General - FOIA - Making requests
What is available under the FOIA?
Records available under the FOIA include all “agency records” in any format, including electronic records, that were created or obtained by the USPTO.
Can I make a FOIA request? Where should I send it?
Anyone can make a FOIA request, but it must be made in writing. No telephone requests will be accepted. Include contact information that will enable the FOIA Office to reach you for clarification (if needed) and send your response.
Written requests will be accepted via:
USPTO FOIA Office
United States Patent and Trademark Office
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313-1450
USPTO FOIA Office
United States Patent and Trademark Office
Madison Building East, 10B20
600 Dulany Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
When the USPTO FOIA Office has received a proper request, it will assign the request a tracking number, which you can use to check the status of your request.
How should I draft my FOIA request?
All requests should clearly state that they are a FOIA request (or Privacy Act request, if you are seeking records about yourself). If you do not know the exact title of the records you are seeking, you should provide a detailed description of the records. The more information that you can provide about the records, the more expeditiously we can process your request.
When drafting your request, use the following guidelines to achieve the best results:
Be clear and specific.Your FOIA request must reasonably describe the records you are asking for, which means that the text of your request must allow the USPTO FOIA Office to locate the records with a reasonable amount of effort. Assume the FOIA specialist who will handle your request is not familiar with your topic of interest. If known, identify the custodian (individual(s) or the organization that is likely to possess the records), author of the records, and/or creation date or date range. Context for your request can be critical. This may include reference to related news stories, or other supporting material (though these things are not required). Key words or other search terms are also very helpful. If you are seeking documents related to a particular event, let us know the date of that event. You are always welcome to call the USPTO FOIA Office if you think your request requires additional information. We will contact you if we need clarification.
Make sure your request is reasonable in scope. In order to allow the agency to conduct a reasonable search, and to avoid or reduce fees (where applicable), limit the scope of your request to only the records you are looking for. Agencies are only required to search for records to the extent they are able to reasonably identify potential locations for responsive records. Broad requests that lack any specificity can be unworkable. For example, the USPTO could not conduct a reasonable search for “all agency records related to artificial intelligence,” but if your request were crafted as “all emails discussing artificial intelligence created by John Doe in March 2019,” it is likely that a reasonable search can be conducted.
Only request records or documents. The FOIA is about access to records. It does not require that agencies conduct research, answer questions, create documents that do not otherwise exist, or certify documents.
Specify whether you want the records in paper form or electronically. The USPTO will release records in electronic form (for example, on a CD-ROM or by e-mail) when requested, if it can reasonably do so.
Is my FOIA request confidential? What about my Privacy Act request?
Your FOIA requests are not confidential. Once a FOIA request is received by the USPTO, it becomes a public record. If the request itself contains personally identifying information, other private information, or information that the USPTO is generally obligated to maintain as confidential, we may redact such information. However, if you file a request for records about yourself under the Privacy Act, your identity and any responsive records will be maintained as confidential to the extent required by the Privacy Act.
What do I need to provide to obtain records about myself?
If you are seeking records about yourself under the Privacy Act that would not be generally releasable to the public, you will be asked to provide proof of identity. If you wish to have your responsive records mailed or emailed, please have your request notarized before submitting, or provide a copy of a government-issued identification along with your request. See 37 C.F.R. § 102.24 for more information. If you cannot comply with these requirements, please consult with the USPTO FOIA Office.
General - FOIA - Exemptions
What can't I have?
Records may exist that are exempt from disclosure in whole or in part under FOIA if the records contains information that falls into one or more of the nine categories listed below. The USPTO will analyze all potentially exempt information, determine whether to apply an exemption, and notify requesters of the basis for all redactions (i.e., which exemption applies). If the requested record contains both releasable and unreleasable information, the USPTO will separate out the releasable portions (where feasible) and provide them to you.
Exemption 1: Records that are specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive Order to be kept secret in interest of national defense or foreign policy and are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive Order (i.e., properly classified records).
Exemption 2: Records related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of the USPTO.
Exemption 3: Records specifically exempted from disclosure by statute.
Exemption 4: Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.
Exemption 5: Interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that would not be available by law to a private party in litigation with the USPTO, provided that the deliberative process privilege shall not apply to records created more than 25 years before the request date.
Exemption 6: Personnel, medical, and similar files (including financial files) the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Exemption 7: Records compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records:
(A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings;
(B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;
(C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
(D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished records on a confidential basis;
(E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law; or
(F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
Exemption 8: Records that are contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
Exemption 9: Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.
General - FOIA - Costs
How much does it cost to obtain records under the FOIA?
The USPTO charges reasonable fees for the cost of searching for records, reviewing them for release, and reproducing them. For additional information on specific fees, see 37 C.F.R. § 102.11. The FOIA specifies five different fee categories:
Commercial: Companies or individuals requesting information for a commercial, trade, or profit-seeking purpose, including for use in litigation. Commercial requesters are required to pay fees for search, review, and duplication.
Educational institution: Public or private preschools, elementary, or secondary schools, and institutions of higher education, professional education, or vocational education that operate programs of scholarly research. Educational requesters are only required to pay duplication costs, and are entitled to the first 100 pages without charge.
Noncommercial scientific institution: Noncommercial institutions that conduct scientific research not intended to promote a particular product or industry. Scientific requesters are only required to pay duplication costs, and are entitled to the first 100 pages without charge.
Representative of the news media: Defined as “[a]ny person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience.” News media include traditional print and broadcast media as well as freelance journalists, book authors, and Internet and other new media when they fit this definition. News media requesters are only required to pay for duplication costs, and are entitled to the first 100 pages without charge.
All other requesters: Requesters who do not fit into any of the above categories are required to pay search and duplication costs, but are entitled to two hours of search time and 100 pages of duplication without charge.
Can FOIA fees be reduced or waived?
Under the FOIA, it is possible to have all fees (including duplication) waived if the material requested: (1) is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of government; and (2) is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. If you believe your request fits these criteria, you should make your complete case for a fee waiver in your request letter.
- State clearly that you are seeking a public interest fee waiver under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii).
- Be sure to describe the scholarly, historical, or current public interest in the material requested.
- Identify specific operations or activities of government to which the request relates and why the information will contribute to an understanding of those activities and operations.
- State why the public in general would be interested in the information you are requesting and how the information will contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations or activities.
General - FOIA - My records
How do I obtain the status of my request?
Shortly after submitting your request, you will receive an acknowledgement letter and a tracking number for your request. Once you have that number, you can check the status of your request here. The USPTO completes the majority of FOIA requests within 20 business days. If your request is going to take longer than 20 days to process due to its complexity, the volume of records to be searched or reviewed, or the need to consult other offices, the FOIA Office will let you know.
What happens if I am dissatisfied with my response?
You will receive a final response letter and responsive, releasable records (if any) via mail or email. If you believe your response is deficient, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Deputy General Counsel, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450. An appeal must be received within 90 calendar days from the date of your response letter. The appeal must be in writing and include: a copy of the original request, a copy of the decision letter, and a statement of the reasons why response was in error. The appeal must be clearly marked “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.”
What if I still have questions?
Reach out to FOIARequests@uspto.gov if you have any questions.
General - IP Basics - Other
Is there such a thing as an international trademark?
No. But you can obtain trademark protection in a number of countries by filing a single "international application" under the Madrid Protocol.
The "Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks " (Madrid Protocol) is an international treaty that allows a trademark owner to seek registration in any of the countries that have joined the Madrid Protocol by filing a single application, called an "international application." The International Bureau of the World Property Intellectual Organization, in Geneva, Switzerland administers the international registration system.
You can apply for one online by using the USPTO's electronic Madrid Protocol forms.
Learn more about the Madrid Protocol from the USPTO.
Is there help to enforce trademarks, patents and copyrights overseas and stop pirated or counterfeited goods?
U.S. businesses and stakeholders that need assistance in enforcing their trademarks, patents and copyrights or help combating piracy or counterfeiting of their goods may contact the Strategy for Targeting Organized Piracy "STOP" program. In addition, U.S. businesses and stakeholders are encouraged to consult the IP Attaché pages of the USPTO website. IP Attachés can provide detailed information about the IP laws and regulations, legislative developments, and legal and administrative means that control how IP rights are protected and enforced in a particular foreign country or region.
Do I need to hire a lawyer or agent?
The patent application process is complex. The USPTO cannot assist in the preparation of patent application papers. If you are ready to apply for a patent, we strongly advise you contact a registered patent attorney or agent. Although the USPTO cannot recommend any particular attorney or agent, we do maintain a roster of patent attorneys and agents registered to practice before the USPTO. Only registered attorneys and agents may help others to obtain patents.
If you are ready to apply to register your trademark, we strongly advise that you contact an attorney who is experienced in trademark prosecution. The USPTO does not maintain a roster of trademark attorneys. An attorney who is a member in good standing of a state bar association may prosecute your application for trademark registration. The USPTO cannot aid in the selection of an attorney and does not provide specific endorsements or recommendations of private attorneys.
What is the role of the USPTO?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the patent and trademark laws as they relate to the granting of patents for utility inventions, designs and plants and the issuing of trademark registrations. The USPTO examines applications for patents to determine if the applicants are entitled to patents and grants the patents when they are so entitled. It examines applications for trademark registration to determine if the applicants are entitled to register their trademarks and issues trademark registrations. The USPTO publishes issued patents, approved trademark registrations and various publications concerning patents and trademarks; records assignments of patents and trademarks; and maintains search rooms and a national network of Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries for the use by the public to study issued patents, registered trademarks, and pending trademark applications and records relating to both patents and trademarks. It also supplies copies of records and other papers.
What free assistance is available from USPTO?
Free basic information on the patent and trademark system, forms, fees, products and services of the USPTO is available by calling the USPTO's toll-free line, 800-PTO-9199 or by calling 571-272-1000. An automated message system is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day providing informational responses to frequently asked questions and the ability to order certain free documents. Customer service representatives are available to answer questions, send free materials or connect you with other offices of the USPTO from 8:30 AM - 8:00 PM ET, Monday-Friday excluding federal holidays. The customer service representatives can transfer your call to the Inventors Assistance Center or the Trademark Electronic Business Center for responses to practice and procedure questions. Much of this information is also available at the General Information section.
How do I finance and/or market my invention?
The USPTO does not provide assistance on financing or marketing your invention.
We have provided links to these sites because they have information that may be of interest to our users. The USPTO does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites. Further, the USPTO does not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides excellent information on starting, planning, marketing, obtaining venture capital and financing a small business. The SBA also provides training and counseling.
What is a trade secret?
A trade secret is information that companies keep secret to give them an advantage over their competitors. No mechanism exists to federally record or register a trade secret.
What is intellectual property?
Can I obtain international patent protection for my invention?
Since the rights granted by a U.S. patent extend only throughout the territory of the United States and have no effect in a foreign country, an inventor who wishes patent protection in other countries must apply for a patent in each of the other countries or in regional patent offices. Almost every country has its own patent law, and a person desiring a patent in a particular country must make an application for patent in that country, in accordance with the requirements of that country. There are two treaties that provide for international protection.
One is the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property which governs 140 participating countries, including the United States. It provides that each member country guarantees to the citizens of the other countries the same rights in patent and trademark matters that it gives to its own citizens. The treaty also provides for the right of priority in the case of patents, trademarks and industrial designs (design patents). This right means that, on the basis of a regular first application filed in one of the member countries, the applicant may, within a certain period of time, apply for protection in all the other member countries. These later applications will then be regarded as if they had been filed on the same day as the first application. Thus, these later applicants will have priority over applications for the same invention that may have been filed during the same period of time by other persons. Moreover, these later applications, being based on the first application, will not be invalidated by any acts accomplished in the interval, such as, for example, publication or exploitation of the invention, the sale of copies of the design, or use of the trademark. The period of time mentioned above, within which the subsequent applications may be filed in the other countries, is 12 months in the case of first applications for patent and six months in the case of industrial designs and trademarks.
The United States is also a participant in the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) which governs over 100 member countries. The PCT provides a centralized, standardized application process for filing a single application that can result in patent protection in any number of designated member countries. The timely filing of an international application affords applicants an international filing date in each country which is designated in the international application and provides (1) a search of the invention and (2) a later time period within which the national applications for patent must be filed. A number of U. S. patent attorneys specialize in obtaining patents in foreign countries.
Under U.S. law it is necessary, in the case of inventions made in the United States, to obtain a license from the Director of the USPTO before applying for a patent in a foreign country. Such a license is required if the foreign application is to be filed before an application is filed in the United States or before the expiration of six months from the filing of an application in the United States unless a filing receipt with a license grant issued earlier. The filing of an application for patent constitutes the request for a license and the granting or denial of such request is indicated in the filing receipt mailed to each applicant. After six months from the U.S. filing, a license is not required unless the invention has been ordered to be kept secret. If the invention has been ordered to be kept secret, the consent to the filing abroad must be obtained from the Director of the USPTO during the period the order of secrecy is in effect.
The USPTO is the National Office for the United States and acts in the following capacities provided for under the PCT - Receiving Office, International Searching Authority, International Preliminary Examining Authority, and Designated/Elected Office.
Learn more about the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the USPTO.
How do I find out if I need a patent, trademark or a copyright?
Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights are three types of intellectual property protection. They are different and serve different purposes.
Patents protect inventions, and improvements to existing inventions.
Trademarks include any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. Service marks include any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services.
Copyrights protect literary, artistic, and musical works. For general information, publications and other copyright related topics, you may visit their Web site at http://www.copyright.gov . Copyrights information can be obtained from the U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559 or you may call 202 707-3000 or 202 707-6737 (TTY).
How do I apply for a copyright?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not register copyrights. Copyrights cover literary, artistic, and musical works. Copyrights are registered at the Copyright Office, Library of Congress. Information concerning copyrights may be obtained from the U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559, or you may visit their web site at: http://www.copyright.gov. Copyright Office specialists are available to answer questions by phone Monday through Friday (except federal holidays) from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Recorded copyright information is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You may contact the Copyright Office at 202 707-3000 or 202 707-6737 (TTY).
General - Strategy for Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP) - Basics
How does the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) help innovators stop fakes?
The USPTO leads efforts to develop and strengthen both domestic and international intellectual property protection and advises the Secretary of Commerce, the President of the United States, and the Administration on patent, trademark, and copyright protection.
- examines and grants patents;
- examines and registers trademarks;
- provides the public with a consolidated source of information about international intellectual property protection organizations on their International Intellectual Property webpage;
- is an active participant in the International Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Training Database effort hosted by the Department of State that is used to provide training and technical assistance relating to protecting IPR. The USPTOalso provides training to customs officers from other countries on techniques that can be used to detect potentialIPR violations;
- provides support for international treaty negotiations, and represents United States interests regarding intellectual property rights.
- provides an attorney-advisor from their Office of Enforcement to serve as an international intellectual property attach© at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China.
General - Bulk Data Product - Other - Technical Information
How current are the bulk data products?
Bulk data products are available on the date of publication.
General - Bulk Data Product - Technical Information - Other
Who do I contact for more bulk data information?
Questions and suggestions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
What XML resources are available at the USPTO to process bulk data?
Bulk data uses different versions of XML depending on the year of data publication. Links to older versions of the documentation may be found at https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/xml-resources.
The USPTO generally does not update old files when it migrates to a new XML version, so users accessing data from different years may need to use multiple DTDs associated with the corresponding XML version to process the data.
Are there any restrictions on using the bulk data products?
There are no restrictions on the use of the data in these products, unless otherwise prohibited by law or specific agreement.
What is Extensible Markup Language (XML)?
XML is a standard way of storing structured data. It is hierarchical and can be applied to many situations (in this case to patent grant and published application information). In general XML files are designed to be used by programmers with specialized tools. For background information, a good reference is the Wikipedia XML article.
How do I view bulk data?
The bulk data can be viewed with an XML reader. A generic XML reader can extract the XML element structure. In order to perform useful automated processing with the documents, however, a program needs specific knowledge of the XML schema used, which the USPTO has documented.
The concatenated XML documents in the ZIP files, which have file extension "XML," are not the same as standard XML files and therefore will not be immediately readable by an ordinary XML parser. Instead, the files must be broken into individual XML documents, by splitting them apart at the XML declarations and/or DOCTYPE declarations.
Where do I find XML format documentation for patent and trademark bulk data?
Documentation for bulk patent and trademark data may be found at: https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/xml-resources
The documentation includes machine-readable Document Type Definitions (DTDs) and human-readable documentation for the XML formats used by an XML programmer wishing to extract information from the XML files.
Why is there a fee for some bulk data products?
The USPTO plans to eventually provide all bulk data products online at no charge. Most bulk data products are already available from the USPTO for no charge. A few bulk data products are available from USPTO for a fee, either because they are provided on physical media or because of bandwidth considerations. USPTO has made these products alternatively available online and at no charge from Reed Tech Patents or Reed Tech Trademarks.
How large are the bulk data products?
Individual bulk data files generally range in size from a few Megabytes to several Gigabytes. Collections of data can be several Terabytes.
What types of patents are included in the bulk data products?
Patent bulk data includes:
- Design Patents
- Plant Patents
- Reexamination Certificates (available only in Patent Grant Image files)
- Reissue Patents
- Statutory Invention Registration (SIR) documents
- Utility Patents
Do I need patent or trademark bulk data products?
Most members of the public do not need patent and trademark bulk data products. Bulk data is likely to be used by researchers, commercial vendors, academics and consultants.
How do I find bulk data products?
Bulk data products are generally organized by type of intellectual property: patents or trademarks. Then they are organized by issue date or publication date.
Patent data includes patent grants and patent application publications with image only, text, text and image, and bibliographic; and additional information such as patent assignments, maintenance fee events, etc.
Trademark data includes application and registration images, application text, assignment text, and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) text.
Download bulk data: https://eipweb.uspto.gov/soms/, http://patents.reedtech.com, or http://trademarks.reedtech.com.