USPTO Expanding Training Facilities at Expense of Public Search Facilities
Less than 18 months after opening, the new USPTO Public Search Facility (PSF) and Scientific and Technical Information Center (STIC) are being reconfigured in order to accomodate two new USPTO training initiatives scheduled to start in early 2006.
According to the transcript of the November 16 public user's meeting held by the Office of Public Records and Office of Public Information Services, the second floor of the PSF, which opened in September 2004, will be transformed into training space for the new IP Global Academy (IPGA), an IP law program for foreign judges, law enforcement officials, and government officials. The number of public research workstations will be reduced from 308 to 237, more than enough to accomodate peak usage according to officials at the meeting. In addition, bound volumes of patents in numeric order will be moved to a storage space in Suitland, Maryland.
STIC will lose space to SEED, the School for Examiner Education and Development, a new patent examiner training program described by USPTO Director Jon W. Dudas as "collegial and collaborative." Training is a critical priority due to the rapid expansion of the USPTO's patent examiner workforce and growing application backlog. The USPTO hired approximately 970 examiners this year and plans on hiring 1,000 more per fiscal year to 2011, according to Dudas' Sept. 8 statement to the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. There are currently approximately 4,200 patent examiners. More than 400,000 new applications were filed in fiscal year 2005.
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.