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Features - Patent Information on the Internet

By Charles M. Knuth, Published on July 21, 1997

Charles Knuth has been the Librarian at Foley & Lardner in Washington, D.C. for thirteen years. Charlie is an active member of the local and national law librarian’s professional associations, and author of articles on intellectual property in national legal periodicals.

(Archived September 1, 1997)

Many people believe that the entire world’s information is somehow accessible on the Internet and costs virtually nothing to retrieve. Others view the Internet as a slow, overrated mechanism for obtaining information that may or may not be reliable. For the information specialist, the Internet has become another useful resource for obtaining information that has been requested by a patron. Dismissing the Internet as an information resource is just as foolish as regarding it as a great panacea. This article is an attempt at providing good sites that provide patent information for the researcher. The Internet contains many wonderful sites that are patent oriented and are extremely useful, but also houses many sites that contribute absolutely nothing to the search for patent information (This is probably true for any subject matter). The focus will be on the former and will completely ignore the latter. The following is not intended to represent the be-all and end-all for patent information on the Internet, but is rather a starting guide for finding patent information using your computer’s browser.

Government Sites One-Stop Patent Research Patents
Patent-Related Publication Other Interesting Sites Organizations/Associations

 

Government Sites

United States Patent and Trademark Office

Official Gazette Notices

Related Web Sites
(includes "Foreign Intellectual Property Offices)
The natural beginning place for obtaining patent information is at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A wealth of information is stored at this web site. The "Official Gazette Notices" from 1995 to the present can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/og. Also included at this site is a compilation of important notices and rule changes published in the Gazette from July 1, 1964 to December 31, 1996. The USPTO provides a thorough directory and guide to foreign intellectual property offices. The countries included are: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China (People’s Republic of), Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Patent Office.

Strategic plans appear to be en vogue and the USPTO has followed suit and has one of their own. The "Patent Strategic Plan" can be found on the PTO’s main web site. This site also includes USPTO press releases, Agent and Attorney Roster, Employee Telephone Locator, Public Hearing Transcripts, and Current PTO Fees.


U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handles the patent cases at the Court of Appeals level. This site provides copies of court opinions, court rules, calendars, disposition sheets, and a list of new cases filed within the last ninety days with the court.

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One-Stop Patent Research

Many people like one stop shopping - finding a good web site that provides links to many other useful sites. Three of these sites are listed in this section.

Hieros Gamos’s intellectual property page
Hieros Gamos’s intellectual property page provides many links to related home pages, which includes relevant international treaties, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), European Patent Office, pertinent European Union documents, and the full text of NAFTA. This site also links to intellectual property laws and/or patent offices of other countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia. Hieros Gamos also provides addresses for related listservs and links to related Usenet sites and links to topic related Associations on the Internet. The only criticism that one could make is that the site includes too many links and it may be difficult to find any particular one.

Patent Portal
The second comprehensive patent informational site, which is extremely comprehensive, is the Patent Portal, organized by Richard S. Gruner at the University of Villanova. Professor Gruner has divided that site into five separate areas: Patent News, Materials on Substantive Patent Law, Patents and Patent Searching, Patent Attorneys and Agents, Other Services and Resources Related to Patents, and Appendices: Materials on Patent Law for Non-Lawyers, Examples of Patents and Basic Resource Documents About Patents, and Frequently Asked Questions About Patents. The Patent News section has links to News from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, News Services, and Online Journals. The links for the Patents and Patent Searching include Patents and Summaries, Patent Searching Techniques, and Patent Searching Resources. The Patent Attorneys and Agents contains links to the Official Registry of Patent Attorneys and Agents and links to many firms, attorneys, and agents on the web that are involved in patents law.

Kuesterlaw
The Kuesterlaw site is another good all purpose site. This site provides links to cases, statutes, and bills in Congress as well as links to lawyers and law firms on the web that deal with intellectual property. From this Web site, the searcher can link to the Library of Congress Thomas Web Page and an automatic search for all patent bills in the U.S. Congress will be executed.

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Patents

There a few Web sites that give actual patent information. Some of the information is free and some of it has to be purchased.

MicroPatent
This site allows users to search for patents by U.S. Major Classification and to search for the current and the past week’s patents for free. There are charges for downloading patents and obtaining copies of text and drawings. This site also allows users to see the online Official Gazette - Patents and Notices from January 7, 1997 to the present. In order to use this site, either the free materials available or the fee-based ones, everyone has to register with MicroPatent.

IBM Patent Server This site allows searching for patents from 1971 to present. Free information on this site includes - inventor name, assignee name, abstract, U.S. References, Claims, Related U.S. Applications, Foreign Application Priority Data, Foreign References, and other references. You can also view the patent one page at a time. (I was not able to print the patent). The patent can be order from Optipat from this site.

AIDS Patents This site provides access to AIDS patent databases and the information is free. The patents on the Web site have been issued by the U.S., Japanese and European patent offices and, obviously, relate to AIDS.

USPTO Patent Databases This site contains the U.S. Patent Bibliographic Database which is a searchable database of information contained on the front page of U.S. patents that have been issued from 1976 to the present.

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Patent-Related Publication

Working with patents requires using some patent-related publications. Listed below are some of these useful publications.

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Other Interesting Sites

The Franklin Pierce Law Center Intellectual Property Mall For those interested (mostly students), one of the features of this site is old IP exams - copies of midterms and finals dating back to 1987.

The Intellectual Property Reference Library IP Professionals Reading Room - Patents Among the documents found on this site are "Computer-Related Invention Guidelines of the USPTO," "A Guide to Filing a Design Patent Application," "USPTO Guidelines for Examination of Design Patent Applications for Computer Generated Icons," and "Examination Guidelines for Computer-Related Inventions."

Law Journal Extra on Patents This is a collection of articles relating to patent law.

Wacky Patent of the Month This site is just for fun and is "devoted to recognizing selected inventors and their remarkable and unconventional patented inventions." At this time of this writing, the patent posted is for an ambulatory sleeping bag.

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Organizations/Associations

Organizations and associations are dedicated to intellectual property information. Listed below are some of the organizations or associations associated with patent law:

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) This site contains press releases, texts of treaties as well as information on WIPO and their meetings and seminars.

American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) This association "was formed to assist in improving laws relating to patents, trademarks, copyrights, unfair competition and other fields of intellectual property, including the study of, and comments on, amendments to the relevant laws protecting such property rights."

Some of this site’s contents are copies of the major Congressional Intellectual Property Bills, AIPLA Committee Reports, a position paper on the costs of European patent protection, and the AIPLA Newsletter.


World Trade Organization (WTO) The World Trade Organization has an Intellectual Property page that contains international intellectual property agreements information, including text of the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement.

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Conclusion

The Internet sites included here are useful tools in finding information on patents and contain information that cannot be retrieved anywhere else. However, these Web sites and others are not "THE" answer to all of the patron’s questions, nor is it always the best method to retrieve the requested information. One of the most hated sentences at the reference desk is: "Get it from the Internet, it must be there and it is free." Not everything is on the Internet and not everything on the Internet is free. Even if it is on the Internet and it is free, the time spent finding, downloading, and printing does not justify not using vendors like LEXIS/NEXIS, Westlaw, and Dialog. The Internet is just one of the many tools for librarians and information specialists need to use to best serve the patron.