Friday, November 1, 2013

Money (Mostly Contests) for Inventors, and Maybe Pro Bono Legal Assistance, Too.

A patron walked in and wanted to know where the money was for grants for an invention.  Good question.  Besides the ripoff sites that will tell you about some maybe-grants for a small fee, where did you look?

The most obvious are SBIR and STTR programs available from the feds, specifically, the Department of Commerce.  They exist to push ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace.  However, they follow my ironclad rule of No Free Money: there is only money available for stuff that the funder would like to see done.  The feds are quite specific about what sorts of inventions and innovations they would like to see brought to market.  If your invention fits that desire, you may benefit.  But what if they don't?

I recently discovered a link from the Lemels MIT program that encourages inventions from young people, and lists contests and grants.  It was exciting, but then I realized that it was 99% contests and very little in the way of outright grants, many of them not for inventors, but particularly student inventors.  If you are a student inventor, you should check it out.  However, there is one that California inventors in the field of energy alternatives should check out--the small grant (up to $95,000) available in the energy field.  The research must address a California energy problem, and either the grant recipient or a subcontractor involved must be a California Based Entity.  See this solicitation for the definition. 

If you wish, check out the page, but it won't contain anything new.  However, if you follow their links, you will find some information about pro bono help for inventors trying to get a patent.   It consists of state links, in which patent assistance is (sometimes) available, in the form of patent deposit libraries, but sometimes in the case of law schools who have students perform pro bono patent work

The scam protection page is worthwhile, because inventors seem to attract scammers like bees around a flower.  It names some firms that have been sued for trying to scam inventors, and tells you what to look out for before contacting these firms.

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