Live: Pixel Event Pixel Watch Fire TV vs. Frame TV Hellraiser Review Audible Deal Prime Day Pizza Deals Best Sheets
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

Government puts patents online

The Clinton administration will soon make available hoards of patent and trademark information free over the Internet.

The Clinton administration soon will make available hoards of patent and trademark information free over the Internet, Commerce Department Secretary William M. Daley announced today.

The administration said the move is the latest in its efforts to make more government information available to the public over the Web.

The Commerce Department's Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) by year's end will make available the full text of the 20 million patents dating back to 1976, and text and images of 800,000 trademarks and 300,000 pending registrations from the late 1800s to the present. Trademark text will be available in August, with trademark images and patent text to follow in November, Daley said in an announcement.

The move to make the patent and trademark database freely available comes after years of debate between the government and public interest advocates who feel government information should be made available over the Internet.

More coverage on CNET Radio
The White House, in fact, was pressed to make the information available earlier. Internet pioneer Carl Malamud purchased the information from the PTO and said he would then make it freely available if the government failed to do so.

Today Malamud praised the announcement. "This is the right thing to do. The Clinton administration should get kudos for this."

Malamud, the head and founder of the Internet Multicasting Service, also took on the Herculean task of posting online a profusion of raw data from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Then, as reported earlier, in a letter to Vice President Al Gore and Daley, Malamud demanded that the Patent and Trademark Office comply with a 1996 paper reduction law and publish online complete and up-to-date patent and trademark registry files--which in some cases can pile up to 500 pages.

A hero among public-disclosure advocates, Malamud in 1994 created and maintained a small PTO database and a massive SEC site, now known as the Edgar Database, before that agency took it over 18 months later when Malamud planned to shut it down.

The new PTO database was also praised by Vice President Al Gore, who, in a statement, hailed it as a "prime example of the success of the Administration's policy of reinventing government to make it more responsive to the needs of its most important customer--the public."

In describing the new database in a speech prepared for delivery to the American Bar Association in Williamsburg, Virginia, PTO commissioner Bruce Lehman said patent images that correlate to the electronic text will be available online by March of next year and users will be able to print the images for free. Users will also be able to order online copies for electronic delivery.

Malamud said the purpose of having the patents and trademarks available on the Internet is simple. "It promotes science. We get to see the process involved in developing" the patented product.

"Patents are the fence posts of what constitutes intellectual property. Science will progress more rapidly because we will be able to share more knowledge," he said.

In 1994, the PTO offered free Internet access to its AIDS patents database, offering the full text and document images for more than half of all AIDS research-related patents. This was followed in 1995 by a second wave of digital patent data with the posting, to PTO's Web site, of 20 years of patent bibliographic data and abstracts from more than 2 million patents.