knowledge in the area of intellectual property. Brad is now working to help the Native American community embrace the concept of intellectual property by mentoring other Native American business owners and inventors and sharing his acquired knowledge and experiences in the field. Recently, he joined the advisory board of the Native American Intellectual Property Enterprise Council (NAIPEC), an organization that supports the Native American community by providing assistance in patenting, trademarking, and copyrighting. According to Brad, the resources NAIPEC provides are much needed in the Indian reservations today. "Native American businesses and individuals would benefit from knowing how to commercialize their ideas through corporations and create full employment in the reservations," said Brad. "This would allow reservations to create economic security and create jobs with content, meaning, and empowerment." Brad Rousseau understands that a true innovator doesn't draw the line at inventing; he looks for new ways to help his community and society in general by creating opportunities and spreading the dream of invention to others. November is Native American Heritage Month. The USPTO honors and celebrates the contributions Native Americans have made to innovation and intellectual property in the United States. In 2011, the USPTO announced a partnershipbetween NAIPEC and the USPTO's Office of Innovation Development. Under the partnership, the two organizations work closely to develop outreach and educational programs and materials for Native American inventors and small business owners. Lizzeth Montejano has served as the program coordinator since its launch in April 2012.
  • First Lego League Global Innovation Award Runner's up, Team Seven World Wonders
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted youngsters on two separate occasions in June and July to recognize their achievements and encourage them to pursue education and careers in the sciences, respectively. FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award On June 19, the USPTO hosted the 2nd annual FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Global Innovation Award Ceremony. The FLL Global Innovation Award draws together some of the most innovative young people across the entire world in a global competition. This year's competition was dubbed "Food Factor" because entrants were asked to submit inventions that improved food safety and storage. Team MATobot (New York, N.Y.) created a milk pitcher that detects spoiled milk by measuring pH levels. Team Moderately Confused (Dublin, Ohio) devised a technique that detects when meat has been improperly stored and erases the packaging barcode, thereby preventing its purchase. Team Seven World Wonders (Yeruham, Israel) created the FreezeStick, which uses chemical reactions to refreeze ice in coolers. And team S.I.S. Robotic Revolution (Shelton, Conn.) came up with the Smart Sticker to alert consumers when eggs (and other foods) have been stored above the acceptable temperature range for an extended period of time. In an unprecedented move, teams Moderately Confused and S.I.S. Robotic Revolution were both declared winners, with each awarded up to $250,000 in services and support from sponsor Edison Nation to help bring the winning technology to market. The runners-up each received $5,000 in grants from the X PRIZE foundation. The event was packed with an all-star lineup of speakers and presenters, including USPTO Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino, Dean Kamen, inventor and president of FIRST, former USPTO Director John Dudas, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Edison Nation founder Louis Foreman, and Robert K. Weiss, president and vice chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation. Commissioner Focarino commended the finalists for their "willingness to dream," and in a statement released after the event said, "These kids are wise beyond years, and I am sure I am joined by everyone who was with us that day, or watched via webcast, in congratulating them and saying that the future is in good hands." Dean Kamen, famed inventor of the Segway and many other successful devices, reminded the audience that "innovation is doing what nobody has done before. And, yeah, you might get ridiculed and laughed at-so what?" To find out more about the FLL Global Innovation Award, the finalists and their inventions, visit the competition homepage. Patriots Summer Camp Visits USPTO On Friday, July 13, the USPTO welcomed summer campers from the Patriots Technology Training Center of Seat Pleasant, Md., to learn about intellectual property and the USPTO's role in protecting and encouraging innovation in America. The campers, all students in grades ranging from 5th to 10th, filled the north side of the USPTO's Madison Auditorium and listened attentively to presentations from various offices of the USPTO, as well as representatives from the National Society of Black Engineers. The highlight of the event was an activity involving computer-programmable robots provided by the USPTO's education division. Students broke into groups to program and then operate the robots in a friendly competition. The first team to lead their robot along a scaled-down path to a model USPTO were the winners. Gloria Shivers, program director for Patriots, said the visit to the USPTO was beneficial for the campers. "It gives the kids a good opportunity to see what is out there," she told Inventors Eye. "Our mission is to give them something exciting to do-something that will stimulate them in finding and obtaining careers." Patriots also participates in the FIRST LEGO League as well as the FIRST Robotics Competition. "Empowering Students through Technology" serves as the organization's motto.
  • Lonnie Johnson as the inventor of the Super Soaker
    When you were growing up, did you ever try taking apart a family appliance only to fail at reassembling it? For most kids, when Mom and Dad see the toaster splayed out across the kitchen floor, that's usually the end of their mechanical aspirations. And then there is Dr. Lonnie Johnson, who as a child graduated from appliances to making rocket fuel. One time, a batch caught on fire. In the kitchen. In one of his mother's saucepans. After the flames and black smoke cleared, he found that a couple of the kitchen chairs had holes where the flaming liquid had splattered and burned like napalm. But rather than stifling his curiosity, Lonnie's parents handed him a hot plate and told him he needed to cook his rocket fuel outside. When Inventors Eye asked Lonnie what got him interested in the way things worked, he said his dad would let him watch over his shoulder as he tinkered. "My father was not educated, but he was able to repair most things around the house, and that taught me some valuable skills," Lonnie related. Receiving these valuable skills and encouragement from his parents lead him on the path to advanced degrees in mechanical and nuclear engineering from Tuskegee University and a successful career working on Space Shuttle Atlantis, the B-2 Stealth Bomber, and NASA's Galileo and Cassini missions, until he got the urge to become a full-time independent inventor. Johnson now has over 100 patents or pending patents. Many people may recognize Lonnie as the inventor of the Super Soaker (patent number 5,074,437), but he is much more than just squirt guns. The good doctor is currently figuring out ways to reduce humanity's dependence on fossil fuels and particularly the United States' reliance on foreign oil. He is working on what he calls the "next generation" battery and the "next next generation" battery. The next generation battery uses a solid-state configuration and will replace the current batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles. The next next generation battery relies on sophisticated lithium glass to produce power. Lonnie said that this advanced battery is about one-and-a-half to two years away from commercial production. Both of these technologies do not involve fluids in the production and storage of electric power-a true innovation over today's batteries. Another promising project is the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System or JTEC (pronounced "JAY-tek"). This solid-state heat engine converts heat energy into electrical energy by using pressure to force hydrogen atoms through a membrane-electrode assembly, stripping the electrons from the atoms and moving them through an external circuit. The JTEC is estimated to be about twice as efficient as today's solar Stirling engines, which use moving parts to generate mechanical energy. Lonnie used much of the proceeds from the Super Soaker to fund the JTEC and now relies on funding from grants and other resources. Despite the JTEC's promise, Lonnie said the project has taught him that "you may not want to invest all your funds in research." If he had to do it all over again, he said he would probably have worked on the heat engine first and then the batteries-not the other way around. Lonnie wrote his first patent application for a digital distance measuring device and received patent number 4,143,267 in 1979. The invention, as stated in the patent, "uses a mechanical analog-to-digital converter to measure distance. The distance measured is supplied in binary encoded decimal to an electronic decoder for decoding and subsequent decimal display." Lonnie explained that this device preceded the use of digital optical readers in applications such as CDs and DVDs. "I was having so much fun working on advanced space systems that I didn't take time to focus on it," he said. By the time he realized he wanted to be an independent inventor, it was too late. The measuring device was "the big fish that got away," he quipped. At first, Lonnie had also tried to write the patent for the Super Soaker himself, but after getting an initial rejection letter from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, he contacted a patent attorney. Children all over the world should rejoice at this wise decision, as he went on to receive the patent for the now famous and immensely profitable squirt gun. Lonnie has some advice for inventors. "Know that no one has a lock on any technology," he said. "Those who have skill in the art can understand it and make it better. When talking with investors or people that could possibly buy or license your technology, make sure that you demonstrate how the invention works and why it will make money. You can't make money without getting people interested in the invention."
  • Texas Regional Independent Inventors Conference
    Texas Regional Independent Inventors Conference to Be Held Sept. 14-15 Representatives from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are once again traveling to a location near you to provide expert advice and conduct workshops on the patent and trademark process. This time, the conference will be held on campus at the University of Texas at Austin, in beautiful Austin, Texas, state capital and home to a vibrant entrepreneur and inventor community. Speakers at the conference also include local business leaders and distinguished professors from the University of Texas. Conference dates are Sept. 14-15. Check the conference homepage regularly for further updates and announcements. This event is co-sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin and Invent Now.   USPTO Launches First Satellite Office, Announces Locations for Three More July was a big month for the USPTO, as it saw the first-ever expansion outside the Washington, D.C., area since the authorization of a patent office in the U.S. Constitution in 1787. The Elijah J. McCoy Satellite Office in Detroit opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 13 and officially started business the following Monday, July 16. The new office, which is named for the inventor of the automatic steam engine lubricating cup-an important invention during the early years of industry in the United States-is a hub for innovation and economic development in the Midwest region of the United States. McCoy, born to former slaves in 1849, lived most of his life in the Detroit area and received 57 patents during his lifetime. The USPTO also announced on July 2 the locations for three additional satellite offices in Silicon Valley, Denver, and Dallas-Ft. Worth. To read more about the USPTO satellite offices, read the USPTO press release.
  • Different books in a line with titles such as "Misleading", "Right Information", and "Irrelevant"
    Owners of U.S. patents and trademark registrations understand that there are maintenance requirements and fees due over the term of the patent or registration. Although fees required to maintain U.S. patents and trademark registrations must be paid directly to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), there are numerous companies unaffiliated with the USPTO that send solicitations to patent and trademark owners concerning maintenance requirements. The notices frequently appear to be an invoice and typically specify fees "due" that are higher than the official USPTO required fees. These solicitations may look official because they contain information taken from public records available on the USPTO's databases. They often incorporate cautionary language such as "patent cancellation notice" or "important notification regarding your federal trademark." Some even include "U.S." or "United States" in the company name and letterhead, adding to their seemingly official appearance. The USPTO has received numerous complaints from patent and trademark owners about these types of solicitations. Several recipients have indicated that they were misled by the notices and believed they actually came from the USPTO. Some recipients indicated they sent payment for the fees specified on the notices to the return address indicated on the notice. You should note that all official correspondence concerning your U.S. patent or trademark will come from the "United States Patent and Trademark Office" in Alexandria, Va., 22313. If you are contacted by email, it will be from the domain "" If you receive any notices concerning your U.S. patent or trademark that do not come from the USPTO's address, and you are asked to return payment to an address that is not the USPTO's, then you are dealing with a private company. You can verify maintenance requirements for your patent or trademark registration and check if fees are due on the USPTO's website. The website offers a great deal of information about maintaining your patent. It also provides aportal that lets patent owners find out when maintenance fees are due by simply entering their application number or patent number. You can make required fee payments directly to the USPTO yourself or with the assistance of your lawyer or registered patent practitioner. If you receive a solicitation concerning your patent or trademark that you believe is deceptive, you may file an online consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), at While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, as the nation's consumer protection agency, it may initiate investigations and prosecutions based on widespread complaints about particular companies or business practices. You may also contact our office at or by calling 571-272-8877 to notify us of any communications you believe to be misleading. Also, please contact us if you have any general questions regarding patent maintenance or trademark renewal fees.
  • Map of the United States with the different USPTO regional office locations marked
    An Update on the AIA September 16th marks the one-year anniversary of the signing of the America Invents Act (AIA) into law, so what better way to celebrate than activating several provisions of the landmark patent reform bill? Over the past few months, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has made rules to implement the new AIA provisions. In doing so, the agency has sought input from the public and incorporated that input into the rules. The next round of AIA provisions go into effect on September 16 and will improve the patent system in different ways. First, they help simplify the process for applicants to secure a patent and enable patent owners to provide examiners with information that may not have been presented during the original patent application prosecution. Second, they permit third parties to submit prior art for examiners to consider during examination, thereby making a more informed patentability determination sooner in the examination process. Lastly, the new AIA provisions offer third parties an alternative to the district court system for challenging the patentability of a claimed invention in an issued patent that is more timely, efficient, and less expensive than litigation. To help inventors and businesses understand the new final rules and how they will affect their applications, the USPTO is hosting "roadshows" across the United States during September. Director of the USPTO David Kappos, Deputy Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea, agency intellectual property experts, and legal advisors and administrative law judges will visit eight cities for day-long seminars to discuss the final rules in detail and answer questions. The roadshows will be held at the USPTO's Patent and Trademark Resource Centers in Alexandria, Va., Atlanta, Detroit, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and New York City. "It is an invigorating time to be part of the patent system," said Director Kappos. "On September 16, 2012, many new provisions of the America Invents Act become available for the public to use, and the agency has prepared for this day by making new final rules for implementation. I welcome the inventor community to attend the roadshows and learn about the new provisions and our final rules." The USPTO will be publishing its final rules in the Federal Register in late July and early August, more than one month before the provisions become available for public use. To see the final rules when published, check out the Federal Register. The USPTO will make the final rules available at The roadshows are free and open to the public. View the full roadshow schedule and find out more information
  • Calender with the 25th and 26th highlighted in red
    August 2012 1st @ 7:00 p.m. Inventors Association of Arizona Phoenix, Ariz. 2nd @ 2 p.m. Inventors Association of Idaho Sagle, Idaho 4th @ 1:00 p.m. Inventors Society of South Florida Deerfield Beach, Fla. 8th @ 6:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Inventors Council Tampa Bay, Fla. 9th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 16th @ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Ft. Myers, Fla. 21st @ 6:30 p.m. INVINT Springfield, Ill. 22nd @ 6:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Inventors Council Tampa Bay, Fla. 23rd @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 27th @ 7:00 p.m. Inventors Connection of Greater Cleveland (meeting at Brooklyn Public Library) Brooklyn, Ohio 31st @ 7:30 p.m. Inventor's Forum Orange, Calif.   September 2012 1st @ 1:00 p.m. Inventors Society of South Florida Deerfield Beach, Fla. 5th@ 7:00 p.m. Inventors Association of Arizona Phoenix, Ariz. 11th @ 7:00 p.m. Iowa Inventors Group Cedar Rapids, Iowa 12th @ 6:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Inventors Council Tampa Bay, Fla. 18th @ 6:30 p.m. INVINT Springfield, Ill. 20th @ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Ft. Myers, Fla. 20th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 24th @ 7:00 p.m. Inventors Connection of Greater Cleveland (meeting at Brooklyn Public Library) Brooklyn, Ohio 26th @ 6:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Inventors Council Tampa Bay, Fla. 28th @ 7:30 p.m. Inventor's Forum Orange, Calif.
  • Plant growing in dry soil representing patents for humanity
    It's sometimes easy for us to forget just how good we have it. Regardless of the bills we need to pay, most of us have food on the table and a roof over our heads. Since you're reading this online, we can assume you have access to the vast network of information and entertainment that enables us to perform electronic miracles every day in our work and personal lives. So, it can be a little hard to wrap our minds around the most recent United Nations data that says one billion people on Earth go hungry every day, that 900 million lack access to clean water, and that billions more people on this planet live in abject poverty without recourse to education, medical care or many other fundamental human services.[i] While such overwhelming statistics make it hard to determine where to begin, standing by idly is not an option. Last February, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched Patents for Humanity, a pilot program that creates business incentives for patent-holders to use their technology for humanitarian purposes. Conducted as a prize competition, Patents for Humanity invites applicants to submit entries that explain how they have applied their already-patented technology to alleviate human suffering. The competition is open to all inventors and businesses in the world, as long as they hold a U.S. patent on the technology they are submitting. Entries are accepted in four categories-medical technology, food and nutrition, clean technology and information technology. The categories are intended to allow for a broad range of technologies that encompass a broad range of humanitarian needs. Examples may include medical diagnostic equipment, assistive devices, more nutritious or drought-resistant crops, water purifiers, cleaner sources of household heating and lighting, and software that promotes literacy and education. There are no restrictions on what technologies qualify, as long as applicants demonstrate how they are being used within one of those four categories, or how they contributes to important research in one of the four categories. We must remember, too, that poverty and hardship exist in every country. Innovators who have helped to solve humanitarian problems in affluent nations are just as eligible and encouraged to enter as those working in undeveloped countries. Because suffering respects no geographic boundaries, Patents for Humanity has no geographic restrictions. Up to 50 selected recipients will receive public recognition for their work, including an awards ceremony at the USPTO headquarters. In addition, winners will receive a certificate that allows them to accelerate the processing of a matter they have before the USPTO. This could be an application, appeal, or ex parte reexamination for any technology in the recipient's portfolio. Judges for the competition are drawn from the academic world, selected for their expertise in the areas of medicine, law, science, engineering, public policy and other related fields. For hundreds of years, patents have been one of the most powerful mechanisms for world progress. As the gateways of innovation, patent offices have a unique opportunity to assist inventors who use their technology to help alleviate humanitarian problems. With Patents for Humanity, the USPTO is taking up the challenge to make the world a better place. We hope independent inventors and small business owners will join us in our effort to make Patents for Humanity a successful initiative in improving living conditions around the world. If you are a patent-holder with a humanitarian mission, please apply for the contest. If you know someone who is, please tell them about the USPTO's Patents for Humanity. The deadline for submissions is August 30, 2012. For more information about the Patents for Humanity program, visit To apply or see what others have submitted, please visit the Patents for Humanity application portal.   [i]
  •  Florida Regional Independent Inventors Conference over the weekend of April 27-28 sign with people posing next to it
    The USPTO wrapped up the Florida Regional Independent Inventors Conference over the weekend of April 27-28 at the Embassy Suites, located on campus at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Cosponsored by Invent Now and the National Academy of Inventors, the conference brought the immeasurable resources of private sector and USPTO experts direct to the audience. Over 100 innovators, entrepreneurs and small business owners attended and received advice on the patent and trademark processes, as well as valuable information on entrepreneurship, sales and marketing. Some of the biggest names in entrepreneurship and innovation delivered plenary talks, offering the crowd their proven strategies for marketing and product development. Dr. Pamela Riddle-Bird, founder of Innovative Product Technologies Inc. and wife of the famed inventor of the medical respirator Dr. Forrest Bird, provided attendees with valuable tips for marketing their products. Kevin Harrington, chairman of TVGoods Inc. and, and a key developer of the infomercial industry, shared his winning strategies to take products from idea to realized market success. Harrington is also on the hit ABC television show, "Shark Tank," where investors listen to product pitches from aspiring inventors and choose which ones they think are worth investing in. The long list of presenters also included Mark Reyland, executive director of the United Inventors Association, and 2010 Collegiate Inventors Competition winner Mark Jensen. Keynoting the event was Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea. Her speech focused on the importance of innovation in the American economy and creating new jobs and lasting industries. Also presenting as part of the USPTO team were Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy Drew Hirshfeld and the Office of Innovation Development's John Calvert. Breakout sessions gave attendees more detailed information and tools on patents and trademarks. "Attendees always find these small group sessions invaluable, as they're able to get expert advice and answers to fundamental components of the patent process," said Calvert, who presented the breakout session on advanced claim drafting. Other topics included trademark searching, the impact of the America Invents Act on small businesses, and a special session on "Protecting Your Intellectual Property in a Global Economy." Conference-goers also had the opportunity to sit down with the experts of their choice for one-on-one sessions, where they got answers and advice on relevant issues in a direct and private manner. A reception held Friday evening allowed attendees to network and share ideas. Said one prospective inventor, "The USPTO staff was genuinely helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. You've given me a lot of great tools to get started. Thank you!" As with all the regional independent inventor conferences, lunch was provided both days. Offering education and resources to independent inventors and entrepreneurs is one of the USPTO's most important goals, and the agency firmly believes in the value of these regional conferences. We will strive to continue making them available across the country, actively engaging the public and fostering the great American spirit of innovation as best we can. We hope to see you at the next one.
  • 2012 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees
    On May 2, the National Inventors Hall of Fame inducted its 2012 class of inventors during a ceremony at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This year's event marked the 40th anniversary of the Hall of Fame's inductions. Some of the most renowned innovators in the world were honored for their inventions that have fundamentally changed the way we interact and communicate with the world. Inductees Akira Endo discovered mevastatin and pioneered research into a new class of molecules that work in drugs to lower cholesterol. Barbara Liskov is an MIT professor who contributed significantly to the design of computer languages, including some of the most commonly used in today's programming. C. Kumar N. Patel worked for Bell Labs and invented the carbon dioxide laser. After working for Bell Labs for most of his career, Patel went on to independently found his own company, Pranalytica, which manufactures mid-infrared quantum cascade laser systems and gas sensing instruments. Lubomyr Romankiw and David A. Thompson invented the first practical magnetic thin film storage heads, which became vital components in data storage technology. Gary K. Starkweather is the inventor of the now-ubiquitous laser printer while working for Xerox Corp. Alejandro Zaffaroni is a biotech entrepreneur who pioneered early methods of drug delivery systems using transdermal patches. In addition to the seven living inventors, the Hall of Fame posthumously honored three individuals whose impact on the modern world has been immeasurable. Dennis Gabor (1900-1979) was a pioneer of electron optics and the inventor of holography. Mária Telkes (1900-1995) was a pioneer of solar energy and inventor of the first thermoelectric generator. Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was the co-founder of Apple Computers and one of the most important figures in the design of computer hardware and software. "At the end of the day, [your] efforts don't just boast scientific or historic achievement," Kappos said to the inductees. "They fundamentally retool the way we interact with the world around us." Of Jobs, Director Kappos said, "While he recognized the criticality of patents and trademarks in unleashing innovation-Steve Jobs also embodied a fundamental truth about invention-that design is not just what a product looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." As we honor this year's inductees, we are reminded that the future is ours to invent. Independent inventors and entrepreneurs form a cornerstone of America, a nation that is itself a grand collection of the best ideas and innovations the world has ever known. To find out more about the Inductees and the National Inventors Hall of Fame, visit
  • Sandy Stein and her invention the Finders Key Purse
    Have you ever let someone in on your invention idea only to have them roll their eyes and say, "Dream on?" As it turns out, that could be very good advice. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sandy Stein faced the prospect of supporting her family on a part-time flight attendant's salary. The situation seemed intractable, even to Sandy, who had always looked for and found creative solutions to difficult problems in life. At the end of one particularly frustrating day, she went to bed hoping for some kind of inspiration to come to her while she slept. It did. It wouldn't be the first time a dream lead to a breakthrough. Like Elias Howe, the inventor the sewing machine, and chemist Friedrich August Kekulé, who discovered the chemical structure of benzene, Sandy received her inspiration when she was not conscious. In her dream, Sandy's deceased father appeared to her and told her to "bend back a hook, put a cute design on it, attach a claw hammer to hold your keys, and then you'll have a way to make some money." Upon waking, Sandy created a prototype for the Finders Key Purse®. This catchy little item was the fashionable solution to many a discouraged woman's search for keys buried in her purse. To ultimately succeed, Sandy had to add hard work to her inspiration and be confident in the finished product and her ability to sell it. Above all, she knew that she needed to protect her idea. Drawing on classes and books that had taught her about intellectual property, Sandy secured a patent because, as she said, "If it's good enough for me to sell, then it's good enough for someone to steal." Next, she needed to apply creativity to her business plan. Making use of social marketing before it became a buzzword, Sandy recruited 20 friends to market and distribute the Finders Key Purse. These SWANs (Sales With A Niche), as she named them, initially had no experience, so Sandy designed a custom training course and marketing materials, then sent her representatives to pitch the product within their own social circles. The strategy worked. Within one year, the SWAN force grew to 2,000 and Sandy had sold a million pieces. Such successful ideas are targets for thieves, but Sandy's preparation paid off. One notorious knockoff specialist confided to her that he had wanted to copy her product, but "her patent was just too strong and well-written to get around." Another copycat did try and, for his efforts, lost an infringement case. Sandy agrees that protecting her idea with a patent was the key to the Finders Key Purse staying in the market and remaining successful. From the night of her dream to the present day, Sandy and her employees at Alexx Inc., the company she founded and named after her son, have sold over 8 million Finders Key Purses to a customer base of 12,000 people in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Middle East and New Zealand. Now Sandy has a new dream-to let others know that if she, without the benefit of a formal business education and after 35 years as a flight attendant, could have success as inventor, they can too. "You just have to be extremely tenacious, have a really good idea, know your target market, and run with it as fast as you can! Don't take no for an answer."
  • Figner prints being scanned with text "Access Granted"
    Online applications account for more than 93 percent of all applications at the USPTO, and the goal for the future is to eventually have all applications filed online. To encourage this more efficient and time-saving process, applicants receive a $400 incentive by filing electronically. While many applicants are taking advantage of this incentive, some might have concerns about what the online medium means for the security of their invention and personal information. It's important for inventors to understand what happens to their information once it's digitized and sent off into cyberspace. The USPTO goes to great lengths to secure the information that comes from the over half-million new applications it receives each year. Rod Turk is in charge of protecting the network at the USPTO. As the Chief information security officer, Turk and his team confront and shut down any unauthorized attempts to access USPTO servers. To stop transgressors in their tracks, Turk says information technology (IT) security has two main objectives. "We constantly work to secure the 'perimeter' of the network and monitor the traffic going in and out from our network and security operations centers," said Turk. The term, "perimeter", describes the complex system of network controls and encryption tools that ensures no unauthorized connections make it through. While any large computer network-public or private-has security risks, Turk says the USPTO does not have as much to worry about. "Most of the information on the USPTO network is already in the public domain," he explained. As a fundamental principle of patent law, patent applications are kept confidential for 18 months after the first filing and then disclosed to the world, aside from certain classifications that are considered issues of national security or if an applicant requests non-publication at the time of filing. According to Turk, the real security issue related to online filing happens long before the USPTO receives an application. "Home computers are much more susceptible to malware and spy applications," he said. "Those programs can record personal information like addresses and credit card numbers, and then send them to a third party." To ensure that private information remains safe, Turk urges all computer users to regularly scan their devices and use updated malware removal tools. Even if a patent applicant chooses to use an attorney, Turk said that the vast majority of lawyers who file on behalf of an inventor do it online with a computer that is connected to their firm's own network. It's a good idea for clients to ask a few appropriate questions and make sure law firms are protecting their electronic information in a responsible manner. Filing online makes the patent process more efficient and less costly for inventors, but before you click, "send," take a few important steps to secure your confidential information. You'll rest easy knowing the USPTO has already set in place a strong security system to keep both your private information and your invention safe.
  • Calender pages being flipped
    June 2012 6th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of Arizona  Glendale, Ariz. 6th @ 6:30 p.m. Minnesota Inventors Congress - Invention & Idea Show  Minneapolis, Minn. 7th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Fort Collins, Colo. 11th @ 6:30 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Cambridge, Mass. 20th@ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Inc. Ft. Myers, Fla. 20th @ 6:30 p.m. Inovation Viability Network Springfield, Ill. 21st @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo. 28th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo.   July 2012 4th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of Arizona Glendale, Ariz. 18th @ 6:30 p.m. Edison Inventors Association Inc. Ft. Myers, Fla.  18th @ 6:30 p.m. Inovation Viability Network Springfield, Ill.
  • USPTO's exhibit, "The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology That Changed the World" showing at the Smithsonian's Ripley Center On the National Mall in Washington, DC
    A message from the Associate Commissioner It's been a busy first half of the year at the USPTO, and to lead off this issue of Inventors Eye, I would like to update everyone on several recent developments. In April, the Department of Commerce released its landmark report, "Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus." This first-of-its-kind report shows that intellectual property (IP)-intensive fields support at least 40 million American jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to, or 34.8 percent of, the U.S. gross domestic product. The report clearly illustrates the vital role inventors and innovators play in the recovery and development of our national economy. This is great news, and it gives the USPTO a powerful mandate to continue fostering innovation and providing resources and education for independent inventors and small businesses. Read the press release for more information and to get a full copy of the report. In May, the USPTO rolled out an important pilot initiative intended to make patent prosecution more efficient for both inventors and examiners alike. The Quick Path Information Disclosure Statement (QPIDS) pilot is designed to create more flexibility in the exam process and avoid the need to file a Request for Continued Examination in certain situations, thereby reducing pendency and fees. Please follow the link above to find out the specifics and if this might apply to your patent application. The Pro Bono program continues to move forward and draw support from across the IP community. In addition to the current program in Minnesota, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos was recently in Boulder, Colo., to break ground for the next program, which will serve the Centennial State. Four additional programs are slated to start by the year's end, including one for the entire state of California. Later this summer, we'll also see a major development for the Pro Bono program-the launch of an online portal. The website will act as a single point of entry, connecting inventors and small businesses with IP law offices all across the nation. Through the portal, all inventors who financially qualify will be able to access the free patent legal assistance offered through the Pro Bono program, regardless of geographical location. Stay tuned for this important announcement. In the last issue of Inventors Eye, we featured the release of the new IP Awareness Assessment Tool, which provides user-specific tutorials to help inventors and business owners determine if they have IP assets worth protecting with patents or trademarks. The tool has had over forty thousand visits and hundreds of completed assessments in just one month's time. The tool has received extensive coverage in the media and IP blogosphere and positive feedback from users. If you have questions about your IP assets or wonder what actually qualifies as an IP asset, I think you'll find the IP Awareness Assessment Tool very beneficial. And finally, the USPTO's wonderful exhibit, "The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology That Changed the World," is now showing at the Smithsonian's Ripley Center on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, which originally opened at the USPTO last November, features 30 iPhone replicas, each 8-feet tall and exquisitely detailed down to the 3G logo. Aside from looking pretty cool, the phones are display cases for over 300 of the patents that bear Steve Jobs' name. After making its international debut in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this year, the exhibit will remain in the capital until July 8 before heading to the West Coast. Anyone planning to visit the Washington, D.C., area this summer won't want to miss this. I hope you enjoy the rest of this issue of Inventors Eye and have a great summer.
  • Shopping cart in a store
    Many inventors ask the USPTO for advice regarding the licensing or marketing of inventions. While the USPTO cannot predict the marketability of any particular invention, there are resources for people who wish to license or sell the rights to their inventions. You may already know that for a nominal fee-currently $25 for each published item-the USPTO will publish an announcement of patents and serial numbers available for license or sale. This publication occurs on the second Tuesday of each month in the Official Gazette for Patents. Contact Lamont Fletcher at 703-756-1558 or visit additional resources online. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) gives applicants an additional license offer option with a new program for international applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). As of January 2012, WIPO's International Bureau maintains a register in which applicants can offer to license their inventions disclosed in international applications. Applicants may request that the WIPO International Bureau post indications of availability of patents for licensing purposes on its free PATENTSCOPE service. Applicants will be able to submit licensing indications for any international application that has not exceeded the 30-month priority period. Requests for inclusion in the register may be made by submitting New Form PCT/IB/382, "Request for indication of availability for licensing purposes," or by sending a letter to the WIPO International Bureau indicating that the claimed invention is available for licensing. The request may be included with a newly filed international application as an accompanying document, or it may be filed at a later date with the International Bureau. The WIPO program is the result of a recommendation from the June 2010 meeting of the PCT Working Group. For more information about this exciting new benefit of filing an international application, please see the December 2011 PCT Newsletter.
  • Man serving food
    Intellectual property (IP) is the creation of the human mind. It can include unique technological innovations, works of art, brand and concept names, symbols, logos, design and other ideas made real and tangible by creative individuals. Yet many businesses and individuals may not realize that they regularly create and use valuable IP assets in their workplace-assets which they need to protect and keep from being exploited or appropriated by competitors. To better serve the independent inventor and small business communities, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have released a free online tool that will allow creators of intellectual property to recognize when they have an asset that can give them a competitive edge in the marketplace and when they should seek IP protection. The IP Awareness Assessment Tool, developed in collaboration with the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is free for all to use, but is particularly intended for innovative people who might not have the legal and financial resources of large companies and firms and may not be aware of what IP assets they need to protect. According to Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos, "The IP Awareness Assessment Tool will help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality and bring them to market faster, thereby creating jobs more quickly, too." Supporting independent inventors is one of the key objectives of the America Invents Act (AIA), which recognizes the spirit of innovation as the force behind American economic success. "This administration is committed to supporting innovative business tools, which help drive U.S. technological leadership worldwide and support a 21st century economy that is built to last," said Kappos. The IP Awareness Assessment Tool helps users increase their awareness of IP issues relevant to their creative projects and business goals. Users first answer a comprehensive list of questions regarding IP, after which the tool prepares a set of training resources tailored specifically to the needs of the user as identified in the assessment. The question component is designed to be efficient, allowing users to skip over areas they are already aware of, or even forgo the full questionnaire and opt for a pre-assessment to determine their potential IP protection needs. "Understanding and protecting IP is an important part of the process of bringing innovations to the marketplace," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. U.S. patent laws provide these exclusive rights for up to twenty years. Protecting IP with a patent, copyright or trademark allows holders to expand their business by permitting others to sell their products or services in exchange for a fee. The USPTO and NIST developed the IP Awareness Assessment Tool as a way to educate innovators about these rights and encourage growth in the marketplace.
  • Man with lightbulbs above his head
    April 2012 4th @ 7 p.m. Inventor's Association of Arizona DeVry University Phoenix, Ariz. 5th @ 6:30 p.m. Fort Collins Metro Area Inventors Meeting Fort Collins, Colo. 12th @ 6:30 p.m. Denver Metro Area Inventors Meeting Denver, Colo. 18th @ 10 p.m. 40th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva Geneva, Switzerland 19th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Colorado Springs, Colo. 21st @ 8:30 p.m. Patent and Trademark Resource Center Atlanta, Ga. 26th @ 6:30 p.m. Denver Metro Area Inventors Meeting Denver, Colo. 27-28th @ 8 a.m. USPTO Florida Regional Inventors Conference Tampa, Fla. 30th @ 5:30 p.m. 2012 Innovator of the Year Awards Virginia Beach, Va. May 2012 2nd @ 7 p.m. Inventor's Association of Arizona DeVry University 3rd @ 5:30 p.m. 2012 Innovator of the Year Awards Virginia Beach, Va. 3rd @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Fort Collins, Colo. 7th @ 10 a.m. Imagine RIT Rochester, N.Y. 9th @ 7 p.m. Texas Inventors Association Plano, Texas 10th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, CO 15th @ 7 p.m. Inventors club of KC "How to sell your invention" Kansas City, Kans. 17th 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Colorado Springs, Colo. 24th @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association Denver, Colo.
  • Independent Inventors speaking at the Bring Women's Entreprenuership Second Annual Symposium in Shreveport, LA
    The second annual Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium (WES) was held March 25-26 in Shreveport, La. The event, jointly sponsored by the USPTO Office of Innovation Development, United States Senator from Louisiana Mary L. Landrieu, and the city of Shreveport, La., was a success by all measures and featured an all-star lineup of women leaders in the worlds of government, intellectual property protection, innovation and small businesses. "This two-day event recognizes the many pioneering women who have built our great nation," said Sen. Landrieu, who opened up the symposium by addressing a filled-to-capacity room at the Shreveport Convention Center. "It is also an opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs-both men and women-to network, discuss best practices, and hopefully spark some new innovations." Landrieu, the chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, was instrumental in bringing the symposium to Shreveport. Mayor of Shreveport Cedric Glover graciously facilitated the event, rolling out the red carpet for speakers and attendees alike and providing a warm sense of Southern hospitality. Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea delivered the keynote address on Monday afternoon. Rea's powerful talk spoke of the roles of women in leadership, business and innovation. "Women's rights are human rights, and if we're going to serve as a driving force in this world, the onus is on us to unleash our ingenuity upon our economic competitors," said Rea. Also speaking were Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations Valencia Martin Wallace and other members of the USPTO team. USPTO staff members educated the audience as to the importance of intellectual property, the need for its protection and the various forms of intellectual property which might be present in their businesses - namely patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. USPTO presentations focused how inventors and entrepreneurs can apply for patents and trademark registrations and USPTO services available to assist them in doing so. The symposium was a valuable networking opportunity for both male and female entrepreneurs and innovators. Participants were able to connect and share information with fellow innovators and symposium resources, including USPTO executives and staff. In this setting, participants could ask individual questions and share personal experiences to help one another move forward in their innovation journey. Successful inventors like Martha McKenzie and trademark recipient Lisa Price, the president of Carol's Daughter, won the crowd over with their inspired and informative recounting of their experiences patenting and trademarking their intellectual property. Local business and technological development entities were well-represented at the WES, including the Women's Business Center of the Enterprise Consortium of the Gulf Coast and Louisiana Tech University. Individuals from these organizations provided critical information as to local resources available to individuals looking to start or grow a business, including the ever-important and elusive sources of funding, prototype building and manufacturing. Specialized experts Karen Waksman and Renee Quinn respectively shared their individual expertise on how to successfully get products into retail stores and online markets and the use of social media to enhance product sales and business. Attendees gave them a roar of applause and a flood of questions during the seminar, in the halls, and during the ample networking opportunities. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Attendee Kathy Wyatt, who directs the Technological Business Development Center at Louisiana Tech said, "The entire event was excellent. The content was very informative, the USPTO staff members were incredibly helpful, and the women entrepreneurs that spoke were truly inspiring." The WES was the USPTO's second sponsored event of March to commemorate Women's History Month. The first, "Women Entrepreneurs: Celebrating the Past, Inventing the Future," was held on March 1 on the USPTO's Alexandria campus. As always, the USPTO enjoyed the event and opportunity to engage the public, and it looks forward to coordinating next year's WES.
  • Palm Tree on a sunny day
    Tampa, Florida, April 27-28 The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invites you to attend the Florida Regional Independent Inventors Conference April 27-28 at the Embassy Suites on the campus of the University of South Florida. The event, cosponsored by Invent Now and the National Academy of Inventors, will offer a host of workshops, breakout sessions, and speaking events with valuable information about intellectual property and the patent process. Plenary speakers will include Senior Advisor in the USPTO Office of Innovation Development John Calvert, Trademark Legal Policy Office Attorney Catherine Cain, CEO of Innovative Product Technologies Pamela Riddle Bird and 2010 Collegiate Inventor's Competition winner Mark Jensen. Afternoon breakout sessions will cover topics of basic patent and trademark information, a searching session for patent and trademarks, advanced patent prosecution, insight on the America Invents Act, and discussion of local resources available to inventors, among others. There will also be opportunities for independent inventors to sit down one-on-one with an intellectual property expert for fifteen minutes, free of charge. A pre-conference workshop on April 26 from 5-7 p.m. will cover the basics of the patent process. If you cannot attend, this session will be repeated as a breakout session on April 27. Space is limited, so register now. The registration fee is $80 per person and includes all sessions and presentations, morning and afternoon refreshments, lunch for both days and a networking reception on April 27. The fee for seniors and students is $70. For more information please visit the Florida Regional Independent Inventors Conference online or contact Cathie Kirik at the USPTO Office of Innovation Development at 866-767-3848. If you have questions or issues regarding registration, please contact Invent Now at 330-849-6878.
  • Black, yellow and Green "Super Superstar" Permanent Markers
    A March 18 USA Today article written by Kathy Chu and paraphrased here, tells a cautionary tale for U.S. independent inventors and small business owners seeking to distribute their products and services globally. The article profiles the experience of Thomas Dempsey, founder of Brevard, N.C.-based SylvanSport, a small business that manufactures and sells a recreational camper trailer Dempsey designed and patented. Dempsey's nightmare began last summer when a customer alerted him to a Chinese company's website marketing a product strikingly similar to his own. The ensuing story reveals Dempsey as the victim of copycats whom had secretly purchased his product and reverse-engineered its design. The copycats, a manufacturing firm in Jinhua City, China, went on to acquire a Chinese patent and began marketing the product on a global scale. This has already translated into lost sales for Dempsey as his own company attempts to move into a more global presence but finds distributors are routinely opting for the Chinese product instead of his. The worst part for Dempsey is that there is nothing he can do. His U.S. patent does not grant him exclusive rights to sell his own product in the rest of the world, and though his company is currently staying afloat, the article quotes him as saying, "There's a very real chance that the Chinese company could be the survivor here and we could go out of business." Dempsey's ordeal is the kind of story that makes every independent inventor and small-business owner cringe, but it's an important lesson in understanding global intellectual property issues and serves as a reminder that innovators can and should protect their products by filing for patents in international offices before outside competitors get their hands on it. The USPTO is committed to helping American inventors protect their IP both at home and abroad. The full article can be found on the USA Today website.   Citation: "Chinese Copycats Challenge U.S. Small Businesses." Kathy Chu. USA Today. 18 Mar. 2012.
  • Dr. Janine Jagger speaking at a podium
    MacArthur Fellow Janine Jagger is the Becton Dickinson Professor of Medicine and Director of the International Health Care Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. She is also a highly honored inventor whose ideas and innovations have changed the healthcare profession. In the mid-1980s at the University of Virginia, Jagger was looking for a unique research project in the field of injury prevention. She found it when colleagues approached her with a new and deadly problem. Medical journal Lancet had just covered the first reported AIDS-related death of a health care worker due to an accidental needle stick, and concerns about workplace safety were growing. Jagger said that she responded as anyone with her training would to prevent infections caused by injuries. "If it's a product-related injury, then redesign the product to make it less injurious," she said. Armed with that mindset, she set out on a quest that would require innovation in multiple areas. She and her colleagues had to move the investigative focus from workers to their surroundings, taking in every circumstance in which a sharp device could cause an injury. To do this, they had to persuade hospitals to gather data about device assembly, use and disposal in ways that had never been considered before. Safer devices had to be designed, approved and successfully marketed. The resulting research led to the invention of the first safety hypodermic needle. This practical approach had broad impact. Before Jagger and her team of colleagues considered needle redesign, the assumption had been that needle injuries were primarily caused by workplace behavior. However, emphasizing that health care workers are not prone to taking unnecessary risks, Jagger said she was determined to fight a mindset that blamed caregivers for their own injuries. "These are people we depend on to save our lives, and we should protect them," said Jagger. The task was daunting, but the innovations it fostered in both medical technology and culture are advancing heath care worker safety throughout the United States, and the ultimate goal is to ensure their safety worldwide. Jagger and her colleagues eventually patented six medical devices that all reduce the risk of needle stick injuries. Jagger did not start this project thinking of herself as an inventor. She saw something that needed to be fixed, and it took innovation to fix it. But anyone who's heard about invention's mother from Edison knows that that her story fits the model of American ingenuity perfectly. Jagger said she was just in the right time and place to do the job, but it takes an innovative person like Janine Jagger to solve a problem then and there.
  • Organizational planner
    February 2012 15th @ 7 p.m. Edison Inventors Association, Inc.  Ft Myers, Fla. 2nd @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association  Denver, Colo. 13th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England  Cambridge, Mass. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. National Society of Inventors  Cranbury, N.J.   March 2012 21st @ 7 p.m. Edison Inventors Association, Inc  Ft Myers, Fla. 1st @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association  Denver, Colo. 12th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England  Cambridge, Mass. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. National Society of Inventors  Cranbury, N.J.   Submit your event to Inventors Eye.
  • Organizational planner
    February 2012 15th @ 7 p.m. Edison Inventors Association, Inc.  Ft Myers, Fla. 2nd @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association  Denver, Colo. 13th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England  Cambridge, Mass. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. National Society of Inventors  Cranbury, N.J.   March 2012 21st @ 7 p.m. Edison Inventors Association, Inc  Ft Myers, Fla. 1st @ 6:30 p.m. Rocky Mountain Inventors Association  Denver, Colo. 12th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England  Cambridge, Mass. 14th @ 6:30 p.m. National Society of Inventors  Cranbury, N.J.   Submit your event to Inventors Eye.
  • Map of the US with the different USPTO Regional Office locations and roadshow dates marked
    USPTO to Host Seven Public "Roadshows" Across U.S. to Support America Invents Act Implementation The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host a public series of educational "roadshows" regarding the America Invents Act, allowing the public to speak with USPTO officials about the new patent law and its implementation. The programs will be held at seven venues across the U.S., beginning Friday, Feb. 17 at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va., and running through March 9 with stops in Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Silicon Valley. "The USPTO hopes that the public will find the roadshows to be an ideal forum to engage with the office about our various proposed rules implementing provisions of the America Invents Act," said USPTO Patent Reform Coordinator Janet Gongola. "The roadshows also give the agency the opportunity to visit members of the patent community in different parts of the country as part of our ongoing effort to create a 21st century patent and trademark office." The USPTO will discuss its proposed rules implementing various provisions of the America Invents Act. These rules include (i) the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) statute of limitations, (ii) inventor's oath and declaration, (iii) third-party submission of prior art in a patent application, (iv) citation of prior art in a patent file, (v) supplemental examination, (vi) post-grant review, (vii) inter partes review, (viii) the transitional program for covered business methods, and (ix) derivation. The proposed rules for (i) to (iv) were published in the Federal Register Jan. 5 and 6, 2012, and the proposed rules for (v) to (ix), are expected to publish in the Federal Register in mid-to-late January 2012. Links to the published proposed rules and other America Invents Act-related information can be found at the USPTO'sAmerica Invents Act online guide. Readers can visit the site regularly and to subscribe to receive updates. The USPTO invites the public to attend the scheduled roadshows and looks forward to the opportunity to discuss these proposals. The roadshows, with the exception of the initial kickoff at the USPTO, are all being held at Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs)- resource centers that offer valuable assistance to independent inventors and entrepreneurs. See the America Invents Act online guide for more roadshow details. Roadshow Agenda 10 - 10:30 a.m. Welcoming Remarks 10:30 - 11:15 a.m. Patent Related Provisions 11:15 - 11:30 a.m. Break 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Patent Related Provisions 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Lunch 1:30 - 3 p.m. Contested Case Provisions 3 - 3:15 p.m. Break 3:15 - 4:30 p.m. Contested Case Provisions
  • Inventor Yvonne Brill at the 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation dinner in Washington DC standing next to her poster
    To celebrate Women's History Month in March, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Women's Business Council (NWBC) will pay tribute to women whose whose ingenuity and inventions have improved our lives. The first event, "Women Entrepreneurs: Celebrating the Past, Inventing the Future," will be held March 1 in the USPTO's Madison building auditorium in Alexandria, Va., and is open to the public. It will highlight the passage of the America Invents Act and one provision specifically that allows the USPTO to begin tracking the gender of patent applicants. NWBC recently commissioned a comprehensive study on women who applied for and received patents or trademarks over the last 35 years. The results will be released at the March 1 event, but preliminary findings already indicate that the number of women obtaining patents has accelerated in recent years. The largest spike came in 2010, when 22,984 patents were granted to women, a 35-percent jump over the previous year. Through its research, NWBC is examining the link between women business owners and intellectual property (IP). NWBC is a nonpartisan federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the president, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues of importance to women business owners. Additional information and registration details can be found at The second annual Women's Entrepreneur Symposium will be held in Shreveport, La., March 25-26. U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, chair of the Senate's Small Business Committee, will serve as the keynote speaker and co-host. The event will focus on women entrepreneurs, the importance of IP protection for their innovations, and how to leverage economic opportunities for women-owned businesses. The symposium will also offer networking opportunities with experts in the IP field as well as government and industry representatives who will help attendees gain insight into all facets of the business cycle. Agenda topics include IP in the global marketplace, strategies to leverage IP assets, accessing financial resources, driving business growth by leveraging business relationships, and federal contracting. The USPTO, Invent Now® and the National Society of Inventors are planning a Tampa Regional Inventors Conference to be held April 27-28 at the University of South Florida's Embassy Suites hotel, with a pre-conference on the evening of April 26. The conference will include breakout sessions by USPTO experts about patents, patent searching, claim drafting, trademarks, trademark searching, obviousness and tips for seasoned inventors. More information for the Women's Entrepreneur Symposium and the Tampa Regional Inventors Conference will be available soon at Finally, the USPTO is expanding its nationwide call for nominees for the 2012 National Medal of Technology and Innovation (NMTI). The congressionally authorized medal, the country's highest award for technological achievement, is awarded annually by the president of the United States to individuals, teams of up to four individuals, companies or divisions of companies for their outstanding contributions to America's economic, environmental and social well-being. By highlighting the national importance of technological innovation, the medal is also meant to inspire future generations of Americans to prepare for and pursue technical careers to keep the United States at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership. Past laureates have been awarded the medal for a wide variety of achievements, and the USPTO seeks to build on this diversity in 2012. The USPTO administers the medal program on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce. Detailed information about the requirements for submitting a nomination, including a nomination form, can be downloaded at the USPTO's National Medal of Technology and Innovation information pages. All completed nominations must be submitted to the USPTO by 5 p.m. ET, March 31.
  • USPTO Patents Commissioner Peggy Focarino, inventor Lori Greiner, USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea, and Associate Commissioner for Innovation Development Richard Maulsby at the 2011 Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium in Alexandria, VA
    Superstar inventor Lori Greiner has been addressing the needs of men and women through her cleverly designed products. Since 1996, she has created more than 350 products. One of Lori's first patents was patent number 5,762,184 for a Jewelry Holder with at least one movable stand and she currently holds 108 United States and international patents for innovations, including some of the most popular jewelry and cosmetic organizers of her time. She has developed kitchen tools, travel bags and unique accessories along with essential organizers for all around the home. Like so many of her inventions, Lori's inspiration comes from her passion for bringing happiness to people by making their everyday lives easier. Her products are sold on QVC and in retailers across the United States and Europe. In addition to being the creative force behind her company, For Your Ease Only, Lori handles the legal and patent processes and drives the business to the success it has achieved. She is involved in all facets of taking a product from concept to creation, and ultimately to market. Lori has also accumulated a large fan-base from her position as a TV personality. Lori has her own show, "Clever & Unique Creations by Lori Greiner," appearing live each month on QVC TV for more than 11 years. She is also a "Shark" on ABC's popular show "Shark Tank," and can be seen this season in the episodes airing Feb. 10, 17 and 24. Lori's collection of more than 350 products is regularly featured in top magazines like Town & Country; O, The Oprah Magazine; Woman's Day; Family Circle and InStyle. She has been featured on Bloomberg and CNBC and has also been profiled in Financial Times and Success. Her initial Silver Safekeeper was chosen as one of Oprah's favorite things. Lori believes if you are lucky enough to be successful you have a responsibility to give back. Her most gratifying moments are when she is able to help budding entrepreneurs achieve the success she feels lucky to have enjoyed. For example, Lori generously donated her time and expertise to the attendees of the first annual USPTO Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium held in March 2011. Her enthusiasm, real-life experience and words of encouragement invigorated attendees to take on the challenges of starting or growing a business. The USPTO celebrates the success of women inventors like Lori Greiner. To read about other successful women inventors, visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee library.
  • Man pressing the screen of a tablet device
    USPTO employees are often asked by inventors or a small business owners about what they need to do to get a patent. The USPTO inventor resource pages contain so much information that is often overlooked in casual searches, including how to file a patent and the steps to take through the maze of rules and laws governing patent applications and issued patents. However, there has never been a way to get basic information in a relatively short tutorial that provides enough insight for an inventor to make a relatively informed decision on what to do with their idea or invention. In early February, the USPTO Office of Innovation Development will launch a new training package for inventors and small businesses that is easier to understand. The inventor resource pages will feature a 30-minute video presentation that covers the major aspects of patent prosecution and information about what happens once a patent is granted. The office will offer two tutorials--one that plays straight through and one that is broken up by modules, offers quizzes at the end of each module, and gives users a certificate of completion. Each version covers the same material, covering what should be done with an idea--from filing a provisional or non-provisional patent application to dealing with a patent examiner's rejection of an application, to filing an appeal or a request for continued application, to the issuance of a patent and what that means for the new patent holder. The version with the quizzes provides a way to make sure one completely understands the material. In taking the quizzes, viewers are required to answer all questions correctly before going on to the next module. The Office of Innovation Development will continue to create more tutorials in the future and we ask that you assist the USPTO in making sure the content and material are useful. Please let us know of any comments, suggestions or questions about the tutorials by sending an email to
  • Man hugging a tree
    In today's world we pay our bills online, we communicate online, we take and send our photos online and we file our taxes online. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) would like more patent applications to be filed online as well. About 12 years ago, the pilot program for online patent filing began at the USPTO and today, 93 percent of all patent applications are submitted that way. From January 2006 through January 2011, the USPTO received 524,344,014 pages through our Electronic Filing System (EFS-Web). Considering that one tree is chopped down to make 80,500 pages of paper, it's fair to say there are 6,514 more trees still standing and growing because our patent applicants chose to file online. If you were to stack the paper equivalent of the more than 500 million pages that were filed online, the stack would be 120 times taller than the Empire State Building. The USPTO's Electronic Filing System has saved an estimated $5,243,440 in paper. The recently enacted America Invents Act includes a section, "Electronic Filing Incentive," which went into effect on Nov. 15, 2011, and added a surcharge for paper filing. When filing your non-provisional or utility application online, applicants can also pay a reduced filing fee of $95 for small entity filers. The search and examination fee remain the same. You can still file your application in paper form, but large entity filers will be charged a $400 surcharge and small entity filers a $200 surcharge for any non-provisional utility patent application submitted in paper on or after Nov. 15, 2011. This fee is in addition to the filing, search and examination fees. Filing your application online provides you with the same legal protection as paper-based filing. You receive an electronic receipt and dated confirmation that you can print and keep for your records. EFS-Web is a patent application and document submission solution that uses standard Internet browser screens and prompts that enable you to submit portable document format (PDF) files, ASCII text files, or a PCT-EASY compressed file directly to the USPTO. Online submissions are protected through state-of-the-art security methods such as Transport Layer Security (TLS). If you sign up as a registered filer, you are given a digital certificate, one of the most secure methods available. The digital certificate gives you access to your patent application's history through Private PAIR (Patent Application Image Retrieval). The USPTO recommends that you submit your application as a registered filer, receiving a customer number and digital certificate. This way you can submit subsequent documents during the course of your application. EFS-Web gives you the ability to file patent applications and other patent documents online in a fraction of the time and at substantially less cost than with paper filing. You forgo printing, postage and courier costs, and you receive immediate notification that your submission has been received. Unlike paper filing, most new applications submitted online can be viewed in Private PAIR within an hour after filing. EFS-Web validates whether the PDF files and data you are trying to file can be accepted before they are submitted. If there is a problem, EFS-Web will tell you why the document cannot be submitted, allowing you to take corrective action quickly. Using EFS-Web, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can file patent applications and documents without downloading special software or changing document preparation tools and processes. The USPTO's Electronic Business Center (EBC) can assist with questions or concerns from the public Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to midnight ET. The EBC can be reached by telephone at 866-217-9197 or 571-272-4100, or by email at also has additional information about online filing. So consider using the Electronic Filing System for your application submissions, and save a tree.
  • Calender with the 21st day marked
    December 2011 12th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England  Cambridge, Mass. 17th @ 10 a.m. Tennessee Inventors Association  Oak Ridge, Tenn. January 2011 4th @ 6 p.m. Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurs Association  Austin, Texas 9th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England  Cambridge, Mass. 21st @ 7 p.m. American Society of Inventors  Philadelphia, Penn. 24th @ 6:30 p.m. Inventors Network of the Capital Area  Falls Church, Va.
  • President Barack Obama examines a robot created in the school's prototyping and robotics senior research labs at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA
    As always, the devil is in the details. That has been the challenge for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) during the past two months as the agency began implementing the various rulemakings, studies and programs mandated by the America Invents Act. The agency has also launched an extensive public outreach effort featuring webinars, speaking engagements across the country, and continual updates of the America Invents Act Implementation Guide on To date, the agency has met all deadlines established by the legislation and is on track to meet all of its obligations during the first year of the law's existence. Several items are of particular interest to the small entity inventor community. The pro bono program requirement of the America Invents Act is already up and running in Minneapolis as a pilot and plans are well underway to expand the pro bono program to other cities throughout the country during the next year. The USPTO is also participating in a task force with Chief Judge Randall Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and members of the patent bar. The task force is seeking ways to expand the pro bono program throughout the United States. Secondly, the America Invents Act requires the USPTO to conduct an international patent protection study and complete it by mid-January 2012. The agency published a Federal Register notice in October seeking comments and held two public hearings. A transcript of the hearings and all of the written comments has been posted online. The USPTO will publish its report based on the public feedback and independent research in January. Finally, on November 15, the financial incentive for filing patent applications electronically went into effect. From that date on, all applicants who file paper applications will pay a $400 surcharge, reduced to $200 for small entity filers. Regardless of the incentive, everyone should want to file electronically anyway. The system offers inventors the opportunity to file patent applications and other patent documents in a fraction of the time and at substantially less cost than paper filings. Inventors forgo printing, postage and courier costs, and receive immediate notification that submissions have been received. 93 percent of filers use the electronic system. The Office of the Associate Commissioner for Innovation Development made four presentations on the America Invents Act at independent inventor meetings in Texas and California in October. Plans are being made for additional presentations throughout the country in 2012. In addition, the office will devote the January online inventors chat to the status of the law's implementation. To keep up-to-date on all the latest developments regarding the America Invents Act, all readers of Inventors Eye should visit the USPTO America Invents Act Implementation Guide regularly.
  • Portrait of Deputy Commissioner Margaret "Peggy" Focarino
    Commissioner for Patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Robert L. Stoll has announced his intention to retire from the agency effective Dec. 31, 2011. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos has announced that he will nominate current Deputy Commissioner for Patents Margaret "Peggy" Focarino to the position of Commissioner for Patents once Stoll's resignation becomes effective. The nomination of Focarino to the position will ensure a smooth transition and continuity in Patents' leadership. She has been with the agency for more than 34 years, beginning her career at the USPTO in 1977 as a patent examiner. She became a supervisory patent examiner in 1989 and was promoted to the Senior Executive Service in 1997. She received the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award in 1993 for her work as a supervisory patent examiner and the Department of Commerce Silver Medal for leadership in 2010 for leading a joint union and management task force that developed and implemented the first significant changes to the patent examiner work credit system in more than 30 years. Focarino was the 2010 recipient of American University's School of Public Affairs Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership. The annual award recognizes two public servants in the federal government whose careers are marked by extraordinary effectiveness in organizational performance and strong commitment to training and development of employees. Focarino received her B.S. in Physics from the State University of New York, and a certificate in advanced public management from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Focarino has been a strong advocate for independent inventors and small business initiatives. In her new role as commissioner, she will ensure a continued effort to educate and assist the inventor community and small businesses. Focarino was instrumental in the USPTO's efforts to expand our educational outreach program to include universities, graduate and undergraduate students, technology transfer faculty, and entrepreneurship offices. Stoll was appointed Commissioner for Patents by Director Kappos in October 2009. In his 29 years with the USPTO, Stoll has held several leadership posts. He trained foreign officials on all aspects of intellectual property, oversaw the Office of Enforcement, and directed federal legislative priorities for the agency. In his tenure as commissioner for patents, Stoll was in charge of implementing initiatives to improve the speed and quality of the patent review process, and was instrumental in reducing the patent application backlog to under 670,000. Stoll also served as a principal liaison to representatives of government, academia and industry in order to raise awareness of the critical role patents play in economic development, and he played a key role in the USPTO's effort to enact historic patent reform legislation. "His leadership has been a key asset for the USPTO and we wish Bob well in his future endeavors," said Director Kappos. "I am also thrilled to nominate Peggy to serve as Bob's successor. Peggy brings extraordinary expertise in patent policy and practice, as well as a strong command of the inner workings of the USPTO." "Having spent over 30 years in government, there has been no greater honor than helping to lead our nation's innovation agency-the USPTO," said Stoll. "The office has made historic progress under Director Kappos. As the new commissioner, I know that Peggy will provide extraordinary leadership that will ensure the continued improvement of patent operations and the successful implementation of the America Invents Act.
  • Longshot Camera systems camera
    For the past two years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has attended five different Maker Faires in California, Michigan and New York. This summer, I walked into the Henry Ford Museum to cool off from the 95-degree weather and passed a gentleman showing off his invention. He had an adjustable pole with a camera attached on the end capable of taking pictures in places that were not easily accessible. The inventor, Jim Polster, was exhibiting and demonstrating his invention, the Polester. Get it? I recently caught up with Jim to learn more about his invention. He told me he used to be a cabinet maker but retired from that business and was working for a roofing company. One day, the roofing company gave Jim a 25-foot ladder and a camera and sent him out to take pictures of leaking roofs. One day, after he almost fell off the ladder, Jim started thinking of a safer way to take pictures without the risk of being so high off the ground. He took some toy construction set pieces and built a holder for a camera, then added the pole from a roof snow rake to create the first prototype of the Polester. Next, he took some pictures with this contraption. "I made adjustments to the prototype when I needed to overcome problems," Jim said. So, how does the Polester work? A camera is mounted in a holding device with a spring-loaded trigger positioned next to the shutter button. The holding device is then mounted to a pole capable of making angle adjustments for the best view. The operator raises the pole to the proper level and lightly pulls the trigger to automatically focus the lens before snapping the picture. It is really quite simple and very easy to learn how to operate and make adjustments. Jim said, "I didn't have the knowledge or understanding of the patent system," referring to his comfort in filing his own patent. However, he found a backer that helped with the financing so he could hire a patent attorney and get some legal assistance through the USPTO. A little more than two-and-a-half years after he filed his application, Jim received U.S. patent 8,002,480 on Aug. 23, 2011, for a "Mechanically Activated Remote Device for Actuating a Camera." The issuance of this patent helped him meet two of his goals-demonstrating proof of concept and getting intellectual property protection in the form of a patent. Jim realized a third goal after selling 220 units of his invention-marketability. While his sales have not been high enough to support him financially, he still sees his invention as a success. Jim acknowledges that his product is not for everyone, but those who have a need should take note of a highly engineered and quality product. None of the 220 units he has sold have been returned. Out of the original 20 or so markets he identified as his original target audience, he has made inroads in at least eight of those areas. Home inspectors use the Polester to take pictures in places where access could be dangerous such as crawl spaces behind tightly placed machinery or roofs. Jim has also built a customer base with government agencies using his device for a variety of needs including bridge inspections, law-enforcement forensics, and waterworks and sewer treatment plant inspections. Jim is a member of several inventor clubs, refers to inventor blogs, and even worked for one of those large invention companies that say they will do everything for you. He has some advice for aspiring inventors paranoid about their own inventions. "They think that someone is going to steal the idea, but in reality the likelihood of a company taking an idea from an inventor and developing the invention is very small," said Jim, and added that many people have similar ideas that result in similar products being developed. "My invention isn't the first remote on a pole, but it is different enough to receive a patent," he said. To learn more about the Polester visit
  • The FlatwareSaver tray system to detect metal untensils before they are accidentally thrown away, on display
    New and old inventors alike are always looking for assistance in learning how to file for a patent, how to search, how to select a qualified individual in the field of filing patents. One place where they may be able to identify and locate assistance is at local inventor clubs. Our advice column in this issue has additional information about local inventor clubs. Last August, I visited the Houston Inventors Association (HIA) to make a presentation at their monthly meeting. There were several speakers there and it was a pleasure to be included with other speakers offering information and assistance. This meeting also happened to feature an expo of inventions by club members. After I made my presentation, I had the opportunity to walk through the displays of inventions and was impressed with many interesting inventions  on display.  Of particular note were two inventions that appeared to be well-conceived and ready for the marketplace. I had an opportunity to speak with both inventors and learned about their inventions as well as their motivation behind the inventions. The Eradicator The first invention was by James Carmouche. He explained that he had worked in the concrete industry for most of his life and that one problem he encountered on a frequent basis was  the removal of forms from the poured concrete. He said that it was almost impossible to remove forms from concrete after it was poured without destroying the form when pulling it away from the concrete. I understood the frustration since I had first-hand experience when I poured concrete a few years ago and almost gave up trying to remove the forms from the cured concrete. It is not only difficult to remove the forms, but also extremely time-consuming. James applied his  knowledge of the job and invented a simple lever device that has some very good engineering features that allows for one person only  to remove forms.  The result is a 75-percent reduction in labor. Moreover,  most of the time the forms come off without total destruction of the form which can result in  an 85-percent savings of  material costs. There is also a 50-percent reduction in the time it takes to remove the forms. James worked with other organizations in the Houston area that also work with other HIA members.  Those organizations are the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), the University of Houston Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Minority Business Development Center. James has received a patent on his invention and is now working with the State of Texas to get his product to market.  You can find out more about this interesting invention at Another interesting invention was the FlatwareSaver® that was invented by Juan Pacheco. Juan explained that he had worked in the restaurant business for many years and found that one of the biggest losses for any restaurant was the inadvertent throwing away of utensils and other restaurant equipment.  This generally happens when tables are cleaned and silverware is not pulled aside. The FlatwareSaver® Juan said in 2008, it was reported  that food service operations lost nearly $500 million in flatware and other utensils. His solution is the invention of the FlatwareSaver®.  The FlatwareSaver is a tray system that fits on top of any standard 20, 32 or 44 gallon trash container and can be used by restaurants and other food service operations. The lid contains a sensor that detects metal utensils in the to-be-disposed table trash. However, the device can also be used to detect small ceramics, such as ramekins and bowls, by attaching a simple sticker to the back of non-metallic objects. The top of the trash can has both an audible and visual alarm that signals that an item in the trash should be retrieved and saved. Once the items are retrieved,  the alarms stop indicating that it is now safe to flip the lid of the device and place just the trash in the waste container. While neither of these inventions are sexy new electronic gizmos that appeal to the mass consumer market, they both solve a problem identified in their industries and have a good chance of success. What these inventors had in common is that they created a solution to address a pervasive problem, and they both had an association with an inventors club where they sought and obtained  information and encouragement from other inventors and mentors. I encourage each of you to look for that local inventors club, or a place like SATOP, an SBDC, a Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL), or some other such place where you can get help, encouragement, and hands-on experience to help take your invention from the drawing board to the marketplace.
  • Patent Model of a two wheeled object
    A recent technology trade publication made the suggestion that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) should once again, as was done in a time in the early history of the U.S. patent system, require inventors to submit a working model of their invention when applying for a patent. This article has made many inventors ask what the current requirement is regarding working models are, if any, and if they could supply a working model if they thought it would be beneficial for the patent examiner examining their application for patent. Currently, applicants are neither required nor generally permitted to submit any type of working model with their patent application unless the USPTO deems it necessary for any purpose in examination of the application. See 35 U.S.C. 114 and 37 CFR 1.91(b). In fact, models or exhibits will not be admitted as part of the record of an application unless certain conditions are met including, in some instances, a petition providing a fee and an explanation of why entry of the model or exhibit in the file record is necessary to demonstrate patentability. See 37 CFR 1.91(a). If you submit a model to the USPTO, it should be accompanied by photographs that show multiple views of the material features of the model or exhibit. The USPTO may return the models, exhibits or specimens once they are no longer necessary USPTO business and if their return is appropriate. See 37 CFR 1.94. When applicants are notified that models, exhibits or specimens are no longer necessary for USPTO business and will be returned, then the applicants must arrange for their return at the applicants' expense, and must retain the actual models, exhibits or specimens for the enforceable life of any patent resulting from the application. Perishable models, exhibits or specimens may be submitted, but applicants must notify the USPTO upon its submission they would like the item returned to them or the USPTO will dispose of the perishable item without notice. When the USPTO notifies applicants that their perishable models, exhibits or specimens are no longer necessary, the applicants must promptly make arrangements for their return. Lastly, models and exhibits may be presented for demonstration purposes during an interview. The models and exhibits should be taken away by the applicants or their attorneys or agents at the interview's conclusion, since models or exhibits are generally not permitted to be admitted as part of the patent application unless the requirements of 37 CFR 1.91 are satisfied.
  • Calender page
    October 2011 10th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Network of New England  13th @ 6:30 p.m. San Diego Inventors Forum 14th & 15th  USPTO Trademark Expo 17th @ 5:30 p.m. Inventors Network of the Capital Area 19th @ 6 p.m. Edison Inventors Association, Inc. 22nd @ 8 a.m. Chicago Black Inventors November 2011 1st @ 2 p.m. Idaho Association of Inventors 1st @ 6:30 pm Central Kentucky Inventors Council 12th @ 10:30 a.m. Inventor Associates of Georgia, Inc. 14th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England 21th @ 5:30 p.m. Inventors Network of the Capital Area
  • President Barack Obama signing the America Invents Act into law at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA
    With several prominent independent inventors on stage and in the audience, President Barack Obama signed theAmerica Invents Act into law on September 16, 2011. The legislation, which passed with broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate, represents the most significant reform of the U.S. patent system since 1836. "This much-needed reform will speed up the patent process so that innovators and entrepreneurs can turn a new invention into a business as quickly as possible," President Obama said. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos, independent inventor and co-creator of the sOccket Jessica Matthews and publisher of Inventors Digest Louis Foreman joined the president on stage. Warren Tuttle of the United Inventors Alliance, National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Gary Michelson, and David Petite, founder, chair, and CEO of the Native American Intellectual Property Enterprise Council attended the event. "We are excited about the challenges that lay ahead in implementing a law that gives the USPTO and our country the resources necessary to spur innovation and jobs," said Director Kappos on his blog. "I look forward to working with all of our stakeholders in implementing the America Invents Act and continuing our mission to build out the 21st century United States Patent and Trademark Office." Louis Foreman, who is also the producer of the Emmy award-winning independent inventor PBS series, Everyday Edisons said, "This historic legislation is a win for independent inventors, small businesses and the country. We have taken a step in the right direction to improve our patent system and produce a catalyst that will create and encourage innovation, new start-ups, and jobs." While the America Invents Act makes numerous changes to patent law, the changes will not go into effect overnight. The act provides for a staged implementation starting on the date of enactment and continuing over a series of months. Immediately, the America Invents Act will help independent and small entity inventors in three ways. The America Invents Act established a fast track option for patent examination. As of September 26, 2011, the USPTO is able to offer applicants an opportunity to have patent applications reviewed on an expedited basis, for a fee. Small entity and independent inventors receive a 50 percent discount on the $4800 fee for this new fast track option. Once the agency is able to set its own fees, micro-entities will receive a 75 percent discount on this fee. The fast track option reduces the wait time for examination by one-third-from an average of three years to an average of 12 months. Patent ownership is a critical factor that venture capital companies consider when investing in entrepreneurs who hope to grow their businesses. Therefore, prioritized patent examination will help. It created an electronic filing incentive. Starting November 15, 2011, everyone who uses paper filing will have to pay an additional $400, reduced to $200 for small entity filers. Filing applications electronically via the Electronic Filing System-Web (EFS-Web) offers you the ability to file patent applications and other patent documents in a fraction of the time and at substantially less cost than paper filings. You forgo printing, postage, courier costs, and you receive immediate notification that your submission has been received. Unlike paper filings, most new applications submitted electronically can be viewed in Private Patent Application Information (PAIR) within an hour after filing. As a result of the advantages offered by EFS-Web, 93 percent of new applications are filed electronically today. You can learn more about how to file electronically at EFS-Web. The act's implementation will reduce the current patent backlog. Because of certain favorable financial provisions such as the 15 percent surcharge, which became effective on September 26, 2011, the USPTO will be able to resume hiring new examiners and other personnel. These additional resources will allow the USPTO to continue to combat a backlog of approximately 680,000 patent applications and will significantly reduce applicant wait times. As the USPTO moves forward to implement other provisions of the America Invents Act, the agency will be seeking extensive input from the independent and small entity inventor community. Everyone is encouraged to participate by submitting comments to and can regularly track updates pertaining to the new law at the USPTO's America Invents Act online guide. Sign up for instant email notifications on any changes to the American Invents Act online guide by visiting our subscription center. The USPTO also will be holding a series of webinars on the America Invents Act starting October 2011. Senior agency officials including Director David Kappos and Commissioner for Patents Robert Stoll will participate. Details about the webinars will be posted on in the near future.
  • Lightbulb on a green background
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced its revised fee schedule on September 16, 2011, following the America Invents Act (Public Law 112-29) which was signed into law by President Barack Obama the same day. The enactment of the legislation places a 15 percent surcharge on certain patent fees that became effective September 26, 2011. For a full list of fee changes, please go to the 15 Percent Surcharge Fee document on the USPTO's America Invents Act online guide. There have been a number of inquiries from the public regarding the fees due when payments are made by postal mail just prior to the effective date of the 15 percent surcharge. The fee due is the fee in effect on the date the document is filed. Here are the USPTO postal mailing options. Certificate of Mailing or Transmission Certain fees, such as issue and maintenance fees, may be paid through the postal mail using a certificate of mailing or transmission. See 37 C.F.R. 1.8. Correspondence will be considered as being timely filed on the date of transmission that appears on the certificate. Fees paid by postal mail with the properly filed certificates of mailing or transmission dated prior to September 26, 2011, are not subject to the15 percent surcharge. Filing by Express Mail Correspondences were considered as being timely filed on the date the correspondence was deposited with a U.S. post office, if the express mail procedures described in 37 CFR 1.10 were followed. Therefore, fees paid by using the express mail will not be subject to the 15 percent fee increase if deposited with a U.S. post office, under the provisions of 37 CFR 1.10, prior to September 26, 2011. USPTO accepts checks, money orders, credit card authorization, or deposit account authorization. Electronic payment methods are also available. Additional information on the currently accepted methods of payment is available at the USPTO's Frequently Asked Questions. Micro Entities At this time, the USPTO may not offer the micro entity discount of 75 percent on any fees. As provided for in the America Invents Act (Public Law 112-29), these fees will be adjusted under the fee setting authority provided for in Section 10 of the America Invents Act. The act continues to provide a small entity discount of 50 percent under 35U.S.C. § 41(h)(1). Once the USPTO sets these new fees, it is anticipated that the new fees will include a 50 percent reduction for small entities and a 75 percent reduction for micro entities for filing, searching, examining, issuing, appealing, and maintaining patent applications and patents. Applicants qualifying for a small entity discount of 50 percent will be those who meet the current definition in 35 U.S.C. 41(h)(1) while applicants qualifying for a micro entity discount of 75 percent will be those who meet the definition outlined in the America Invents Act Section 11(g). For more frequently asked questions on the America Invents Act implementation please refer to the USPTO's online guide. The revised USPTO fee schedule is available at the USPTO fees webpage.
  • USPTO Director David Kappos signs patent number 8 million at a signing ceremony hosted by the USPTO at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
    On August 16, 2011, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued patent number eight million to Dr. Robert J. Greenberg, Kelly H. McClure and Arup Roy for a visual prosthesis that enhances visual perception for people who have lost their sight because of retinal degeneration. On September 8, the USPTO and the Smithsonian American Art Museum co-hosted a ceremony celebrating this important milestone. The event was held at the museum, the former home of the USPTO. Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and USPTO Director David Kappos presented the patent to its assignee, Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. of Sylmar, California. Acting Secretary Blank spoke and commented that, "It is the technological advances of companies like Second Sight...that will drive our nation's economic progress and global competitiveness." Under Secretary Kappos said, "The device we celebrate today is not only a milestone in American patent history, but also a milestone for the blind. Allowing them to interact with the world in unprecedented ways and empowering the visually impaired to achieve greater independence." Over 100 attended the ceremony, which concluded with a demonstration of the device by its co-inventor and the president and CEO of Second Sight, Dr. Robert Greenberg. The Argus II device has been approved for use in Europe and clinical trials continue in the United States. Barbara Campbell tested the device during its development. "I felt like I had won the lottery when I was chosen for the trial," said Campbell. She lives in Manhattan and wears the Argus II every day. It allows her to see and use the crosswalks on the city's busy streets.   Under the current numbering system for patents, patent number one was issued in 1836. It took 75 years to get to patent number one million in 1911 and another 24 years to reach two million in 1935. It was not until 26 years later that the three million mark was reached in 1961. In 1976, 15 years later, patent number four million was issued. Patent number five million emerged, like clockwork, 15 years later in 1991. The pace of innovation accelerated after that and only eight years elapsed before patent number six million issued in 1999. It then took just seven years to reach patent number seven million in 2006. Finally, it took just five years to reach the most recent milestone, eight million. Visit the USPTO's Eight Million and Going for a chronology of the United States' journey to patent number 8,000,000.
  • Sattelite in orbit around earth
    The USPTO’s Enhanced First Action Interview (EFAI) Pilot Program has proven successful, and the agency has now launched the Full FAI Pilot Program (FFAI). This version of the pilot expands eligibility to all utility applications in all technology areas. The window for filing a request to participate in the FFAI pilot will be open until May 16, 2012. Requests must be filed using the USPTO’s electronic filing system and can be done by using form PTO-SB-413C. Under the Full First Action Interview Pilot Program, an applicant is entitled to request a first action interview prior to the first office action on the merits. The examiner will conduct a prior art search and provide the applicant with a pre-interview communication.  It will cite relevant prior art and identify proposed rejections or objections. Within 30 days of the receipt, the applicant should schedule an interview and submit proposed amendments and or arguments.  At the interview, the relevant prior art, proposed rejections, amendments and arguments will be discussed. If agreement is not reached, the applicant will receive a first interview office action that includes an interview summary.  This constitutes a first office action on the merits under 35 USC 132.  If, after a discussion of patentability of the claims, an agreement is reached between the examiner and inventor about the claims, a notice of allowability will be issued following the interview.  The First Office Action Interview Program promotes up-front communication between inventors and examiners regarding the relevant issues of patentability occurring before the first action. It assures that issues can be more effectively resolved before prosecution enters a final stage where amendments to an application are more restricted.  By opening up lines of communication between the examiner and inventor in an up front proactive manner, both parties are able to better appreciate each other’s positions.  They can then act more effectively to identify, focus and resolve issues of patentability which improves the efficiency of prosecution and application disposition. From the perspective of the examiner, a better understanding of the claimed invention is obtained.  From the perspective of the inventor, the opportunity to resolve patentability issues one-on-one with the examiner early in the prosecution process is obtained.  The pilot also gives inventors the ability to influence the advancement of their application once it is taken up for examination through the first action interview process. The pilot does not, however, advance applications out of turn.  The MPEP § 708 outlines office policy regarding the order that applications are examined based upon application effective filing dates. For a typical application, under regular examination practice, the allowance rate prior to the first office action on the merits is approximately 11 percent.  For cases under the previous version of the FAI pilots, an average allowance rate prior to first action was 22 percent—a large increase over regular examination. Find more information about the Full FAI pilot program on The process remains unchanged from that ofthe Enhanced First Action Interview Pilot Program, which ended April 1, 2011. For FAI Pilot Program legal inquiries, please contact Joseph Weiss at 571-272-7759 Technology Center points of contact for specific case/technology FAI Pilot Program questions Tech Center 1600 – Johann Richter 571-272-0646 or Tech Center 1700 – Patrick Ryan 571-272-1292 or Tech Center 2100 – James Trujillo 571-272-3677 or Tech Center 2400 – John Follansbee 571-272-3964 or Tech Center 2600 – Nick Corsaro 571-272-7876 or Tech Center 2800 – Darren Schuberg 571-272- 2044 or Tech Center 3600 – Vic Batson 571-272- 6987 or Tech Center 3700 – Linda Dvorak – 571-272-4764 or
  • 2011 displayed in metal
    August 2011 2nd @ 7 p.m. Illinois Innovators and Inventors Monthly Meeting St. Edwardsville, Ill. 2nd @ 2 p.m. Idaho Association of Inventors Monthly Meeting  Sagle, Idaho 3rd @ 7 p.m. Arizona's Inventor Network Source Monthly Meeting  Phoenix, Ariz. 6th @ 5:30 p.m. Inventors Society of South Florida Monthly Meeting Deerfield Beach, Fla. 8th @ 6:30 p.m. The Inventors Association of Manhattan: "Finding a Reliable & Trustworthy Manufacturer"  New York, N.Y. 9th @ 8 p.m. National Society of Inventors Monthly Meeting Roselle Park, N.J. 10th @ 5 p.m. Houston Inventors Association Inventors Helping Inventors Meeting Houston, Texas 11th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Council of Mid-Michigan Monthly Meeting Burton, Mich. 12th & 13th @ 8 a.m. USPTO's California Regional Independent Inventors Conference Pasadena, Calif. 13th @ noon Inventors Society of South Florida Inventor Fair 2011 Orlando, Fla. 18th @ 2 p.m. USPTO Online Inventor Chat September 2011 2nd @ 7 p.m. Illinois Innovators and Inventors Monthly Meeting St. Edwardsville, Ill. 6th @ 7 p.m. Inventor's Council of Cincinnati Monthly Meeting Cincinnati, Ohio 6th @ 2 p.m. Idaho Association of Inventors Meeting at the Bird Aviation Museum & Invention Center Sagle, Idaho 8th @ 6:30 p.m. Inventors' Network of the Carolinas Monthly Event  St. Charlotte, N.C. 12th @ 6:30 p.m. The Inventors Association of Manhattan Meeting: "Stephen Key... One Simple Idea"  New York, N.Y. 12th @ 7 p.m. Inventors Association of New England Monthly Meeting  Cambridge, Mass. 13th @ 8 p.m. National Society of Inventors Monthly Meeting  Roselle Park, N.J. 22nd @ 6:30 p.m. Arkansas Inventors' Network Meeting  Little Rock, Ark. 27th @ 7 p.m. Oklahoma Inventors Congress OKC OIC Chapter Meeting  Oklahoma City, Okla.
  • Pasadena City College Campus
    Pasadena City College, August 12-13 The United States Patent and Trademark Office and Invent Now® will hold a west coast regional conference at Pasadena City College on August 12-13.  Senior USPTO officials, successful inventors, including National Inventor Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Gary Michelson, and intellectual property experts will be on hand to provide practical advice and information for novice and seasoned inventors. Teresa Stanek Rea, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO will deliver a keynote address at the luncheon on August 12. A pre-conference workshop on August 11 from 5-7 p.m. is included in the registration fee. It will cover the basics of the patent process. If you cannot attend, the session on basics will be repeated as a breakout session on August 12. Space is limited, so register now. The registration fee is $120 per person. The fee for seniors and students is $115. The registration fee includes all sessions and presentations, morning and afternoon refreshment breaks, lunch both days and a networking reception on August 12. If you have questions about the conference, please call 571-272-8850 or visit the USPTO's conference website.
  • Associate Commissioner Richard Maulsby
    If consideration of patent reform legislation were a football game, it would now be first and goal on the one-yard line. In June, the House joined the Senate in passing a patent reform bill by a wide margin. These bills would bring the greatest changes to this nation's patent system since 1836. That was the year Congress passed a bill changing the granting of patents from a registration to an examination system. However, there are still some differences in the two bills, in part dealing with USPTO's access to all its fee collections, that must somehow be reconciled. The ball is now in the Senate's court and if it does not act before the summer recess, it is expected to do so in the fall. The Senate can simply accept the House version of the bill, and there is reason to hope that they will do so, in which case the legislation would go to the president for his signature and become law. In anticipation of the changes and rulemaking that will be required under the legislation, the USPTO has posted a timeline and other materials on its website. The implementation of the legislation will require a lot of hard work and attention to detail. Stakeholder input will be an extremely important part of the process. We hope that everyone who reads Inventors Eye will take a moment to review the information posted on the website. In the coming months, if and when the Leahy-Smith American Invents Act becomes law, there will be an opportunity for all of you to provide input during the public comment period as the USPTO implements various provisions of the new law. I hope you enjoy the August-September issue of Inventors Eye. I look forward to seeing many of our readers at theCalifornia Regional Inventors Conference on August 12-13 in Pasadena. Associate Commissioner Richard Maulsby
  • USPTO Director David Kappos shaking hands with a man
    One comment most often heard from independent inventors is that it costs too much to get a patent.  What these inventors are saying is that they can’t afford the cost of getting competent legal service to assist them in the preparation and prosecution of their patent application. This message has been repeated over and over again in emails, phone conversations and personal contacts with inventors from all across the United States. We at the USPTO have discussed this need with different legal groups across the country and had not been given any positive encouragement as to the possibility of forming any type of pro bono legal service for inventors. That is until Under Secretary David Kappos discussed this problem with Jim Patterson of Patterson Thuente IP, in Minneapolis, Minn. That discussion led Jim to say, “Why not?” He went to work on the problem and brought in Candee Goodman, a pro bono specialist from Lindquist and Vennum in Minneapolis. They discussed the situation and then met with officials at the USPTO to see how their ideas could be used to start a pro bono program.  One year and much work later there is an official pro bono pilot program in Minneapolis that has a goal of helping financially needy independent inventors and small businesses in gaining patent counsel for their inventions. One of the first things Jim and Candee did was to put together a team to define how the process would work. They started to work with LegalCORPS of Minneapolis, an established non-profit that assists microbusinesses and non-profits. LegalCORPS was already dealing with pro bono services for businesses and was a perfect match for this new IP pro bono service. As work progressed, it became apparent that LegalCORPS would need to increase their capacity and staff size to accommodate the new IP pro bono pilot program. After much thought and discussion the team decided that it would be appropriate to ask the inventor to assist in covering some of the administrative expense for LegalCORPS. The new term for this pro bono program became, “low bono.” This pilot program has the backing of the Minneapolis-St. Paul intellectual property legal community.  Not only have many intellectual property firms stepped forward to offer legal assistance, but many in the local business community have also contributed financially and with offers of service from their in-house legal staff.  With this kind of commitment from everyone involved, the outcome should be a rousing success. The LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program was officially launched on June 8. Since this program is only a pilot, the organizers are still learning what can and cannot be done to assist inventors and needy small businesses.  To help jump start the pilot they will be looking for inventors that are Minnesota residents that have already filed a non-provisional application, but find their applications in a rejected status. In the near future, this may expand to include individuals that have filed a provisional application, but who need assistance in filing a non-provisional application.  The long-term goal is to offer services to inventors and small businesses that meet a certain financial need level, currently 300 percent of the poverty level, have done a search themselves or through a service provider, and have gone through a training package currently being developed by the USPTO. The training package will be available on the USPTO website within the next couple of months. Anyone who participates in this pro bono program will be responsible for the USPTO fees and the administrative fee set by the LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program. This administrative fee will help make sure that the pilot program can continue to use the services of LegalCORPS. The USPTO is encouraging additional cities to look at the Minnesota program to see if its model will work for their state or locality. There have already been encouraging signs from across the country where other cities are willing to proceed using the LegalCORPS model. However, as with any pilot program, the USPTO is suggesting caution with a wait and see approach so that others may learn from any difficulty found in the implementation or operation of this first pro bono program. The USPTO Office of Innovation Development is also getting ready to launch an interactive map with information for inventors by state. Any new pro bono program will also be identified by state on this map. The USPTO continues to work with companies, legal associations, inventor organizations and others to provide inventors and small businesses with contacts, information and assistance.
  • Children eating food in a barren climate with their shoes showing
    It is commonly believed that necessity is the mother of invention, and yet to the owners of the trademarks on Toms®and Nokero®, necessity means the responsibility to transform a trademark into a vehicle of humanitarian deeds with the capacity to unite society in a global effort to give. The realization of the impact that a pair of shoes could have in a child’s life and education inspired entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie to create and use Toms as a way to provide those children with a new pair of opportunities. In 2006, he developed the One for One movement. For every pair of shoes purchased, Toms donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. The program was made possible by partnering with humanitarian organizations in over 20 different countries that work with underprivileged communities to improve their education, hygiene and health. The initiative earned Toms the People’s Design Award from the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in 2007. In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the State Department’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) to Mycoskie's company. Not content to rest on those laurels, Toms recently increased its level of humanitarian commitment.  A new initiative offers medical treatment, prescription glasses or sight-saving surgery to those in need when a pair of the newly launched Toms eyewear is purchased. These services, provided in Cambodia, Tibet, and Nepal, enhance children's and families' lifestyles through the improvement of eyesight. Another company with a registered trademark that has centered its efforts on helping those in need is Nokero. The company was founded in 2010 by inventor Stephen Katsaros.  Nokero promotes environmentally-friendly solar products which allow families to replace kerosene-fueled electric equipment with less dangerous products, like solar light bulbs. Through a partnership with Project C.U.R.E.®, Nokero allows people to donate light bulbs to improve the life of families who illuminate their homes with kerosene.  In addition to providing affordable illumination, this charitable initiative decreases the use of harmful and polluting fuels that can cause accidental fires and deaths. “Be the change you wish to see in the world," Gandhi once said. Toms and Nokero are two companies with registered trademarks who have put those words into action.  One pair of shoes, a set of eye glasses and light bulbs have improved life for millions of families, bringing change and hope to the distant corners of the earth.
  • Michael Skyes and his invention the Enertia Building System
    Energy costs are getting higher and higher each year.  Yet there are ways we can save on those costs and protect the earth at the same time.  How would you like to have a house that worked for you while keeping your carbon footprint at a minimum?  Michael Sykes has the solution─his patented Enertia® Building System. Michael began building homes 40 years ago while he was putting himself through engineering school at North Carolina State University.  One day, as he was passing a pile of lumber, he noticed heat being emitted from the pile.  “It was my light bulb moment,” Michael recalled. “I kept that vision in mind as I worked and formulated my ideas on developing a more energy efficient house.” He built his first house, but found that the south wall was way too hot, so it was back to the drawing board to figure out a solution. For the next stage of development he drew inspiration from the energy crisis of the 1970s, sometimes referred to as the “First Solar Age.”  He replaced the solar mass of early solar homes developed during that time with a house within itself.  Michael had been building log homes and noticed that their thermal heating  provided enough heat to allow some homeowners to delay using conventional heating until December.  As his ideas progressed, he found himself using something he thought he would never need after college−differential calculus.  It proved to be the key to figuring out how to build his new houses. His early experiments were valuable in producing houses that fit today’s green movement.  The homes use modern Glulam, laminated dimensionally cut lumber, to create massive wood walls that collect thermal energy from natural solar rays.  The discovery he made when walking by the pile of lumber, along with his understanding of the earth’s natural heating and cooling system, were keys to his inventions.  His first patent, patent number 4,621,614, was issued in 1986 and dealt with the convection loop that Enertia homes are built around. Michael’s second patent, patent number 6,933,016, was for using the latent naturally occurring rosin as storage within the southern yellow pine species of lumber, Southern yellow pine is one of the fastest growing and most readily available wood species.  It is used in most of our home building today.  Homes built with the properties found in Michael’s Enertia  houses incorporate the intellectual property of his two patents. In 2007, Enertia houses were selected as the invention of the year by the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels.” Fueled in part by that recognition, 2008 was Michael’s best year ever for the production and sales of his homes.  Growth has slowed since then because of the faltering economy.  ”I am optimistic that the renewed interest in green technology and energy savings will revitalize production and sales,” Michael said. He also feels that the recent rash of bad weather will be good for sales as well.  ”My solid wood homes can meet tornado codes with winds up to 140 miles per hour,” he said. “Their resistance to fire is also higher.” ”No one has ever come looking for my patents except from overseas and no one is interested in licensing,” said Michael.  The cost of mass producing the homes is a major factor.  They require an initial outlay of nearly $1.5 million.  “Mass production will lower costs,” he said. As someone who invents, produces, sells, delivers and installs the product, Michael Sykes is one of the few inventors who does it all─invents, produces, sells, delivers and installs the product.
  • Lightbulb covered in grass
    On December 8, 2009, the USPTO launched a pilot program to accelerate the review of green technology patent applications.  Patent applications are examined in order by filing date.  The Green Technology Pilot Program was implemented to take those patent applications that pertained to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy or greenhouse gas emission reduction and advance those applications to the front of the line for expedited examination.   Since the pilot was launched and published in the Federal Register, there have been two modifications to the program.  The first eliminated the classification requirement and was published in the Federal Register on May 21, 2010.  The second was published in the Federal Register on October 15, 2010, and expanded and extended the program to include applications filed, until either 3,000 petitions are granted or the deadline of December 31, 2011, for participation is reached, Since it’s inception, the USPTO has granted over 1,6oo petitions for participation in the green technology pilot program and issued nearly 300 patents in fields pertaining to green technologies. There is a green petition report summaryavailable on our web