Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Taking Mystery out of Process to Obtain Patent Smith's Mission

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Taking Mystery out of Process to Obtain Patent Smith's Mission

Article excerpt

Nearly half of all applications for U.S. patents come from foreigners, and Al Lawrence Smith knows that startles some people.

"But I think it's encouraging. It tells us this country is where they want to do business," said Smith, patent examining group director for the U.S. Department of Commerce Patent and Trademark Office in Washington D.C.

What startles Smith are "the MBA bottom-line types who would rather do a leveraged buy-out than develop a new product. LBOs (Leveraged Buyouts) did not build this country. Innovation and new products did."

That's why he appeals to "the little guys," those budding Thomas Edisons working in their garages, to come up with as many new ideas as they can.

His personal mission is "to take the mystery out of the patent process. It is not as complex as most people have been led to believe."

Oklahoma, Smith reported, is a hotbed for inventors. He was here over the weekend to address more than 200 of them at the 17th Annual Midwest Inventors Congress, co-sponsored by the Oklahoma Inventors Congress and the State Fair of Oklahoma.

"In an oil and agriculture state, you might not expect so much work in technology and engineering," Smith said. "But Oklahoma is 23 percent above the national average in patents per capita."

Big energy companies like Phillips, Halliburton, Conoco and Amoco account for nearly half of Oklahoma's patents, but Smith said the real heroes are Oklahoma City inventors like Julian S. Taylor, who has 20 patents for gauges and valves, Thomas L. Byers and James T. Dennis, with nine patents apiece for photographic film and record players.

It is a rare inventor who can go through the whole patent process without the assistance of a patent attorney, Smith said, but most inventors can complete the initial application without legal help.

"Nobody knows better than the inventor how to write the description of the product and the claims about what it can do," Smith said. …

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