The main Scientific and Technical Information Center (STIC) is located at the Remsen Building, Room 1D58, 400 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. STIC maintains Electronic Information Centers (EICs) in each Technology Center (TC) whose mission is to assist patent examiners in the patent process by providing fast, accurate, prior art searches, document deliver services, the provision of foreign patent copies, translations of foreign documents, and access to non-patent literature in electronic format and in print.
35 U.S.C. 7 Library.
The Director shall maintain a library of scientific and other works and periodicals, both foreign and domestic, in the Patent and Trademark Office to aid the officers in the discharge of their duties.
Technical literature, foreign patent documents, and reference and online search services available in STIC are all important resources for the patent examiner to utilize. These resources provide material which must be known or searched to determine whether claims of applications are directly anticipated and, therefore, unpatentable under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 102. STIC handbooks, textbooks, periodicals, reports, and other materials assist examiners in deciding the question of patentable invention in cases in which the primary search indicates that there is some novelty as compared to any single reference in the art (35 U.S.C. 103). These resources enable the examiner to determine whether the features novel in the particular combination searched would be obvious to a person skilled in the art from the general state of knowledge as reflected in the technical literature.
I. STIC COLLECTIONS
A.Books (Electronic and Print)
Based on recommendations by patent examiners and subject area experts, STIC reviews, selects and purchases primarily English-language publications in all fields of applied technology. Collections of e-books, books in print, and trade catalogs are also purchased by STIC for permanent location in specific Technology Centers (TCs). For instance, the Design Patent Art Units have a great many manufacturers’ catalogs. Books in print, and e-books may be ordered by examiners by contacting the STIC EIC in each TC. A request for a publication can be submitted by using the NPL Purchase Request Form which is available on the STIC NPL website. The physical location or database resource of all acquired publications are recorded in the STIC Online Catalog so that users will know where to look for a particular publication, be it on the shelf in the EIC or in particular electronic resource or database. All publications, regardless of location, are processed in STIC’s Collection Management Service Center.
Reference works including encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and abstracting and indexing services are also available in print in the EIC. Many are available in electronic form and can be accessed via an electronic resource or database. EIC staff can assist examiners in finding information pertinent to the subject matter of a patent application. STIC does not circulate reference materials. Books in the reference collection are so labeled.
Requests for the purchase of books in print or electronic books are accepted at any time throughout the year, with subsequent purchase dependent on demonstrated need and availability of funds. If an electronic copy of a book in print exists STIC will purchase the electronic copy first.
STIC provides access to a large collection of print and electronic resources. Incorporated into the collection are a number of titles pertinent to the examination of design patent applications and titles of interest to nonexamining areas of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Requests for the purchase of new subscription titles are accepted at any time throughout the year, with subsequent purchase dependent on demonstrated need and availability of funds.
Most periodicals are available electronically via the STIC NPL website. Current issues of select periodicals in print are arranged alphabetically and located on shelves near the reference collection in EICs and in Main STIC. Bound periodicals are interfiled with the book collection. Periodicals on microfilm and CD-ROM are housed in cabinets.
C.Foreign Patent Documents
The USPTO receives foreign patent documents through exchange agreements with almost all countries that print or otherwise publish their patent documents. This makes STIC’s collection of foreign patent documents the most comprehensive in the United States.
The collection is located in Main STIC. The most current part of the collection is made available to examiners and the public through the USPTO’s automated search tools which allow users to look up, view, and print documents. The earliest patent documents, as far back as 1617, and documents from smaller countries are found in the paper collection in the stacks or at remote sites.
Most foreign countries issue official patent and trademark journals corresponding to the Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. These journals are shelved under country name. Most countries issue name indexes; some also issue classified indexes. Indexes are shelved with the journals.
The official journals of a few countries include abstracts of the disclosures of the patents announced or applications published.
Although STIC still houses substantial print collections, the majority of the collections are now in the form of electronic books, journals, and foreign patents. Many rare and historical book collections have been digitized in order to provide electronic access and preserve the materials. The electronic books and journals are accessible via the STIC NPL website. To locate the NPL Services for Examiners on the USPTO intranet site, go to the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit and click on Non-Patent Literature. Collections are arranged by TC and are also accessible by title via the STIC Online Catalog.
Each Electronic Information Center has a small print collection tailored to the art areas covered by the TC.
II. HOW TO LOCATE MATERIALS IN STIC
The STIC Online Catalog
The primary vehicle for locating e-books, e-journals, database and subscription resources, books in print and other materials is the STIC online catalog. The online catalog contains a record of all materials held by the STIC collections, including location, call number, and availability. Examiners can access the online catalog from their desktops via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit or via the STIC NPL website.
Print and electronic materials acquired by STIC are classified according to the Library of Congress classification system. Print materials including books and bound periodicals are intershelved in the stacks according to this classification system. New unbound periodical issues are shelved in a separate area of each EIC, in alphabetical order by title.
III. LOAN POLICY
All STIC materials in print except non-circulating items may be checked out at the Reference Desk in the EIC or Main STIC. Non-circulating material includes reference publications, journals in print, foreign patent documents, and microfilm. Examiners may use the Department of Commerce Libraries as well as other Federal Government libraries in the area. STIC’s staff can answer questions regarding the accessibility and lending practices of other libraries. If books in print are needed from another library for official use, a request can be submitted using the Reference Delivery Request Form available via the STIC NPL website. The Reference Delivery Service Center will process the request on behalf of examiners and deliver the reference upon receipt.
IV. STIC SERVICES
STIC’s Reference Desk staff assists examiners in the use of the STIC services and its resources. Upon request, they provide guidance on finding information in the electronic and print collections, and updates on the status of service requests. If any problems are encountered in locating materials or finding answers to informational needs, please check with the staff. They are ready and willing to assist. Queries may be made in person or by using STIC Reference Desk contact resources by phone, email, instant message or simply using the Ask-STIC chat-room.
B.Online Text/Prior Art and Bibliographic Searches
STIC staff located in the EICs in each TC perform prior art and bibliographic searches for examiners using commercial databases (CDBs) and subscription resources STIC staff access many CDBs such as ProQuest Dialog, Scientific and Technical Network (STN), Questel-Orbit, IP.com and others. When they are identified as meeting the needs and requirements of the Office, new database vendors are added. A list of the databases offered by each vendor is available on the vendors’ websites.
CDBs extensively cover the fields of knowledge examined by USPTO, and make it possible for expert search staff to retrieve bibliographic information e.g. title, author, publication date, source, language etc., and may also include abstracts, chemical structures, and DNA sequences. Often the full text of the articles, depending on the database can be provided in PDF or other electronic formats.
CDBs and other subscription resources provide access to non-patent literature that is typically not available on the Internet, and require expert knowledge in order to use special indexing, perform complex chemical substance and structure searches, and classification search systems that improve retrieval. Examiners can submit a request for a prior art/text search by using the Text/Regular Form on the STIC NPL website. For bibliographic searches, examiners may submit a request for a legal/litigation search by using the Legal/Litigation Form. Patent Family searches may be requested by using the Text/Regular Form or contacting the Reference Desk staff in the EIC. Completed searches are emailed to the examiners.
Online searching of nucleic and amino acid sequences is conducted by the staff of the STIC EIC for TC1600 through the use of an in-house computer system developed for this purpose. On an as-needed basis, introductory classes are conducted by STIC staff to assist examiners in understanding the sequence search results. Examiners can also conduct this search on their own via the in-house ABSS search system.
Examiners may also conduct searches of online commercial databases independently of STIC staff. Once approval for a commercial database login and password from the supervisory patent examiner (SPE) has been obtained, training by the vendor is provided through STIC’s Digital Resources Division. Individual assistance in searching these databases is also available from the Electronic Information Centers (EIC) staff, especially for searching chemical structures and DNA sequences.
C.Foreign Patent Services
The staff of the Foreign Patents Service Center of the STIC is available to assist with any problem or informational need regarding foreign patent document retrieval or foreign patent documents. These services are also available to examiners in the Electronic Information Centers.
Online patent family searches are performed for patent examiners by the Foreign Patents Service Center. The services provided include: identification of English-language or preferred-language equivalents; determination of priority dates and publication dates; searches by inventor name or abstract number; other patent family and bibliographic document retrieval searches; and foreign classification information.
Examiners who choose to perform their own foreign patent searches after receiving appropriate training through the Office of Patent Training can consult foreign patent experts for difficult document retrieval searches.
The staff of the Foreign Patents Service Center can supplement the online document retrieval searching effort with manual searches of foreign patent journals, including Official Gazette(s), patent concordances, and/or indexes. The staff also provides training in the use of the Foreign Patents Access System (FPAS) in EAST/WEST and the use of the foreign patent collections.
SPECIAL NOTE: Members of the public can order copies of foreign patent documents from the Foreign Patents Service Center.
Examiners may consult the translators in the Translations Service Center of STIC for oral assistance in translating foreign language patents and foreign document sources that may be possible references for applications being examined. Oral translations are performed for the major European languages and for Japanese. Examiners may also request written translations of pertinent portions of references being considered for citation or already cited in applications. Full translations are also made upon request. Written translations can be made from virtually all foreign languages into English. See also MPEP § 901.05(d).
The Translations Service Center maintains a database of all previously completed document translations. Patent translations are indexed by country and patent number; articles are indexed by language and author or title. Any copies of translations coming to examiners from outside the Office should be furnished to the Translations Service Center so that it may make copies for its files.
When needed for official business purposes, STIC will borrow from other libraries materials not available in-house. Requests can be submitted to the STIC facility in an examiner’s TC or via the electronic form on the STIC NPL website. STIC has borrowing agreements with libraries throughout the U.S.
For the convenience of the Examining Corps, photocopy machines are available for employee use in STIC. These are to be used for photocopying STIC materials which do not circulate, or for materials which examiners do not wish to checkout.
G.Obtaining Publication Dates
Requests pertaining to the earliest date of publication or first distribution to the public of publications should be made to the STIC EIC facility in the examiner’s TC. For U.S. publications, the staff can obtain the day and month of publication claimed by the copyright owner. The same information can be obtained for foreign publications through correspondence although it will take a little longer.
Special tours of the STIC and its service centers can be arranged for examiners or for outside groups by contacting the STIC EIC facility in the examiner’s TC.