How to Start an Inventors Club

This brochure has been prepared by the Houston Inventors Association (HIA), one of the oldest and largest such organizations in America. We have frequently been asked just how to do this by individuals in various parts of the country and it is a question which should not go unanswered. It is extremely important to encourage any and all to develop the resources necessary to accomplish this goal. While so many would-be inventors have numerous potentially great ideas, most have no idea how to follow-up on those dreams other than contacting a patent attorney, patent agent, or often an "Invention Development" operation advertising in the classified sections of a number of magazines or on radio or television. The attorney/agent approach is fine, but most of the other methods are often fraught with possible disaster. This is not just confined to financial disaster, but often depresses budding inventors to the extent that they totally give up all such future endeavors. Some who advertise are legitimate, however many are not and the novice inventor is often taken-in by the polished sale pitch of these scam artists.

We strongly encourage all inventors, not only the novices among us, but those experienced in the art, to join the nearest inventor organization. You can find a current list of inventor organizations in various states by clicking on the logos below. If one is not near, take the action to form one. Even a small nucleus of interested persons is sufficient to get started - you don't have to be near a large city. With available help, even small groups can be very effective and can be of real benefit to their members. This brochure gives the basics of forming your own club. Actually, few organizations call themselves clubs. Generally the designations are 'Society', 'Forum', 'Council' or 'Association', but that is strictly your choice.

Many organizations are incorporated, being registered with their Secretary of State. who will issue a Certificate of Incorporation. By-Laws and a Constitution must be formulated if you seek incorporation. Further, if you wish to become a non-profit organization, which can have many advantages, you must also seek exemption from the IRS, under the Internal Revenue Code, Section 509(a)(30). Our exemption was granted under IRS Code 501(c)(3), as an educational organization. With approval, you can then obtain exemption from state sales/use taxes for operating supplies, office equipment and other purchases you may require. It also allows you to solicit tax-free contributions. The HIA's principal out-reach program is a yearly school invention contest. Many of the prizes awarded are tax-free donations, written-off by major corporations.

When you are established and seek tax-free donations, it is imperative to have your records audited by a CPA. Often this may be obtained pro-bono as a write-off by the CPA. Your 'club' Secretary must take detailed minutes of your meetings and the Treasurer must compile timely and accurate financial records, both of which are supplied to the CPA. Of course you can get started without any of the above, the main thing is to get started! You should have officers; President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer as a minimum. Until you are fully functioning, you can double-up on these if necessary.

We video tape all of our meetings. A copy is kept in our library for viewing by those who were unable to attend the meeting. We propose to make those tapes available, at a reasonable charge to start-up or other small inventor organizations. Other considerations to keep in mind are forming committees for each of the major functions which you are performing. To name a few:

Membership/Registration (1)
Public Relations (2)
Speakers (3)
Publications (4)
School Programs (5)
1. Membership records may be kept by the Treasurer as such information is required for financial purposes. Registration of attendees at all meetings is helpful and should be done at the entrance to the meeting. Many organizations meet on a monthly basis, some more often. The HIA holds two per month; a general meeting, consisting of various topics of interest to all and a work- shop where a specific topic is discussed in detail. Following the more formal session of each meeting, allow time for 'networking' where members can ask for help with a problem they may be having. Often it is the same, or similar to one someone else has experienced and overcome. This is one of the principal benefits of such organizations. From time to time, we also have 'Focus Groups' for those interested in a particular field, such as Toys and Games. The members attending sign non-disclosure agreements and are then free to discuss more sensitive matters. This has worked very well and such collaboration can add substantially to the inventors' original idea. Our motto "Inventors Helping Inventors" says it all.

Set a reasonable membership fee; enough to cover operating expenses plus a little extra, but don't try to make money. Most inventors aren't wealthy individuals. Some organizations also provide ingredients for a light meal, often at cost, prior to the meeting, so members can come directly from work, allowing them the opportunity to get to know and to help each other.

2. A dedicated Public Relations person is one of the most valuable assets you can have. To be known through-out your area, there must be publicity in all available media. This is your life-blood, you need to gain new members. It is especially important to have a notice in the local newspaper several days in advance of every meeting. Some newspapers publish a business calender of the week's events. They will be happy to include your meetings.

3. If you are in a location where you can call on individuals who can speak on related subjects, that is a real plus, but is not absolutely necessary and there is no need to pay an honorarium. We have never had a speaker even ask. One of the best speakers can be another inventor. Even if they aren't 'successful' (haven't made any money), everyone can learn from their mistakes (they did too!). Other good sources are local businessmen, even if their success isn't directly related, and even possibly politicians who can inform your members of pending legislative matters which can affect how we all do business.

4. Publication of a newsletter is of great benefit to members and other interested persons in the community. Considerable material is available from other inventor organizations which have them. You will need to ask, however and it is possible that there will be a modest charge..

5. A great way to help both your organization and the community in general is to provide judges for school invention conventions. If your school doesn't have one, get one established by talking it up with the proper school personnel. It's not only fun, it's great publicity as well and a natural for the press coverage mentioned above.

There are a myriad of things to do in order to run an organization such as this. You will need a cadre of willing volunteers. Remember, you are all in this together in order for everyone to gain. The invention process is a total unknown to all novice inventors and they generally don't have the slightest idea of how to proceed after they come up with their great idea. By all means, try to have at least one patent agent or attorney as active members, in addition to experienced inventors. They can guide the novices through the complex technicalities of the patent process.

Because of the general lack of knowledge of this process, the scam invention development firms are scandalously successful. You need to do your utmost to inform every potential inventor in your area that you can help them succeed without them resorting to possibly devastating results. Should they fall prey to one of the 'scam' companies, they will have lost not only most of their hard-earned cash, but also their willingness to continue and possibly reap a rewarding career from their creativeness.

A couple of final recommendations are that you or your group become affiliated with a larger organization such as the United Inventors Association of the USA and suggest to all of your members that they subscribe to an excellent magazine, published just for inventors. It is the Inventors' Digest. You can write to the address below or click on the logos

Inventors' Digest

© 1997-2008 - Houston Inventors Association

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