Initiative provides individual inventors access to additional resources from federal agency
Monday, January 30, 2023

The University of Iowa Lichtenberger Engineering Library is now part of a select group of higher education institutions across the country—and only one in Iowa—to be designated a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The PTRC is a resource for those with personally-owned inventions, such as student inventors and inventors from the community. It offers individuals from the university and throughout the state the ability to tap into the rich services provided by the USPTO’s vast networks of experts on intellectual property, which includes patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. It also serves as a resource for University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF) staff as they work to protect faculty inventions owned by the university.

“The Lichtenberger Engineering Library has an abundance of experience promoting and delivering information and instruction services to the campus community and public, which is an essential element of the mission of the UI Libraries and university,” says John Culshaw, Jack B. King university librarian. “We’re very pleased to now have this opportunity for our skilled and dedicated librarians to continue collaborating to serve individuals looking to develop something impactful.”

“We congratulate the Lichtenberger Engineering Library for undertaking this initiative and the USPTO looks forward to working together to extend these important opportunities to as many individuals as possible,” says Robert Berry, manager of the Patent and Trademark Resource Center Program, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Lichtenberger Engineering Library offers a number of ways to learn more about intellectual property and how to access patent records, including one-on-one assistance, trainings, and workshops. It also collaborates with a number of campus partners such as the UIRF, which is part of the Office of the Vice President for ResearchCollege of EngineeringJohn Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC); Pomerantz Business Library; and others.

Some notable individual patents held by alumni include:

  • US 2370990 (Tumbling Device) invented by George Nissen (BSC '37)—Inventor of the trampoline, which he built in his garage in 1936. Bachelor SC, Commerce and Science, 1937.
  • US 1814357A (Acoustic Device for Sound Pick-up) invented by Harry F. Olson (BE ‘24, MS ‘25, PHD physics ‘28, EE ‘32)—A pioneer and leading authority in acoustics and electronic sound recording, Olson developed magnetic tape recorders for sound and television, the electronic music synthesizer, and underwater sound equipment.

The Lichtenberger Engineering Library also maintains an active instructional schedule, which includes on-campus lectures and classes covering intellectual property topics as a part of its information literacy program. These sessions are available as for-credit classroom work as well as open to the public.

The UIRF works to obtain intellectual property protection on innovations created by researchers through their work at the university and partners with industry for the commercial development of new products and services. While the UIRF manages patent protection for university-owned inventions, until now there has been no resource on campus for those with personally-owned inventions. In addition, access to patent records can serve as an asset for university faculty conducting basic research—often scientific discoveries, especially those from industry, end up in published patent applications even if they are never published in traditional academic journals.

“UIRF is particularly excited that this resource is now available for our faculty start-up companies,” says Marie Kerbeshian, assistant vice president and executive director for the UIRF. “As these companies create their own intellectual property independent of the university, they are now able to seek advice that will help them develop a strong intellectual property portfolio.”

You can learn more about and access patents here. For more information about educational opportunities, potential partnerships, and more, please contact Kari Kozak, director of the Lichtenberger Engineering Library, at

The library will hold an event to celebrate the designation on Tuesday, April 25, from 1 to 3 p.m. and more details will be shared when available.

Some of the upcoming workshop that are related to this new designation include:

Business Building Blocks 

Get your business idea going with our new Business Building Blocks workshops! We will be offering each of these three workshops in three different locations during the semester (that's 9 workshops total!). You can mix and match what works with your schedule and interests. Business Building Blocks workshops are presented by the University of Iowa Libraries and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

Turning Inventions into Profit

Feb 16 – 3:30 – 4:20, 3111 SC

Join us for a discussion on how to build strong IP portfolios and commercialize innovations.  We will talk about diligence requirements and strategies to bring a product to market. 

Taught by Mihaela Bojin, Associate Director, University of Iowa Research Foundation.

Who Owns Your Invention?

April 27 – 3:30-4:20, 3111 SC

Federal intellectual property law lays out in detail who is an inventor for a patent or an author for a copyrighted work.  But do inventors and authors get to own their creations?  We will explore the ins and outs of IP ownership:  what happens when you make your creations with other contributors, do you have to share any money you make from your inventions with others, does your employer own or get to use your creations?  We will also delve into other implications of employment contracts on your intellectual knowledge and ability to work, such as confidentiality and non-compete agreements.

Taught by Marie Kerbeshian, Assistant Vice President & Executive Director, University of Iowa Research Foundation

(Please note, the Lichtenberger Engineering Library is not a legal entity and a licensed lawyer should be consulted if you need legal assistance.)