Patent Resources Jan. 8 2021| 0 KB

Content Type: FIRST General
Tags: Awards

Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important part of inventing. We encourage you to learn more about the patent process in your country and to seek help from a patent attorney or patent agent. Many may be willing to donate their services if you explain your team history and goals. FIRST recommends that the Global Innovation Awards Finalists file a U.S. provisional application for Patent if your country allows its residents and/or citizens to file for a patent application in any country. This is not an actual patent application but offers the means to establish an early filing date if you choose to later file a non-provisional patent application. Filing a U.S. provisional application for patent is easier and less expensive compared to filing a patent application in some other countries.  Teams will identify in their submissions to FIRST what descriptions and images of your work are okay for publishing publicly.

What is a Patent?

Many people have never heard of patents, know very little about them, or think they are only for adult inventors.

A patent is a right, granted by a particular country, giving a person or entity exclusive control over a product or process. In other words, whoever owns the patent on an invention makes the decisions about how that invention may be used in a country (or countries) where the idea is patented. Each country sets its own rules about what type of invention can or cannot be patented, but usually it must be a product or process that is new (different enough from everything else out there), useful (it has some practical use, no matter how strange or silly it may seem), and non-obvious (an average person working in the field would not naturally think of it). During the time when a patent is valid, no one else may make or sell the invention in that country (or countries) without the patent-holder’s permission. Applying for a patent will help to protect your team’s idea. Having a patent does not mean that your team cannot sell, share, or give away your idea later – it just means that your team has the right to make that decision.

Intellectual Property Resources

International Intellectual Property Resources

From the USPTO

  • Patent Resources
    • Video: Roadmap to Filing a Patent Application
    • USPTO patent search help
    • USPTO Kids Pages
    • Basic Questions? Contact the USPTO Inventor Assistance Center (IAC).  The USPTO has a hotline that inventors can call; it does not provide legal advice but can answer questions on rules and applications.
    • Filing a Provisional Patent (recommended for all FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award Semi-Finalists)
    • Pro-Se Assistance Program The Pro Se Assistance Program provides outreach and education to applicants (also known as "pro se" applicants) who file patent applications without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent. USPTO employees cannot give legal advice. However, through increased assistance and resources for independent inventor and small business communities, the program aims to increase the quality of pro se applications and assist pro se applicants with making informed decisions regarding their patent applications.
  • USPTO Video: Dean Kamen talks about patents in the National Inventors Hall of Fame during the Sixth Annual Global Innovation Award on June 22, 2016.

Finding free or reduced fee legal assistance with patent filing in the United States

  • Meet with a librarian (in-person or virtually) at a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC). PTRC locations by state.
  • USPTO Pro-Bono program - Inventors and small businesses that meet certain financial thresholds and other criteria may be eligible for free legal assistance in preparing and filing a patent application.  Pro Bono coverage map for US.
  • USPTO Law School Clinics – The Law School Clinic Certification program allows law students enrolled in a participating law school's clinic program to practice Intellectual Property Law before the USPTO under the strict guidance of a Law School Faculty Clinic Supervisor.  


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