DEAR SUN SPOTS: We read your column each day. Thanks for helping so many people. Would you know someone to contact to have something patented? Thanks. — No Name, No Town

ANSWER: With the fast pace of growth in technology, the U.S. Patent Office is very busy these days. Fortunately, much of what you need to know about having something patented is available online at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site’s (www.uspto.gov).

The patent Web site is very thorough, with instructions on how to patent, explanations of the different kinds of patents, the fees involved and procedures to follow. One of the first things that needs to be done is to search the patents that have already been filed to see if what you want to patent has already been patented. This search can be tricky and time consuming, but you can do much of the work online yourself.

Even if you do everything online, patenting is not an inexpensive proposition. The costs increase if you have to pay an attorney or agent to do the search and other work for you. There doesn’t appear to be any patent attorneys in our area, but there are several in Portland. If you want a referral for a patent attorney, you can call the Maine Bar Association at 1-800-860-1460.

Please be wary of organizations offering to do your patent for you or promising to make the process quick, easy and cheap. 

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I am looking for a local source to buy Knorr brand fish flavor bouillon cubes; my fish chowder is not the same without it! In the past I have always been able to buy the fish bouillon at Hannaford. However, they are no longer carrying them. If I’m not able to get them anymore, does anyone have ideas for alternative fish flavor enhancer for chowder? Thanks! — Joanne, Wilton

ANSWER: From an Internet search, it looks like this product has been discontinued. Did you look in the ethnic food aisles, in the Asian section? Fish sauce is used in many Asian dishes. You may find a different brand of bouillon cube or fish base in that section of the store. Perhaps readers will have other suggestions.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I work for Literacy Volunteers and Auburn Adult Education teaching English language learners. I am also the coordinator for the Conversation Partners program.

We need volunteers who have time to have conversations with adults who are working on learning English. It requires two hours of training, and we ask for a one-year commitment. The volunteer is asked to work one hour a week one-on-one with a student in a public building. The tutors tell me how much they enjoy working with their students.

The next training is going to occur on Feb. 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Auburn Hall on the third floor. We have a large waiting list. Thank you for your help. -— Bonnie Soper

DEAR SUN SPOTS: Some alumni of St. Mary’s School are interested in having a school reunion this summer at the Franco-American Heritage Center (former St. Mary’s Church). Please let the center know if you attended St. Mary’s School and if that is something that would interest you. Once we see if there is enough interest, a committee will be formed to organize the event. It would more than likely be a dinner-and-dance type of evening.

Also if you would be interested in serving on that committee and help in contacting your classmates, we would be happy to have you join us. Please call the FAHC at 783-1585 or e-mail me at [email protected] and let us know if you think this is a good idea. Merci. — Rita Dube, executive director, FAHC

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to [email protected]


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