Digging in to the USPTO FOIA 2014 log

The USPTO has released a log of the FOIA requests it has processed in the fiscal year 2014 in response to a request I submitted early last month. ((The US government’s fiscal calendar runs October to October, so FY2014 has been over for a month.)) Looking through these logs is interesting because you can start to pick out a little narrative for many of the requests, and you can get a sense of the public’s connection with an agency. The USPTO’s log is manageable, too: they only handle about 250-300 FOIA requests per year, and in my experience have been very timely with replies.

The full PDF from the USPTO—and my cleaned up CSV of the data—are available from Muckrock. I’ve gone through and picked out some of the things that struck me as interesting.

  • The request that took the longest to fulfill was Dennis Crouch’s (of Patently O) for “Nomination documents for Michelle Lee as Deputy Directorof the USPTO; documents discussing whether the Michelle Lee’s nomination process was proper and/or followed the law.” It took 98 days.
  • At least 8 of the 256 requests were about the Washington football team whose trademark has recently been challenged. They requests variously wanted communications with the public, with Congress, and with the relevant trademark judges.
  • One Josef Viel requested in March a “list of all the retailers that sell disposable underwear.” In September—six months later—he was back, looking for a “list of manufacturers that produce disposable underwear and retailers that sell them.”
  • Two requests close to my heart asked for information about a trademark by Banksy and USPTO documents on The Pirate Bay. I’ve reached out to those filers to see if they got anything interesting. (Note: the Banksy request has to do with an interesting trademark situation related to the registration of names or pseudonyms; EverythingTrademarks has a really great write-up of what’s going on.)
  • Knowledge Ecology International and Public Knowledge each appeared: KEI was looking for information about VP Biden’s communications with the government of India about the cancer drug Herceptin, and PK wanted a list of patent applications that were withdrawn from allowance as a result of Alice v. CLS Bank.
  • A couple of secrecy related things, pertaining to the Invention Secrecy Act that creates sort of a parallel classified patent system. Steven Aftergood requested a copy of the latest Secrecy Review Activity Report; Jonathan Byrne has two separate requests for info about the Invention Secrecy Act (which might be the result of a defective first request) and then a follow up specifically about this previously classified patent for a safety control circuit for a neutronic reactor; and Jason Leopold requested a list of rescinded secrecy orders.

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