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Inventive online resources for inventors

Inventors might spend most of their time creating their dream, but with these applications, they can get more out of their work.

Last week, I received an e-mail asking if I had ever taken a look at sites and services for inventors. I hadn't. And judging by the size of those sites' communities, I'm guessing that most other folks haven't, either. Below are some of the neatest resources, both on the Web and on your iPhone, designed specifically for inventors.

Web sites

Incuby Incuby is an online community designed for inventors who want to get the word out about their inventions. Once you sign up, the site asks you to input information about yourself. After that, it asks for pertinent information about your invention. You can give it a title, describe it, choose a category, and let the community know if your invention is patented yet.

You can then start searching for other inventions. The site's listings include some good information on the creations, including product photos, videos, and prices. Soon, Incuby will enable users to buy those products on the site. Incuby is designed well, and its community, while small, is quite active. It's worth joining.

Start adding inventions to your Incuby profile in no time. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

InventBay InventBay enables inventors to list their products to target investors who might want to bring those products to store shelves. InventBay itself even does some investing.

When you sign up for InventBay and list your product, the company requires a seven-day period to review your invention before it's placed on the site. In that time, InventBay decides if it wants to invest in your creation. If it does, you'll receive notice and work out an investment plan with the company. If not, it's listed on the site for other investors to check out. It's a neat idea. And since it's free to list a product, it's worth trying out.

InventBay knows everyone needs a Rooltopper, right? Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

InventNow InventNow is a really great idea. The site is an outlet for child inventors to show off their inventions. They can list their product, describe how it works, explain the problem it solves, and (hopefully) be seen by an investor. The site's message board is active and a great place for kids to share their ideas. And some of the inventions I saw on this site were much better than the inventions created by adults on other sites. Definitely check it out, if you have a budding inventor in your home.

See that bike? Yeah, it has suction cups and was invented by a child. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

InvenTube InvenTube is a place where inventors and investors can work together to make a product a success. After you sign up for the site, you need to input information about your product, including whether it is patented, what you plan to do with it, and more. You then describe the product you want to sell and place it on the site.

The hope is that InvenTube users who own companies or want to invest in your product will like what they see and start working with you. Unfortunately, the community is quite small, and it might be difficult for that to happen. I should also note that since the site is designed so poorly, it's difficult to find a product worth investing in, which only hampers the inventor's ability to attract suitors.

InvenTube has some real winners, like toilet handle covers. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

United States Patent and Trademark Office The Patent and Trademark Office site is a handy tool for any inventor. It is filled with how-to articles on inventing a product, checking to make sure that your creation isn't patented by someone else, and patenting your inventions. The site also has a variety of search tools and software downloads to help inventors and attorneys determine if a product or something similar has already been patented. It's a helpful resource for any inventor.

Search for U.S. patents on the Patent and Trademark Office site. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Mobile apps

Famous Inventions and Patents Famous Inventions and Patents is a really neat iPhone app. Although it profiles the creation of 13 major inventions, including the telephone, light bulb, and television, it also provides tutorials for budding inventors to see what it takes to create that next big product. The app also provides you with relevant patent and statutory information, so you can see which regulations apply to a particular type of patent. It's on sale for 99 cents in Apple's App Store.

Famous Inventions
Famous Inventions lets you see the real U.S. patent filings. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Patent Legal Coach The Patent Legal Coach, also available for your iPhone and iPod Touch, provides you with all the legal codes that matter when filing a patent. The app also boasts legal guidance and a listing of all the most relevant provisions to help you sift through the legal code. For 99 cents, it's worth having.

Patent Legal Coach
Patent Legal Coach educates on patent law. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

1. Incuby: Design matters in the invention business, and Incuby delivers.

2. InventBay: A cool idea, with some good prospects for investment.

3. Patent Legal Coach: Essentially mobile access to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.