The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, October 23, 1990, THE SOWER, Page 5, Image 17

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    turns profit
Joe Sorenson
Despite protection,
some inventors
taken to cleaners
Herbert Hoover, an in
formation specialist for the
Nebraska Technical Assis
tance Center, has some
horror stories to tell —
stories about Nebraska
inventors who sent their
ideas and life savings to
invention submission com
panies and never saw re
turn on their investments.
“Over the last two years.
(NTAC) has received proba
bly over a dozen calls" from
inventors who were taken
by submission companies.
Hoover said.
Une inventor lost $8,(XX) to a sub
mission company. Hoover said. And he
said the inventor had no way of getting
the money back.
“Its not a good story." he said. “It’s a
sad story, in fact.”
Hoover said the problem is that no
one knows how many Nebraskans are
taken by submission companies.
“I feel there are a lot more out there."
he said.
Hoover said most invention submis
sion companies work from the East
Coast, with Washington. D.C., Penn
sylvania and Massachusetts the three
areas where most locate.
The submission companies charge
several thousand dollars to send ideas
to marketing companies. But inven
tors could do the same thing them
selves for the cost of postage. Hoover
The biggest problem with submis
sion companies is that they do not do
“good, tnorough patent searches."
Hoover said. A patent search involves
looking through other patents to deter
mine if an invention is unique.
Submission companies “don’t follow
up on their promises." Hoover said.
“They run with the idea without check
ing to see if the idea is available for
them to use in first place."
The inventor should have gone to
the nearest patent depository or li
brary" to do a patent search. Hoover
Marvin Twersky, president of the
Lincoln Inventors Association, said
patent searches are important.
“I would say it's the first thing, the
No. 1 thing you do." Twersky said.
Hoover said one inventor who
called NTAC for help had contributed
almost $35,000 to a submission com
pany and it was asking for more. Then,
“we did a search and the idea was
already patented” by someone else.
Hoover said.
But inventors don't have to rely on
submission companies for help in ap
plying for patents and researching and
marketing their inventions.
Help is available from such resources
as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Engineering Library patent depository,
the Lincoln Inventors Association and
Alan Gould, librarian at the Univer
sity of Nebraska-Lincoln Engineering
Library, said the library has been a
patent depository since 1978. Patents
on collection there run from 1790
1889 and 1941 to the present.
NTAC does free patent searches for
many inventors, but inventors may do
searches themselves or with assistance
at the library. Gould said.
Hoover said NTAC interns will do a
free patent search on an idea, but they
have a four to five month backlog. For
inventors, doing their own searches
has the advantage of keeping the idea
secret, he said.
NTAC also offers short-term engi
neering assistance. Hoover said. After
helping with patent searches and pro
viding engineering assistance. NTAC
officials refer the inventors to business
development centers.
Although NTAC provides research
services, its officials cannot ask inven
tors to stop using submission compa
nies. Hoover said, because the compa
nies operate legally. But NTAC can tell
its clients to be wary.
“When we get through working with
a client, we may say they should get a
patent attorney." Hoover said.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Of
fice offers the Disclosure Document
Program which allows inventors to
register their ideas with the patent
office. These papers are kept at the
Patent office for two years. The inven
tor is not given patent protection, but
this allows them to register their idea.
Twersky said one oilhe biggest pro
tections for inventors is keeping a bound
notebook, or personal log, during the
development oi a product. This includes
drawing diagrams and keeping full daily
records of progress.
Hoover said l he personal logs estab
lish the dales of the conception of the
“The best are the personal logs."
Hoover said. “The more documents the
better to win a (patent) case."
Another possible help for inventors
could be considered by the Nebraska
Legislature as soon as next session.
Twersky said many states, includ
ing Nebraska, are considering tighter
restrictions on invention submission
In Nebraska. Sen. Lowell Johnson of
North Bend said he is working with
several groups and individuals on writ
ing similar legislation.
Johnson said one of his constitu
ents got him interested in the issue
after he reported having trouble with
an invention submission company.
See COMPANIES on Page 11