November's featured article
Independent Inventors Gather at the USPTO to Share Ideas
On November 5, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held the 15th annual Independent Inventors Conference at its headquarters in Alexandria, Va., where USPTO Director David Kappos was the keynote speaker at the conference luncheon.
“This was my second Independent Inventors Conference that I have been a part of since becoming Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I’ve been amazed and compelled by the diversity, level of commitment to intellectual property as well as social issues and entrepreneurship that independent inventors display,” said Kappos.
Kappos added that the independent inventor community is responsible for some of the most cutting-edge innovation, invention, and ingenuity in the country and that businesses owned by independent inventors account for two out of every three new American jobs.
Highlighting the accomplishments of young inventors, Kappos recounted an example of a group of middle school students who, in response to the FIRST LEGO League competition theme of transportation, recently developed an innovative steering wheel mechanism designed to prevent people from engaging in the dangerous practice of text messaging while driving. “The young inventors have now obtained pro-bono legal services and are seeking a utility patent on their innovation,” added Kappos.
He also spoke of Julia Rhodes, a former school teacher and innovator of a dry erase paddle used by school children to draw, write, and hold up answers to share with the class and their teachers. Kappos said the paddles inspire creativity in the classroom and allow teachers to utilize new and innovative methods to encourage student participation.
“Julia has built a thriving international company, KleenSlate Concepts,® with a growing line of award-winning products. But it wasn’t only her innovative product that made Julia’s company a success. Once she knew her idea was a good one, she filed for intellectual property protection. Today, Julia has four U.S. patents, two U.S. trademarks and two international patents with more pending,” Kappos said.
“In talking about her invention, Julia said that independent inventors built this country and independent inventors are going to bring us back out of recession. Companies like GE®, Microsoft®, Google™ and Apple® started as small companies from individual inventors and have now grown into major international corporations,” Kappos added.
Kappos said the USPTO recognizes the importance of independent inventors in spurring economic growth and that the USPTO is working to ensure that all of our nation’s inventors have access to our IP system.
“Over the past year, we’ve put a focus on improving our service to independent inventors and small business. We have developed new programs to aid inventors as they secure intellectual property protection on their invention, and we’re working to develop new programs and initiatives that will make the IP system easier to use for the independent inventor community,” said Kappos.
The USPTO currently offers a 50-percent reduction on filing, issue, and maintenance fees for those that qualify as small entities, including independent inventors, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. Small entities are eligible for an additional 50-percent reduction in filing fees for utility applications if they’re filed electronically. Kappos encouraged all independent inventors to take advantage of the reduced fees.
“We’re also dedicated to IP education. Our Inventor Assistance Program fosters innovation and improves inventor access to intellectual property rights. The hard work of the USPTO employees who run the program has led to major successes in the past years. The program reaches out to inventors through workshops and seminars at conferences and universities around the country. The team creates and shares computer training modules on the USPTO web site to help educate independent inventors on best practices related to intellectual property, prosecution, protection, and enforcement. In an effort to make these educational opportunities more accessible to everyone, we are now posting podcasts on the iTunes® system and I hope you will find them informative and useful,” Kappos said.
In addition to educational opportunities, the USPTO is working to provide inventors with easier access to the IP system. Kappos explained that this includes the formation of strategic partnerships with organizations that are best situated to help independent inventors protect their ideas. One such project, the “University Project,” connects inventors with IP law students and faculty mentors throughout the country to provide pro bono assistance in patent prosecutions. Kappos added that the USPTO is now working closely with a major city's IP association to set up a program that will offer pro bono legal assistance from IP attorneys to independent inventors. More details on this project will be available as soon as discussions are finalized.
“It is our number one goal at the USPTO to keep America at the forefront of technological innovation and helping independent inventors get their innovations from the drawing board to the marketplace is a big part of that plan,” Kappos said.
“A great idea is a great idea regardless of it source and independent inventors by their creative nature have an abundance of great ideas,” he added.