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July 25, 2014 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By guest columnist Karen Kitchens, Wyoming State Library, intellectual property/documents librarian
“I have an invention I’ve been toying with for some time. A co-worker suggested I should do a patent search before I file an application. Can you please provide some information on how and where I can start the whole patent process?” Lily, Casper
Although you are not required to search previous patents before filing your application, the benefits of this search are crucial.
The purpose of a preliminary patent search is to discover whether your invention fulfills the requirements set forth by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These requirements are that the invention must be new; must be useful or have utility; or must not be obvious.
Preliminary patent searching is the first step in discovering whether your idea is new. You need to know as early as possible in the process whether someone else has a similar patent, which would prohibit you from patenting and marketing your invention.
Even if you plan to hire an intellectual property attorney, you may wish to conduct your own preliminary patent search because it will help avoid wasted time and excessive legal fees. If prior art (existing patents) similar to your invention are found, you or your patent attorney can write your patent application in a way that differentiates your invention from previous patents, thus maximizing your chances of being awarded a patent.
Additionally, the results of your preliminary search may offer you needed insight into developments within your field and give you a general idea of how a patent application is arranged. Conducting a search is not as simple as doing a keyword search on the Internet. So, where do you begin?
The Wyoming State Library (WSL) is here to help. We are the only designated Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) in Wyoming. We offer free one-on-one patent search training; a private work station available for public use; and USPTO and commercial patent searching resources.
As a PTRC, we also offer free access to the Public Examiner’s Automated Search Tool (PubEAST) used by USPTO patent examiners and professional patent searchers. You will search patents using the same interface as the professionals.
In Wyoming, PubEAST is available only at the Wyoming State Library. PubEAST provides seamless access to multiple text data sources, including the Pre-Grant Publications; U.S. Patents; European Patent Office Abstracts; Japanese Patent Office Abstracts; and the Foreign Patent Retrieval System database.
WSL staff can show you how to conduct a preliminary search using the current patent classification system. We also can help you log into the secure USPTO server where you can conduct your search.
The preliminary patent search is an important step in the entire patenting process. Let the Wyoming State Library help you in this process. For more information, go to will.state.wy.us/sis/ptdl/index.html.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://wyen.biz/blog1/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.