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PREMIUM LEGAL RESOURCES LEGAL FORMS ASK A LAWYER

Congress established the United States Patent and Trademark Office to issue patents on behalf of the Government. The Patent and Trademark Office as a distinct bureau may be said to date from the year 1802 when a separate official in the Department of State who became known as "Superintendent of Patents" was placed in charge of patents. The revision of the patent laws enacted in 1836 reorganized 4 the Patent and Trademark Office and designated the official in charge as Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks. The Patent and Trademark Office remained in the Department of State until 1849 when it was transferred to the Department of Interior. In 1925 it was transferred to the Department of Commerce where it is today.

The Patent and Trademark Office administers the patent laws as they relate to the granting of patents for inventions, and performs other duties relating to patents. It examines applications for patents to determine if the applicants are entitled to patents under the law and grants the patents when they are so entitled; it publishes issued patents and various publications concerning patents, records assignments of patents, maintains a search room for the use of the public to examine issued patents and records, are performed with respect to the registration of trademarks. The Patent and Trademark Office has no jurisdiction over questions of infringement and the enforcement of patents, nor over matters relating to the promotion or utilization of patents or inventions.

The head of the Office is the assistant Secretary and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks and his staff includes the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Deputy Commissioner, several assistant commissioners, and other officials. As head of the Office, the Commissioner superintends or performs all duties respecting the granting and issuing of patents and the registration of trademarks; exercises general supervision over the entire work of the Patent and Trademark Office; prescribes the rules, subject to the approval of the Secretary of Commerce, for the conduct of proceedings in the Patent and Trademark Office and for recognition of attorneys and agents; decides various questions brought before him by petition as prescribed by the rules, and performs other duties necessary and required for the administration of the Patent and Trademark Office.

The work of examining applications for patents is divided among a number of examining groups, each group having jurisdiction over certain assigned fields of technology. Each group is headed by a group director and staffed by a number of examiners. The examiners review applications for patents and determine whether patents can be granted. An appeal can be taken to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences from their decisions refusing to grant a patent and a view by the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks may be had on other matters by petition. The examiners also identify applications that claim the same invention and initiate proceedings, known as interferences, to determine who was the first inventor.

In addition to the examining groups. other offices perform various services, such as receiving and distributing mail, receiving new applications, handling sales of printed copies of patents, making copies of records, inspecting drawings, and recording assignments.

At present, the Patent and Trademark Office has about 4,400 employees, of whom about half are examiners and others with technical and legal training. Patent applications are received at the rate of over 170,000 per year. The Patent and Trademark Office receives over five million pieces of mail each year.

PUBLICATIONS OF THE PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE

Patents -- The specification and accompanying drawings of all patents are published on the day they are granted and printed copies are sold to the public by the Patent and Trademark Office. Over 5,000,000 patents have been issued.

Printed copies of any patent, identified by its patent number, may be purchased from the Patent and Trademark Office. See fee schedule.

Future patents classified in subclasses containing subject matter of interest may be obtained, as they issue, by prepayment of a deposit and a service charge. For the cost of such subscription service, a separate inquiry should be sent to the Patent and Trademark Office.

Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. -- This is the official journal relating to patents and trademarks. It has been published weekly since January 1872 (replacing the old "Patent Office Reports"), and is now issued each Tuesday in two parts, one describing patents and the other trademarks. It contains a claim and a selected figure of the drawings of each patent granted on that day; notices of patent and trademark suits; indexes of patents and patentees; list of patents available for license or sale, and much general information such as orders, notices, changes in rules, changes in classification, etc. The Official Gazette is sold on subscription and by single copies by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

The illustrations and claims of the patents are arranged in the Official Gazette according to the Patent and Trademark Office classification of subject matter, permitting ready reference to patents in any particular field. Street addresses of patentees and a geographical index of residents of inventors are included. Copies of the Official Gazette may be found in public libraries of larger cities.

Index of Patents. -- This annual index to the Official Gazette is currently in two volumes, one an index of patentees and the other an index by subject matter of the patents. Sold by Superintendent of Documents.

Index of Trademarks. -- An annual index of registrants of trademarks. Sold by Superintendent of Documents.

Manual of Classification. -- A looseleaf book containing a list of all the classes and subclasses of inventions in the Patent and Trademark Office classification systems, a subject matter index, and other information relating to classification. Substitute pages are issued from time to time. Annual subscription includes the basic manual and substitute pages. Sold by Superintendent of Documents.

Classification Definitions -- Contains the changes in classification of patents as well as definitions of new and revised classes and subclasses. Sold by Patent and Trademark Office.

Title 37 Code of Federal Regulations. -- Includes rules of practice for Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights. Available from the Superintendent of Documents.

Basic Facts about Trademarks -- Contains general information for the layman about applications for, and registration of, trademarks and service marks. Copies may be purchased from Superintendent of Documents.

Directory of Registered Patent Attorneys and Agents Arranged by States and Countries -- An alphabetical and geographical listing of patent attorneys and agents registered to practice before the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. Sold by Superintendent of Documents.

Manual of Patent Examining Procedure. -- A looseleaf manual which serves primarily as a detailed reference work on patent examining practice and procedure for the Patent and Trademark Office's Examining Corps. Subscription service includes basic manual, quarterly revisions, and change notices. Sold by Superintendent of Documents.

The Story of the United States Patent Office. -- A chronological account of the development of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and patent system and of inventions which had unusual impact on the American economy and society. Sold by Superintendent of Documents.

GENERAL INFORMATION AND CORRESPONDENCE

All business with the Patent and Trademark Office should be transacted by writing to "COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20231." Correspondents should be sure to include their full return addresses, including Zip Codes.

The principal location of the office is Crystal Plaza 3, 2021 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Virginia. The personal attendance of applicants at the Office is unnecessary.

Applicants and attorneys are required to conduct their business with decorum and courtesy. Papers presented in violation of this requirement will be returned.

Separate letters (but not necessarily in separate envelopes) should be written in relation to each distinct subject of inquiry, such as assignments, payments, orders for printed copies of patents, order for copies of records, requests for other services, etc. None of these should be included with letters responding to Office actions in applications (see page 19).

When a letter concerns a patent application, the correspondent must include the serial number, filing date and Group Art Unit number. When a letter concerns a patent, it must include the name of the patentee, the title of the invention, the patent number and the date of issue.

An order for a copy of an assignment must give the book and page or reel and frame of the record, as well as the name of the inventor; otherwise, an additional charge is made for the time consumed in making the search for the assignment. 7

Applications for patents are not open to the public, and no information concerning them is released except on written authority of the applicant, his assignee, or his attorney or when necessary to the conduct of the business of the Office. Patents and related records, including records of any decisions, the records of assignments other than those relating to assignments of patent applications, books, and other records and papers in the Office are open to the public. They may be inspected in the Patent and Trademark Office Search Room or copies may be ordered.

The Office cannot respond to inquiries concerning the novelty and patentability of an invention in advance of the filing of an application; give advice as to possible infringement of a patent; advise of the propriety of filing an application; respond to inquiries as to whether or to whom any alleged invention has been patented; act as an expounder of the patent law or as counselor for individuals, except in deciding questions arising before it in regularly field cases. Information of a general nature may be furnished either directly or by supplying or calling attention to an appropriate publication.

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