Inventors Eye Archive

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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  • Invention-Con -- The place for inventors, makers, and entrepreneurs
    Innovators, small business owners, intellectual property (IP) lawyers, educators, and entrepreneurs from across the country tuned in online August 18–20 to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) virtual Invention-Con 2021. This year’s theme was “Capitalizing on your intellectual property,” and the event featured a special day focused on young inventors. USPTO leadership, including Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, Acting Commissioner for Patents Andrew I. Faile, Commissioner for Trademarks David S. Gooder, Deputy Commissioner for Patents Valencia Martin-Wallace, and Acting Chief Communications Officer Cara Duckworth welcomed attendees. Special guests offered insights on the creative process and building businesses. Gitanjali Rao, inventor and TIME magazine’s Kid of the Year for 2020, joined a fireside chat with Molly Kocialski, Director of the USPTO's Rocky Mountain Regional Office, to discuss her path to creating Tehys, a device that uses carbon nanotube sensors to detect lead in water, and Kindly, a web tool that uses artificial intelligence to detect signs of cyberbullying. Serene Almomen, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Senseware, shared how her company uses Internet of Things-enabled technology to improve real-time indoor air quality to help in the fight against COVID-19. Ansel Brown, inventor, recording artist, and principal owner and Chief Amazement Officer of nvisionative, shared lessons learned from successes in music, business, and invention. Panels of public and private sector experts covered the different types of intellectual property protection, how to bring innovations to the marketplace, technology transfer and commercialization, wearable tech in fashion, artificial intelligence, and helpful resources available to inventors. Interactive workshops offered attendees the chance to ask questions about applying for patents, registering trademarks, drafting claims, free legal services, manufacturing, the work of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), and more. Invention-Con is the USPTO's annual conference for independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners whose success depends on guarding their creative work. Learn more about Invention-Con and access presentations about IP, federal government resources, and more: Invention-Con program page and 2021 agenda, presentation and guest biographies (videos will be posted when available) Invention 2020 video playlist Invention 2019 video playlist Inventor and entrepreneur resources  For more information, contact InventionCon@uspto.gov.
  • Light bulb with globe image surrounded by radiating rainbow
    The United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Office of Innovation Outreach (OIO) has ramped up its programming schedule for independent, underresourced, and underrepresented inventors and entrepreneurs. OIO disseminates information about the various forms of intellectual property (IP) and their importance in the innovation ecosystem with a focus on ensuring inventors have access to USPTO's products and services. OIO programs help budding inventors and entrepreneurs identify and acquire the IP protection they need to be successful in the marketplace. Popular annual public programs have long included Invention-Con, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, and Black History Month celebrations. Over the last year, OIO added the Hispanic Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, the Veterans Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, Proud Innovation for LGBTQ+ innovators, and a program celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) innovators. Each program highlights inventor success stories within an underrepresented community and promotes helpful inventor resources available from the USPTO and other organizations. The office also develops programs for universities regarding patents, trademarks, and other IP protections and benefits. These programs feature events ranging from individual classroom discussions to larger campus and community-wide forums that focus on the USPTO’s services, resources, and mission. Similar programs are available for inventor organizations. OIO recently embarked on a partnership with Inventors Digest magazine, which is now bringing the valuable information readers have seen in Inventors Eye to its audience. Look for articles in each issue dedicated to helping inventors on their journeys from concept to commercialization. OIO is part of the USPTO’s Office of the Chief Communications Officer. For questions or information about upcoming events, contact InnovationOutreach@uspto.gov.    
  • Pumpkins with Farewell label
    Dear Inventors Eye readers – We hope you have enjoyed and benefited from our content, which is intended to enlighten you about the many services offered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). We are committed to an interactive relationship with the rapidly increasing number of people who are discovering the crucial role of intellectual property in our lives. To further this mission, the USPTO has begun a collaboration with Inventors Digest, the longest-running publication serving inventors and innovators. Each month, Inventors Digest features “Your USPTO” webpages that are devoted exclusively to USPTO content. This material highlights our latest programs, alerts you to upcoming events, and provides features that give illuminating context for the USPTO’s growing importance in America. Since 1985, Inventors Digest has been a champion for the independent inventor and a source of instruction and inspiration. Its print and online readership is available to more than 200,000 readers every month. The magazine’s informative, entertaining, resources-filled website attracts thousands of visitors and page views. Please join us at InventorsDigest.com for the latest USPTO news. For a complete list of all USPTO events, please visit the USPTO Events webpage.
  • Images of steamship, cotton gin, and mechanical reaper
    The industrial revolution began in Great Britain in the late 18th century, with new devices such as the power loom and the spinning mule increasing output. Then, in the early 19th century, as industrialization spread to the United States and continental Europe and factories became more common, machines meant to speed up economic activity and industrial and agricultural production soon flooded the market. Here are five of the most important such inventions patented in the United States between 1794 and 1851. Cyrus McCormick U.S. Patent no. 8,277X Mechanical reaper Cyrus McCormick, a farmer’s son, continued his father’s attempts to invent a horse-drawn reaping machine that had the potential to increase a field’s yield of grain by a factor of ten. He patented the device in 1834 but continued to improve upon it, and in the 1840s, orders from farmers began pouring in. McCormick moved production from the blacksmith shop of his family’s farm in Virginia to a factory in Chicago in 1847. Next, in the early 1850s, he took his invention on tour to Europe. At London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, McCormick’s reaper won first prize. Demonstrations in other European cities—Hamburg, Vienna, and Paris—created a widespread media sensation. The prestigious French Academy of Science made McCormick a corresponding member, a rare honor. McCormick’s mechanical reaper so increased agricultural productivity that thousands—then millions—of agricultural workers could be released from the fields. They moved to the cities, expanding the urban market for harvested grain and contributing to the industrialization of the United States and Europe. Eli Whitney U.S. Patent no. 72X Cotton gin Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, patented in 1794, obviated the need to remove seeds from raw cotton by hand. The result was increased production of cotton, especially after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, when regular international trade in raw materials, finished goods, and, tragically, human beings resumed. The proliferation and intensification of cotton farming and processing in the American South, aided by Whitney’s cotton gin, helped U.S. planters and merchants meet the increasing demand in Britain for material with which to mass-produce textiles, the main product of the early industrial revolution. By 1850, cotton goods, often made of American raw material, amounted to 40% of overall exports from the United Kingdom. Robert Fulton U.S. Patent no. 1,434X Steamship Robert Fulton began designing steam-powered ships as early as 1793, working with the engineering firm of James Watt, inventor of the era’s most efficient steam engine. On August 17, 1807, Fulton’s steamship made its first voyage, from New York City to Albany and back, in 62 hours. “The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved,” Fulton declared. He opened commercial service on the Hudson River the following month and received U.S. patents for steamship technology in 1809 and 1810. Soon enough, steamships began plying the waters of the open Atlantic. In 1819, a sailing ship supplemented with steam power crossed from Savannah, Georgia, to Liverpool, England, and by the 1830s, steam-powered vessels were carrying goods and people back and forth reliably and on a regular basis. The result was faster, safer, and more reliable transportation, an engine of industrialization in Europe, North America, and—eventually—all over the world. Isaac Singer U.S. Patent no. 8,294 Sewing machine Isaac Singer of New York City invented a sewing machine with mass-produced, interchangeable parts that beat the competition when it came to marketing a reliable, affordable device for turning textiles into finished goods. Singer’s reliance on prior technology still protected by U.S. patents soon got him into legal trouble, but the end result was a so-called “patent pool,” an agreement among inventors and licensees to work together and share in the profits. Nevertheless, Singer emerged as the giant of the industry.  Singer sewing machines became fixtures in homes, workshops, and sweatshops all over the world, though the devices had uneven effects on the lives of the people who used them. While the amount of time and effort it took to make a garment decreased, low wages and labor exploitation persisted. However, some historians have argued that the sewing machine might have provided working women with just enough free time to join the burgeoning women’s rights movement, which got underway in the United States just as Singer’s sewing machine became available. Samuel Morse U.S. Patent no. 6,420 Electric telegraph Samuel Morse, an artist from Massachusetts with an interest in electricity, envisioned the improvements to wired telegraphy that made the modern electric telegraph possible. He patented a system of telegraph signs (the Morse Code, U.S. Patent no. 1,647) in 1840 and a series of telegraph devices over the course of the next several years. His first patent for a telegraph device was granted in 1849. Morse probably got the idea of sending messages long-distance at lightning speed from the semaphore telegraph of the Napoleonic era. Under that system, observers with spyglasses and mechanical flags or arms had stood atop towers placed six miles apart, forming a network that could relay messages across the country in a matter of hours. Morse’s electric telegraph accelerated the process to a pace approaching the speed of light. Sensing the implications of this breakthrough, a contemporary journalist remarked, “This is indeed the annihilation of space.” The telegraph enabled near-instantaneous transmissions across vast distances, initiating a communications revolution still underway today.
  • "DOCX filing" with picture of calendar
    As a part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s continuous efforts to modernize and streamline patent application systems, the agency now offers applicants the ability to file patent application documents in DOCX format through EFS-Web, Private PAIR, and Patent Center. The USPTO will transition to DOCX for all filers on January 1, 2022. Use of any other format after that date will result in a surcharge. DOCX is a safe and stable open source format supported by many popular word processing applications, including Microsoft Word 2007 and higher, Google Docs, Office Online, LibreOffice and Pages for Mac.  DOCX: Increases efficiency by eliminating the need to convert structured text into a PDF for filing Ensures higher data quality by reducing conversion errors that can occur when converting to a PDF file Provides a smarter interface that detects common errors, and provides instant feedback to prevent unnecessary delays in processing your application Secures privacy by providing automatic metadata detection (e.g., Author and Comments) and removal features to support the submission of only substantive information in the DOCX file Improves application quality by providing content-based validations pre-submission and identifying issues up front, allowing them to be addressed before examination begins Increases ease of use via automated document indexing Improves compatibility by eliminating the non-embedded font error, the most common obstacle in uploading a PDF In response to helpful feedback the USPTO received after last year’s Federal Register Notice on DOCX, office actions are available in DOCX and XML formats with further enhanced features—including the ability to use DOCX for drawings. For more information and to view frequently asked questions, visit File patent application documents in DOCX. A schedule of free online training sessions is also available. If you need assistance, contact the Patent Electronic Business Center at ebc@uspto.gov or 866-217-9197.
  • Girl in classroom raising hand
    The United States Patent and Trademark's (USPTO) Office of Education (OE) has ramped up its robust offerings with virtual teacher professional development, student-centered invention education programming, and university outreach events to increase dialogue around the topic of expanding innovation across all communities.  The new University Engagement Speaker Series highlights the importance of university-industry partnerships and the technological benefits they bring to the economy and society as a whole, including the role universities play in supporting K–12 education. The USPTO used the series to highlight the importance of broadening participation in the innovation ecosystem in accordance with the SUCCESS Act, and OE conducted more than 25 well-received programs as part of the growing effort to engage USPTO stakeholders.  OE also unveiled a new addition to the Inventor Collectible Card Series, a card featuring Dr. Marian Croak. Croak holds more than 200 patents and is a pioneer in the advancement of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The collectible cards show the many faces of U.S. patent holders, personalize inventors and invention, help tell inventors’ stories, and inspire young people to consider becoming inventors. Since her card unveiling last year at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's “Equality of Opportunity in the Innovation Economy Conference,” Croak has been featured in a USPTO Journeys of Innovation profile and as a guest in the agency’s Speaker Series. In 2022, she and Dr. Patricia Era Bath will become the first Black women inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the nearly 50-year existence of the organization.  OE also conducted the first virtual National Summer Teacher Institute on Innovation, STEM, and Intellectual Property (NSTI) on July 19-23. NSTI, now in its eighth year, combines experiential training tools, practices, and project-based learning models to support elementary, middle, and high school teachers in increasing their knowledge of making, inventing, and innovation. The central focus of the institute is on the creation and protection of intellectual property—this includes inventions, knowledge discovery, creative ideas, and expressions of the human mind that may have commercial value and are protectable under patent, trademark, copyright, or trade secret laws. Intellectual property is modeled as both a teaching and learning platform to help inspire and motivate student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, computer science, and other fields of study such as innovation and entrepreneurship.   OE develops and conducts educational programming for students, educators, and inventors and innovators of all ages.  This includes professional development workshops for K–12 educators, collaboration with federal agencies, nonprofits, and youth serving organizations, and providing resources for students and educators with a focus on intellectual property, invention, innovation, and STEM/STEAM, which adds art. The primary audience of OE continues to be K–20 educators and students with a primary emphasis on K–12.  OE is part of the USPTO’s Office of the Chief Communications Officer (OCCO). For questions or information on upcoming events, contact Education@uspto.gov or InnovationOutreach@uspto.gov.
  • Inventor Sandra Marlowe describing her journey as an inventor and entrepreneur at Invention-Con 2018
    Sandra Marlowe is the founder and CEO of BAQUA®, Inc., which began as a family business in Lexington, Kentucky. Noting the rising demand for beverages that support digestive help and inspired by a drink she received in England, she and her children worked to create the world’s first organic ancient grain-infused drink. Supervisory Patent Examiner and Office of Innovation Development outreach representative Zandra Smith interviewed Marlowe to learn more about her journey to successfully develop BAQUA ®. Zandra Smith: Please tell me about your product and its development. Sandra Marlowe: In England, I was given a lemon barley water drink and really liked the flavor. After conversations about the drink, I became curious as to why there was no drink of this nature available in the U.S. Barley is known to have numerous health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, balancing gut bacteria, lowering blood sugar level, providing fiber, and possibly helping with weight loss. After researching the benefits of barley, I found out that the ancient Greeks made drinks from barley and set out to develop a similar drink in the U.S. Through an extensive testing process, where numerous different grains were experimented with and tested for taste, my family and I settled on the combination we liked best. We decided on barley, amorist, and quinoa. In the development of the flavor, I looked for a flavor house (FONA International) and took classes to help refine the product. Initially, the thought was to start with a smoothie. However, we soon realized that the realities of refrigeration and a shorter shelf life made the smoothie option problematic. The specific flavors were developed, and then we proceeded to work with the University of Kentucky to learn how to pasteurize, how to scale the product, and how to locate a bottler. The process from concept to bottling was not the easiest. The first bottler said no because they did not want to bring an agricultural grain into their “clean process and floor.” I went home and did more research and found clean and inspected grains. With this knowledge and product, I went back to the bottler, who then agreed. However, another problem arose. The first batch was cooked too long and the lids were essentially glued on with no way to open the bottles. Adjustments were made and the problem was fixed. Smith: Any changes or developments in the product? Marlowe: There have been changes in the production of the product. We changed from brewing the grains to a more efficient process. Currently in development is a new product using hemp. Smith: In this journey, what do you think was your biggest development? Marlowe: Having the ability to have an “open-ended” product. In the U.S., there were no healthy grain drink products. This market is open to development. A smart entrepreneur looks at other cultures for inspiration. Smith: Any pitfalls or lessons learned? Marlowe: I learned that it takes patience and to not take no for an answer. Ask again and again. Reassess, make changes, and try again. Also, have a dose of reality because not every product is good and will start a business. Do not be intimidated. Be confident and objective. Look at the market and do your research. Use that data to develop the product and marketing strategy. Look at where the market is going and consumer demand, then take the product there. Get educated on product development. Smith: Prior to BAQUA®, did you have any other products in development? Marlowe: I developed a children’s education toy that was not commercialized because market research showed that there was a similar object already on the market. Smith: Tell me about your experiences with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and about your IP. Marlowe: My first touch with the USPTO was about 18 years ago, and it was the children’s educational toy. This product was not patented, but the experience was a positive one. As a small business owner, I was concerned that the America Invents Act (AIA) rules would be detrimental, but I have seen that the USPTO has programs in place to meet the needs of small businesses. I really liked the way Director [Andrei] Iancu articulated that innovation drives jobs when he spoke at Invention-Con 2018. I would suggest that anyone interested in obtaining IP protection vet their attorney before using them. Keep pushing your attorney. Do not step back and assume the attorney will do everything necessary. Look at the USPTO website, find information, and educate yourself. Smith: Do you have any advice for people just starting with an idea or business? Marlowe: Find a safe place to get wise counsel and guidance. Maybe connect with a local inventors club or a Small Business Development Center. Connect with like-minded people. Network — it is the key to making progress with your project. Be respectful of people’s time and be succinct in emails and phone calls. Learn to be a good communicator. Remember that challenges do not stop. You might solve one and, around the corner, there will be another. Know that most people have difficult things that they are working through. Communication and transparency are important to the customer. Sandra created an acronym to constantly remind herself that the end product is worth the struggle – HOPE: Honesty, Optimist, Perseverance, and Enthusiasm.  
  • Kyle Snowberger standing in front of airlplane
    Space exploration has been, and continues to be, a source of amazement for many Americans. Kyle Snowberger is no exception. When he was young boy, NASA’s space program enchanted him like a fairytale, and he dreamed of being a part of it. As he grew older, he began checking all the right boxes to turn that dream into reality. He worked hard, studied hard, earned a degree in aerospace engineering, worked for a major Department of Defense (DoD) contractor, and continued to work hard. Yet, in spite of Snowberger’s efforts, he still found himself without the resources to pursue his dream. The USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program, however, was able to provide him with the chance to realize the dream. In this interview, Snowberger gives us a glimpse of his journey. What is the nature of your invention? High Altitude Air Launch is an aerospace vehicle designed to deliver large satellites to Earth orbit. The invention claims a novel vehicle and method for spaceflight. What was the inspiration for your invention? How did you come up with the idea? The original inspiration for High Altitude Air Launch, besides my abiding passion for aviation, was a piece of balsa wood I own. Laser-etched into the balsa are airfoils for a scratch-built remote control aircraft that was never built. The elegant curves are rather artistic in nature, so I mounted it on the wall in my Derby, Kansas apartment. Mounted right next to my desk, it caught my eye in the winter of 2017, and I realized the cross section of a wing has a lot of potential for internal components. After I refined my idea in a computer-aided design (CAD) model, High Altitude Air Launch began taking shape. I am still in disbelief of my Cinderella story since then, with great thanks given to Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (PVLA), PA Patent Pro Bono Program, and Ballard Spahr LLP. What problems does your invention seek to solve or address? The contemporary problem the invention seeks to solve is the affordable delivery of large payloads to orbit. Specifically, High Altitude Air Launch would belong to the Super Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle class, delivering in excess of 50,000 kg (110,000 lbs.) to orbit in one launch. The chief design requirement is a delivery price under $2,000 per kg, which is currently only achieved in industry by SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, should it be in a reusable configuration. The visionary problem High Altitude Air Launch seeks to solve is the feasible construction of large manned space stations. For generations, visionaries such as the late Dr. Stephen Hawking, Arthur C. Clarke, and Wernher von Braun advocated for continual space habitation. Artificial gravity stations are the solution to the single largest hurdle: microgravity. High Altitude Air Launch might provide a solution for the feasible construction of artificial gravity stations. This aim is the why of the entire endeavor. What challenges did you have to overcome in designing your invention? Oh my, well, I’ll try to provide a nearly comprehensive list. The first and largest hurdle I faced was my own doubt. As an unemployed 23 year old with an outlandish idea, I reasoned with myself that nothing similar had been developed, not because no one had ever thought of it, but because it was impossible or highly impractical. In all the decades of the military-industrial complex, I had thought an X plane or DARPA project would have investigated non-freestream facing missile launch (that is, launching a missile in a direction other than the direction an airplane is flying). The more research I did, the more perplexed I became. Looking through patents in my spare time (which I had a lot of), nothing struck me as anything close to my idea. Still experiencing self-doubt, I imagined I was simply failing to do a proper patent search. I attended a patent and IP seminar open to the public at Wichita State University. At this seminar, I was introduced to the newly expanding pro-bono program. Librarians at WSU’s Patent and Trademark Resource Center helped me to refine my patent search. Concurrent to these developments, I was running out of money, as well as job applications, in the one-time “Aviation Capital of the World”. All entrepreneurs have too little money at some point, so in that challenge I’m not alone. I decided to move back home to Pennsylvania. Inventor experience with the PA Patent Pro Bono Program How and when did you first hear about the PA Patent Pro Bono Program? I first heard about the PA Patent Pro Bono Program during a patent seminar at Wichita State University. The speakers elaborated on the Patent Pro Bono program extensively and disclosed the eligibility requirements. Wichita Kansas’ pro bono office is Gateway Venture, located in St. Louis, hundreds of miles away. I mention this because I want to highlight just how privileged pro bono clients are on the east coast. Simple geographic proximity to patent attorneys is a benefit that cannot be overstated. It is my hope, as the USPTO expands the Patent Pro Bono Program, that more existing institutions in America’s heartland cities will offer volunteer patent and attorney-matching services. How did your involvement in the PA Patent Pro Bono Program help you to accomplish your goals relating to your invention (e.g., patent prosecution, marketing, promotion, etc.)? Without PVLA, and the unlikely chance of being matched with two experienced patent attorneys, my goals would not have been fulfilled; my invention would never have manifested, and I say that with conviction. Only through this IP protection have I felt secure in pursuing self-marketing opportunities. Penn State Mont Alto’s LION ™ Tank competition would not have seen me as a competitor without patent pending protection. Likewise, I would not have had the audacity to apply for NASA iTech and the National Institute of Aerospace’s Ignite the Night Shark Tank. And yet here I am, just a kid with a humble bachelor’s in aerospace engineering, preparing to pitch my invention to industry experts at the renowned Space Symposium. Without PVLA and Ballard Spahr LLP, none of this Cinderella story would have happened. The important lesson here is not about some burgeoning success from a scrappy 20-something. The lesson is the profound change that can be made in the world through sponsorships, even as financial inequality increases in the world. Volunteer patent services make dreams come true. All it takes for an entrepreneur to succeed is just enough courage to submit an application for assistance. Once that is done, programs like the PA Patent Pro Bono Program can turn that small step into a giant leap. What was your overall impression or take away from your involvement in the PA Patent Pro Bono Program? I was impressed by the level of competency the patent practitioners exhibited. For the most part, we were able to convey ideas readily, using industry jargon such as “apogee-kick motor,” “hypergolic,” “high altitude long endurance airfoil,” etc. However, there were days throughout the process where I was discouraged and thought that this never would come together — the scope was too large, I had bitten off more than I could chew. But we swiftly got through it. After reading through my submitted patent application, my main takeaway is the need for comprehensive protection provided by precisely worded claims. If not for your involvement with the PA Patent Pro Bono Program, what is the likelihood that you would have been able to realize and achieve your goals relating to your invention? Null. Zilch. Nada. I would have likely never chosen to pay upwards of $30,000 to file a patent. Unlike a simple consumer product, High Altitude Air Launch is of a scope that provides no realistic ROI guarantee. It simply would not have been worth the risk. Inventor plans moving forward Since you became involved with the PA Patent Pro Bono Program, what developments, if any, have you seen in relation to your invention (e.g., patent application filing, marketing, exposure, etc.)? My patent application has been filed. Winning second place in their inaugural LION Tank competition on March 16, 2018, I received a $1,000 grant and free access to Penn State Mont Alto’s Launchbox facility for a year. A business editor from the Philadelphia Inquirer has contacted me and may write an article. As a follow-up to my participation in LION Tank, I was honored to be invited to attend Penn State Mont Alto’s Launchbox ribbon cutting ceremony on April 3, 2019. Penn State president Dr. Eric Barron led the event, alongside Board of Trustee member Lynn Dietrich. The very unique opportunity arose for me to explain my invention to both these men, as well as legislators and other dignitaries. NASA iTech and the National Institute of Aerospace selected High Altitude Air Launch as one of 10 contestants for their Ignite the Night shark tank competition at the 34th Space Symposium held in April 2019 in Colorado Springs. What are your future goals/plans for your invention (e.g., monetization, licensing, commercialization, use, etc.)? At this time, I am willing to disclose what has already been published on my shark tank slide deck: A joint venture with Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch will be pursued. M&A opportunities, as well as other angel investors who express interest, will be given careful consideration. NASA has off-boarded orbital operations to the commercial sector, reserving deep space missions as their primary focus. Provided this current paradigm holds for the next 10 years or so, there may be an opportunity for governmental grant funding. High Altitude Air Launch may be licensed to NASA or an international agency for the launch of deep spaceflight equipment. What advice would you give to other inventors and individuals seeking to patent their ideas and inventions? Never doubt yourself, and never stop striving for success. If your idea is bad, don’t worry, the world will let you know, and quickly. Conversely, the world will never let you know your idea is genius until you tell the world you have an idea.            
  • Invention-Con 2019 logo
    Innovators, small business owners, students, IP lawyers, educators, and entrepreneurs from across the country converged at and tuned in online for the Invention-Con 2019 conference held at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia on September 13–14. This year’s theme was “Leveraging Your Intellectual Property in the Marketplace.” Invention-Con is an annual USPTO outreach platform for inventors, makers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and IP professionals. USPTO leadership, including Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter, Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations Andy Faile, and Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison welcomed attendees to the two-day event. A schedule packed with information and practical tips on all aspects of IP commercialization followed. Government experts, successful inventors and entrepreneurs, and legal professionals offered advice on a wide variety of key topics, including free resources available to inventors and entrepreneurs, effective business planning, and funding. The conference also featured workshops on branding, the global marketplace, and how artificial intelligence can help small businesses. One of the highlights of the event was the keynote address by award-winning CEO Kavita Shukla of The Freshglow Co. Shulka shared the insights she gained as she created and brought to market Freshpaper, a unique innovation that addresses the massive global challenge of food waste and is now used by farmers and families worldwide. Her journey from idea all the way to invention and success inspired the audience. In addition to presentations and discussions, the event offered chances to explore individual interests. USPTO patent examiners offered one-on-one Q&As, and networking sessions allowed attendees to build new connections. Attendees praised the lineup of speakers and the valuable information they gained at the event. One attendee noted that the knowledge and enthusiasm of the presenters and their willingness to help was, “awesome for those of us who don’t understand or are intimidated by the patent process.” Invention-Con will return next year, and we look forward to seeing you there!
  • •	Inventor Spotlight: Ruth Young visiting USPTO Headquarters and admiring new patent cover design
    Filing a provisional or nonprovisional patent application can be an overwhelming experience for first-time pro se filers. This inventor spotlight features the journey of budding Californian inventor Ruth Young, a former professional house cleaner for 28 years. Young exemplifies grit, persistence, and determination when it comes to seeking the best information and guidance. As a first-time inventor, Young wanted to find practical and relevant advice about filing a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to secure intellectual property protection for her inventive ideas. As she and her husband searched daily for the best resources, they came across an advertisement for Invention-Con 2017, an annual, free two-day conference for pro se inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners hosted by the Office of Innovation Development (OID) at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Young saw that Invention-Con offers free educational presentations by intellectual property experts, networking opportunities, one-on-one sessions with patent examiners, breakout sessions, and more. After reading the agenda and seeing the scope of the conference, Young decided to go. She was not disappointed. Young had expected that learning about patents would involve endless paperwork filled with legal terminology that only an expert could decipher. The experience couldn’t have been more different. She attended lectures, talked personally with guest speakers, learned about the Law School Clinic Certification Program, and got practical advice about the patent and trademark processes. “When I attended Invention-Con 2017, I had the opportunity to speak to experts,” Young said, emphasizing that it was great “to be able to have direct contact with people who were able to give me the information that I was looking for.” When asked to identify a helpful resource mentioned at Invention-Con, Young said, “The first one I remember was a workshop that mentioned law clinics. I immediately wrote down the one for California. In fact, as soon as I returned home, I went straight to the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. I applied immediately. And, sure enough, they called me after they approved me. In a couple of months, I was able to get assistance with a trademark. Then I applied for assistance for filing a patent. Right now, they have filed a second patent application for me.” When registration opened for Invention-Con 2018, Young signed up without hesitation. Far more experienced by this time, she had filed two nonprovisional utility patent applications for an innovation in bed sheets, had filed provisional applications, attended OID outreach programs, used pro bono services offered by law firms and clinics through the USPTO, consulted with patent attorneys, and learned first-hand how to use the search tools available in the USPTO’s public search facility and on the internet. Young was so determined to attend that she borrowed $500 from a family member to pay for the trip and other incidentals. And she was willing to sacrifice for the experience: When a fellow Invention-Con 2018 attendee asked where she was staying, she though hard about replying before she said, “I am sleeping in my rental car.” Shocked by the response, the attendee became an “Angel Good Samaritan” and decided on the spot to pay for hotel accommodations and food for one week for Young. Filled with motivation, Young visited OID the following Monday for free, in-person, one-on-one assistance offered though the Pro Se Assistance Program. While the Pro Se Assistance Program cannot provide legal advice, she was able to receive information to assist her with making informed decisions regarding the patent application filing process. Young is no longer in the house cleaning business. She devotes her time to researching and developing her inventive ideas, stays focused on bringing her products to market, and uses the pro se and educational outreach programs offered by OID to get her patent applications filed. When asked how she encourages other inventors, Young said, “I tell them ‘if I did it, you can do it.’” Register now for Invention-Con 2019 “Leveraging Your Intellectual Property in the Marketplace.” For more information about upcoming OID events please contact OID events at oidevents@uspto.gov or 571-272-8033.
  • InventionCon 2019: USPTO's inventors conference -- Sept 13-14 -- Alexandria, VA
    Are you an independent inventor, entrepreneur, small business owner, or intellectual property (IP) professional? If so, register now for Invention-Con 2019, a free two-day annual conference on Friday and Saturday, September 13 – 14 at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. This year’s theme is “Leveraging Your Intellectual Property in the Marketplace.” You’ll have the chance to: Learn directly from successful inventors, entrepreneurs, and business owners Attend a variety of lecture sessions and workshops Network with other attendees and presenters Hear from senior USPTO officials and other IP experts Register early! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/invention-con-2019-tickets-57099711775 For more information, email us at oidevents@uspto.gov or call 571-272-8033.
  • EFS Web Advice: EFS Web Logo
    In the world of innovation, it’s important to protect your intellectual property. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patent Electronic Systems, EFS-Web and the Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system are tools for filing and managing your patent applications. Nearly 99% of patent applications are submitted electronically via EFS-Web, and for good reason! Filing electronically cuts costs, minimizes wait times typically associated with conventional mailing, and is efficient. Additionally, users can view their applications and check on their status through Private PAIR. To prepare for filing online, get to know the systems and how to use them. Understanding some common mistakes and how to get assistance will be helpful as you navigate through this process. EFS-Web and Private PAIR EFS-Web is the USPTO’s web-based patent application and document submission solution. Using EFS-Web, anyone with a web-enabled computer can file patent applications and documents without downloading special software or changing document preparation tools and processes. The Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system provides USPTO customers with a safe, simple, and secure way to retrieve and download information regarding patent application status. There are two PAIR applications, Public PAIR and Private PAIR. Public PAIR provides access to issued patents and published applications. Private PAIR provides secure real-time access to pending application status and history using digital certificates and the USPTO’s new single sign-on authentication method, USPTO.gov accounts. We encourage users to utilize the USPTO.gov account authentication method because digital certificates will be retired in the near future (see Obtain a verified USPTO.gov account, below). Getting started You may access and use the USPTO's Patent Electronic Systems as either a non-registered or registered user. All EFS-Web and Public PAIR users, whether non-registered or registered, can submit patent documents electronically and access public data. To fully leverage EFS-Web and Private PAIR features, users will need to be registered with a customer number and verified USPTO.gov account. Registration gives EFS-Web users the ability to electronically save materials being created for submission and to file follow-on materials. Additionally, registered users can access Private PAIR to review the status of their unpublished submissions and to track their patent applications online. Obtain a customer number There are two primary reasons to obtain and assign a customer number to your applications. First, a customer number can be used in lieu of a physical correspondence address. Second, it allows you to view your applications through Private PAIR. When a customer number is used as the correspondence address, it allows you to easily correlate all your filings and correspondence with a single mailing address, thus eliminating typographical errors or variations. This customer number will also ensure that only you can access your patent application information. In addition, once you have access to Private PAIR, you can make changes associated to the details of your customer number. You can create and obtain your unique new customer number, easily and quickly, in real time in Private PAIR. Alternatively, you can download and complete the Customer Number Request form [PDF] and fax it to the Electronic Business Center at 571-273-0177 If you already have patent applications on file with the USPTO, you need to associate these applications with your customer number. To associate existing patent applications with a customer number, please complete a change of correspondence address form PTO/AIA/122 [PDF] or PTO/SB122 [PDF] for an individual application to change the correspondence address to a customer number. Alternatively, you can download and complete the Customer Number Upload Spreadsheet [MS Excel]. This information can be sent on a CD or USB memory stick to: Mail Stop EBC Customer Number Commissioner for Patents P.O. Box 1450 Alexandria, VA 22313-1450 Obtain a verified USPTO.gov account The Patent Electronic Systems use the USPTO’s single sign-on (SSO) system, the USPTO.gov account, for secure two-factor authentication. USPTO.gov accounts are based on email addresses, and each account uses the email address as the account name or user ID. When you opt in to two-step authentication, you will receive a one-time verification code delivered by email, mobile device, or phone call to grant access to the Patent Electronic Systems. Obtaining a verified USPTO.gov account is a simple two-step process. Step 1: Apply for a USPTO.gov account USPTO.gov accounts can be created and managed through the MyUSPTO page. The MyUSPTO page allows users to create accounts, change passwords, enable two-step authentication, and record personal information, including alternate email addresses and telephone numbers. This information will be used to uniquely identify you and allow secure access to your patent data. If you need any assistance creating your USPTO.gov account, please call the USPTO Contact Center (UCC) at 800-786-9199 When creating your USPTO.gov account, enter your complete legal name, including first name, middle name (not initial), and last name and use this same name when submitting the Patent Electronic Verification Form. Complete legal names must be provided to avoid confusion among people who have same first name, middle initial, and last name.   You must opt in to two-step authentication for your USPTO.gov account to access EFS-WEB and Private PAIR. If the Electronic Business Center (EBC) determines that you have not selected two-step authentication when they are processing the Patent Electronic System Verification form, they will opt you in. The default delivery method of the authentication code will be email notification.  To assure the security of your data, follow the policy described in the Patent Electronic System Access Document [PDF] and Patent Electronic System Subscriber Agreement [PDF]. Step 2: Register your USPTO.gov account Now that you have obtained a customer number, created a USPTO.gov account, and read the Patent Electronic System Access Document and Patent Electronic System Subscriber Agreement, you can register your account. Download and complete the Patent Electronic Verification Form [PDF], have it notarized, and mail the original form to: Mail Stop EBC Customer Number Commissioner for Patents P.O. Box 1450 Alexandria, VA 22313-1450 Please note: The names listed on the USPTO.gov account and on the Patent Electronic Verification form must match. If the names do not match, the EBC will contact you so that you can modify the USPTO.gov account name to match the name listed on the submitted form. Additional instructions can be found at Patent Electronic Verification Form Instructions [PDF]. Common issues and how to avoid them   Check system status before you file: Check current system status, announcements, and dynamic messages to avoid any problems during the filing process. Dynamic messages appear in yellow at the top of the main EFS-Web and PAIR landing pages. Make sure PDFs follow EFS-Web requirements: EFS-Web has specific technical requirements for submitted PDF files. Make sure your files were created in a compatible PDF program (e.g. Adobe Acrobat), have all fonts embedded directly into the file, and are 8 ½ x 11 inches or A4 size, portrait mode. Additional guidance is available for PDF document creation and how to embed fonts in PDF documents.   Double-check your document indexing: If a document is misidentified during submission, notification of the document’s submission may not be sent to the appropriate business unit. Before finalizing your submission, double-check the indexing of the documents. Verify proper indexing by checking against the EFS-Web Document Descriptions List [MS Excel]. Review your submission in Private PAIR for accuracy: After filing, check Private PAIR to verify the contents of your submission for completeness and accuracy. Submissions can be viewed within minutes, but can take up to an hour. A customer number must be associated with the verified USPTO.gov account used for authentication. Missing documents may be filed as a follow-on submission on the same day (before midnight ET) to avoid a surcharge. Don’t wait until the last minute to file: Last, but not least, file early to avoid any unforeseen issues that might occur during submission. In the event of an outage, there are alternative filing options, which may include EFS-Web Contingency, express mail, fax, hand delivery, etc. Please keep in mind that deadlines are midnight ET and are generally unmovable under normal circumstances. Next generation tool: Patent Center Changes are on the horizon! Patent Center, the next generation tool in development, is scheduled to replace EFS-Web and PAIR in 2020. It features a unified interface, with all of the capabilities from today's tools in a single place, and much more. Benefits include increased functionality and overall system usefulness, enhanced user experience through improved interface, and improved processes for patent submission, review, and management. The Patent Center Beta Release is scheduled for 2019 and will be a great opportunity to begin using the new Patent Center tool and provide the eMod Team with feedback for further improvements. If you would like to sign up to receive additional information about the eMod Patent Center Beta Release, please send an email to eMod@uspto.gov with the subject line “Participation Request: eMod Patent Center Beta Release” to let us know that you’re interested. We will send an email to let you know when the guidelines and additional information has been updated and posted. Get help For additional questions or assistance, please contact the Patent Electronic Business Center (EBC) at 1-866-217-9197 (toll-free), 571-272-4100 (local), or ebc@uspto.gov. The EBC is available from 6 a.m. to midnight ET, Monday through Friday, and can assist customers with the various Patent Electronic Systems, which include filing their electronic patent application submissions via EFS-Web and with the review of patent applications in Public and Private PAIR.
  • Lonnie Johnson surrounded by attendees at USPTO’s Black History Month Celebration at Clark Atlanta University
    On February 21, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Minority Business Development Agency, The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the Clark Atlanta University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development cohosted a Black History Month celebration on the campus of Clark Atlanta University. The theme of the historic first-time program was “The Future of Business, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship.” Iconic inventor and Atlanta-based businessman Dr. Lonnie Johnson gave the keynote remarks. A prolific innovator behind more than 120 inventions ranging from spacecraft system design to the Super Soaker squirt gun, he is currently breaking new ground in lithium battery technology.  Johnson delivered an informative and inspiring address, from an insider’s perspective, to an audience of students, thought leaders, inventors, university faculty, community leaders, special guests, and aspiring business owners. He took listeners on a trip though the history of innovation, showing how inventions from thousands of years ago to the modern era have changed civilizations. Johnson noted that, after 228 years, the USPTO issued patent number 10 million last year. Given the rate of innovation, he said he expects that the next 10 million mark will take much less time to reach. During the Q&A session that followed his remarks, Johnson spoke directly to young aspiring business entrepreneurs. He shared the value of being resilient while starting a new enterprise and stressed how he works daily to increase his own “how to” knowledge of the invention process and the game-changing business strategies that allow him to innovate. The conversation ranged from Johnson’s personal career challenges and successes to his passion for the potential of future technological advances. Johnson received his first patent (number 4,143,267) on March 6, 1979 for a digital distance measuring instrument. Ten years later, he established his own engineering firm and licensed the Super Soaker® water gun, his most popular invention, to Larami Corporation, which was later acquired by Hasbro Corporation, the second largest toy manufacturer worldwide. To date, sales of the Super Soaker® have totaled close to $1 billion.  Currently, Johnson is working on rechargeable battery technology to solve problems related technology mobility. Other event participants included Program Manager of the Atlanta University Center Consortium Anthony Otey; Director of Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development and Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Clark Atlanta University Bruce D. Berger, Ph.D.; Business Manager Bonita Moore of the Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center; and Program Manager NaThanya Ferguson of the Office of Innovation Development, USPTO.
  • PTAB Advice: scales of justice
    The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is an adjudicative body within the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The PTAB decides appeals from the decisions of patent examiners, and adjudicates the patentability of issued patents challenged by third parties in post-grant proceedings. The Board has existed in some form since the 1800s. The PTAB consists of statutory members and administrative patent judges. The statutory members include the Director of the USPTO, the Deputy Director of the USPTO, the Commissioner for Patents, and the Commissioner for Trademarks. In addition to the statutory members, the PTAB includes a number of administrative patent judges (APJs) who are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce in consultation with the Director of the USPTO. Administrative patent judges are required by statute to be “persons of competent legal knowledge and scientific ability.” Thus, every APJ must have a technical background, in addition to a law degree, and experience in the legal field. Many APJs also have had distinguished engineering or scientific careers in addition to their extensive legal experience. If an applicant for a patent receives a second or final rejection by an examiner, the applicant may seek review of that rejection by the PTAB. The applicant may file written briefs to explain why he/she believes that the examiner made an error in declining to grant a patent. An applicant also may request a hearing to orally explain his/her position to the PTAB. The PTAB will then issue a decision, either affirming or reversing the examiner’s decision.    The PTAB also conducts trials under the America Invents Act (AIA); these include inter partes review, covered business method review, post grant review, and derivation proceedings. For the first three types of proceedings, a member of the public can challenge the patentability of claims in an issued patent in a petition to the PTAB. For example, in inter partes reviews, a petition may challenge an issued patent on grounds of anticipation or obviousness. These petitions often identify prior art patents and publications that might not have been considered by the examiner. Other post grant proceedings may present other challenges to patentability. For example, post grant review proceedings may challenge the written description support or subject matter eligibility of claims. In addition, in a derivation, the PTAB determines whether one party derived a claimed invention from another. In proceedings under the AIA, there are two phases. In the first phase, the PTAB decides whether to institute a trial based upon the petition and any preliminary response that the patent owner may file. In the second phase, if instituted, the trial is conducted. Based upon the totality of the arguments and evidence, the PTAB will issue a final written decision as to whether claims of the patent should stand. The AIA trial proceedings were intended to be an alternative to district court litigation with several key differences from district court proceedings. For instance, AIA trials are conducted before a panel of three technically-trained administrative patent judges whereas district court litigation may be in front of a jury. Also, while discovery is available in both forums, discovery before the PTAB is more limited in scope, thereby costing the parties less to litigate. Finally, PTAB trials conclude normally within 12 months from institution; district court litigation, in contrast, may take several years to conclude. Currently, the PTAB decides about 12,000 appeals and 1,500 trial proceedings per year. Decisions of the PTAB may be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. More information about PTAB is available from the USPTO Inventors Assistance Center at https://www.uspto.gov/InventorAssistance  
  • Patent 3,482,037 - home security system utilizing television surveillance. Patent 743,801 - Window cleansing device
    While we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, the influence of women inventors is felt year-round through innovations that save lives, give us a sense of safety and security, and assist us with meeting our physiological needs. Inventors Eye takes a look at the past and present to salute the many women inventors whose groundbreaking creations have contributed to our well-being. Mary AndersonU.S. Patent no. 743,801Window cleaning device The same April showers that bring beautiful May flowers can also impair driver visibility. Thanks to Mary Anderson’s invention of the mechanical windshield wiper, patented on November 10, 1903, we are safer when riding in a vehicle during rainy or snowy weather. In the early 20 century, horse-drawn carriages were the typical means for transportation. Few people owned cars and for those that did traveled at such slow speeds that a glass windshield was not needed to protect the driver or passengers. At the time of Anderson’s invention, many people did not see the value of having windshield wipers, but she anticipated what would become an absolute necessity. Can you imagine driving a car that didn’t have windshield wipers while it’s raining or snowing? Having to make frequent stops, while driving in inclement weather, to get out and manually clean a windshield would be unthinkable to many, if not all, of today’s drivers.                                                                                                         Marie V.B. BrownU.S. Patent no. 3,482,037Home security system utilizing television surveillance During the spring and summer months, many people will leave their homes to take much-deserved vacations. It’s a time to relax, have fun, and enjoy the company of friends and family. No one wants to end their vacation with the news that their home has been broken into. While today’s advanced home security systems give vacationers peace of mind by allowing them to monitor their homes remotely, in the 1960s the idea for a home surveillance device seemed almost impossible. In 1966, Marie Van Brittan Brown was concerned for her safety as her neighborhood’s crime rate increased. She decided to take matters into her own hands in order to feel safe again. Brown invented an early closed-circuit television system to be used for home monitoring that included a video scanning device and audio equipment. The security system also included a remote door unlocking mechanism. Brown’s invention was the forerunner of all advanced home security technology in use today. Stephanie Kwolek Kevlar U.S. Patent no. 3,671,542Optically anisotropic aromatic polyamide dopes As the number of daylight hours increases and the outdoor temperature rises, we are afforded more opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities. Did you know that the same Kevlar that is used in lifesaving bulletproof armor for law enforcement officers and military service members is also used to help keep us safe and protected while we’re out having fun in the sun? In 1965 Stephanie Kwolek, while working as a chemist at the DuPont Company, carried out experiments to develop light, strong, and stiff fibers to replace the steel wires used in car tires. Engineers thought that a lighter tire would improve gas mileage. Through these experiments, Kwolek discovered Kevlar, a polymer fiber of exceptional strength, five times stronger than an equal weight of steel but lighter than fiberglass and able to withstand high temperatures. In addition to improving tire manufacturing, Kevlar has gone on to be used in more than 200 applications, appearing in products ranging from canoes and racing sails to athletic gear and heat-resistant cooking gloves. The next time you are outdoors having fun, Kevlar may very well be keeping you safe and protected. Kavita Shukla U.S. Patent no. 6,372,220Fenugreek impregnated material for the preservation of perishable substances The best time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables is in season, when they are at their highest quality and most affordable. The spring season brings a variety of fruits and vegetables that are not only delicious but also good additions to a healthy diet. The local grocery store or farmers market may offer tasty asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, and more, but the hard truth is that bacteria may cause your fresh produce to go bad before you have a chance to enjoy it. Often, we end up throwing spoiled food away. Kavita Shukla’s invention, FRESHPAPERTM, is a sheet of paper embedded with natural botanicals to preserve and extend the shelf life of perishable substances such as fresh produce. FRESHPAPERTM is now used by farmers and families across the globe. Anna Stork and Andrea SreshtaU.S. Patent no 9,347,629Inflatable solar-powered light After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta were inspired to invent a simple, sustainable, durable, and rechargeable light that could be cost-effectively distributed after disasters. The two women successfully obtained a patent for their inflatable solar-powered light, now branded and sold as LuminAID. LuminAID has provided light to families all over the world whose homes have been destroyed following natural disasters such as extreme floods or severe weather. Access to light helps keep families safer and more comfortable as they recover. Stork and Sreshta are applauded for their innovation that solves a problem encountered during the darkest of times.    
  • 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 oidevents@uspto.gov or by phone at 571-272-8033. 
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.    
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 www.uspto.gov. I am sure our readers will find this interview to be enlightening and helpful. And hopefully inspiring as well.
  • 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 oidevents@uspto.gov or call 571-272-8033. For more information, including how to register, visit our event page.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Collegiate Inventors Competition winners from 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.
  • 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.  
  •  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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • 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 innovationdevelopment@uspto.gov.
  • 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! 
  • 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, www.tiptough.com.    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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 www.uspto.gov and the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) to locate publically available educational resources.
  • 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
  • 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. 
  • 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 oidevents@uspto.gov.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.  
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Light bulbs
    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 United States of America Alabama Invent Alabama 866.745.6319 Alabama Inventors Clubs 256.229.5551 Columbus Phenix City Inventors Association http://www.cpcinventorsassociation.org/ Attorneys General State House 11 S. Union St. Montgomery AL 36130 ago.state.al.us Alaska Attorneys General 907.465.3600 P.O. Box 110300 Diamond Courthouse Juneau AK 99811-0300 www.law.state.ak.us Arizona Inventors Association of Arizona, Inc. azinventors.org 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 azag.gov Arkansas Arkansas Inventors' Network arkansasinvents.org Attorneys General 800.482.8982 200 Tower Bldg. 323 Center St. Little Rock AR 72201-2610 California Inventors Alliance inventorsalliance.org Inventors Forum inventorsforum.org San Diego Inventors Forum sdinventors.org Thomas Jefferson School of Law Patent Clinic www.tjsl.edu/clinics/patent-clinic Attorneys General 916.445.9555 1300 I St., Ste. 1740 Sacramento CA 95814 ag.ca.gov Colorado Inventors Roundtable inventorsroundtable.com Rocky Mountain Inventors Association rminventor.org Attorneys General 1525 Sherman Street Denver CO 80203 coloradoattorneygeneral.gov Connecticut Inventors Association of Connecticut inventus.org Connecticut Invention Convention ctinventionconvention.org Attorneys General 860.808.5318 55 Elm St. Hartford CT 06141-0120 ct.gov/ag Delaware Delaware Entrepreneurs Forum 302.652.4241 Attorneys General 302.577.8338 Carvel State Office Bldg. 820 N. French St. Wilmington DE 19801 attorneygeneral.delaware.gov District of Columbia Inventors Network of the Capital Area dcinventors.org Attorneys General 202.724.1305 John A. Wilson Building 1350 PA Ave NW Suite 409 Washington DC 20009 occ.dc.gov Florida Edison Inventors Association, Inc. edisoninventors.org Tampa Bay Inventors' Council tbic.us Inventors Society of South Florida inventorssociety.net Attorneys General 850.414.3300 The Capitol PL 01 Tallahassee FL 32399-1050 Georgia Inventors Association of Georgia, Inc. galainventorsgroup.org Columbus Phenix City Inventors Association http://www.cpcinventorsassociation.org/ Attorneys General 404.656.3300 40 Capitol Square SW Atlanta GA 30334.-1300 georgia.gov/02/ago/home/0,2705,87670814,00.html Hawaii Hawaii International Inventors Association Inc. 808.523.5555 Attorneys General 425 Queen St. Honolulu HI 96813 hawaii.gov/ag Idaho Inventors Association of Idaho 208.255.4321 x223 See http://www.inventorsassociationofidaho.com/ for meeting place directions East Idaho Inventors Forum 208.346.6763 Attorneys General Statehouse Boise ID 83720-1000 www2.state.id.us/ag Illinois Illinois Innovators and Inventors P.O. Box 58 Edwardsville IL 62025 ilinventor.tripod.com Chicago Inventors Organization chicago-inventors.org INVINT Innovation Viability Network Central Illinois invint.org Attorneys General 312.814.3000 James R. Thompson Ctr. 100 W. Randolph St. Chicago IL 60601 illinoisattorneygeneral.gov 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 in.gov/attorneygeneral Iowa Iowa Inventors Group iowainventorsgroup.org Drake University Inventor Program 515.271.2655 Attorneys General 515.281.5164 Hoover State Office Bldg. 1305 E. Walnut Des Moines IA 50319 IowaAttorneyGeneral.org Kansas Inventors Assoc. of So. Central Kansas 316.681.2358 Mid-America Inventors Association 913.371.7011 Inventor's Club of KC inventorsclubofkc.org Attorneys General 785.296.2215 120 S.W. 10th Ave. 2nd Fl. Topeka KS 66612-1597 www.ksag.org Kentucky Central Kentucky Inventors Council ckic.org Attorneys General 502.696.5300 700 Capitol Ave. Capitol Building Suite 118 Frankfort KY 40601 ag.ky.gov Louisiana Attorneys General 225.326.6000 P.O. Box 94095 Baton Rouge LA 70804-4095 ag.state.la.us Maine Attorneys General 207.626.8800 State House Station 6 Augusta ME 04333 maine.gov/ag Maryland Inventors Network of the Capital Area dcinventors.org Attorneys General 410.576.6300 200 St. Paul Place Baltimore MD 21202-2202 www.oag.state.md.us Massachusetts Inventors' Association of New England inventne.org Innovators' Resource Network irnetwork.org Inventors' Roundtable inventorsroundtable.com National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance nciia.org Attorneys General 617.727.2200 1 Ashburton Place Boston MA 02108-1698 mass.gov/ago Michigan The Entrepreneur Network tenonline.org Inventors Council of Mid Michigan inventorscouncil.org InventorEd.org inventored.org The Flint and Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce thegrcc.org Attorneys General P.O.Box 30212 525 W. Ottawa St. Lansing MI 48909-0212 michigan.gov/ag Minnesota Inventors' Network inventornetwork.org Minnesota Inventors Congress 235 S. Mill St. P.O. Box 71 Redwood Falls MN 56283 minnesotainventorscongress.org Attorneys General 651.296.3353 State Capitol Ste. 102 St. Paul MN 55155 www.ag.state.mn.us Mississippi Society of Mississippi Inventors Assistance mssbdc.org Attorneys General 601.359.3680 Department of Justice P.O. Box 220 Jackson MS 37205-0220 www.ago.state.ms.us List your organization in Inventors Eye Missouri Inventors Association of St. Louis inventorsconnection.org Attorneys General 573.751.3321 Supreme Ct. Bldg. 207 W. High St. Jefferson City MO 65101 ago.mo.gov 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 doj.mt.gov Nebraska Lincoln Inventors Association Attorneys General 402.471.2682 State Capitol P.O.Box 98920 Lincoln NE 68509-8920 www.ago.state.ne.us Nevada Nevada Inventors Association nevadainventors.org Attorneys General 775.684.1100 Old Supreme Ct. Bldg. 100 N. Carson St. Carson City NV 89701 ag.state.nv.us New Hampshire New Hampshire Inventors 603.228.3854 Attorneys General 603.271.3658 State House Annex 33 Capitol St. Concord NH 03301-6397 doj.nh.gov New Jersey National Society of Inventors 609.799.4574 nationalinventors.com New Jersey Entrepreneurs Forum njef.org Attorneys General 609.292.8740 Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex 25 Market St. CN 080 Trenton NJ 08625 http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ New Mexico New Mexico Inventors Club 505.266.3541 Attorneys General 505.827.6000 P.O. Drawer 1508 Sante Fe NM 87504-1508 nmag.gov New York Inventors Society of Western New York inventny.org Suffolk County Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club  631-415-5013 Inventors Association of Manhattan http://www.manhattan-inventors.org/ Attorneys General 518.474.7330 Dept. of Law, The Capitol 2nd fl. Albany NY 12224 oag.state.ny.us North Carolina Inventors' Network of the Carolinas inotc.org Attorneys General 919.716.6400 Dept. of Justice P.O.Box 629 Raleigh NC 27602-0629 ncdoj.com North Dakota Northern Plains Inventors Congress ndinventors.com 701.281.8822 Attorneys General 701.328.2210 State Capitol 600 E. Boulevard Ave. Bismarck ND 58505-0040 ag.state.nd.us Ohio Inventors Connection Greater Cleveland 440.941.6567 Inventor's Council of Cincinnati inventcincy.org Attorneys General 614.466.4320 State Office Tower 30 E. Broad St. Columbus OH 43266-0410 ohioattorneygeneral.gov Oklahoma Oklahoma Inventors Congress 405.348.7794 oklahomainventors.com Attorneys General 405.521.3921 State Capitol Rm. 112 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Oklahoma City OK 73105 oag.state.ok.us Oregon Portland Inventors Group 503.288.4558 Micro-Inventors Program of Oregon mipooregon.org South Oregon Inventors Council 541.772.3478 Attorneys General 503.378.4732 Justice Bldg. 1162 Court St. NE Salem OR 97301 doj.state.or.us Pennsylvania American Society of Inventors americaninventor.org Pittsburgh East Inventors Club inventionburgh.wordpress.com Attorneys General 717.787.3391 1600 Strawberry Square Harrisburg PA 17120 attorneygeneral.gov Rhode Island The Center for Design & Business 401.454.6108 Attorneys General 401.274.4400 150 S. Main St. Providence RI 02903 www.riag.state.ri.us South Carolina Inventors Network of the Carolinas portal.inotc.org Attorneys General Rembert C. Dennis Office Bldg. P.O.Box 11549 Columbia SC 29211-1549 scattorneygeneral.org South Dakota South Dakota Inventors Congress 605.688.4184 Attorneys General 1302 East Highway 14 Suite 1 Pierre SD 57501.8501 state.sd.us/attorney Tennessee Inventors' Association of Middle Tennessee 615.681.6462 Tennessee Inventors Association tninventors.org Attorneys General 615.741.5860 500 Charlotte Ave. Nashville TN 37243 attorneygeneral.state.tn.us Texas Alamo Inventors alamoinventors.org Houston Inventors Association inventors.org Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurs Association austininventors.org Texas Inventors Association www.txinventors.com Young Inventors Showcase (Houston) http://www.younginventorsshowcase.org/ Attorneys General 512.463.2100 Capitol Station P.O.Box 12548 Austin TX 78711-2548 www.oag.state.tx.us Utah Inventors' Roundtable inventorsroundtable.com Utah Inventors utahinventor.org Attorneys General 801.538.9600 State Capitol Rm. 236 Salt Lake City UT 84114-0810 attorneygeneral.utah.gov Vermont InventVermont www.inventvermont.com/ Attorneys General 802.828.3173 109 State St. Montpelier VT 05609-1001 www.atg.state.vt.us Virginia Inventors Network of the Capital Area dcinventors.org Virginia Inventors Forum, Inc. http://www.virginiainventors.org/ Attorneys General 900 E. Main St. Richmond VA 23219 oag.state.va.us Washington Inventors Network 503.239.8299 Attorneys General 1125 Washington St. SE PO Box 40100 Olympia WA 98504-0100 atg.wa.gov 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 wvago.us Wisconsin Inventors Network of Wisconsin 920.429.0331 Attorneys General 114 East State Capitol P.O.Box 7857 Madison WI 53707-7857 www.doj.state.wi.us Wyoming Attorneys General State Capitol Bldg. Cheyenne WY 82002 attorneygeneral.state.wy.us _______________________ Australia Inventors Association of Australia (Federal), Inc. www.australian-inventors.asn.au United Kingdom British Inventors Society http://www.thebis.org/ The Institute of Patentees and Inventors http://www.invent.org.uk/
  • 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 nonprovisional 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 nonprovisional utility application, is given a unique identifier by the USPTO. If the applicant is filing a nonprovisional 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.
  • Light bulbs
    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 United States of America Alabama Invent Alabama 866.745.6319 Alabama Inventors Clubs 256.229.5551 Columbus Phenix City Inventors Association http://www.cpcinventorsassociation.org/ Attorneys General State House 11 S. Union St. Montgomery AL 36130 ago.state.al.us Alaska Attorneys General 907.465.3600 P.O. Box 110300 Diamond Courthouse Juneau AK 99811-0300 www.law.state.ak.us Arizona Inventors Association of Arizona, Inc. azinventors.org 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 azag.gov Arkansas Arkansas Inventors' Network arkansasinvents.org Attorneys General 800.482.8982 200 Tower Bldg. 323 Center St. Little Rock AR 72201-2610 California Inventors Alliance inventorsalliance.org Inventors Forum inventorsforum.org San Diego Inventors Forum sdinventors.org Thomas Jefferson School of Law Patent Clinic www.tjsl.edu/clinics/patent-clinic Attorneys General 916.445.9555 1300 I St., Ste. 1740 Sacramento CA 95814 ag.ca.gov Colorado Inventors Roundtable inventorsroundtable.com Rocky Mountain Inventors Association rminventor.org Attorneys General 1525 Sherman Street Denver CO 80203 coloradoattorneygeneral.gov Connecticut Inventors Association of Connecticut inventus.org Connecticut Invention Convention ctinventionconvention.org Attorneys General 860.808.5318 55 Elm St. Hartford CT 06141-0120 ct.gov/ag Delaware Delaware Entrepreneurs Forum 302.652.4241 Attorneys General 302.577.8338 Carvel State Office Bldg. 820 N. French St. Wilmington DE 19801 attorneygeneral.delaware.gov District of Columbia Inventors Network of the Capital Area dcinventors.org Attorneys General 202.724.1305 John A. 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  • 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.”
  • 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 innovationdevelopment@uspto.gov. Wishing you all the best, and happy inventing! -Mindy  
  • 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.
  • 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 www.uspto.gov/financialmanager and www.uspto.gov/patentmaintenancefees 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!  
  • 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.