US Patent Office Home Page
The US Patent Office Home Page is a useful resource for doing a preliminary patent search or a trademark search. A wealth of links to IP laws, regulations, policies and other information can be found through this website. The USPTO home page can be overwhelming for a new inventor or small business person looking to protect intellectual property. If you are looking to start the patent or trademark process or search for patents, then bookmark this page to guide you and help you find the specific resources that you need at the US Patent and Trademark Office website.
Patent Search at the USPTO.GOV
The US Patent Office Home Page is organized into three main subject matters that are organized in the center of the web page in three columns. These are PATENTS, TRADEMARKS, and IP LAW & POLICY.
To do a patent search you will want to look in the first column under the header "Patents" and click on the link titled "search" in the list. You should find the search link as item #2 or near the top of the list. Clicking the patents/search link will take you to another page chock full of information and links about patent search.
Common questions that patent attorneys are asked by a new inventor are: "How do I get a patent?" or "What is involved in getting a patent?" The Patent Office has provided a nice flow chart that shows the entire patent process at a glance. To see the flow chart click on the first link "Patent Process" in the first column for Patents.
The flow chart on the Patent Process page is interactive. To get the most out of it and really understand the process fairly well, click on each of the links in the flow chart and read more information about each step. The amount of information is voluminous and might take a while to go through. We are constantly updating the Inventions and Patents website with information to help explain and simplify the patent process.
Trademark Search at the USPTO.GOV
The middle column of The US Patent Office Home Page is organized under the header "Trademarks" and covers the links to trademark information considered by the PTO to be the most important in this category. If you are new to trademarks and want to learn more, then I highly recommend the first link under the Trademarks heading entitled Trademark Basics: Start Here.
You definitely want to understand trademarks well before selecting a mark for your brand and going to an attorney to apply for trademark registration. You can learn more about choosing a good trademark at Trademark Application Headquarters where the different types of trademarks is discussed in detail. The best trademarks are either fanciful or suggestive, as opposed to descriptive marks.
Once you understand trademarks pretty well, then one of the most useful links for Trademarks is the link Search Marks, which takes you to the search options for searching the federal database of registered trademarks. This database includes all the trademarks that have been filed in the past, registered trademarks, and pending trademark applications.
Other Information at the USPTO Website
If it deals with patents or trademarks in the United States, then you can probably find access to helpful information through the links provided on the US Patent Office home page. The third column on the front page entitled IP Law & Policy will take you to an assortment of information that does not naturally fall under the other two headings, or that is more generic to intellectual property law in the U.S. or the U.S. Patent Office governing policies.
Fall of 2011 a major patent law reform act called the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act was passed by congress and signed by President Obama. As a result a link to information about the America Invents Act became the top link under the IP Law & Policy column of information. Clicking on the link will lead you to detailed information about implementation of this patent act and the history of the act. A one-hour AIA webinar with senior Patent Office officials is available on the menu for America Invents Act Videos.
One of the most infamous changes make the America Invents Act is the switch to a "First to File" patent system. Under this new law starting in 2012, the first to file inventor will be the one entitled to patent protection. Historically, the United States has been one of the few, if only, country to grant patents to a the first to invent, rather than create a race to the Patent Office. That is changing somewhat under the new Patent Act.
USPTO Information for New Inventors
There is one more link on the US Patent Office home page that is especially useful for new inventors. This link is titled "INVENTORS" and appears on the blue horizontal navigation bar near the top header of the home page. There are several drop down navigation links provided when you hover over this link including: Independent Inventors, Patents for Independent Inventors, Trademarks for Independent Inventors, Scam Prevention, Inventors Assistance, and State Resources.
Just clicking on the main inventors link will take you to a page full of a variety of resources for independent inventors including basics on patents and trademarks, brochures, and where to find free patent help or a patent lawyer. One of the coolest resources is a 17 minute 29 second video training course on patents. Patent Attorneys really appreciate clients that have a basic understanding of how the patent process works, and this series of videos is an easy way to learn the basics.