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The Inventor’s Daughter

As your resident patent librarian, I had planned to write today about the changes to patent law that went into effect on Saturday, March 16. While the rest of us were busy decorating shamrock cookies for Saint Patrick’s Day, inventors and patent professionals were bracing themselves for an enormous shift in the American intellectual property landscape: our switch from a first-to-invent country to a first-to-file country.

What does this mean? To put it briefly, as of March 16, it no longer matters if you invented something before your competitor did. All that matters now is who filed their patent application the fastest.

Of course this is not as simple as it sounds,  so if you have questions  let me direct you to a recording of a recent library presentation by IP attorneys Judy Mohr and Evan Boetticher. They kindly allowed us to record them and to post their presentation slides online.  Just click here, look for the “What’s New” box and click the link that says ‘Applying for a Patent.’

As interesting as these patent changes are, I’d rather write today about something totally unrelated that has been bothering me ever since I noticed it.


Again, to put it briefly: there are too many daughters in our library — specifically in the fiction section.  These surplus daughters are not studying at the tables or running around in the stacks. They are sitting quietly on the shelves, on the spines of our books. These daughters are trapped in the titles.

In our fiction collection, we have 39 books that use the word ‘son’ in the title. But the girls outstrip the boys nearly 3-1, with 109 daughter titles in adult fiction alone.

Whose daughters are they? Take your pick of professions. We have magician’s daughters, baker’s daughters,  butcher’s daughters, abortionist’s daughters, tailor’s daughters, and professor’s daughters. We have the female offspring of  samurai, fortune tellers, bonesetters, bootleggers immigrants and presidents. We have the Tsarina’s daughter.  We even have Cleopatra’s daughter.

There is a similar title disparity in wives (82) vs. husbands (25).

What gives? Why are the women of our literary landscape so often defined by the professions of their husbands or (frequently) their fathers? I call upon the future novelists of America to think of another way to title their books, if only because we’ll soon run out of professions for these women to be descended from or married to. I’m not sure I’m ready for The Project Manager’s Daughter or The Vice President of Marketing’s Daughter, but at this rate that’s where we’re headed.

Now, go file those provisional patent applications.

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February is Patents Month…at the Library, Anyway.

Are you interested in patents and other intellectual property? Then the next couple of weeks will be very exciting at the Library. Here’s a rundown of all we have going on.

On Thursday, February 23rd, officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will be at the Library bright and early (8 a.m. to 3 p.m.)  to conduct a public hearing about the new patent fees.  Under the America Invents Act, the patent office is allowed to adjust the fees it charges for filing a patent and for other related other activities. Generally, for small businesses or those qualifying as “micro-entities,” the fees are going down! The public is welcome to attend — the USPTO wants to hear what you think!

Patent 22,148: Sewing Machine

Click here for a hearing agenda, which includes information about how to watch the hearing by webcast.

Click here for other fee information, including a list of the proposed fee changes.

The next day, February, 24, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., we’re having more excitement. The USPTO will be here at the Library to explain other changes to the process of getting a patent, all stemming from the recent Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which President Obama signed into law in the fall.  Click here for more detailed information about what they plan to discuss.  Everyone is welcome to attend, but it may be crowded, so if you think you want to come, please call (408) 730-7294 and let me know. This event will also be webcast live.

In other news, we are pleased to announce that the Library is now a place to get free help from an intellectual property attorney! If you’re wrestling with a problem about patents, trademarks, or copyrights, you can sign up for a 20-minute consultation with a volunteering lawyer.  The legal eagles will be here on the last Tuesday night of every month, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. We’re all booked up for February,  but we have openings for March, April and beyond. Call (408) 730-7300,  (option 5) to reserve your spot.  The lawyers are here as part of a partnership with Silicon Valley-based Pro Bono Project.

Looking for some basic information about patents and trademarks? We’ve redesigned our Patents and Trademarks web page! Now it provides handy shortcuts to things like the patent searching instructional video, trademark how-tos, and more. We’re also featuring a “What’s New?” section, where you’ll see information about upcoming events and current patent or trademark news. You’ll find a link to all this good stuff under the “Quick Links” menu on our home page.

And finally, Silicon Valley is still in the running to host a permanent satellite of the patent office. Currently located only in Virginia, the patent and trademark folks have been scouting locations for a few branch offices. San Jose has thrown its hat into the ring to be considered as a satellite location. Let’s cross our fingers! Want to weigh in? Let Congresswoman Anna Eshoo or Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren know how you feel.



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Seducing a Satellite

Did you know Sunnyvale Public Library was a Patent and Trademark Resource Center? We have extra training and resources to help you learn about patents and trademarks, and we are in regular contact with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, keeping up-to-date on the latest changes to patent laws and procedures.

But the Library is not the patent ‘office’ — if you want to meet with a patent examiner, or visit the government patent office for any reason, you would still need to travel to the USPTO’s only location in Alexandria, Va.

Patent no. 8,000,000, awarded just this August.

All that, however, may be about to change. The patent office is expanding, with a proposed satellite office in Detroit and two other satellites in locations to be determined.  Inventors and companies near a satellite office will have easier access to examiners and other patent office resources. This expansion benefits the patent office, too, because satellite offices in good locations will help the USPTO recruit and retain their patent examiners. And what better location for a satellite office than Sunnyvale? We did, after all, recently top a national “most inventive cities” list.

So how do we convince the USPTO to open a satellite here? Send them an e-mail! Until January 30, 2012, the patent office is requesting “public comment” about possible locations for at least two new satellites.  Just send an e-mail to, and tell them why Sunnyvale is the spot. They particularly want to hear why Sunnyvale would:

(1) Increase outreach activities to better connect patent filers and innovators with the USPTO, including the number of patent filings and grants by the city/region as well as other information that provides insight into the region’s innovation activity;
(2) Enhance patent examiner retention, including quality of life indicators such as average household income, cost of living factors, and other factors related to employee retention;
(3) Improve recruitment of patent examiners, including data on employment rates and other economic factors in the area, science and technology professionals, as well as legal professionals in the workforce and other related information;
(4) Decrease the number of patent applications awaiting examination; and
(5) Improve the quality of patent examination.

Your comments will be made public after January 30, so do not include information like your address or phone number. Want to learn more? Click here to see the USPTO’s notice in the Federal Register.

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Tips for Using the USPTO Web Site

Wednesday, February 10, 2-3:30 p.m.

Find patent information on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web Site.  Locate fees, e-filing with tutorials, attorneys and agents, scam prevention and complaints and useful links.  Look at a file history and status information.  Review the 7-Step Patent Search Strategy with an example.

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How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

Tuesday, January 12, 2-3 p.m

Learn how to protect your ideas and creative works in this talk by patent attorney, Anthony Aboseif.  Review patents, trademarks, copyright and trade secrets.  Find out how to protect and enforce your intellectual property rights.


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