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History and Background

New PTRC - image of the W. Frank Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University

What is a Patent and Trademark Resource Center?

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) are a nationwide network of public, state and academic libraries that are designated by the USPTO  to disseminate patent and trademark information and to support the diverse intellectual property needs of the public.  Accessing the patent and trademark information at a PTRC with the help of a trained specialist, you may be able to determine if someone else has already patented your invention or obtained a federal registration for a trademark on goods or services.  PTRCs also have access to PubWEST and PubEAST, examiner-based search systems.  These trained specialists may also help you with specific questions regarding the patent and trademark processes, but they will not provide legal advice.  Resources and hours vary so it is best to call ahead of your visit for hours of operation and services.

A Brief History of the Patent and Trademark Resource Center Program

The Patent and Trademark Resource Center Program began in 1871 when federal statute (35 USC 12) first provided for the distribution of printed patents to libraries for use by the public. During the Program's early years, twenty-two libraries, mostly public and all but several located east of the Mississippi River, elected to participate. Since 1977 the PTRC network has grown to four times its original size. Currently, about half of the membership is academic libraries with nearly as many public libraries. There are also several state libraries and one special research library. All libraries regardless of size or mission must meet the same PTRC requirements and obligations.

The Importance of Patent and Trademark Information

The dissemination of patents to the public has long been one of the primary missions of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The premise of our patent system lies in its mutual benefit to both the inventor and our country. In return for full public disclosure, a U.S. patent offers certain rights to an inventor for up to twenty years, during which time the inventor may exclude all others from making, using, importing or selling his or her invention. The patent is published and disseminated to the public so that others may study the invention and improve upon it. The constant evolution of science and technology, spurred by the monetary incentive the U.S. patent system offers to inventors, strengthens our nation's economy. New inventions lead to new technologies, create new jobs, and improve our quality of life.

Strong trademark protection can be as important as a strong patent portfolio to a successful business. Unlike patents, trademark registrations are renewable for as long as the product or service they identify is offered for sale. The rise of global communication networks and easily accessible commercial markets significantly increases the importance of obtaining trademark protection for even the smallest companies.

Benefits of Becoming a Patent and Trademark Resource Center

Many states value the presence of a PTRC because it is a rich local resource for small businesses, research and development firms, university and governmental laboratories, and independent inventors and entrepreneurs. An active PTRC brings the newest technology in the form of patents to a myriad of potential users in a city, state or entire region. Patents also provide a unique body of scientific and technical literature that adds value and stature to a library's collection. Access to trademark information provides a service in high demand by local businesses. The availability of high quality patent and trademark information services often attracts new communities of library users with the potential for new sources of library support.  For more information on being designated as a PTRC, consult the information brochure entitled Notes on Becoming a Patent and Trademark Resource Center.

Additional Services and Products Provided to Program Members

A paramount concern among member libraries and those exploring the possibility of becoming a PTRC is the ability to provide high quality services to their patent and trademark clientele. The Patent and Trademark Resource Centers Program Office offers the following principle forms of assistance and resources to all member libraries:

  • A toll-free telephone line to the PTRC Program Office (for use by PTRC staff only) — a vital link to USPTO experts.
  • Membership in the PTRC Program List — an e-mail link to other PTRC network members and the Program Office.
  • The PTRC Web page — your online source for PTRC Program publications and information.
  • Accessing Patent and Trademark Information — public and staff training seminars conducted on location by USPTO employees.
  • The Librarian Fellowship Program — an opportunity for PTRC librarians to work in the PTRC Program Office of the USPTO located in Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Training — on-going opportunities, including an annual in-depth training seminar held on site at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia for representatives from each PTRC.
  • Access to official USPTO manuals, handbooks, search tools, forms and unpublished materials to provide state of the art service to patent and trademark clientele.
  • Access to miscellaneous materials provided by the European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) plus other commercial and non-profit publishers of intellectual property information.

 Contact the PTRCP Office for more information.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
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Last Modified: 4/16/2014 4:22:05 PM