Anyone that's had to slog through a governmental web site knows how confusing it can be at times. That being said, let's take a virtual walk together through the web site of the US Patent & Trademark Office.
Start at the home page. You'll see a headline of sorts along with 3 columns of information. Left hand column are a series of links that drop down to show even more links - more about this to follow. The middle column is the site's top news with various headlines and blurbs. The right hand column are banner links that go to various pages/sites, such as the Department of Commerce, Kids' Pages, jobs at the USPTO, etc.
Left hand column - we're going to concentrate on 2 of the 13 available links.
Click on Patents - a drop down should open with a series of numbered links. Let's take a look at a few a bit closer:
The very first link, not numbered, Patents main page takes you to the hub of the US patent universe. This is the main page where you can access all of the other related patent links.
Link #1 About Patents takes you right back to that main page, which is confusing. Ignore that. Instead from the main page, click on Basic Facts About Patents. This will give you a good idea of what a patent actually is.
Link #5 Search Patents takes you to the USPTO Patent Search page. From here you can search issued or published applications.
Link #6 File Online in EFS-Web takes you to the Patent Electronic Business Center. From here you can also search patents as well as file a patent application.
Back to the home page
Click on Trademarks - a drop down should open with a series of numbered links. Let's take a look at some a little closer:
The very first link, not numbered, Trademarks main page takes you to the main trademark page where you can access all trademark related links.
Link #1 Where Do I Start? is a great place to start. This page provides a pretty thorough road map of the trademark process.
Link #3 Search TM database takes you to the Trademark Electronic Search System. From here you can do a preliminary check of the Federal trademarks.
Link #4 File Online Forms goes to the Trademark Electronic Application System where you'd file a trademark application electronically.
Link #5 Check Status is the page every trademark owner should bookmark. This is where you can check your status using your Serial Number.
Link #6 View Full Files allows you to view all the associated documents with many of the Federal trademark filings. For instance, you can view your application or specimens. Also, if you receive an Office Action, a copy will be available here.
And there's a brief walk through of the most important patent and trademark links on the US Patent and Trademark Office web site. There are many more of course but the ones detailed above are those that will be most helpful to those starting the patent and trademark processes.