By Marla Grossman, Partner, American Continental Group
The U.S. patent and trademark system depends on the dissemination of value-added information. Such dissemination can best be achieved by a public-private partnership that takes advantage of the core strengths of private sector publishers and government. Specifically, a competitive private sector patent and trademark information industry complemented by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides the optimal approach for meeting the broad range of user needs -- from specialists to the general public. The following principles are critical to ensuring the highest quality and integrity of the U.S. patent and trademark system.
Policies Should Encourage a Diversity of Sources for Patent Information
It is common sense that one should not rely on a single source of information, and that the most accurate information addressing the broadest variety of needs is best derived from a marketplace of ideas with a multiplicity of sources. U.S. law embraces such thinking, and federal statute provides that federal government agencies shall ensure public access to an agency's public information by "encouraging a diversity of public and private sources for information based on government public information." (44 USC 3506(d)(1)(A)) The statute's enforcement vehicle, OMB Circular A-130, provides that in determining how and whether to disseminate information, agencies will: "[t]ake advantage of all dissemination channels, Federal and nonfederal, including State governments, libraries, and private sector entities, in discharging agency information dissemination responsibilities." President Obama reinforced this message in the recent “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on the subject of Transparency and Open Government”: “Executive departments and agencies should … cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector.”
The concept of “a diversity of sources” has special applicability to patent information. Each area of technology benefits from different types of search tools to achieve optimal results. There are many types of uses of patent information, and there are many types of users in addition to those who conduct searches for patentability, infringement, validity, etc. Such users include researchers, business intelligence analysts, financial analysts and technology specialists. If there is only one source -- the USPTO -- all of this diversity is lost, and consumers will suffer. And yet, this is what can happen if the USPTO does not consciously take into account this principle when they are making decisions about what patent services it is going to provide and at what cost.