Oct 05

What’s a patent troll?

We wanted to warn local business of a sort of business you don’t want to get to know – patent trolls. According to Minnesota Business Magazine


Every year, thousands of small and midsize business owners face questionable legal threats from companies, organizations or individuals. When the entities don’t actually use the patents they hold, but assert them anyway, they’re known as patent assertion entities (PAEs).

To the business owners on the other side of the table, PAEs are known as patent trolls. Some patent trolls hold multiple patents, sending out hundreds or thousands of threatening letters demanding payments from companies that have done nothing wrong. But since many patents are vaguely worded, trolls bet that at least a few targets will play it safe and pay up.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Do your research…

Before any new R&D investment, says Campbell, a company should conduct a thorough patent search to determine whether any existing patents cover its planned activities, and who owns those patents.

Google’s free patent search tool, which includes U.S. and some foreign patents, is fine for quick searches. But patents sometimes seem to be written in a foreign language, so it’s usually wise to hire a patent law firm or patent search agency. Fees typically start at $150 per hour and rise from there.

According to Campbell, simple searches take just a few hours, while more complex cases may require a week or longer. However, patent searches are typically cheaper than actually filing a patent, which can cost $10,000 to $20,000.

Oct 01

DEED Launching Workforce Housing Program

A new program from DEED

DEED Launching Workforce Housing Program: Agency holding information sessions in October, accepting applications starting Nov. 2

Madeline Koch, 651-259-7236

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will begin accepting applications on Nov. 2 for grants awarded by the Workforce Housing Development Program.

The program , which is open to cities and joint county-city economic development authorities in Greater Minnesota, provides matching funds that communities can use to encourage developers to build market-rate rental housing.

“Workforce housing is essential to supporting economic growth, especially in Greater Minnesota,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Employers tell me all the time that housing shortages make it much harder for them to recruit and keep employees. This new investment is a step in the right direction.”

A total of $2 million will be awarded by the program next year and another $2 million in 2017.

“This new program will encourage rental housing development in areas of the state where new construction has not kept up with job and population growth,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “ Not only does new housing help businesses attract workers, but it contribute s to economic d evelopment in communities.”

Under the program, grants cannot exceed 25 percent of the cost of building a new rental housing development. Units of local government, nonprofits or benefiting businesses must contribute $1 for every $2 provided by the program.

The deadline for applying for next year ’s round of funding is Jan. 15, 2016. Projects will be selected on the basis of need, statewide economic impact, project financial plan and project readiness. Preference will be given to areas with fewer than 18,000 people.

DEED launched a pilot version of the program last year to encourage new housing in Roseau and Pennington counties. Both areas of the state are struggling with housing shortages that make it difficult to attract workers for growing businesses like Polaris Industries in Roseau and Digi-Key in Thief River Falls. Developers say the cost of housing construction in those areas often is higher than the value of the buildings being built.

Other details about the program are available here or by contacting Christine.schieber@state.mn.us .

Public inf ormation sessions about the program and grant application process will be held next month at the following locations:

Thursday, Oct. 1, from 9 to 11 a.m.
Jay C. Hormel Nature Center
Ruby Rupner Auditorium
1304 21st St. NE

Redwood Falls
Friday, Oct. 2, from 9 to 11 a.m.
City Council Chambers
333 S. Washington St.

Grand Rapids
Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m.
Sheriff’s training room (basement)
440 NE First Ave.

Detroit Lakes
Wednesday, Oct. 14, from 9 to 11 a.m.
City Council Chambers
1025 Roosevelt Ave.

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and our services, visit us at http://mn.gov/deed . We’re on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mndeed

Sep 30

MN CERT grants for energy programs

The Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) seek proposals for seed grant funds for the labor costs for energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects in Minnesota.

CERTs Seed Grants Request for Proposals | Clean Energy Resource Teams

Project funding can support technical assistance services (i.e., labor costs only, such as for a consultant, design professional, installer, or student labor) for projects in all seven Minnesota CERT regions: Central, Metro, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central.

Applications are due October 26, 2015. (Learn more)

Sep 29

Brookings reports says Minnesota’s economy is strong and that’s why we should invest in the future

The Brookings Institute recently released a report that promoted investment for Minnesota…

In particular, this report finds the following:

  1. Although Minnesota’s economy has performed well on many counts in recent years, its future economic strength is not assured.
  2. Regions need to invest in the proven pillars of economic growth and competitiveness—innovation, trade, and talent—in order to ensure that all Minnesotans benefit from the state’s strong economic performance.
  3. To expand economic opportunity and prosperity, the state of Minnesota should empower its regions to accelerate action and problem-solving on the three pillars of economic growth.

In the near term, Minnesota’s state officials should focus on what its leadership can do best: establishing a high-level vision and goals for Minnesota’s growth and prosperity; better aligning existing programs and investments in innovation, trade, and education/skills development to support such goals, especially at the regional level; and creating shared interests among regions to benchmark progress against key indicators of success.

In the longer term, the state has an opportunity to formalize a policy framework and high-level interagency approach to regional solutions to economic prosperity. The governor’s administration and state legislature could more directly invest in bottom-up initiatives and collaborations.

With Minnesota’s economy and revenues rebounding, now is the time to ensure that growth is broadly shared— in every region and for every Minnesotan. The most effective way to do so is engaging the leaders who are on the frontlines of change, and giving them the streamlined tools, incentives, and resources to create the foundation for long-term prosperity. Adopting a regionally driven economic development agenda today will bolster the competitiveness of Minnesota and its regions tomorrow in the ever-changing global economy.

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