Javascript is disabled. Please enable Javascript to log in.
Published: 2008-03-26

Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program: General Information and Background



What is a Patent and Trademark Depository Library?

A Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL) is a library which is designated by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to receive and house copies of US patents and patent and trademark materials, to make them freely available to the public, and to disseminate actively both patent and trademark information. To be designated, a library must meet specific requirements and promise to fulfill certain obligations as outlined in the information brochure entitled " Notes on Becoming a Patent and Trademark Depository Library."

A Brief History of the Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program

The Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program had its beginning in 1871 when the federal statute (35 U.S.C. 13) first provided for the distribution of printed patents to libraries for use by the public. In its early years, twenty-two libraries, mostly public and located east of the Mississippi River, elected to receive copies of printed patents. Since 1977 the PTDL Program has grown to almost four times its original membership. About half of the PTDLs are academic libraries with nearly as many public libraries. There are also a number of state libraries and even special research libraries. All libraries regardless of type must meet the same requirements and obligations.

Benefits of Becoming a Patent and Trademark Depository Library

Many states are looking to the PTDL Program as a way to stimulate their economic growth. Having a Patent and Trademark Depository Library as a readily available local resource for small businesses, research and development firms, university and government laboratories, and independent inventors brings the newest technology in the form of patents directly to the doorstep of these potential users. Patents provide a unique body of scientific and technical literature and add value and stature to a library's collection. Access to trademark information provides a service in high demand by local businesses. PTDL designation brings a new and exciting service to a community, region, or state. The availability of high-quality patent and trademark information services often attracts new communities of library users with the potential for new sources of library support.

What Kinds of Patent Documents Do PTDLs Receive?

For a nominal annual statutory fee paid by the PTDL to the US Patent and Trademark Office, a PTDL receives:

  • Utility Patents
  • Design Patents
  • Plant Patents
  • Reissue Patents
  • Reexamination Certificates
  • Statutory Invention Registrations (SIRs)
  • Post-issue patent status information

All of the above are distributed on 16mm microfilm, except for Plant Patents, which are only available in paper and microfiche format

Additional Services and Products Provided to PTDLs

A major concern among PTDLs and those libraries exploring the possibility of becoming Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries is the ability to provide high-quality patent and trademark reference service to the public. To address this concern, the USPTO's Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program offers the following major types of assistance to all Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries:

  • A toll-free telephone line to the office of the PTDL Program (for use of PTDL staff only) -- a vital link to the experts at the Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Free subscriptions to the Cassis series of CD-ROMs (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory)containing patent text and image data and trademark text data.
  • A private mailing list to enhance communications.
  • "Accessing Patent and Trademark Information" seminars conducted by the Patent and Trademark Office for public user training at PTDL locations on request.
  • Librarian Fellowship Program -- An opportunity for PTDL librarians to work in the Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program office at the Patent and Trademark Office or the public search facilities in Arlington, Virginia.
  • Training -- Various kinds of training, including one week of in-depth training provided on site at the Patent and Trademark Office every year for representatives from each PTDL.
  • Publications and Materials -- All patent and trademark search publications and additional unpublished materials to provide state of the art service to patent and trademark patrons.

Consult the List of Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries for the telephone number of the library near you.

Last Modified: December 13, 1996