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Inventors learn how to navigate patent system during conference

Inventors learn how to navigate patent system during conference

Apr 7, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., sponsored the event, which was held in Riverton.

Inventors from across Wyoming gathered at the Central Wyoming College's Intertribal Center on Saturday to learn how to take their idea from drawing board to store shelves.

U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi sponsored the event, called the 2014 Inventors Conference, with a goal of growing businesses and boosting the state's economy. About 40 people attended the one-day event.

Now in its 11th year, Enzi got the idea for the conference after meeting people all over the world who were from Wyoming.

When he asked them why they were not in Wyoming, they said there was no work back home. An successful invention would help those people, Enzi thought.

"It you invent something and ship it all over the world you can live wherever you want, and of course that would be Wyoming," Enzi said.

Throughout the day, participants heard nine presentations ranging covering the process of patenting an invention to producing it.

State intellectual property librarian Karen Kitchens described how to search for existing patents.

Inventors have to make sure someone else did not come up with their idea first.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office senior adviser John Calvert explained the steps of applying for a patent and said there are several programs available to help new inventors go through the process.

Later speakers focused on developing a business to produce a new product.

Lynne McAuliffe, Central Wyoming College's dean of workforce and community education, also described programs at the college that help new businesses get started.

Lee Wickstrom, of Kinnear, came to the conference to learn about developing some of this inventions.

The retired mechanical engineer has some ideas, including one to improve a sweep auger used to clean grain bins and another to make anchoring steel structures to concrete foundations easier.

"So far I've learned patents are really important," he said during a mid-morning break.

Manufacturing his inventions in Wyoming would be costly because of the distances from steel warehouses and manufacturing plants, he said. Wickstrom hoped later speakers would give him ideas to develop a strong business plan.

He was excited about a CWC program McAuliffe described.

The college would soon open an "innovation lab" with computer-aided design facilities and three dimensional printers.

Wickstrom thought the printers would help inventors like him cheaply make a prototype product to see if it works.

Enzi had some advice for inventors,

"Pursue your dream," he said.

"There's plenty of help out there to help you do it."

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