By: Mark R. Malek
In his most recent blog post, PTO Director David Kappos announced that a public round-table discussion will be held on February 15, 2011 from 1:30 to 3:00PM (ET) to obtain input from organizations and individuals on current use of Patent and Trademark Deposit Libraries (PTDL), as well as how the PTO can make them more useful, and a more sustainable resource in the future.
PTDL’s are a free resource in many states for inventors and small businesses to assist them on their journey towards protecting and marketing their inventions. In fact, there is a PTDL right here in Central Florida. You can find some information on the PTDL at the University of Central Florida here.
Director Kappos’ goal is to revitalize and rebrand the PTDL program and bring it more up to speed with current technologies, i.e., electronic searching. To tell you the truth, I think it is about time for them to be updated. The PTDL program can be a very helpful tool for inventors. Here’s my bit of free advice to all inventors out there. Before you even decide to call a patent attorney regarding your invention, do a bit of free searching on your own to see what you come up with. Every patent attorney that reads this will tell you that they hear the following from every single inventor that they encounter: “there’s nothing out there like this.” While that might be true in the sense that the local Home Depot does not carry the tool that you just invented over the weekend to remove glitter glue from a carpet (yes – I have little kids and I am looking for such a tool), it does not necessarily mean that there is not a patent, pending patent application, or some other piece of prior art out there that describes your very invention. Just because it did not make it to market, does not necessarily mean that your invention has not already been disclosed, or even patented.
A great place to start out your search is a PTDL. You can also do some patent searching at the USPTO website, as well as at Google Patents and Free Patents Online. These are some of my favorite places to start searching for inventions, and I think they can be of assistance to any inventor out there. If you are in the unfortunate position to find your invention disclosed in a reference that you locate on one of these sites, the bright side is that you saved a lot of money on a patent search, and now you know what you need to do in order to design around the located reference in order for your invention to be patentable. After you come up with the design around, it might be a good time to call the patent attorney to find out if the design around is patentable.
Big pat on the back goes to the PTO for making the commitment to help the small inventor. Now let’s just get that pesky backlog taken care of….Sorry Director Kappos – I couldn’t pass on a chance to take a jab at the backlog.