Patent Pro Bono Program Assists Innovators in Assessing and Advancing Their Ideas


Ideas are easy to come by. Much more difficult is the task of determining whether or not the idea is any good. Tougher still is attempting to examine and communicate “why” the idea is or is not good. Ask a patent attorney and the answer is likely to read on the elements of patentability. Ask VC and the answer is likely to reflect that person’s view of a good venture capital investment. For an early-stage innovator, though, the criteria underlying a “good” idea are likely broader and more nuanced, requiring creative, diligent examination.

In order to assist community innovators with their approach to these questions, the Patent Pro Bono Program for Ohio joined forces with community stakeholders charged with serving early stage innovators to create a coalition that would take this challenge head on.

As a first foray into the topic, this coalition convened the first Inventors & Makers Resource Fair on May 24th at the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] building at Case Western Reserve University. During the invitation-only session, these stakeholders introduced a group of community of over two dozen under-resourced community inventors, makers and entrepreneurs to the network of resources that specialize in taking an idea to the next level. Registered participants came from all over the state of Ohio to benefit from the intimate one-on-one conversations preceded by presentations centering around the most consequential services offered by each organization.

Think[box], the largest community maker space in the country, served as a perfect venue to examine “What Constitutes A Good Idea,” while connecting participants with a host of community resources devoted to helping innovators navigate through each stage of exploring and developing their ideas. Participating organizations were selected based on the degree to which their services aligned with discreet stages of the innovation journey. Are you in the experimentation/demonstration stage? See think[box] for training and access to fabrication and prototyping equipment. Are you stuck in the idea advocacy and screening stages? Make an appointment with the Cleveland Public Library’s Government Resources & Expertise department to receive access to census data and statistics from various federal and state agencies, patent and trademark research tools and business planning resources. Innovators walked away excited, hopeful and most importantly, equipped with a better understanding of what resources exist that can assist them in advancing their idea.

This very successful kick-off event was organized and presented by the Patent Pro Bono Program for Ohio in partnership with think[box], the Cleveland Public Library’s Tech Central and Patent & Trademark Resource Center, Innovation Fund America, Jumpstart, and the IP Venture Clinic. In addition to these organizations, the United States Patent & Trademark Office, In Your Own Backyard, and the Economic Community Development Institute were also on hand to network and offer insight and assistance into how their respective organizations can assist in progressing one’s idea.

Since May, we have continued to advance this exploration by holding a second session, Inventors & Entrepreneur’s Unconference on February 2nd, which was attended by over 50 innovators and makers. Stay tuned, we will continue to experiment with both venue and substance as we advance our exploration of both needs and resources in the early stage innovator and maker communities.