NCIO Graphic
Back to NCIO

Gateway Graphic link
Back to Gateway

News Briefs
Publisher's Page
Letters to the Editor
Mastering the Invention Process
Patents, Trademarks, & Copyrights
Licensees Angels and Sharks
Exploring the Inventor's Mind
Counter Perspectives
NCIO Potpourri
Critiquing the Industry
Ask Don: PTO: Q's & A's
How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Tools Of The Trade For The Independent Inventor

Ask Don

By Don Kelly

Dear Don:
Please tell me how patent examiners know so much about so many different technologies?
A.K., Blacksburg, Virginia.

Dear A.K.:
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has more than 2000 patent examiners, each one a specialist (or well on her/his way to becoming an expert) in a relatively narrow technical field. At least a Bachelor's degree in such fields as engineering, biology, chemistry, and computer science is required for each member of the Examining Corps. A large percentage of patent examiners have advanced degrees, and hundreds have law degrees, as well. Much of their technical training comes from the examination process itself. Imagine the learning experience of reading thousands of invention disclosures submitted by inventors from all over the world.

Dear Don:
How can I find a patent attorney? Can the Patent Office recommend one?
F.B., Colorado Springs

Dear F.B.:
It would be inappropriate for the Patent Office to recommend a particular patent attorney or agent. However, the USPTO maintains a Roster of approximately 17,000 patent attorneys and agents registered to practice before the Office. This Roster is available at the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries throughout the country, or on our World Wide Web site (

Alternatively, you can call the USPTO toll free number, 1-800-PTO-9199 to request a copy of the specific Roster portion identifying attorney/agents in your geographic area. Other sources include your local telephone listings, or lawyer associations such as the American Bar Association (Intellectual Property Law Section) or the American Intellectual Property Law Association. Good luck.

Dear Don:
I filed a patent application through my patent attorney last fall, and have not received an examination. How can I find out when to expect a letter from the Patent Office?
C.M. Scottsdale, Arizona.

Dear C.M.:
The "OFFICIAL GAZETTE", published each week by the USPTO, includes a list of the filing dates of the oldest new applications awaiting action in each patent examining group. The "O.G." is available at most major libraries, particularly in 80 Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries. Call or write the USPTO to request a status update.

Don Kelly was a U.S. Patent Office Director, and a long-time advisor to the NCIO. He often lectures and writes on the subjects of american innovation and the U.S. Patent System, and is widely known as a champion of independent inventors.


Home/ News Briefs/ Profiles/ Publisher's Statement/ Letters to Editor/ Mastering the Invention Process/ Patents, Trademarks & Copyrights/ Licensees, Angels & Sharks/ Exploring the Inventor's Mind/ Counter Perspectives/ NCIO Potpourri/ Reviews/ Earthtrends/ Critiquing the Industry/ Ask Don: PTO Q's & A's/ How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot