By: Bonnie Smith

One of the unique aspects about intellectual property (IP) law is its applicability to all people- anybody can create IP and everybody has a right to protect their IP.  These days, younger people are being homeschooled and spending more time at home.  These young people are future engineers and scientists, but they may be inventors now – and they should be aware that their inventions are protectable by patent laws.  Aside from requiring a legal guardian to file the patent application on behalf of the young inventor, considerations for the inventing and patent processes apply to inventors of all ages.

How can a young inventor start inventing?  Start with basic education on patents by learning what ideas are patentable as compared with being trademark-able or copyright-able.  A great source of information is the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s  (USPTO) kids section.

Given that every patent is intended to solve some problem, young inventors should be encouraged to find a problem that he or she is passionate about solving.  They may encounter problems in their day-to-day activities, including doing chores, using household appliances, playing with toys, etc.  Encourage them to keep written records of different problems encountered and possible solutions may be helpful.

Once a problem and solution are identified, the next step is determine its commercialization potential.  Is there a viable market? How crowded is the market and who are the competitors?  How much will it cost to make the invention and how much will the invention be sold for?  Search for products on websites like Amazon or Owler to research the companies.  If the market research is favorable, patent protection should be pursued prior to commercialization, which includes an initial patent search.  Even if the product is not found during the market research, there may still be an existing knock-out patent application.  A more complete search should be done by a IP professional, but resources like Google Patents and the USPTO website patent search function may be initially utilized.

Finally, young inventors should be encouraged to research and partake in the inventing process.  Why not incorporate it in this summer’s curriculum? If patenting an invention ends up being a real possibility - early consultation with a patent attorney is recommended to determine the best strategy moving forward.  At Renner Otto, our attorneys are sensitive to the unique aspects of each invention and inventor and we aim to provide a thoughtful strategy tailored to our clients’ specific needs, rather than a “one size fits all” approach.

Want to learn more? We offer complimentary discussions to see how we can help you move you – or your child’s - innovation forward.

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