Fort Lauderdale, FL

Broward County Main Library

My name is Eileen Fischlschweiger and I’ve been the Patent and Trademark Librarian for the Fort Lauderdale PTRC at the Broward County Main Library for 23 years, and the PTRC Representative for 21 years.  I have been a librarian with the Broward County Library System for over 29 years.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in both Chemistry and Physics, a Master of Arts degree in Journalism and Communications with a specialization in Broadcast Production, a considerable amount of graduate level coursework in Education, and a second Master’s degree in Library Science.

Since its designation as a PDL (Patent Depository Library) on November 1st, 1984, the Fort Lauderdale PTRC has been located at the Broward County Main Library in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  During 1984 – 1996 it was a part of the Government Documents Department.  Later, it became a part of the Business, Law, and Government (BLG) Section (November 1996 – January 2010).  Since 2010, it has been a part of the Reference Section, later renamed the Information Services Section.

Virtual Assistance Pilot Program: A very valuable service!

During this past year our library has worked on implementing the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program, which was opened initially to two libraries who would volunteer to work on the project with the USPTO’s Office of Innovation Development and their IT offices.  The Virtual Assistance Pilot Program is an opportunity for pro-se patent applicants to obtain assistance from USPTO staff via a WebEx videoconference, and it is managed by the Office of Innovation Development as part of their Pro-Se Assistance Program.  Applicants can share documents and obtain assistance with their specific inventions and applications relating to USPTO procedural and administrative matters.  They can have their applications reviewed to make sure that they are in proper form, obtain assistance with patent searches by getting a place to start (but not a complete search), as well as get help with information regarding the patent process, filing requirements, and available resources to assist with patent prosecution, although no legal advice will be provided.  Hence, this service enables a PTRC to extend the level of assistance beyond that which a PTRC librarian can normally provide.  The WebEx system is more than a means for the inventor and USPTO staff to have a face-to-face videoconference.  With the system it is also possible to share computer screens and documents to maximize the meeting’s effectiveness.

This is a service to which we have been looking forward for years; and the current availability of suitable cost-effective videoconferencing equipment and connections makes participation feasible.  The Fort Lauderdale PTRC volunteered quickly after the offer was made available, upon receiving initial library administrative approval.  It took several months of work to implement, including obtaining needed space and equipment, troubleshooting connection issues, and creating a flyer with a checklist.  Our system, the first in the country, became operational in May 2017, and we introduced it as part of National Inventors Month and in conjunction with a book display.  Our first pro-se applicant had his first appointment on 5/23/17, and he was the inventor referred to in the Summer 2017 issue of Inventors Eye The USPTO’s publication for the independent inventor community, “Summer's featured article,” “Introducing Patent Virtual Assistance” by Robert Hodge, who was the then Pro Se Assistance Program, Coordinator, Office of Innovation Development, and my contact for the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program at the time.  This article can be found at https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/newsletter/inventors-eye/introducing-patent-virtual-assistance?utm_campaign=subscriptioncenter&utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term.  The first paragraph states:

“In an effort to expand the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Pro Se Assistance program, the Office of Innovation Development (OID) has launched a brand new Patent Virtual Assistance Pilot Program in partnership with select Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) throughout the United States. The first partnership is with the PTRC at the Broward County Main Library, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As the pilot program proceeds, we will look to expand it to other PTRC locations throughout the country.”  The article later continues: “One early user of this new pilot program saw great value to the services offered and really appreciated the help he received, saying that he felt relieved about the application process because of the assistance he received.” The “early user” is our first Virtual Assistance Pilot Program customer, and he successfully used the service to assist him in filing his nonprovisional patent application that claims the benefit of the filing date of his provisional application.  He was able to file his nonprovisional application within an hour and 40 minutes of the filing deadline!

In addition, On 6/12/17, the USPTO Subscription Center issued a Patent Alert bulletin titled New Patent Virtual Assistance Pilot Program available at https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USPTO/bulletins/1a0e845.

I am pleased to have worked on this project, and have forwarded the work I had done such as flyers, a checklist, best practices information, such as issues with connectivity and procedure, etc.  Making this service available to pro-se patent applicants is a vital element of the Pro-Se assistance program as well as a very satisfying experience for a PTRC librarian who has the opportunity to bring much needed assistance to inventors who are seeking patent protection.  The demand on the librarian’s knowledge and experience is strong, as it is necessary for the librarian to have sufficient understanding of the patent process and resources available to educate the customer about these and anticipate knowledge needs and gaps that the customer might have to better prepare him or her for the virtual meeting.

It is nice to see firsthand the benefit that the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program provides to pro-se patent applicants and it has been great pleasure for me to work on this very important project with USPTO staff, all of whom have been very helpful, flexible, and supportive in meeting our customer needs.

2017-2018 Highlights

  • In addition to the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program, during this past year Eileen has begun simulcasting USPTO webinars.  We started on April 20, 2017 by simulcasting the USPTO Office of Innovation Development’s Inventor Info Chat as a public program.  In addition to the one hour presentation/chat, Eileen has remained available for further Q&A from attendees.  Tom, our Federal Depository Librarian, who has also been available for Q&A from attendees, and Tonya, a staff member who assists Eileen as a backup for the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program and USPTO program simulcasts, have both assisted at various times with this activity.  Other simulcasts that we have done are the USPTO’s Patent Quality Chat, begun on October 12, 2017, and Trademark Tuesday, a simulcast done in conjunction with the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit, MI, initiated on December 12, 2017.  The Inventor Info Chat and the Patent Quality Chat are currently presented in the Main Library’s Creation Station Business (CSB), and CSB staff Viri and Frank also assist with these programs as needed.  Although currently Trademark Tuesday is held in another room at the library, our goal is to have all our intellectual property programming in the CSB, to better draw customers’ attention to both resources, the PTRC and the CSB.  To this end, Eileen is also training the CSB staff to assist customers with patent and trademark searching so that customers can access this information at any time that the library is open.  Eileen will still handle the more complex levels of assistance.
  • In May 2017 Eileen created a National Inventors’ Month book display.  The timing of this display coincided with the roll-out of the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program and the second instance of the simulcast of the Inventor Info Chat.  The month-long display included advertising materials for these programs.
  • On June 27, 2017, Eileen did a public presentation tilted Patent Searching on the USPTO Website: The Seven Step Strategy and Introduction to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC).  There were nine attendees for this 2.5 hour presentation.
  • Eileen once again made use of her drawing skills and donated her time to create illustrations for two Books by Mail library programs for homebound customers in two local adult living facilities to use for adult coloring.  Five drawings were needed for each of these two programs.  The Summer 2017 program was in association with the library’s Summer Learning Program.  The theme was flowers, and one of her drawings was a freehand line drawing rendition of plant patent 401, Chrysanthemum, issued June 4, 1940 (please see illustration), for which she added detail that was lacking by visual extrapolation.  The Winter 2017-18 program was in association with the library’s Big Read program.  The theme was butterflies, and she created five fanciful butterflies based on real ones.

Submitted by Eileen Fischlschweiger, PTRC Representative for the Fort Lauderdale PTRC.