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Government Resources for Inventors

Apr 3, 2008
Inventing can be tough, dirty (through enthralling) work. Fortunately, inventors do not have to go it alone! As it turns out, the government makes certain resources available for inventors to use in their efforts. These resources can come in the form of grants (money) and information. Whichever type of resource you are seeking, you would do well to familiarize yourself with what is available. In this article, we will explore the 2 types of resources the government provides to inventors and offer examples of each. We will begin with information resources.

Information Resources

First and foremost, the government provides information resources to inventors of all kinds. The bulk of this information comes from the United States Patent & Trademark Office. One of the more helpful links on the USPTO website is their Inventor Resources website.

Here, inventors of all kinds can learn about patents, what they are, how to apply for them, and more. They can also read about the types of inventions that are patentable, a huge aid in deciding whether an idea is worth pursuing. Some of the links on this webpage are especially helpful to inventors who are new to the field.

"What is a Patent" walks inventors through the ins and outs of what a patent actually is. Most inventors should begin their education here.

Once you are familiar with what a patent is, the USPTO offers a helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about patents. If you have ever wondered what "patent pending" means or whether the USPTO will spill your trade secrets to other inventors, you will find the answers here.

There are also helpful links for those who are already "in the know" on intellectual property. For those looking to file design patents, for example, the USPTO offers an eye-opening guide on how to get the ball rolling and follow all the rules in the process. Things like making proper claims, documenting your drawings, and other crucial procedures are spelled out in unmistakable detail, all free of charge.

Finally, one area of the webpage answers the question "What Free Assistance is Available from the USPTO?" Here you will find support phone numbers, operation hours, access to forms, and more.

Last but not least, the USPTO provides a much-needed debunking of the myths surroundings patents and trademarks. In an age where late-night infomercials promise the ability to market your ideas and many believe they can mail themselves a "poor man's patent" of documents in a federally stamped envelope, this is invaluable education on the true nature of intellectual property. If you are even thinking about getting a patent, trademark, or copyright for your invention, consider this free, informative PDF document required reading. Do not let your dreams of invention success fall prey to someone's sleazy scams.

In short, the USPTO website should be considered the authority for information resources on inventing. The other type of resource the government makes available to inventors are financial resources.

Financial Resources

Certain government agencies also provide financial assistance to inventors, especially if their invention will be used to start a small business. The Small Business Association (SBA) is the best place to start looking for funds if this is the direction you are considering. Specifically, you should check the "SBA Procurements and Grants Hotlist", which we've linked to below. According to the About website, this list "Connects you with every major U.S. Government grant by listing each agency's procurement & acquisition site; find a request that will fund for your technology development."

About.com also reports that the Community of Science offers a number of grants and funding options to inventors and researchers:

"Funding and grant opportunities for research and development, this database is huge. They also have access to job postings, career resources, recruiting centers and more. You can also locate bioresearch, drug discovery, and laboratory equipment and supplies online. They currently deliver more than 1.2 million targeted funding matches over the Internet to scientists and scholars each week."

The United States Department of Energy is another agency that provides funds for inventions in its area of functioning. If your invention has anything to do with energy conservation or efficiency, this would be well worth looking into. From the DOE website:

"For individuals or small businesses, developing an energy-saving invention can be difficult. The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Inventions and Innovation (I&I) offers financial and technical support to inventors and businesses for promising energy-saving concepts and technologies. I&I selects technologies to receive grants through a competitive process."

Selling a Patent

In short, the government provides a great deal of information and money to dedicated inventors willing to seek it out. If you need clarification on some aspect of intellectual property or a grant, chances are you can find it.
About the Author
Eric Corl is the President of Idea Buyer LLC, a marketplace for new technology and products that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com. You can visit the site by visiting this address; http://www.ideabuyer.com New Technology and Products, Patents for Sale.
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