Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taking a look at the new USPTO website: Patents and Trademarks process

I've eaten the same lunch (peanut butter sandwich and a piece of fruit) pretty much every day for almost 20 years now. I haven't changed shampoo brands (a certain discount brand's coconut scent) since I left for college. I can't say that I have a favorite album, movie, or book, but I've probably listened to Exile on Main Street on average about once a month since I was ten, seen Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome a couple of times a year since about that age, and I've reread East of Eden, flawed though it may be, more than any other book, probably half a dozen times.

I would consider none of these items my favorite in their respective categories; my point is that I have a tendency to find something that works and then get really comfortable with it. So when the USPTO changed their website, I had a brief period of curiosity and excitement followed by a state of confusion. The previous website was certainly far from "user friendly," but, by golly, it was familiar. I had learned the complicated ritual of clicks and scrolls required to get to, for instance, the Index to the USPC, or the Design Code Search Manual.

Here's the point of all of the above navel-gazing: the new website is much better organized, and it has retained some of the best parts of the old while introducing some vast improvements. While I'm gradually getting accustomed to it, I plan to highlight in this space some of the new features (or old features that were previously buried) that work well.

The first really cool new features are two handy lists called Patents Process and The Trademark Process. The folks at the PTO have taken the very complicated processes of applying for patents or trademarks and broken them down into five and nine steps, respectively.

Exhaustive it ain't. But what these lists are is a starting point, complete with links to the relevant tools and search guides. These lists make dealing with the USPTO seem doable, which is very valuable for small entities. For me, this means a new resource for library patrons who are just about ready to dive into the weird and wonderful world of intellectual property.

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