Patent and Trademark Research Tips

Patent and Trademark Research Program for Detroit Area Librarians

I attended a program on Patent and Trademark Research sponsored by the Detroit Public Library and Wayne State University on Friday, June 23, 2010.  Tom Turner, of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Depository Library Program, was the speaker for the afternoon program.

The first stop for anyone looking for patent and trademark information is to visit www.uspto.gov.  This website is a powerful collection of information in one location for researchers.   There is a web tutorial on Patent Searching at the following link: www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/ptdl/tutorials.html.

In addition to the United States Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov),  all US Patent and Trademark Office Depository Libraries have access to the public version of PubWEST (Web-based Examiner’s Search Tool).  Depository Libraries in Michigan are the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library,  the Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Ferris Library for Information, Technology & Education (FLITE) in Big Rapids. Over the course of three hours, we learned the basic steps for Patent and Trademark research.

Here are some interesting highlights from the program:

  • It can take four to five years to go from filing an application for a patent to the final issuing of a patent.  During this period, the application for a patent can provide some protection for the inventor.  Obtaining a patent can cost up to $4,000.
  • The United States is a “First to Invent Nation” which means that if two people are applying for a similar patent at the same time, the patent office will investigate research documents to determine which applicant was first to get the idea.  Most nations are “First to Issue Nations”, who issue a patent to the first inventor to apply.
  • Patents are issued for inventions that are Novel (the first), Useful, and Not Obvious (to professional in the field of the invention.)  Patents can be Design (the way something looks, issued for 14 years) or Utility (how something works, issued for 20 years).
  • The US Patent and Trademark Website (www.uspto.gov) offers full-text searching of patents issued 1976 to the present.  The PubWEST database (offered at depository libraries only), covers patents issued from 1920 to the present and also includes European and Japanese patents.
  • The US Patent Office highly recommends the use of a Patent Lawyer, but inventors can save money by hiring a Patent Agent (someone who has passed the bar exam in patents, but is not an attorney), or can apply themselves.  The language of the patent claim is important, as a claim that is  too general or too narrow claim may lead to the patent being rejected.   The Patent Office will look at “Prior Art” to see what earlier technology and written research was available relating to the applicant’s invention.
  • Invention schemes scam people by obtaining design patents, rather than utility patents for their works.
  • Google Patents is an extensive database of patents going back to the 1850’s.  Google purchased their patent information from the US Patent and Trademark Office and then scanned the patent documents.
  • Patents are also included in ChemAbtracts, Engineering Village and Scopus (available in many academic libraries).
  • Intellectual Property Protection covers Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright.  Intellectual Property Protection covers a wide range of property from Business Methods to Trade Secrets.
  • The US Patent and Trademark Office handles Trademarks for items that are traded through inter-state commerce.  Other types of trademarks are State Trademarks and Common Law Trademarks.  Trademarks need to be renewed every two years.  Fees for Trademarks ranged from $275 to $375, depending on the type of trademark and how the application is submitted.
  • Trademarks appear in advertisements, but ads need to be copyrighted.

Many thanks to Mary Kordyban, Patent Librarian at the Detroit Public Library, for planning this excellent program!

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One thought on “Patent and Trademark Research Tips

  1. As an LTU alum (’07), I’m proud to say that I work in the patent field for Landon IP in Southfield, just one mile up Northwestern from LTU! As part of Landon IP I helped create and launch the free patent search educational site Intellogist.

    If there’s anything I can do to help out LTU with regards to patent education, let me know! There’s a lot out there to learn and I think it’s important that engineering students be exposed to intellectual property.

    Chris Jagalla

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