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Published October 27, 2017
A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Kelly Haigler Cornish, Wyoming SBIR/STTR Initiative program manager
“Where can I get no-cost patent assistance for my invention?” Julie, Casper
Getting a patent can be expensive. It is not unusual for the cost to run into the tens of thousands of dollars for a U.S. patent. The total cost of patenting includes attorney fees and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) filing fees and maintenance fees. It is wise to look for ways keep these costs to a minimum.
The first stop in your innovation process should be a visit with a local SBDC Network counselor who can help you explore the market potential for an innovation to help decide if your business model requires patenting. Often, being first to market is a more cost-effective strategy.
Once you have explored the financial landscape and determined that patenting makes sense, there are several no-cost resources available to assist innovators with patenting questions and the actual patenting process:
-- Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center (WTTRPC). The University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Business Council partnered to offer no-cost intellectual property assistance to Wyoming individuals and small businesses at the Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center (WTTRPC).
While the WTTRPC does not provide legal advice, the staff can answer questions on patents, trademarks, copyright and trade secrets. The office employs law school interns to review invention disclosures from a patenting perspective using the USPTO seven-step strategy. Innovators can then use the results of this research to refine ideas or decide that patenting, and a visit to a patent agent or attorney, is the next step. To learn more about the services of the WTTRPC, visit www.uwyo.edu/rpc.
-- Wyoming Patent and Trademark Resource Center: The Wyoming State Library is a USPTO-designated Patent and Trademark Resource Center. The staff assists with general questions and provides guidance on the use of the patent and trademark resources, including a designated work station. To learn more, visit http://library.wyo.gov/services/ptrc/.
At the Wyoming State Library, innovators are taught the USPTO seven-step strategy and provided the resources so they can do the research themselves.
-- Pro Bono Patent Program. The USPTO offers assistance to inventors or small businesses who have limited resources and need help applying for patents for their inventions. This pro-bono service provides an attorney to those qualified applicants with an income of three times the federal poverty levels or less. Residents of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming can apply for funding through Mi Casa under its Pro Bono Patent Program.
-- Law School Clinic Certification Program. In this program, innovators work with law students through a law school clinic program. Law school students practice trademark and patent law under the strict supervision of a law school faculty clinic supervisor. While the UW College of Law does not participate, several law schools are available and welcome inquiries from all states. Specific services vary by state.
-- Pro Se Assistance Program. While the USPTO always recommends innovators use a registered patent agent or attorney, the agency recognizes that not everyone can afford such an attorney. Comprehensive assistance is provided to those who decide to file patent applications on their own.
This service includes dedicated personnel to assist applicants, in-person assistance at the USPTO headquarters, support to connect applicants to resources and online resources. Using these resources, innovators can make wise decisions on how to allocate their limited business resources while making the best strategic decisions regarding their intellectual property and innovations.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at www.wyomingsbdc.org/blog1/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.