Books, Shelves, and Emerging Technologies

“It’s only books ’n’ shelves but I like it” – Keith Richards

This may have been the case in the early days of rock and roll, but libraries have been keen to pick up new technologies for quite some time now.  For much of the last thirty years, this has taken the form of computing technology. From purchasing a city’s first desk top computer to keeping up with CD-ROMS, e-readers, and 3D printers, libraries have become known as the go to place for people to get hands-on experience with many of the newest information technologies shortly after they go to market.

But did you know that for the last thirty five years, libraries have played a role in supporting new technologies before they even came out?  How about playing a critical role in a technology’s life before its inventor even tells anyone else about it?

Libraries designated Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have been providing access to patents, patent office publications, and teaching patent searching classes for the last 35 years.

Patent searching classes offered by PTRCs have been used by independent inventors looking to patent their inventions – the patent search can provide information useful in the refinement of the invention, as well as insight into the development of the patent application to be filed. A patent search is not required before one files an application, but one will be done by the patent examiner, so a pre-file search can save the time and expense of having an application rejected due to an already existing patent or public disclosure.

An idea cannot be patented if it is publicly disclosed; patents and patent applications are often the first place information regarding a new innovation is published.  This information can be used to identify new technologies or emerging trends. One familiar use of patent information in this manner is news articles speculating on upcoming Apple products. This CNET article using patents to speculate on the rumored Apple iWatch is a perfect example.

Looking at patents in this way, it becomes clear just how useful patent searching can be as a business tool. A small investor could use the information in iWatch related patents to decide to invest in the development or manufacture of iWatch related apps or accessories. Apple’s competitors can gauge just how far Apple is invested in a particular product, or how the product may take shape; they may even discover an opening in the market that Apple does not appear to be addressing.

Access to this useful technological information is available freely to the public at the Patent and Trademark Office website, and instruction in searching patents and accessing patent information both online and in print continues to be provided by library Patent and Trademark Resource Centers across America, with one coming soon to you at the State Library of Arizona.

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~ by pmgrant on July 17, 2013.

One Response to “Books, Shelves, and Emerging Technologies”

  1. Nice reminder about a great resource!

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