25 May 2013

Inventors Clubs

*Jane Lambert

Most inventors' clubs consist of individuals who are not employed in R & D but who have invented something and are not sure what they can do with it. Although such persons come from all sorts of backgrounds and are of both sexes and all ages, it is my experience that most are male, over 50 years of age and without advanced degrees or professional qualifications. Before we go any further, let me say emphatically that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Many such individuals have acquired skills and experience that are at least as useful as anything I have learned in my professional career or at university.

Why Join an Inventors' Club
The persons I have just described usually want to make money from their inventions but they lack the skills, experience and connections to do so. They often have excellent ideas but that is never enough. The quotation wrongly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that if a man can build a better mousetrap than his neighbour the world will beat a path to his door is just not true. Sadly they spend their life savings on patents that are never worked or worse on invention promotion schemes that promise much but deliver little (see the warnings from the US Federal Trade Commission on Invention Promotion Firms and our own Office of Fair Trading).

A good inventors' club will help avoid those costly mistakes by providing a forum for such individuals to share their experience, hear talks by experts and make connections with potential investors and professional advisers. Some clubs go further. Ideas North West of Blackburn,  for example, has set up an inventors' training course at Myerscough College which I discussed in "How to become a Successful Inventor" 21 May 2013 IP North West and has set up its own invention promotion company, Ideas North West Limited.  As a result several of Idea North West's members appear to have marketed their inventions successfully (see its Case Studies page).

Where to Find an Inventors' Club
There are inventors' clubs in many but by no means all parts of the UK. These are the ones of which I am aware:

There may well be others and some of those on the list may be defunct. 

If you don't live near any of the above towns or cities check with your nearest Patent Information Centre to see whether they run an inventors' club or know of one nearby

If you live near an inventors' club get in touch with the organizer and try one of their meetings.  

If you don't live near an inventors club you could join our Inventors' Club on Linkedin or one of the other organizations such as Ideas 21 (not to be confused with Ideas North West which I discussed above or IP21 a firm of patent agents) which look after inventors nationally. 

Or, and this would be the ideal solution, you could set up your own inventors' club and I will help you if you wish.

How to set up your Own Inventors Club
In order to set up an inventors' club you need members, a venue and speakers.   Here is how to set about getting them.

  1. Hold your first meeting.  You will need at least 6 weeks to organize the event.
  2. Invite a big name speaker but one who will also pay his or her own expenses. There are plenty of so called "motivational speakers" about - some of whom are inventors - but they are likely to charge. Find someone with an interest in being seen at your meeting such as your MP, a member of the Intellectual Property Office's outreach team or even yours truly if you can't find anybody better. Lawrence Smith Higgins of the IPO is a particularly good speaker. Call the IPO on 0300 300 2000 and ask to speak to the marketing department.
  3. Ask your local college, public library, firm of patent attorneys or solicitors or some other organization whether they are willing to host the first meeting at their premises free of charge and to advertise it to their contacts. 
  4. Once you have a speaker and venue for the first meeting, advertise it on the internet.  Set up a free blogging account with Blogger or Wordpress and subscribe to Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Xing. If you have a mailing list you can advertise the meeting on Eventbrite.
  5. Let me know the place, date and time of your meetings and I shall publicise them. I will also circulate details of your events to all my contacts in your area.
  6. Nab anybody who shows willing for a steering committee to draft a constitution and fix the second and subsequent meetings.
If you would like me to speak, need a suggestion for or an introduction to some other speaker, want any help in drafting or reviewing a constitution or wish to discuss any other matter feel free to get n touch with me on 020 7474 5252 during normal office hours or fill in my contact form..

*Jane Lambert is a barrister practising intellectual property and technology law from 4-5 Gray's Inn  Square in London. She set up and chairs the Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield Inventors Groups and runs the Lnkedin Inventors' Club and this blog

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