August 26, 1998
Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks
Attention: Wesley H. Gewehr
Administrator for Information Dissemination
Crystal Park 3, Suite 451
Washington, DC 20231
Dear Commissioner Lehman:
On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I would like to express full support for plans of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to expand and enhance no-fee public access to PTO publications through the Internet, as announced in the Federal Register of July 27, 1998. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) was founded in 1906 to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities, to foster the profession of law librarianship, and to provide leadership in the field of legal information. Today, with more than 5,000 members nationwide, our organization represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies.
AALL is committed to the availability of government and legal information to the public as a necessary requirement for a just and democratic society. We strongly support the system of the almost 1400 Federal Depository Libraries and the 83 Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDLs) that are geographically dispersed to provide the public with convenient, no-fee access to federal government information. These libraries provide valuable services on a daily basis in assisting members of the public to locate and use the government information they need. Patent and trademark information in particular is essential to American small businesses, to the research and academic communities, and to the independent inventor. We applaud PTO's commitment to providing patent and trademark products and services at no-fee to the public through the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries.
We are in the midst of the information age, though, where the rapid growth of electronic technologies continues to enhance the way that government and many Americans do business. The Internet offers agencies the opportunity to disseminate, in a timely and effective manner, the information they create, gather and maintain. At the same time, more and more Americans have access to the Internet from their homes or offices, and certainly most Americans have access to the Internet through their local library. It is entirely timely and appropriate, therefore, that the PTO plans to expand its searchable database for no-fee public access through the Internet for those users who may be far removed from a Patent and Trademark Depository Library.
The PTO has a laudable record of disseminating patent and trademark information broadly to foster creativity for the good of our nation. In December 1995, we commended the PTO for its decision to provide the public with no-fee Internet access to approximately twenty years of searchable patent bibliographic text data. At the time, we noted that, while the primary mission of the PTO is to fulfill constitutional mandates of granting patents and registering trademarks, a critical component of that mission is the broad dissemination of this information.
We are therefore very pleased with current plans to further enhance the PTO database in the coming months to include: the searchable trademark data currently available through Cassis CD-ROM products; the full text of all patents issued since 1976; and patent and trademark image data and trademark data for inactive marks. We view these latest enhancement as a further commitment by the PTO to take optimum advantage of the Internet to improve the agency's public dissemination of important patent and trademark information broadly, conveniently, in a timely manner and at low cost to the American public who will reap enormous benefits from these enhancements.
We thank you, Chairman Lehman, and the dedicated staff of your Office of Electronic Information Products, for your strong commitment to the noble principles of broad public access to government information and for keeping PTO in step with the latest technologies to improve and enhance no-fee public access through the Internet.
Robert L. Oakley
American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Representative