How the Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) is helping under-resourced inventors in developing countries

G. Ragonesi, Associate Legal Officer Legislative and Policy Advice Section Patent Law Division, WIPO

The spark of invention can transform us with motivation and the right support. Mr. Ivan Rizo Tello already had the drive to succeed. WIPO’s Inventor Assistance Program set him up with a patent attorney enabling him to secure protection for his innovation.

For Ivan, a young engineer, the idea struck in a parking lot outside of his hometown Cali, Colombia. He recently acquired a new car, which served as both a source of freedom and pride. Ivan wanted to keep it safe from the elements and theft. That need inspired him to invent a portable, solar car cover which conforms to the contours of the car. This technology is now the heart of the company, Reinventing, that Ivan and his wife created from scratch. Ivan always knew that his talent and life purposes relied in his ingenuity. That’s why the couple decided to live off their creativity, and this invention gave them the strength to pursue their dreams.

Ivan wanted to further develop his innovation so Reinventing could bring it to the market. He needed something that would help him attract investors and potential business partners, and quickly realized that securing a patent was critical.

Unfortunately, patent protection is a struggle for under-resourced inventors like Ivan considering the costs of the official fees and professional advice. Many inventors in developing countries try to navigate the patent system by themselves but with limited success. Drafting a high-quality patent application is a complex task. It can take years to hone the skills to craft strategic patent applications to best position an invention for success.

Luckily for Ivan, the Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) helped him secure the services of a volunteer patent attorney. A World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s initiative, the IAP aims to level the playing field for inventors who have great ideas but struggle to secure patents due to a lack of funds. The program matches under-resourced inventors in developing countries with patent experts willing to support them free of charge.

Volunteers provide assistance before the inventor’s local patent office and, in some selected jurisdictions, for the national phase of an international application filed through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Europe and United States of America are among those jurisdictions. The IAP is implemented in five countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Morocco, Philippines and South Africa, and can count on more than 100 patent professionals around the world. The Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office (epi) sponsors the program to ensure inventors have access to quality European professionals to support filings at the EPO and in European countries.

Mr. Rizo Tello is one of the 44 inventors who have already received assistance in the framework of this program. With that help, he is one of the first of five inventors to secure a patent. The IAP was critical for Mr. Rizo to obtain this important asset for his business. Mr. Rizo Tello, was recently awarded with a WIPO medal for his invention. Now backed by a patent, Ivan is seeking out investors and partners to further develop his family business. “We found support only with the IAP. We had few resources and needed to protect our invention,” he said.

IAP Volunteer Ms. Luz Helena Adarve, Partner, Cardenas & Cardenas –Dentons, guided him throughout the patent application process. She described this opportunity as “a very rewarding experience that reminds us that behind all patent applications, beyond talent and ingenuity, there are constant, resilient people with a desire to contribute to society.” She added, that the IAP “allows the ingenuity of developing countries like Colombia to reach out the entire world.”

The IAP is proving to be a great opportunity for developing countries to help individual inventors secure patent protection while enhancing the capacity of the local patent profession. It relies on volunteers like epi members to fuel the program. Through the program, you will both help inventors and connect with a broader professional network around the world.

To become an IAP volunteer visit the program’s website at