[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 231 (Monday, December 2, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 72064-72065]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-28742]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

United States Patent and Trademark Office

[Docket No. PTO-C-2013-0039]


Request for Comments on Methods for Studying the Diversity of 
Patent Applicants

AGENCY: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce.

ACTION: Request for Comments.

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SUMMARY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (``USPTO'' or 
``the Office'') is interested in gathering information on approaches 
for studying the diversity of patent applicants in accordance with 
research methodology developed as required by the America Invents Act 
(AIA or Act). To assist in gathering this information, the USPTO 
invites the public to provide comments on collecting information on the 
diversity of patent applicants consistent with the AIA.
    Written Comments: Written comments should be sent by email to 
saurabh.vishnubhakat@uspto.gov. Comments may also be submitted by 
postal mail addressed to Saurabh Vishnubhakat, Expert Advisor, Office 
of Chief Economist, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Mail 
Stop External Affairs, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450. 
Although comments may be submitted by postal mail, the USPTO prefers to 
receive comments via email. The deadline for receipt of written 
comments is January 31, 2014. Written comments should be identified in 
the subject line of the email or postal mailing as ``Diversity of 
Patent Applicants.''
    Because written comments will be made available for public 
inspection, information that a respondent does not desire to be made 
public, such as a telephone number, should not be included in the 
written comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Saurabh Vishnubhakat, Expert Advisor, 
Office of Chief Economist, by telephone at (571) 272-6900, or by email 
at saurabh.vishnubhakat@uspto.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 29 of the AIA charged the Director 
of the USPTO with ``establish[ing] methods for studying the diversity 
of patent applicants, including those applicants who are minorities, 
women, or veterans'' no later than six months after the enactment of 
the Act (i.e., by March 16, 2012). This section further provided that 
the Director shall not use the results of such study to provide any 
preferential treatment to patent applicants. The USPTO developed and 
timely published a methodology to study important issues related to 
applicant diversity. See ``Diversity of Applicant Methodology'' (March 
16, 2012) on USPTO Web site for AIA Implementation (under 
``Programs'').
    This methodology respects the interests of individuals and 
organizations in protecting private information. It underscores the 
Office's sensitivity to this issue by taking an iterative, careful 
approach to potentially sensitive information from patent applicants, 
and includes input from the public. The methodology includes two 
initial steps: (1) Cooperate with the U.S. Census Bureau (``Census'') 
to analyze currently available public information data; and (2) seek 
public comment on whether or how to collect additional information. 
This Request for Comments constitutes the second stop in the 
methodology.
    As to the first step in the methodology, the USPTO cooperated with 
Census to analyze currently available public information data. 
Consistent with the language and legislative history of Section 29 of 
the AIA, the analysis sought: (1) To describe the overall, cumulative 
(i.e., highly aggregated) demographic characteristics, such as race, 
gender, age, and geography, of inventors as a group; and (2) to 
describe the overall, cumulative (i.e., highly aggregated) business 
characteristics, such as revenues, number of employees, and geography, 
for companies as a group. Note that this analysis gathered and 
evaluated cumulative data on groups of individuals and companies; this 
analysis did not gather and evaluate data in a manner that would 
identify any particular individual or company.
    The analysis sought to match certain public information in USPTO 
files with confidential census information in Census files. Consistent 
with AIA Section 29, USPTO's analysis aimed to identify group 
demographics like race, gender and age of inventors in patents granted 
in 2005-2006; USPTO did not seek or obtain such demographic information 
for any particular inventor.
    By using existing data and cooperating with Census, the USPTO could 
avoid any additional burden on applicants while also protecting the 
identity of particular individuals and companies. This is because 
Census would only share with USPTO the highly aggregated group data 
(i.e., devoid of any personal identifying information). Because 
sensitive Census information concerning diversity characteristics is 
protected under Title 13, United States Code, once the USPTO 
information becomes comingled with Census data, that comingled data is 
confidential under Title 13 and cannot be released.
    The data provided by USPTO for this analysis consisted only of 
certain public information provided on the face of patents granted 
between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2006. This information was 
the name and address (generally only the town and state) of the 
inventor. As stated above, USPTO provided this public information to 
Census, and Census then confidentially attempted to match this data 
against its own data with the goal of identifying, on an overall basis, 
the cumulative demographic information of the inventors as a group.
    The analysis was only partially successful, however, since Census 
was able to match only 64% of the inventors provided by USPTO. The 
basic information collected by the USPTO from inventors--i.e., name, 
town, and state--was not a particularly strong basis for matching with 
Census data. For example, usually it was not possible to match common 
names (such as ``John Smith'' or ``Mary Johnson'') in large cities 
(such as ``New York, NY'' or ``Chicago, IL''). In sum, the poor quality 
of data-matching, as well as some statistical bias, suggest that the 
limited

[[Page 72065]]

information currently collected by the USPTO about inventors (i.e., 
name, town, state) is not sufficient to allow Census to meaningfully 
describe the cumulative diversity characteristics of inventors as a 
group within the meaning of AIA Section 29.
    In sum, the first step of USPTO's methodology under AIA Section 29 
was to cooperate with Census to analyze currently available data. The 
aim was to identify demographic information about inventors of patents 
granted in 2005-2006, as a collective group. Since step one was only 
partially successful, the Agency now proceeds to step two, which is to 
seek public comments on whether or how to collect further information 
for completing the diversity study under AIA Section 29.
    Issues For Comment: The USPTO seeks comments on how to study the 
diversity of patent applicants before the USPTO pursuant to AIA Section 
29. The questions below are intended to aid the USPTO in assessing 
whether and how to collect further information and in considering 
potential next steps for a diversity study. The questions should not be 
taken as an indication that the USPTO has taken a position or is 
predisposed to any particular view. The public is invited to answer any 
or all of these questions. The public is also invited to submit 
comments on any related issues that they believe are relevant.
    (1) How and by which methods should the USPTO effectively study 
patent applicant diversity in accordance with the expressed intent of 
Congress in Section 29 of the AIA?
    (2) Should the USPTO conduct surveys of patent applicants to obtain 
demographic data such as race, gender, age, and geography, of inventors 
as a group?
    (3) Aside from surveys, how can the USPTO effectively collect 
personal identifying information about U.S. and non-U.S. patent 
applicants in order to study applicant diversity through improved data 
matching, analytics, and studies?
    (a) Should the USPTO collect certain personal identifying 
information about U.S. and non-U.S. patent applicants on a mandatory 
basis or on a voluntary basis? How would each of these approaches 
affect the accuracy of the information being provided?
    (b) Can USPTO effectively collect personal identifying information 
from other institutions or organizations about U.S. and non-U.S. patent 
applicants?
    (4) What particular personal identifying information should the 
USPTO seek (or not seek) in order to more effectively study applicant 
diversity? Why?

    Dated: November 25, 2013.
Margaret A. Focarino,
Commissioner for Patents.
[FR Doc. 2013-28742 Filed 11-29-13; 8:45 am]
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