The Steps from Here to Idea

When Central Point resident Jill Ehlers invented a head strap to aid in travel napping, she took the long route toward developing what eventually became known as the Nodstop.

She paid attorney fees and navigated the waters of being an amateur inventor, understanding patents and creating a prototype all on her own.

Professional Assistance for Amateur Inventors

The Micro-Inventors Program of Oregon assists in the development of consumer, health-care and wellness products for amateur inventors. Often inventors will have several ideas in infancy or the "napkin stage" and need assistance in moving through the process.

For the coming year, MIPO will embark on a special campaign to launch 20 new products by Oregon inventors.

Since no inventors group exists locally in the Rogue Valley, MIPO is planning to start one. For details, call 503-546-8813 or e-mail

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She paid more and stressed out more, she now says, far beyond what was needed.

"It's really hard to know who to go to, where to go to, what attorneys to trust," says Ehlers.

"Do I trademark it? Do I patent it? Is any of it worth the money?"

Enter MIPO.

A nonprofit founded in 2006, the Micro-Inventors Program of Oregon provides training, consulting and resources to independent inventors and small businesses promoting new inventions and products on a local and international level.

A Portland-based nonprofit essentially "in the business of great ideas," MIPO provides everything from creating product molds and prototypes from a giant vat of plastic to researching the Internet and patent records and brainstorming with existing clients for new inventions.

In a nutshell, says MIPO Executive Director Kedma Ough, amateur inventors pitch their ideas to MIPO and the organization helps them through every phase of development, often saving inventors up to $5,000 in technical and legal assistance. Patents can cost $10,000 or more in legal and government fees.

Products from Oregon in the three years since MIPO's inception include an electric-powered skateboard, a clog-fighting drain and an interchangeable purse interior dubbed "Purslip."

While it's one of about 65 inventor groups across the country, MIPO is unique in its nonprofit status and focus on consumer products, health care and wellness, Ough says. The organization also emphasizes helping women and disabled inventors.

"Since we're nonprofit, I think we've really eliminated all the fear that comes with, 'Can I trust this person?' " Ough says.

Rogue Valley inventor Jesse Reed, an Eagle Point resident with a handful of communication-based inventions in the works, says MIPO is crucial in helping new inventors find success.

"It's really important there's an organization that does what they do because there'd be a lot of inventors that didn't have anywhere to turn when they're just getting started," he says.

"I can't disclose any information yet, but they're helping me with several I couldn't do without their help."

For Ehlers, the Nodstop likely won't involve help from MIPO. The process she's gone through, however, will be a reminder of what she says is an "invaluable service" provided by MIPO.

"I've got some other things I'm doing now and it's wonderful there's an organization that helps you through the process. They really open a lot of doors."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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