The USPTO Website and its associated free databases don’t always provide the easiest navigation, search, and viewing experiences. The USPTO recently revamped its website to make important links and current news more accessible through the homepage, but the PatFT, AppFT, and TESS databases still provide the same difficult user interfaces. The PatFT, AppFT, and TESS portals may be useful for expert searchers due to the flexible command line interfaces available, but casual searchers will probably have a difficult time searching and navigating the free US patent and trademark search portals. In short, the USPTO website is slowly improving, but it still has a ways to go to be a truly user friendly site for both casual and expert users.
The USPTO website and database designers may want to take some notes from an excellent example of an intellectual property (IP) office website that I recently spent some time exploring: The PRV website of the Swedish Patent and Registration Office. This website offers a clean, logical design that any user can quickly navigate through to locate the desired information, and the search options for patents, trademarks, and designs are also very easy to locate and use on the PRV. After the jump, we’ll look at the organization of the website, search options for various types of intellectual property, and we’ll list a few tips that the USPTO website may want to take from the PRV!
PRV Site Layout
PRV is the website for the Swedish Patent and Registration Office, and the it’s available in Swedish and English. The site includes a white background and dark-colored text that is easy to read, and the homepage includes a slideshow linking to various important sections of the website and interesting links.
The bottom half of the homepage (which also appears on the bottom of all other pages on the site) displays boxes listing the latest news, “coming events” for the Swedish Patent and Registration Office, and important links to the databases, library, periodicals, training programs, patent support, and newsletter.
The site includes a tabbed menu that links to sections providing information, forms, and services for:
- Patents – Obtain information on why to apply for a patent, the patent application process, how to manage your patent interests, and fees and payments. This section also links to online services, forms, and information materials related to patents.
- Trademarks – Obtain information on whether your trademark is unique, how to apply for a trademark, classifying goods and services, the new Trademarks Act, and fees and payments related to trademarks. This section also links to online services, forms, and information materials related to trademarks.
- Designs – Obtain information on why to apply for design protection, the design protection application process, and fees and payments. This section also links to online services, forms, and information materials related to designs.
- Consultancy Services – Learn about consultancy services offered by PRV InterPat related to patents, trademarks, and designs.
The site also includes a Knowledge Centre, which provides a library of free informational and training material regarding patents, trademarks, and designs, and a section of the site for IP Professionals, which includes links to patent, trademark, and design databases, applications, forms, and information on fees.
PRV provides free access to three intellectual property databases, which the user can access through multiple paths on the website (including the homepage, under each tab for Patents/Trademarks/Designs, under the “IP Professional” section, and at the bottom of each page on the site):
- Swedish Patent Database – A quick search, advanced search, classification search, and Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) search forms are available. The sidebar of the interface provides quick links to classification guides (IPC, ECLA, DPK, IPC-DPK, and INID codes). Search results are sortable in ascending or descending order by application number, publication number, title, classification, applicant, or filing data. The full record displays bibliographic data, thumbnails of all figures, priority data, fee data, a link to the document record on Espacenet, register information, and notifications about the patent in the Swedish Patent Gazette. Users can move directly from one full record to the next full record result.
- Swedish Trademark Database – Search by mark name, holder name, Nice classification, application number, registration number, and filing date range. Select to search in one or all of the following databases: Community Trademarks (CTM), WIPO registered trademarks designated Sweden (IR), and The Swedish Register. Choose to search the complete database(s) or trademarks in force. Links are provided in a side menu to classification guides on Nice and Vienna classifications. Results can be sorted by mark, holder name, representative, application number, classes, filing date, image, or type (from which database). The full record includes bibliographic and classification information, an image (if available), and legal status/events/correspondence data.
- Swedish Design Database – Search by application number, registration number, indication of product, Locarno classification, owner/representative/designer name, date range (application/opening to public inspection/publication), main class and subclass. Choose to search all applications, only registered applications, or only recent applications, and results can be presented in only text or only images. A side menu links to a guide on the Locarno classes. Search results can be re-sorted by product, owner, application number, registration number, classes, and application date. The full record includes bibliographic information, legal status and events, and an image (select to view).
- Multi-lingual interface and search options – As an English speaker, I was still able to easily navigate and search the PRV website. The USPTO website could benefit from multilingual interfaces for non-English-speaking users.
- Central links to news, resources, and databases at the bottom of every page – The PRV website provides both a tabbed menu of links at the top of each page and a menu of important news and links at the bottom of each page on the site. The USPTO includes a top drop-down menu, but a consistent menu of key links at the bottom of each page would also be useful (the bottom menu of the USPTO website currently links to related US government services, USPTO careers and contact information, and a site index).
- Prominent links to classification guides – The PRV website prominently links to all needed classification guides for each database in a side menu, while the user must dig through the USPTO website to find the US classification guide and Design Search Code Manual.
- A section of the site specifically for IP professionals – The PRV website includes a section for IP professionals, prominently displayed in the tabbed menu, which links to a variety of search, application, and fee-related resources. The USPTO website includes a prominent section for inventors, but it doesn’t include a resource page for general IP professionals.
This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.