I remember the exact moment that my potential boss asked me about answering questions concerning patents and trademarks in addition to performing the duties he had previously described for the job. Since I wanted to work at the Carnegie Library pretty badly and since the job offer was contingent on a “yes,” I swept my inner self in search of an affirming smile that could mask my apprehensions. I’m glad I was successful because in landing the job, I gained the opportunity to learn about and appreciate not only patents—the topic of this post—but also trademarks and copyrights, two other forms of intellectual property.
Intellectual property is a direct consequence of creativity, i.e., mental effort. Behind the television, the iPod®, the auto—not to mention the paper clip, the drinking straw and other ubiquities—lay ideas that sprang from the minds of inventors and entrepreneurs. Recognizing the value of intellectual property, our government offers patents as an incentive for the generation of new ideas that result in new and valuable products and methods which move the nation forward. In exchange for full disclosure, the government-issued patent forbids others from capitalizing on an invention for twenty years.
As a member of the Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program, the Reference Services staff answers questions about patents and helps patrons search for various types of information about them. Inventors who plan to apply for a patent want to make sure that their ideas are original, while others want to trace the development of a particular apparatus or industry. College students, another contingent of library patrons, conduct economic surveys based on the number and type of patents that are issued annually.
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides access to online tools that are available to the general public as well as to specialized tools that are available only onsite. In addition to online and print resources available for searching patents, staff members can learn more via in-house training on March 6, and we invite interested patrons to call our main number to arrange for group sessions.