January 15, 1997

Detroit Public Library houses center of attention for university inventors

The Detroit Public Library has a resource, which is fast becoming invaluable to anyone in the Midwest seeking patent information or applying for a patent. And WSU plans to be the first university to make regular use of that resource.

The library is home to the Great Lakes Patent and Trademark Center, established last year as a partnership between the Detroit Public Library and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to provide specialized, fee-based services.

The library, a Patent and Trademark Depository since 1871, makes patent and trademark information available to inventors, attorneys and other researchers.

But what distinguishes the Great Lakes center from most others is that it is one of just two nationwide to offer videoconferencing with patent examiners in Crystal City, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C. The other is in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Miriam Martin-Clark of the general counsel's office saw the potential benefits of such a powerful resource right next door and laid the groundwork for what library and WSU officials hope will be a long and productive working relationship.

"We apply for more patents than many companies do," says Fred Reinhart, WSU's director of technology transfer. "We're trying to keep costs down, and we see this facility as a resource to meet that goal."

To obtain a patent, it is often necessary for the applicant (e.g., the university) to underwrite a trip to Washington to speak personally with a patent examiner and convince him or her that a patent is deserved.

"Using the videoconferencing center at DPL may be an exciting alternative that saves time and money," Reinhart says. "If it works, the university will get more patents and, at the same time, remain true to our mission of keeping Wayne State affordable and accessible for our students."

The patent office reimburses the two centers for the videoconferencing software, hardware and products; the centers provide the staff and space. Fee for users is $250 per hour -- still a bargain compared with a visit to Washington, D.C.

Included in the videoconference facility are dual 27-inch monitors, a microphone, a telephone, a position-programmable video camera, a document camera and facsimile capability. Conference participants can make changes on the documents and fax them back and forth, while the document camera allows close-up inspection of paperwork for all parties.

"We're very pleased to be the only Midwest center to offer such high-technology videoconference capabilities to our clients," says Celeste Burman, a subject specialist at the Detroit Public Library. "And we're equally pleased to be cooperating so closely with our neighbor institution."

In addition to the videoconference facility, the Great Lakes center also features all U.S. patents on microfilm, along with the reference tools to perform a patent search. Records of federally registered trademarks and information on the patent and trademark process also are available.

Searching is confidential; researchers need not provide any information about their invention.

The Great Lakes Patent and Trademark Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 1-9 p.m. Wednesday.

For more information about the center call 833-3379 or 1-800-547-0619. For more information about WSU patent policies and technology transfer, call Reinhart at 577-5541 or Martin-Clark in the general counsel's office at 577-2268.

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