Maria V. Hernandez
The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) recently opened a new office aimed at meeting the special needs of independent inventors. "America's independent inventors are a valuable intellectual and economic resource," said Q. Todd Dickinson, acting commissioner of patents and trademarks. "It is independent inventors, who discovered the pacemaker, and brought us the elevator, and the liquid crystal display. I want the PTO to do all it can to nurture this boundless creativity by simplifying their access to our patent system," added Dickinson.
The Office of Independent Inventor Programs, which is headed by Donald Kelly, director of Technology Group 3700, will establish new mechanisms to better disseminate information about the patent process and foster regular communication between the PTO and independent inventors. The office will set up advisory committees and convene roundtable discussions devoted to issues important to independent inventors. A section of the agency's website will be devoted to independent inventors and links will be established to other websites relevant to this group.
The Office of Independent Inventor Programs will offer educational and outreach programs for independent inventors, covering all aspects of the patent and trademark process, including how to file an application and what's patentable. The office will run training programs on the Internet and/or at the PTO's Patent Academy. The office will also develop new materials, brochures, flyers, and handbooks on how to select an attorney or agent and what to expect from them.
The office will work to educate independent inventors about invention marketing firms and the scams that may affect these inventors and offer information on avoiding these problems. The PTO will also maintain a stronger presence at independent inventor conferences by exhibiting and participating in seminars.
In FY 1998, America's independent inventors filed 15 percent of the 256,666 applications received by the agency.
The PTO is the Commerce Department's user fee-funded bureau that administers laws relevant to granting patents and registering trademarks; advises the secretary of commerce, the president of the United States, and the administration on patent, trademark and copyright protection; and advises the secretary of commerce, the president of the United States, and the administration on the trade-related aspects of intellectual property. Nearly 6 million patents have been issued since the first patent in 1790. Last year PTO issued 155,000 patents and registered 106,279 trademarks.