experience inspired Jill Gilbert Welytok, River Hills, to help
others navigate the often complex world of patent law. She is
the author of five "Dummies" books.
A true life fish story in which the
fish got away has long motivated Jill Gilbert Welytok’s career and
personal life. Thanks to that fish, today she’s a patent attorney,
prolific author and CPA.
Welytok, who grew up in northern
Illinois, was involved in the family business. Her dad ran a
mail-order business selling novelties and jokes (all of the clean
variety). Little Jill handled the accounting. In the early 1970s, Mr.
Gilbert came up with the zany idea of attaching a fake fish to a
wooden plaque. It had a motion detector and anytime someone got near
the plaque, the fish wiggled like crazy. "My dad was a pioneer in
using Chinese manufacturing for this hit joke," Welytok says.
"Soon, however, we started getting returns from irate customers
because their fish didn’t work. After closely inspecting the faulty
fish, we realized they were not ours. Someone was selling knockoffs.
Unfortunately, he had never patented his idea. The fish is still being
At Northern Illinois University, she
majored in history, then went to DePaul University Law School.
"My dad wanted me to be a tax attorney in a big law firm, and I
did do that for a while," says the River Hills resident. "I
also decided to take the CPA exam, which was pretty easy for me
because of what I’d done all my life."
Still smarting about the losses her
father had sustained because he neglected to patent his fish, Welytok
sat for the Patent Bar Exam thinking she could really help small
businesses. "The inventors and entrepreneurs assess the market,
but I can protect their marketable ideas and products," she says.
In the meantime, she met and married
Dan Welytok, a patent attorney at White Hirschboeck Dudek. Eventually,
there were three smart offspring: two girls and a boy. Remembering the
value of her own family, Welytok decided to take some time off from
the rigors of practicing law. That’s when she began her formidable
publishing career, especially her contribution to those well-known
black and yellow "Dummies" books. As of this date, she has
written five of them.
"I love the concept of the ‘Dummies’
books," she says. "I think that if something is explained
right, anyone can do it." Her most recent is "Nonprofit Law
and Governance for Dummies," released this year. One of her most
surprising hits is "Sarbanes-Oxley for Dummies."
Two years ago, Welytok decided to
resume her patent law practice, opening her own firm, Absolute
Technology, in Milwaukee. From the high-tech to the time-saver in the
kitchen, Welytok says, "Protect it." She also runs Inventor
and Entrepreneur Clubs in venues like the Frank L. Weyenberg Library
in Mequon where smart people meet to vet their ideas and learn how to
take them to market. She is taking this concept nationwide by serving
as an adviser for a nationally syndicated TV show, "Everyday
Edisons," for 490 affiliates on public television. Welytok is
writing the companion book to it, which will be published in 2008.