Thursday, July 31, 2014

Plant Patents and Exactly What Are They?

Today it is July, 2014, and as a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) librarian, I can share with you the information that many United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and PTRC librarians already know, the only paper patents that we receive at our PTRC's are plant patents. According to the USPTO, due to the nature of color photography, plant patents will probably always remain. Design and utility patents are no longer printed and sent to us in a paper format. Instead, everyone can access them via the www.uspto.gov web site, or using PubEast or PubWest. All which are accessible at the Saint Louis Public Library PTRC, seven days a week.

"What is a plant patent?" you may ask. Well,  defined by the USPTO, a plant patent is "granted by the Government to an inventor (or the inventor's heirs or assigns) who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and  new variety of plant, other than an edible tuber propagated plant or a plant found in a uncultivated state."

"How long does a plant patent last?" you may wonder. According to the USPTO, "the grant lasts for 20 years from the date of filing the application (or if the application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121 or 365(c) to an earlier-filed application, 20 years from the earliest filing date for which a benefit is claimed under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121 or 365 (c))."

Next, you may ask, "What does a plant patent do?"Again, as defined by the USPTO, a plant patent  "... protects the inventor's right to exclude others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the plant so reproduced or any of its parts throughout the United States, or from importing the plant so reproduced, or any parts thereof.  This protection is limited to a plant in its ordinary meaning:
  •  A living plant organism which expresses a set of characteristics determined by its single, genetic makeup or genotype, which can be duplicated through asexual reproduction, but which can not otherwise be "made" or "manufactured."
  • Sports, mutants, hydrids, and transformed plants are comprehended;  sport of mutants may be spontaneous or induced. Hybrids may be natural, from a planned breeding program,or somatic in source.  While natural, from a planned breeding program, or somatic in source. While natural plant mutants might have naturally occurred, they must have been discovered in a cultivated area.
  • Algae and macro fungi are regarded as plants, but bacteria are not."
Please visit our SLPL PTRC if you are interested to actually see a plant patent. We store all plant patents from the USPTO in our off-site Compton location. Weekly I received brown envelopes from the USPTO filled with newly approved plant patents. After I receive two inches of unbound plant patents, I prepare them into a format that I then send to get bound. It usually takes several weeks before they are returned from the bindery. If there is a specific plant that you are interested to see their plant patent, if their is one, please give me a call at (314) 539-0390, and ask for the Patent and Trademark Librarian and I will try to help you locate one.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Let's Learn About the New Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC)

What is CPC?

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) was initiated as a joint partnership between the USPTO and the European Patent Office (EPO) where the Offices have agreed to harmonize their existing classification systems (ECLA and USPC, respectively) and migrate towards a common classification scheme.  This was a strategic decision by both offices and is seen as an important step towards advancing harmonization efforts currently being undertaken through the IP5's Working Group 1 on Classification. 

Beginning on January 1, 2015, the CPC will be used to classify patents that are approved by the USPTO. Actually,  the conversion to CPC by the USPTO has already been occurring. By January 1, 2015, the conversion by the USPTO will provide an up-to-date classification system that is internationally compatible.   This is really neat, as you can then be able to search in Europe and the United States using the same classification numbering system. This partnership has developed a common, internationally compatible classification system for technical documents, in particular patent publications, which will be used by both offices in the patent granting process.

CPC and IPC present the same hierachical structure, from sections to groups.  All information available in IPC is also available in CPC and classified practically in the same way.  CPC does not have many more subdivisions than the IPC, that is, many more subgroups.  An IPC group is not used in the CPC.

The CPC is constantly revised in collaboration between USPTO and EPO experts.  The revision process is flexible enough as to ensure the structure is up-to-date.  The CPC is an international, fexible, and highly specific classification scheme, which takes the patent world one step further towards global harmonization.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to request a patent and trademark librarian to visit your school, office, or group in Saint Louis, Missouri?

Throughout the year we often get requests from school teachers, intellectual property university professors and librarians, businesses, and others to visit and give a two hour presentation about patents and trademarks to their staff. The opportunity to do outreach is very exciting! It provides patent and trademark librarians to share information about inventions and how to request a patent or trademark. 

If you are interested to have the patent and trademark librarian come to visit your school or workplace in the Saint Louis proximity, please send an email to sfraser@slpl.org.  Include your name, contact information, who your audience is, how many in your audience, and when you are interested to have a visit from the patent and trademark librarian.

Whether you are learning about patents and trademarks for the first time, or an old pro, there is always something new to learn about searching for patents and trademarks. Please keep in mind when you request a visit that we have to schedule it into our calendar. It could take as little as a fews days, to a few months, depending on staffing and time required to prepare a presentation.

Looking forward to teaching others about United States Patent and Trademark searches.

Monday, June 9, 2014

African-American Women Inventors in America

Have you ever wondered how many inventors there are of different cultures? This information is not kept by the United States Government when you apply for a patent. It is not the practice of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to identify what cultural background a patentee is from. Instead, over the years, authors have researched who was an African-American inventor. They have published books and pamphlets on this topic.

In two days I will be presenting a new workshop on how to research a patent idea. I will be explaining, using laptops so class attendees can see for themselves how it is done (see the United States Patent and Trademark web site:  http://www.uspto.gov for more details). During my new workshop, I will be giving examples of African-American patent holders, specifically African-American women inventors.

Did you know that in 1892 Sarah Boone invented the ironing board (Patent No. 473,653)? Or that in 1959 Bertha Berman invented the fitted bed sheet (Patent No. 2,907,055)? These two African-American women were ingenious to invent something that is now used by pretty much everyone in North America.What they invented was practical to the public. For a period of twenty years, owning a patent means that the inventor can reap the profits of their invention.

As many friends know, I am a knitter, so it was a nice surprise to learn that on December 15, 1896, Julia Terry Hammonds invented an Apparatus for Holding Yarn Skeins (Patent No. 572,985).  Many inventions often arise because of them making the inventors life easier. Not everyone wants to hold their hands out in front of them, a few feet apart, so you can wind your yarn around them and create a ball of yarn for your next knitting project. Of course, once a patent has expired, which is after a twenty-year period, industries may develop a similar idea without a licensing cost. That is probably what you might see today in a knitting store that is selling yarn that still requires it to be wound into a ball.

A very useful reference source for researching African-American Inventors was written by Frank H. Schaller. In 2006, he published, "African American Women Inventors, 1884-2003." He provides a chronological index of seventy-four African-American women inventors. Schaller is a registered patent agent.

To learn more about African-American women inventors come browse the following books at the Saint Louis Public Library:

Burt, McKinley. Jr.  1989.  Black Inventors of America.
                Portland, OR:  National Book Company.

Holmes, Keith C.  2008.  Black Inventors Crafting Over 200 Years of Success.
               Brooklyn, NY:  Global Black Inventors Research Projects, Inc.

Martin, Velma L.  1997.  Inventions & Patents of African Americans.
                St. Louis, MO:  St. Louis Public Library.

Schaller, Frank H.  2007.  African American Women Inventors 1884-2003.
                Needham, MA:  The Author.

Sluby, Patricia Carter.  2004.  The Inventive Spirit of African Americans.
                Westport, CT:  Praeger Publishers. 

Wilson, Donald and Jane.  2003. The Pride of African American History.
               Birmingham, MI:  DCW Publishing Company.

Friday, May 30, 2014


What is PubEast and where can I find training on it? When you submit your patent applications, United States Patent and Trademark Office has examiners that will review your patent application. They are experts in their field. Examiners are not necessarily attorneys, but are experts in their field, such as mechanical engineers, chemists, and botanists. They are also able to work from home.

These examiners are able to use an automated search tool called PubEast. E stands for examiner, A for automated, S for search, and T for tool. Until 2014, PubEast was only available to the public at the Public Search Facility located in the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA.  Here you can find paralegals and others who are working for attorneys from across the United States doing patent searches using PubEast. So, it is a great opportunity for patent searchers to learn how to search the way patent examiners do, from any of the 84 Patent and Trademark Resource Centers located across the United States.

Why would I want to use a more complex search tool, you may ask? Well, once you learn how to use PubEast, a software interface, you will be able to access multiple patent databases. Each database has it's own unique index that is used to find a search. These databases include:

US-PG PUB - Pre-grant published applications. Beginning March 15, 2001, utility applications that have been pending for 18 months have been published for searching / viewing.

US PAT - U.S. Patents. Contains full text of most patents issued from 1971 to the present. Updated weekly as patents are issued. This database includes some minimal information of all other U.S. patents back to 1790. Such information includes patent number, publication date, and current classification information.

USOCR - Scanned patents (unedited scanned file). U.S. patents issued between 1920 - 1970 and patents that are missing from the USPAT file from 1971-1976. The data was loaded using the process of Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The patent copies were scanned with no text editing performed.

FPRS - Foreign Patent Retrieval System. Retrieval of an incomplete data set of foreign patent documents from varying countries and dates.

EPO - European Patent Office Patents.  Published documents from the European Patent Office (EP), selected EPO member countries including Switzerland - CH, Germany - DE, France - FR, Great Britain -GB, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WO). English language abstracts are searched for these documents.

JPO - Japanese Patent Office.  English language abstracts of unexamined Japanese patent applications beginning October, 1976.

DERWENT - Patents from over 40 countries.  Published documents from the DERWENT DWPI database which includes patents from over 40 countries beginning on August 1, 1961.  

Each database has indexes which you can use to restrict a search.  The default is the entire database. All indexes are not in each database.

So, if you are interested to search like a patent examiner, come visit the Saint Louis Public Library Patent and Trademark Resource Center, located in the Science/Technology Room in our Central Library located at 1301 Olive Street, Saint Louis, MO 63103. We have two dedicated computers for searching PubEast. If you are interested to learn about PubEast, please call our PTRC at (314) 539-0390 or send an email to sfraser@slpl.org to schedule your visit.  Stay tuned for PubEast workshops later this year!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Information for Local Saint Louis Inventors and the Public

Located in the Central Library of the Saint Louis Public Library (SLPL), is the Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC). One of the first twenty-two Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries set-up across the United States, it was established in 1870. The SLPL PTRCS has been a place for inventors to come to for information pertaining to questions such as:  How do I use the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the USPTO) web site? Where can I find a fee schedule for patents and trademarks? Where can I find out how much I owe on my patent maintenance charges?

In 2014, there are eighty-four PTRCs located throughout the United States. Many of these PTRCs are situated in a university. However, although many are serving an academic community, they are also serving outside of these communities. The Saint Louis Public Library is one of many found in a public library setting. This makes it easier for individual inventors to use. PTRCs can also be found in state and county libraries.

As the USPTO states on their web site, PTRCs have trained specialists that are designated to disseminate patent and trademark information and to support the diverse intellectual property needs of the public. As librarians, we are not attorneys, and thus, do not provide legal guidance. However, we welcome the public to visit, phone, or email us to learn what tools are available to help them decide if they should apply for a patent or trademark. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Current Status of USPTO Silicon Valley Office Developments

SCCBA Blog - May 6, 2014

City of San Jose approves USPTO Silicon Valley Office lease; satellite office expected to open after July 2015

The City of San Jose revealed in an April 1 memorandum that construction of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) Silicon Valley Office is scheduled to start in May 2015 and be completed in phases by July 2015. The USPTO will lease 35,194 square feet of space in City Hall for the office.  The San Jose City Council unanimously approved the terms and conditions of the lease on April 15.
After numerous delays caused by the U.S. government budget sequestration, the USPTO finally selected City Hall as the venue for the Silicon Valley Office in November 2013. The office will be located in the City Hall Wing, occupying three floors. The space will encompass the 4th Street retail space, which is currently vacant and undeveloped; all of the 2nd floor of the wing; and a portion of the 3rd floor of the wing that faces 4th Street. The 4th Street retail space (the first floor) will be the public facing community outreach space, allowing local inventors and entrepreneurs to have convenient access to databases, resources, and experts. The space will also include training and meeting areas.

The estimated cost of construction is $6 million, to be paid by the USPTO. To make room for the Office, the City will relocate some of its employees to other parts of City Hall. This will cost the City $4.66 million, including the cost of design, construction, and employee relocation. The City expects the cost to be covered by the first five years of rent payments under the lease.
According to the lease terms, the USPTO will pay market rate rent to the City for the first five years. Thereafter, the USPTO has five one-year options to extend the lease at 50% of the market rate. After the initial ten years, the City will decide whether to extend options for another ten years, with rent to be at the market rate. Included in the rent will be utilities, maintenance, and repairs. The USPTO will cover its own security and janitorial expenses.

The USPTO and the City of San Jose expect that the new satellite office will greatly assist in accelerating the patent process. The establishment of satellite offices stemmed from the need to reduce the USPTO’s backlog. According to the City’s April 1 memorandum, approximately 110 new jobs will be created: 80 patent examiners, 20 administrative judges, and 10 management, administrative, and IT staff. The City expects that the City Hall location will help draw more law firms and search firms to the area as well.  The lease is thus expected to generate a significant amount of revenue for the City and provide a boost to local business.
The USPTO has requested that the City, through its Public Works Department, manage this project pursuant to a joint procurement of design-build services for both the Patent Office and the relocation of City employees. The USPTO has agreed to pay the City for the project management services.