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ORLANDO, Fla. - The University of Central Florida is an easy sell.
It's large, diverse, and affordable. It has a stellar reputation for academic quality, and the campus is in one of the best areas of the country. But what most people don’t realize is that UCF is in the top 100 public universities for producing patents for the 9th consecutive year.
It’s ranked 31 in the U.S., and 60 in the world. It’s an invention factory, really.
UCF Professor Greg Welch, who is a big part of that success, says: "I believe I have 21 or 22 patents dating back to the mid 1990s. Growing up, my father was a musician and artist and my mother was a mathematician, computer programmer. So I have this very weird mix in my head of technology and art and sort of humanities."
Welch spends his time in the computer science, virtual reality, and augmented reality worlds.
His inventions are applications for the healthcare industry.
The latest one?
A headband that hospital patients can wear while their loved ones around the world use a tablet to visually communicate with them and stroke their foreheads.
"We have the best job in the world," says Svetlana Shtrom, Director of the Office of Technology Transfer at UCF.
She’s the go between for inventors on campus like Welch and the United States Patent & Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia.
"We work with researchers at University of Central Florida who develop innovative ideas, technology, and we help to get those technologies protected. And we look for commercial partners, companies, entrepreneurs, investors who want to take the intellectual property rights to those technologies and develop products that help the society," says Shtrom.
On average, 25% of the federally approved UCF patents get licensed.
That’s comparatively a strong success rate and Svetlana has one she recalls fondly.
"We have a patent, the University of Central Florida on a ceiling fan design. And iit was the first of its kind and it includes a fan blade that is tapered and twisted like a propeller," remembers Shtrom.
Now sold at your favorite home improvement store, but you don’t have to be a university researcher or a corporation with big pockets to apply for and get rewarded a patent.
Your invention just has to be new, useful, and non-obvious.
Best bet? Hire an attorney to help protect your hard work through what’s no doubt a complex and long process.
"It's a tricky process and there are a lot of pitfalls. And it's not a small amount of money for an individual like me, so I wouldn't want to waste it. I would like to have an attorney who's really good at what they do," advises Welch.
And don’t forget to look into the pro bono program that the US Patent & Trademark office has.
They’ve got a network of attorneys who might help you for free in support of American innovation spirit – possibly developing in a garage near you.