Beyond Books: Dallas Public Library Answers Inventors’ Questions

Kathy Berry is the designated patent and trademark specialist at the Dallas Public Library. Photo by Michael Samples.

When Meesha Robinson moved to Dallas last fall, she had an important deadline looming. Nearly a year earlier, she had filed a provisional application for a patent on her idea for making hospitals’ triage processes more efficient and universal. But such applications are good for only 12 months, and Robinson feared some companies that were aware of her “patent pending” invention were just waiting for her application to expire so they could capitalize on her idea without compensating her. She had only days to file a more formal application.

As a single mother of 12—yes, 12 children—Robinson does not have a lot of time or money to devote to the patent-application process. Fortunately, she landed in the perfect city for someone in her situation. The Dallas Public Library’s central location houses a Patent and Trademark Resource Center, one of only six in Texas. Robinson expected to just get help finding the proper forms, but she received so much more.

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers are designed to serve independent inventors and small businesses whose understanding of intellectual property issues may be rudimentary.

“Everything that they provided was a bonus,” she says. “They converted my files over from original drawings. I didn’t have any idea how to do it, and they were, like, 2-feet-by-4-feet long if they had printed out, so it would have taken hundreds of pages to print them. They went to great lengths. They helped me get everything converted from jpegs to PDFs. They helped me get everything filed.”

The library has boasted a Patent and Trademark Resource Center since the 1980s, long before U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opened its Texas Regional Office in downtown Dallas last fall. Librarian Kathy Berry has been the designated patent and trademark specialist since 2014.

“My patrons want to know the ins and outs of patents,” Berry says.

The Dallas Public Library.

The Dallas Public Library.

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers are designed to serve independent inventors and small businesses whose understanding of intellectual property issues may be rudimentary. As a former school teacher, Berry is suited to educate people about the patent process. She and other librarians provide introductory coaching for searching through USPTO databases, and they also point inventors to other resources that can help in their research. They also bring in patent attorney Robert Wise, president of the Texas Inventors Association, for one-on-one Q&A sessions one Saturday per month.

From Robinson’s perspective, the help provided by Berry and her colleagues was invaluable.

“Kathy helped me get everything in order so later, when I have to do it again, I would have a presentable order of everything that needed to be turned in,” Robinson says. “She sat with me while I talked to someone from the USPTO, and she walked me through it and just listened for little things that I might have missed. And we just did it together.”


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