Can't locate an inventors group in your area? Start one of your own. The United Inventors Association (UIA) offers these tips for forming an inventors group:
Sidebar: A Model Meeting
Steve Schneider runs the Idea to Market Network, a nonprofit in Santa Rosa, Calif. ITM's goal, Schneider says, is to give "honest and straight advice and resources" to help inventors develop their products.
He and his four-person board of directors produce ITM's monthly meetings, from recruiting speakers, to calling the caterer, to making name tags. The board is required to attend all meetings (they can be voted out if they miss two) and to stay in touch with members throughout the month.
ITM meetings are held on one Saturday a month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Here Schneider offers a rundown of a typical meeting format:
8 a.m. Set up the room. Props include a camera, overhead projector, and whiteboard.
9 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Greet attendees, and collect the meeting fee. Have each attendee sign a nondisclosure agreement -- all information shared during the meeting remains confidential.
9:30 a.m. - 10 a.m. Give an introduction. Schneider includes an overview of the club, announcements, and upcoming and ongoing programs. He also conducts a brief show-and-tell related to the invention process.
Attendees briefly introduce themselves and state why they are there. That helps the speaker streamline his speech, Schneider says.
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. The speaker takes the "stage." ITM speakers have included a product developer from the Sharper Image, intellectual-property lawyers, and professional Web designers.
Topics at ITM meetings have included packaging, the copyright process, the patent process, business plans, venture capital, sales reps, and trade shows.
11:30 p.m. - 12:30 p.m. Break.
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Lunch and networking.
1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. Brainstorming session. All attendees have 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the group, to talk about their invention and to solicit feedback and advice from the others.