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Carlson Center for Intellectual Property

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Carlson Center for Intellectual Property

Rochester Public Library, N.Y.

Workforce and Economic Development | 2020 | Honorable Mention

Innovation Synopsis

The Carlson Center for Intellectual Property is a patent and trademark resource center at the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County. It serves the Greater Rochester area with patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyright. The Center has been supporting local inventors and small businesses for 20 years.


Effective patent searching requires extensive training and knowledge, which most public and academic librarians do not have. A layperson trying to search patents is futile, unless you know that in order to search bicycles you need to use the term “self-propelled land vehicle.” Hiring an intellectual property attorney is cost prohibitive for most independent inventors and start-ups, but prior art searches are necessary for determining viability. Without expert assistance, few submit filings correctly the first time.

Key Elements of Innovation

We partnered with Rochester Institute of Technology’s Simone Center for Entrepreneurship and Venture Creations incubator to provide expert searching for their students and staff on site. We established the Patent Virtual Assistance Center (we are one of two public libraries in the U.S. to offer this) that allows patrons to meet virtually with a patent examiner, cutting down on office actions that prolong the process and increase fees. We formed a relationship with a IP attorney to provide free consultations.

Achieved Outcomes

Staff are considered an integral part of RIT’s entrepreneurship ecosystem; they attend classes with students and problem solve in real time. Despite being the youngest PVAC location of the six sites nationwide, we have the highest usage. Our overall PTRC usage is in the top five for the U.S., which is impressive given we are a medium sized city. The reach has grown outside of Rochester, we work with people in N.J., Fla., Tenn. and New York City. A client in N.J. drove to Rochester for one day just to use the PVAC service!

Click here to view a letter from a patron of the Carlson Center for Intellectual Property. She received approximately 50 hours of direct service from Carlson staff to bring her patent to fruition.

Click here to view a letter from a patent agent at the Rochester Institute of Technology explaining the unmet need of IP services for students and faculty.