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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Lunchtime Listen: A history of intellectual property

Here is an entertaining and informative 52 minute podcast that gives an historical overview of patents and copyright and other “intellectual property” issues from an American perspective. Although they do not discuss government information issues specifically, the history they do discuss provides the context for the public good of public information and the attempts to privatize or commodify public information.

This is definitely informative, but The American History Guys of Backstory (Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh) are more like the Car Guys than your high school history teacher. They discuss everyone from Mark Twain to Phyllis Diller and guests include Ananda Chakrabarty, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Kembrew McLeod, University of Iowa, Doron Ben-Atar, Fordham University. Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia, and Chris Sprigman, University of Virginia School of Law.

Listen and enjoy.

USPTO Rebrands National Library Network as Patent and Trademark Resource Centers

(via INFOdocket)

From the USPTO:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) [recently] announced that its nationwide network of Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDLs) will become known as Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) on October 1, 2011. The name change signifies a major shift in focus from the “paper depository” concept to an expansion of access to electronic information and specialized training to meet the information needs of 21st Century patent and trademark customers.

Currently, PTRC designated libraries can be found in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This network of more than 80 public, academic, state and special libraries assists a variety of customers including inventors, intellectual property attorneys/agents, business people, researchers, entrepreneurs, students and historians.


The modern PTRC network has its foundations in the 1800’s when Congress provided printed copies of patents to libraries for use by the public. The USPTO established training support and membership standards for these diverse libraries in 1977.

USPTO to hold public meeting on Data Dissemination RFI Oct 19 at SF Public Library

Last month we blogged about the US Patent and trademark Office (USPTO) and their RFI to outsource their data. Carl Malamud and several others (including Stanford University Librarian Michael Keller) wrote to the USPTO requesting a public meeting on the west coast to discuss the RFI that, “seeks to obtain information from interested parties, including the vendor community, about potential opportunities to acquire patent and trademark data in bulk (my emphasis) and to provide such data to the public without cost. The USPTO is seeking comments on the identified problem and solutions that will make the data available to the public without charge.” If you’re free on Monday, October 19th from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PST, please go to the SF Public Library in order to participate in this important public meeting. John Owens, USPTO CIO, mentions in his email (below) that registration is limited to the first 50 and interested people need to email your name, company, company address, and e-mail address topublicdatadissemination@uspto.gov NO LATER THAN OCTOBER 15.

Please help us have a strong showing for free access to and preservation of digital patents and trademarks. Let the USPTO know that commodifying and privatizing public domain government information is not ok and does not meet President Obama’s directive on Transparency and Open Government.


Due to overwhelming interest from the patent and trademark community, the USPTO has scheduled a second public meeting to be held Monday, October 19th from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Pacific time at the San Francisco Public Library located at 100 Larkin Street (at Grove), San Francisco, CA 94102-4733 in the Latino/Hispanic Community Room B. As with the first public meeting, the purpose is to address questions about the Request for Information (RFI). The full details of the Data Dissemination RFI, along with registration information and information from the first public meeting, are available on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site

Those parties that are interested in attending must send, no later than Thursday, October 15, 2009, 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, the attendee’s name, company, company address, and e-mail address topublicdatadissemination@uspto.gov. Registration will be limited to the first 50 registrants.

For directions please call (415) 557-4400.

The contract officer is:
V’Anne Tugbang
Contracting Officer
Office of Procurement
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Department of Commerce
600 Dulany Street, MDE-7C07
Alexandria, VA 22313-1450
p. 571.272.6550
f. 571.273.6550

We look forward to seeing you.


John B. Owens II
Chief Information Officer
United States Patent and Trademark Office

USPTO latest agency looking to outsource their data

[UPDATE: Michael Keller, University Librarian at Stanford University (and my boss), wrote a letter to USPTO as well. Thanks Carl for posting it to scribd.]

Carl Malamud made me aware (see his letter to USPTO CIO John Owens below) of a posting on FedBizOpps of a Request for Information (RFI) from the US Patent and Trademark Office:

“This RFI seeks to obtain information from interested parties, including the vendor community, about potential opportunities to acquire patent and trademark data in bulk (my emphasis) and to provide such data to the public without cost. The USPTO is seeking comments on the identified problem and solutions that will make the data available to the public without charge.”

While there is mention in the RFI of IP data being easily accessible to the public, there’s no mention of data.gov. This seems to be purely a “no-cost” way for USPTO to upgrade their IT infrastructure by giving away public domain information.

This is worrisome on so many levels as it is just one more example of a government agency looking to outsource and privatize public domain information *and* its IT infrastructure — see for example the Thomson West contract with the GAO to digitize their legislative histories. Additionally, in a vague nod to transparency, USPTO will be holding 1 (yes only 1) vendor information meeting on Sept 24. I’m not sure how USPTO thinks that a 2 week notice for a meeting held in DC will help the cause of transparency. Shouldn’t they have several meetings in different geographic locations to talk about such a huge and important public resource (nearly 2 petabytes of data!!)?

Luckily, this is only at the RFI stage, not RFP stage. USPTO is currently only looking for information on how to do this. This is the time for the government information/transparency communities to submit ideas for how the USPTO could make their patent information available *without* giving it away to vendors. Please contact the USPTO at the addresses below and give them ideas for making their data open, standardized and freely available in bulk.

Public Meeting:
Thursday, 24 September 2009
9:00 a.m. -11:00 a.m.
USPTO Campus in the Madison Auditorium
600 Dulany Street
Alexandria, VA, 22314

Contracting Office Address:
P. O. Box 1450 – Mail Stop 6
600 Dulany Street, MDE, 7th Floor
Alexandria, Virginia 22313-1450

Primary Point of Contact.:

Secondary Point of Contact:
V. Anne Tugbang,
Contracting Officer
Phone: 5712726550
Fax: 5712736550

Letter to John B. Owens, II, September 15, 2009

James’ link dump of the day!

I have a bunch of tabs open of boingboing posts that I want to share, but it’s been such a hectic day (I invited Rick Falkvinge of the Swedish Pirate party to give a talk today at my library!) so I think I’ll just list them and let you all sort them out.

Now if THIS doesn’t convince you that a) blogs are incredibly useful tools for disseminating information and b) boingboing should be read several times a day as a matter of course then I don’t know what will convince you. Happy reading 🙂