Workshops offer free guidance for CWRU inventors

You’ve had a eureka moment, a sudden unexpected discovery of understanding. For inventors, whether their work involves a device or process, this moment of clarity can naturally lead to moving right ahead into continued research and development.

But there is one important step that inventors of any sort should not overlook, and take early on, according to presenters at the first of a series of Intellectual Property Workshops held at CWRU on Sept. 12, Nord Hall room 356. Hosted by CWRU’s think[box] , Blackstone LaunchPad and Intellectual Property Venture Clinic, the first workshop focused on patent searches, offering tips on how to search the United States Patent & Trademark Office website. The workshops are free and open to the CWRU community.

Before the presentation began, Blackstone LaunchPad Director Bob Sopko spoke briefly to let the assembled inventors know about several upcoming competitions and resources, like the Pitch U Northeast Ohio Elevator Pitch Competition where participants have 90 seconds to pitch a business idea to a panel of investors for a change at a $2500 first place prize. Information about this and other resources is available at CWRU’s Blackstone LaunchPad website.

“A lot of people have an idea, and they’re excited and want to dive right into it,” said Bryan Gallo, a partner at Pearne & Gordon LLP who led the presentation. His advice to inventors is to do a thorough patent search beforehand. “Doing a patent search at the beginning of a project is critical, to avoid wasting time or resources. You want to play both offense and defense.”

Playing offense means ensuring that your own idea gets put into the patent process as soon as possible in order to protect yourself from getting hedged out by someone else whose work reaches patent first. Similarly, playing defense helps to avoid duplicating work that has already been done — with potential legal ramifications.

One of the keys to successful patent searching is developing a list of different terms that could describe your idea. As an example, Gallo described a client with an idea for a heating element used in refrigerator ice makers. In performing a search, one of the things he came across used the term “congealed water product” to describe ice. When asked if unusual terms like that were used to try and conceal the patent, Gallo said that it’s possible, but more often results like that come from translations from other languages. In the case of the congealed water product, the origin was a direct translation from Korean.

Following Gallo’s presentation, the group of about 50 participants split into smaller groups based on the focus of their own work: mechanical, software, electrical, chemical and biomedical. Specialists in those areas fielded questions from the groups and offered patent searching tips more specific to those disciplines.

The Intellectual Property series was organized by David Deioma, a retired attorney who specialized in international intellectual property with a 40 year career.

“I spoke up at a meeting and asked how student inventors could capture their patents,” he said. “So they put me in charge.

“The workshops are for inventors — people who have ideas and want to start a business — to help them avoid pitfalls.”

Other workshops in the series proceed in the order an inventor might follow in along in the process. These will be held in the Richey-Mixon Building, also the home of the university’s new $30 million think[box] facility.

  • Oct. 10, U.S. and foreign patents
  • Nov. 14, Funding for inventions and businesses
  • Jan. 23, Legal rights of inventors and joint inventors
  • Feb. 20, Using arbitration and mediation to resolve conflicts and the litigation process
  • Mar. 26, Trademarks and copyrights

For questions about the workshops, email Bob Sopko at

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