Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Brainstorming, envisioning, and refining a vision is one of the most important things you can do for your business. I quote Michael Gerber nearly every time I talk about the concept of a vision.

In his book E-Myth (it’s a great book about small business failure and success), Michael asks of the reader, “with no clear picture of how you wish your life to be, how on earth can you begin to live it?”

This was a game-changer for me. Duh, right?

OF COURSE you need to know your destination if you’re planning to go somewhere. Even Google Maps wants to you generally know your location before giving you directions.

You may luck up and stumble across a location, but doesn’t it make sense to have thought it through a little bit? Perhaps you’ll end up with less bumps & bruises a long the way. You’ll definitely get lost fewer times.

Earlier in my professional life, I felt a bit like a ship without a sail. I was drifting along in someone else’s version of a successful life and I was miserable. It was quite disorienting, and I wasn’t really sure what to do about any of it.

I had never really had a plan, just a vague idea of what seemed like a good idea for a person with a background like mine. This. didn’t. work. at. all.

I had to remove myself from that situation and get serious about what I wanted in my life. It took quite a bit of time, and I definitely made numerous mistakes along the way. But, once I got a clear vision, it was like the heavens opened up.

Natalie Bacon sums up perfectly why vision is so powerful in her article, “Why You Need to Create Visions:”

Vision is your why. Vision gives something direction. It’s your desired future. Your vision includes what you believe in (your core values) and what you want in your future (what you want to be). It’s the powerful reason why you want to do something; your overarching purpose. Your vision is your passion and keeps you excited and motivated. It’s what inspires you to do whatever it is you want to do.

Natalie Bacon, Why You Need to Create Visions (Not Just Goals)

I believe so strongly in the power of vision that I do a visioning exercise every few years. It helps me get focused on what I’d like to accomplish and it gives me clear direction on when I must say “no” to opportunities.

My sanity actually depends on this.

It’s been so helpful for me that I recorded a series of short, free videos that I thought might help other people who are situations similar to the one I found myself in back then. I break this down into three parts:

(1) “Look” – where you brainstorm what you’d like the future of your life, brand, business and energy to look like.

(2) “Listen” – where you ask some self-reflective questions of yourself and then crowdsource some information from your trusted tribe–family, friends, or co-workers who you trust to give you honest feedback; and

(3) “Link” – where you combine steps #1 and #2 to create a “looking glass” type document that outlines a tangible plan of action that you can start working on ASAP.

You can watch the first video in the series here:

If you’re interested in learning more about three principles outlined in the video and above, sign up to receive the rest of the videos by clicking this link.

One you have the opportunity to think about and refine your vision for your brand and business, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

In particular, were you comfortable creating a plan for your brand and business? Did you feel like you didn’t have permission to consider some things because of time, money, or family?

Please give as much information as you can! I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of women with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, which is why we need a nation!

I hope we remain connected both here and within the LVRG Nation–a private community of women committed to building for themselves and supporting each other.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience! I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

Other articles you may be interested in

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

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Brainstorming, envisioning, and refining a vision is one of the most important things you can do for your business. I quote Michael Gerber nearly every time I talk about the concept of a vision. In his book E-Myth (it's a great book about small business failure and...

Where to start with your personal brand

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Where to start with your personal brand

Where to start with your personal brand

Early in my career as a law professor, I was struggling a bit with my professional identity. I knew I was smart. I knew I had dreams of “success” (wasn’t clear on what that meant yet, but roll with me). I knew I wanted more than what I could see at that moment. But, I didn’t really know how to take the things I’d done and turn them into a cohesive message so that I would become known for XYZ sought out for XYZ and become financially independent doing my work in the XYZ field.

I had a lot of unanswered questions, ya’ll. What is success? What XYZ do I want to be known for? How will I make money on this?

Around that time, I saw a press release come out at work about a male colleague–let’s call him Mike–who had written an article for a national publication (I believe it was Newsweek or Politico, but I can’t be sure at this point). The press release was very complimentary of Mike, and his article, which was about American politics at that time, was an enjoyable read.

My typical response to things like this at work were “oh, wow, good for him,” and then I’d move on with my life. At that time, I mostly stayed in my own bubble at work–minding my business and doing what I needed to do to get that direct deposit drop every 1st and 15th.

Basically me back then.

But, for whatever reason, I became very interested in how Mike had landed a high-profile spotlight for his work, both in the national publication and within our employer’s press loop. Especially because he started working at our employer several years after me.

This created somewhat of a perfect storm for me professionally. I wanted more but didn’t know how to get it, and I saw someone within arms reach who seemed to be making it happen for himself. I didn’t necessarily want exactly what Mike had, but I knew I wanted to feel as fulfilled as he seemed to be and others seemed to recognize in him.

Like any good lawyer, I began to investigate this question–what had Mike done to get there?

What I found was that he had taken all the stuff we had to do at work and branded himself into a public expert on these topics. He had written dozens op-eds and guest columns, appeared on local radio, and begun accepting non-academic speaking engagements. This further piqued my interest, so I went and talked to Mike about the why, how and where-to-starts with his activities. Thankfully, he was very transparent and happy to talk about it.

This began my journey with figuring out my own expertise, personal brand, and career goals in a more uninhibited way. I believed my job at the time had only one path to “success,” but boy was I wrong about that.

As I’ve created my own personal brand, I’ve noticed a few different patterns that I’ll share here. Four simple things will help you create a dynamic personal brand that attracts the opportunities you want. To start honing in on and developing your own personal brand, you should:

  1. Create a Vision
  2. Develop Content
  3. Share Your Message
  4. Leverage O.P.P. (other people’s platforms)

Create a Vision

If you’ve been following me or the content at LVRG for any amount of time, you probably know how I feel about creating a vision. I believe a vision is critical…basically mandatory….for folks who need guidance to find the light at the end of their tunnel.

I once read a book by Michael Gerber that asked, “with no clear picture of how you wish your life to be, how on earth can you begin to live it?” This question stopped me in my tracks. If I don’t see the destination, how can I know what steps to take to get there?

Even with Google Maps, you have to know where you the location or address for Google’s AI to magically tell you the best route to get there.

If you don’t have a vision yet, I’ve condensed the steps I believe are critical in developing a vision into a less-than-30-minute program. You can watch the first of the four videos below.

If you liked this, you can sign up to receive the rest of the videos by clicking here.

Develop Content

Your vision will serve as the big picture blueprint for your personal brand. Once you know your destination, the stuff you create will help you establish your position and reputation in your destination of choice.

While you may be brilliant, the only way to prove it is by sharing your brilliance. If it’s in your head, we don’t know that—we ain’t mind readers! You first step to develop a personal brand is to create content that communicates what you want others to know about you and your experience.

“Content,” according to Dictionary.com, is “something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts.” It can be created in various forms, including:

  • social media posts,
  • videos (film, television or otherwise),
  • podcasts,
  • radio shows,
  • CDs,
  • books/e-books/workbooks/pamphlets,
  • email newsletters,
  • text messages,
  • magazines,
  • blog posts,
  • articles,
  • interviews,
  • classes,
  • presentations,
  • speeches,
  • conferences,
  • live-events,
  • pictures,
  • gifs, and
  • more.

The phrases “content creation” and “content creators” have become popular buzz words. The rise of social media has become the California Gold Rush of competition for people’s attention, and content is how to grab that attention. Videos, social media posts, podcasts, blog posts and articles, pictures, gifs…..this content is designed to attract and keep people’s attention. Forbes even declared in 2019 that we are in a “new content economy.”

In today’s economy, your content is your personal brand’s currency —–what can you buy right now with yours?

You should be regularly creating content that displays your expertise in a particular field/topic/industry. This will help you attract the opportunities you want!

Share Your Message

Once you’ve developed that content, the next step is to share it broadly and widely, particularly with folks NEED your information to improve their own lives. To start, you can share your message through your own platform or on social media.

First, consider creating your own website, email newsletter, platform (digital or otherwise), or app (I’m sure I’m leaving some things out!). You can control your narrative and share information how you see fit.

Another way to get your message out there, and likely the most popular way, is social media.

Did I just hear a groan? I know…social media can be a distraction. It can also be overwhelming. But, it CAN provide you with free/low-cost levers to build your brand and business.

The behemoth social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest may be the appropriate places to start, but your brand and business could be uniquely positioned to do better elsewhere. Wikipedia lists more than hundred different currently-active social media sites.

Leverage O.P.P. (other people’s platforms)

The fourth step in building your personal brand is leveraging other people’s platforms.

Once you’ve created your content and shared it broadly on your own platforms, you should also have a strategy to create mutually beneficial relationships with other people, brands, companies, etc. who can share your message and content with their networks.

For example, TED Conferences LLC shares “ideas worth spreading” through TED/TEDx talks. The organization has a HUGE platform that people regularly leverage. After I gave my TEDxAtlanta talk, I got inquiries from literally all around the world.

You could also pitch an article about your message/expertise to media entities looking for guest contributors/op-eds. Popular services include The Conversation and The Op-Ed Project.

Perhaps you’d make a great media commentator. Sign up for a service like Help A Reporter Out or add your name to a database like Women Also Know Stuff.

If you take this advice, do it as part of a larger strategy!

Say OPP (OPP) I like to say with pride

Now when you do it, do it well and make sure that it counts

Naughty By Nature, O.P.P.

If you’re going to write and op-ed, or be a podcast guest, or speak at SXSW or on a TED stage, make sure you know both:

  • what you want to contribute and how you will add value; and
  • what return, if any, you’d like to see for your work. Note that this may not have anything to do with money.

These four pillars–Create a Vision, Develop Content, Share Your Message, and Leverage O.P.P.–will have you well on your way to a dynamic personal brand in no time!

One you have the opportunity to implement some of these for your own brand, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. In particular:

  1. Where do you already have experiences/expertise that you can lean on to build your personal brand? What is one type of content you can create to share publicly right now?
  2. What kind of platform do you need to create/use to share your message broadly?

Please give as much information as you can! I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of women with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, which is why we need a nation!

I hope we remain connected both here and within the LVRG Nation–a private community of women committed to building for themselves and supporting each other.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience! I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

Other articles you may be interested in

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Brainstorming, envisioning, and refining a vision is one of the most important things you can do for your business. I quote Michael Gerber nearly every time I talk about the concept of a vision. In his book E-Myth (it's a great book about small business failure and...

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You can’t patent an idea, and other lessons from the First Annual Patent Bootcamp at the University of Arkansas School of Law

You can’t patent an idea, and other lessons from the First Annual Patent Bootcamp at the University of Arkansas School of Law

Last week, I was honored to give the keynote at the First Annual Patent Bootcamp for Women and Minorities in STEM at the University of Arkansas.

The day was quite full, with experts from around the region and country providing insights to a full room about how women/people of color can acquire greater access to the patent system.

https://twitter.com/UARKLaw/status/1172619042219315204?s=20https://twitter.com/UARKLaw/status/1172619042219315204?s=20In the spirit of that conversation, I wanted to share some lessons from the bootcamp for current-and-future inventors who weren’t there.

One of the things that struck me throughout the day was how many inventors had the fundamental questions about inventing and patenting. Many questions were about the basics of when/where/how you even know that you have something worth patenting in the first place. And, people really wanted to know what they could actually patent and what wouldn’t make it through the patent office.

Before you can really be prepared for the complicated world of patents, its important to understand the basic realities of what you’re getting into!

Here are three realities for innovators just starting down the path of brainstorming, ideating, inventing, and patenting: #1: you need more than just “an idea,” #2: you need help; and #3 you may or may not get rich.

#1: You need more than just “an idea”

Lots of folks have ideas about how to solve problems, but ideas aren’t patentable by themselves. This is just the starting point. What is patentable is an invention. An invention is what happens after you find a problem, come up with an idea to solve that problem, and literally articulate the steps in the process that allow your idea to solve that problem.

For example, if you hear lots of stories in the news about kids being left in hot cars, you might have an idea for a device that reminds adults that there’s a child in the backseat before they get out, lock the door, and go into work. This is an incredible and valuable idea, but it isn’t patentable until you do the work of identifying the steps necessary to create that device, and perhaps make some drawings or a prototype. The latter is the actual invention.

So, your first step is to clearly determine all of the steps that get your problem-solving-concept from idea to actual invention. This can take days, weeks, months or years, depending on what you’re considering.

For more on what is patentable, you can check out my other articles here, including “What Can You Patent?” and “How to Protect Your Invention.”

 #2. You need help

The patent system in the United States is complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. For these reasons, and others, many people work with patent lawyers who are experienced and competent. These lawyers do not come cheap. The Patent Bootcamp in Arkansas featured many professionals, lawyers and inventors alike, who reiterated the importance of competent counsel through the patent process.

Here are some suggestions that can help you get the right kind of help, at the right price point, for your invention and goals.

* If you absolutely have to do this on your own, without a patent lawyer, check out the NOLO Patent It Yourself book. It is one of the best I’ve seen. Sometimes you can find an edition in the library.

*Speaking of libraries, there are a number of Patent and Trademark Resource Centers around the U.S. that can help you through the federal government’s patent and trademark processes.

* If you want to try working with a lawyer and/or law students acting under a lawyer’s direction, but have very limited resources, read this article I wrote: For Women: On Being an Inventor and Finding a Patent Lawyer (it’s good for the fellas/non-binary/genderqueer folks too!). It is full of low-cost resources, including the Law School Clinic Certification Program (students and lawyers draft applications for low/no money, besides filing fees) and the Patent Pro Bono Project.

* If you can afford it, hire someone. An average patent application costs between $7,000-$10,000, and the application is just the first step in what will likely be a multi-year process with even more fees, so you want to choose right. My For Women: On Being an Inventor and Finding a Patent Lawyer article gives some suggestions on how to find a patent lawyer. The Patent and Trademark Resource Centers can also help you find a lawyer.

#3 You may or may not get rich

Many inventors assume that getting the patent is the pièce de résistance and the key to unlocking millions and millions of dollars. This may happen for you, and I hope it does. One need only look to Sara Blakely’s story of patenting and building what has become known as Spanx for confirmation that it is indeed possible.

Monetizing a patented invention is not for the faint at heart. Once you get that patent in hand, manna does not automatically flow from heaven. You’ll either have to make and sell the invention yourself or find others to make and sell your invention.

Re. making/selling your invention, if you don’t already have the money, you’ll have to seek funding from a bank, family and friends, or investors. Women can have it tough when it comes to fundraising, but, obviously, all things are possible. One woman, Arlan Hamilton, has founded Backstage Capital to invest in underrepresented founders, including women, POC, and folks in the LGTBQIA+ community.

Re. finding others to make and sell your invention, a common way to do this is via licensing, where you and a third party create a contract where you give the third party permission to make and/or sell the invention in exchange for some kind of payment(s). As has been written about elsewhere, licensing is HARD. However, don’t be discouraged, just be realistic.

These three realities popped up many times during the Patent Bootcamp in Arkansas. Hopefully they help you on your journey!

What other realities have you experienced as an inventor? Drop a line in the comments and let me know what your experience was like!

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Brainstorming, envisioning, and refining a vision is one of the most important things you can do for your business. I quote Michael Gerber nearly every time I talk about the concept of a vision. In his book E-Myth (it's a great book about small business failure and...

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Choosing a Corporate Structure // Advice from a business law expert

Choosing a Corporate Structure // Advice from a business law expert

Starting a business requires making all kinds of decisions, and one of the most important is how you’re going to operate and do business. You have to ask aaallllll kinds of questions about concepts that are pretty foreign to folks new to the game: Will you go start making money and growing your business without incorporating at all? Will you file a DBA/assumed business name/fictitious name and stay in that lane until you make more money? What’s difference between an LLC and a corporation and why does it matter? I recently talked with business law expert Carliss Chatman about all of this and she offered some amazing advice that I’m excited to share here.

Carliss holds a number of titles, including attorney, author, and business law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, where she teaches classes including Contracts; Sales and Leases; Agency and Unincorporated Entities, Corporations, and Business Associations. She has more than a decade of experience representing small and start-up businesses in the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. If you are wondering about whether and how to incorporate your business, Carliss is definitely the expert to ask.

Carliss and I had an incredibly wide-ranging discussion about how new entrepreneurs can set up their ventures. We talk about how to decide between an LLC and a corporation, when a limited partnership makes sense, and why you should always have a separate bank account for your business. We also spend a few minutes at the end talking about her viral tweet, which to date has nearly 600,000 likes and more than 200,000 retweets, and how she was actually prepared to make that unanticipated moment work for her brand and professional projects.

One of my favorite a-ha moments happened early in the discussion when I asked Carliss when entrepreneurs should think about incorporating their business, and her reply was, “you should not do one thing without forming some entity that gives you liability protection.” Basically, forming a separate entity should come first, before you do anything. She explains why she believes this, and more, throughout our conversation.

You’ll also learn:

  • Why the LLC isn’t always the best way to go.
  • How to decide between a corporation and an LLC.
  • Why your business may not need to own all of your intellectual property.
  • How to make decisions today based on the future plans you have for your business.
  • Why and how the prospect of VC funding should impact how you form your business.
  • When to hire a lawyer to help form a business entity and how to choose the right lawyer.

If you are wondering how to move forward with forming the right business structure, THIS. IS. THE. DISCUSSION. FOR. YOU. Check out the video below for all of the amazing-ness that is Carliss Chatman and her expertise.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this discussion. What’s something you learned that you didn’t know before you listened to it? Are there questions that you still have? Let us know in the comments below.

Other articles you may be interested in

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Brainstorming, envisioning, and refining a vision is one of the most important things you can do for your business. I quote Michael Gerber nearly every time I talk about the concept of a vision. In his book E-Myth (it's a great book about small business failure and...

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Where to start with your personal brand

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Advice for content creators from Devale and Khadeen Ellis

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For Women: On Being an Inventor and Finding a Patent Lawyer

For Women: On Being an Inventor and Finding a Patent Lawyer

Inventing stuff is fun, and from my perspective, working with inventors is just as great. The practice of intellectual property law has been my favorite over the years because the clients are typically happy. Usually no one is fighting over anything in court, inventors are stoked to see their brainchild come to life, and everyone is excited about the impact this new innovation will have on the world.

All of this excitement can come to a bit of a halt when it comes time to get lawyers and the government involved.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the government agency tasked with issuing patents in the United States, and getting through the entire process requires time (usually multiple years), money (a lot of it), and patience (as in, have the patience of Job).

Lawyers are hard to choose, and it can take months or longer to draft a patent application. Then, after your patent application is filed, the USPTO’s process (called patent “prosecution”) takes about 1-2 years, or more, to get through. THEN, there are staggered fees you have to pay for the next 20-ish years after finishing prosecution.

This makes picking a lawyer pretty important–you’ll be stuck with them for a while.

🔈🔈Warning🔈🔈: I try not to be a doom and gloom type of messenger, but the reality is that finding a good patent attorney or agent for your invention is tough. It can be even tougher if you’re a woman.

SHORT EXPLAINER: To represent an inventor at the USPTO, a patent agent or patent attorney must take and pass a special exam and have certain qualifications.

Patent agents are people with science/engineering/technical degrees but no law degree. Patent attorneys have both a science/engineering/technical degree plus a law degree.

Both patent agents and patent attorneys can represent patent applicants in the USPTO. The USPTO keeps comprehensive records of this group because of the special exam all parties have to take.

Even once you find a good patent attorney or agent (woman or man), women inventors have a significantly harder time getting patents issued through the patent office. In fact, only 4% of patents issued by the USPTO in the last ten years have women-only inventors (the numbers go up a little bit if a man is also named as an inventor).

And, if you’re looking for a female patent attorney, only about 25% of all registered patent attorneys and agents are women, so you may have to dig deep to find us (and let’s not get started on intersectionality).

If you need more proof on these challenges, check out the below talk by Sara Blakely, the now-billionaire founder of Spanx. Sara recounts her experience trying to first find a woman patent attorney, and then any patent attorney, who could help her get her first Spanx patent.

She couldn’t find a woman patent attorney because at the time there were literally none in her state. All of the men thought her invention was terrible. And, when she did find some firms to interview about helping her patent her invention, they wanted basically her entire life savings to get the application filed.

Because of these harsh facts, it is sooooo important that you hire a lawyer you trust and clearly understand.

I hope this article helps you, my inventor sistren, make good, grounded decisions when you’re searching for a patent lawyer.

There’s no way I can cover everything here, but here are four major considerations if you’re searching for a patent lawyer.

1. Avoid being scammed
2. Explore legitimate low-cost options
3. If you can afford it, hire someone
4. Educate yourself about the process

On to the details:

1. Avoid being scammed

There are a number of “invention marketer” or “invention promoter” companies out there who may take your money and leave you with little to show for it. The USPTO has published complaints against companies including Davison Design, Invent Company, Invent Help, Harvey Reese Associates, and World Patent Marketing.

Here are the USPTO warning signs to look for if you get wrangled into a call/discussion that seems sketchy:

From the USPTO

For more, check out the below articles on this topic:

Please, please don’t get scammed–not only could you lose thousands upon thousands of dollars, you could also lose the rights in your invention completely.

2. Explore legitimate, low-cost options

The baseline fact is that obtaining a patent is EXPENSIVE. You can expect to spend between $8,000 and $10,000 for a quality utility patent application (the most common type). This will probably not include the cost of what is called the “prosecution” phase, which is a time period where your lawyer will go back and forth with the patent office on your application’s details.

Check out the diagrams below on cost estimations for patent applications–both are a little dated but still provide pretty accurate guidelines:

APPLICATION PHASE COSTS

From IP Watchdog, a very reputable patent law website


PATENT COST DIAGRAM FOR PATENT APPLICATION + PROSECUTION PHASE

From bitlaw.com, a free resource from the Tysver Beck Evans law firm


I know these numbers seem incredibly high for a lot of people. $10,000 is a lot of money–most of us don’t just have that kind of cash sitting around. And, if we do, there are many good uses for it!

Because of this, I want to share three low-cost resources with you that will help you get started if you need a little time to get your money together for a full-blown patent application.

  • You could file your patent application yourself–there’s nothing in the law to prevent an inventor from doing this. As I’ve written about elsewhere, however, this process is very complex and convoluted. I’d be very, very weary of going at it alone. If you’re going to try, the hands-down best book to guide you through the process is NOLO’s Patent It Yourself. If you watched Sara Blakely’s full remarks, you heard that she ended up buying a book and drafting most of her patent application herself. Even so, she had to hire a lawyer to help finish it and get it across the finish line.

  • The USPTO offers two low-cost/free programs to assist inventors. The first is the Law School Clinic Certification Program,which allows more senior law students to work on patent applications under the strict guidance of a licensed patent lawyer. Law schools don’t typically charge for these kinds of services. You may end up paying a few hundred dollars in USPTO filing fees, etc., but that pales in comparison to thousands of dollars in law firm fees. And, law schools may have a larger pool of diverse students/faculty to pull from if that is important to you. The list of participating law schools is ever-changing, but you can find the full USPTO list by clicking here. This is a great opportunity if you’re in the vicinity of one of the participating schools.

  • The second low-cost/free USPTO program is the Patent Pro Bono Project, which matches inventors with registered patent agents and attorneys who volunteer their time without charging the inventor. You’ll still have to pay USPTO filing fees, but that is probably a few hundred dollars. You can find out if your state/region has a program at this website. This is also a great option if you’re near a program. My personal observation is that more women volunteer for this kind of thing than men–I don’t have any data or research to back this up though.

USPTO Patent Pro Bono Coverage Map

For more, you might want to watch some of the below USPTO video–it is dry as all get out (they are known for this), but there’s some great information buried in it about low-cost/free options for inventors.



3. If you can afford it, hire someone

I know it may be uncomfortable to fork over thousands of dollars for a patent application that may or may not be approved by the patent office. You have between a 60-70% chance of being granted a patent within three years of filing an application. This is another reason to carefully choose your patent lawyer.

The only thing worse than giving someone $10,000 to file a patent application is giving someone $10,000 to file a patent application that isn’t ultimately approved by the USPTO (or, getting an application approved that isn’t worth the paper its typed on).

This is why I suggest hiring an experienced patent attorney or patent agent if you can afford it.

Keep in mind–it would be helpful in most cases to have a patent lawyer with a background similar to the technology in your invention. For example, if your invention is mechanical engineering-based, a patent lawyer with a mechanical engineering background may be desirable.

This isn’t a flat-out requirement, but it can help. In addition, you can also ask the patent lawyer what kinds of patent applications they’ve successfully prosecuted in the past to see if they have the experience with inventions like yours.

To find a patent lawyer, try the following four suggestions, in addition to your obligatory Google searching:

  1. If you know any lawyers, ask them to refer you to someone they trust. Word of mouth can often be the best way to find a trustworthy patent lawyer.
  2. Search your state’s or city’s bar association website for a lawyer directory that lists attorneys by practice. You can also search the websites of bar associations outside of your city/state, because a licensed patent attorney anywhere in the country can help you. Bar associations are professional organizations for licensed attorneys–the easiest way to find them online to do is perform a Google search using [city/state] + bar association. Some states also have special intellectual property law associations.
  3. Reach out to some of the national intellectual property law associations. While these are primarily trade associations for lawyers, these groups often have public advocacy programs. Here are three national associations you can start with:
  4. Search the USPTO’s directory of licensed patent agents and attorneys.

4. Educate Yourself

Understanding the patent application and patent prosecution phase is hard. The USPTO gives a mandatory exam on these topics to every person who wants to file and prosecute patent applications, and the pass rate hovers around 50% or so. This just goes to show you how tough it is to really understand all the nuances of patent prosecution.

If you’re planning to file a patent application, either on your own or with help, take time to read up on the general process so that you’re not surprised later. You will, at minimum, want to understand the basics of what is patentable, what the application includes, and what the process will look like once the application is filed.

NOLO publishes some of the best resources I’ve seen in terms of clear, step-by-step layperson instructions. If you can’t afford to buy all of them, head over to your local library and check them out!

There are other things I could mention here but this article has jumped waaay over TLDR status. For more, let me know where you are with this. Are you thinking of patenting an invention? Already been through the process? Drop a note in the comments section and let me hear about your experience!

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