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Published: 2008-03-26

Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program: Notes on Becoming a Patent and Trademark Depository Library



The term "Patent and Trademark Depository Library" (PTDL) refers to a library which (1) has acquired or is in the process of acquiring a collection of U.S. Patent and Trademark documents and (2) has established certain understandings with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) regarding the library's obligations concerning maintenance of a patent and trademark collection, public accessibility to that collection, and services offered by the library which afford its effective use.

Recognition as a PTDL is derived from the provisions of Section 13, Title 35 of the U.S. Code, which allows for the distribution of patent copies to libraries for an annual statutory fee of $50. This fee relates only to current issues of patents which are distributed to all PTDLs on microform. (Distribution prior to 1982 was on paper.)

To become a Patent and Trademark Depository Library, a library must subscribe to the following obligations:

  1. Pledge to acquire a minimum of a 20-year back file collection of U.S. utility patents issued 20 years prior to the date of designation. Such a back file is available from a commercial source on 16mm microfilm. However, some portions of back files of patents on paper, reclaimed from PTDLs, occasionally are available to a newly-designated library that wishes to acquire them. Also, there are now commercial sources for patents on CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory).
  2. Make access to patents and all other depository materials freely available to the public.
  3. Protect the integrity of the collection so that the patents and other documents and publications provided to each PTDL by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office remain available to the public.
  4. Maintain a collection of the classification systems and other patent- and trademark-related publications and documents which are critical to the effective utilization of patent and trademark files. Although not mandatory, it would be helpful if the library were a recognized Federal Depository Library under the provisions of Title 44 of the U.S. Code and, therefore, a recipient of many such documents via the distribution system of the Superintendent of Documents.
  5. Retain any depository copies of patents until, at the initiative of the library, disposal of them has been arranged through the Patent and Trademark Office. The Patent and Trademark Office retains the right of first refusal to acquire any materials, including microform, being relinquished by a library, where such materials were acquired under the provision of 35 USC 13.
  6. Be in a position to assist the public in the efficient use of the patent and trademark collections and of the associated information access tools.

Patent and Trademark Depository Library status granted by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks carries with it the assurance of support from the Patent and Trademark Office. The library will receive training and assistance necessary to acquire understanding of 1) the U.S. Patent Classification System as an essential tool in making effective use of the patent collection, and 2) the U.S. Prior and International Trademark Classification systems in making effective use of trademarks. Additionally, established PTDLs receive on-going assistance to carry out their Program responsibilities.

The Patent and Trademark Office holds an annual training conference for representatives from each of the PTDLs. These meetings provide the opportunity for information exchange among the library representatives and between them and the Patent and Trademark Office staff. On the basis of such conferences, activities are planned which contribute to more effective utilization of the patent and trademark collections through services rendered by the libraries. The conferences also serve to reaffirm the mission of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in disseminating patent and trademark information to the public. Therefore, all PTDLs are expected to be represented at each annual training conference.

Since 1988, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been disseminating its CASSIS (Classification and Search Support Information System) data base to all PTDLs on CD-ROM format at no cost. CASSIS CD-ROM provides access to the most current patent classification information, term searching through a limited range of patent titles and abstracts, and name searching through a limited range of inventor and company names. Other products distributed to all PTDLs include various T®ADEMARKS files, and an ASIST (Additional Search Information Support Tools) disc which provides searching through: the Manual of Classification, the Classification Definitions, the Index to U.S. Patent Classification, the Attorneys and Agents Registered to Practice Before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and other pertinent information. Numerous other CD-ROM products have been distributed to the PTDLs on a pilot basis. A work station to access these CD-ROM products will be provided by the PTO to the first PTDL designated in any given state or territory.

As a final note, it should be understood that a 20-year collection of patents will provide a resource for general patent searching of more recent technology, but it will be of limited value for comprehensive general patent searching. A library which aims to serve the total needs of the public effectively would need to acquire a more extensive back file collection of patents.

Last Modified: December 13, 1996