Sunday, September 19, 2010

Can I do this at home?

NC State Libraries' excellent patent and trademark pages include one page addressing a question that I often field at SFPL's reference desk -- do I have to come in to the library, or can I do this at home?

It's a good question, and one that I have a really hard time answering. We do have access to a lot of materials that you cannot find online -- CASSIS, PubWEST, indexes, Official Gazettes, etc. Then again, the amount of patent information available on the web is increasing every day, and lots of PTDLs, not to mention the central PTDLP Office, have published fantastic search guides demonstrating search procedures that can be used on the freely available PatFT, AppFT and TESS databases with great results. Combine that with the increase in quality in free online patent and trademark (mostly patent, really) databases, and you've got an environment where the self-learner can do a pretty thorough patent search from any computer.

That said, I'd like to add to the list offered by NC State a couple of reasons why I invite people to come into the library for patent and trademark information:

  • Computer access -- of course you can't do it at home if you don't have a computer, broadband, and software that meets various databases' requirements.
  • PubWEST and CASSIS -- depending on the person's willingness to learn a new skill, each of these PTDL-only tools offers advantages over web-based databases.
  • Commercially published books -- from Nolo, Sphinx, Oceana, etc. These are the books that fill in the lawyer-shaped holes in the help that a librarian can offer.
  • Librarians -- It's very helpful(for some people) to be able to ask a person questions face-to-face. I'm not saying that your search will be a piece of cake after talking to us, but we can usually offer some insight into the skills you need to do this kind of research.
As for a garden variety patentability search, I would say that most people can do a fairly thorough search at home (rather than a very thorough search at a PTDL, rather than a "thorough-as-you're-going-to-get" search at the USPTO Search Facility in Alexandria).

So there you go. You can't do everything you can do at a PTDL at home, but you can do a lot at home.

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