[Federal Register: March 17, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 51)]
[Page 13035-13036]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Patent and Trademark Office
[Docket No. 98-0303053-8053-01]

Notice of Conference on Database Protection and Access Issues

AGENCY: Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of meeting.


SUMMARY: The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is announcing that it
will hold a one-day conference on issues related to protection of and
access to compilations of data.

DATES: The conference will be held on Tuesday, April 28, 1998,
beginning at 8:30 a.m.
    Registration materials must be returned no later than April 20,

ADDRESSES: The conference will be held on Tuesday, April 28, 1998,
beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the Falk Auditorium of the Brookings
Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.
Conference sessions will be held in the Falk Auditorium, other
conference facilities of the Brookings Institution, and conference
facilities at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779
Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.
    Requests for registration materials should be made to Justin Hughes
by electronic mail to database.conference@uspto.gov, by facsimile
transmission marked to his attention at (703) 305-8885, or by mail
marked to his attention and addressed to the Office of Legislative and
International Affairs, Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, DC
20231. Because of limited seating in the conference facilities, the PTO
will accept the first 175 participants on a first-come, first-served
basis according to the date and time of each registration request.
    There will be a reasonable charge to help defray costs of the lunch
and refreshments served at the conference. However, payment is not
obligatory to participate in the conference.
    Arrangements for conference panelists and moderators will be made
separately from conference participant registration.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Justin Hughes, by telephone at (703)
305-9300, by facsimile transmission marked to his attention at (703)
305-8885, by electronic mail to database.conference@uspto.gov, or by
mail marked to his attention at the Office of Legislative and
International Affairs, Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, DC

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Issues concerning legal protection for
compilations of data gained increased attention following the Supreme
Court's 1991 decision Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone
Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991), which determined that there is no
copyright protection for compilations of data that lack creativity in
their selection, arrangement, and presentation. The Feist decision, as
well as subsequent cases in the lower courts, established that
copyright does not protect all compilations of data or of information
and that even where copyright exists in such compilations, it provides
``thin'' protection that does not inhibit unauthorized copying of all
or substantial amounts of databases.
    Protection of compilations of data has also become an issue abroad.
In March 1996, the European Commission adopted a Directive on Databases
which creates a sui generis intellectual property system for
compilations of data. The Directive requires member states of the
European Union (EU) to implement national legislation to provide
database owners with a right to control extraction and reutilization of
data from a proprietary compilation for a fifteen-year term; the
Directive provides that member states may create exceptions to
liability for education and research uses of databases.
    In response to the Feist decision, subsequent cases, and the
European initiative, H.R. 3531 was introduced in 1996 by then
Congressman Carlos Moorhead. House bill 3531 would have provided a sui
generis legal regime for database protection. The bill would have
protected database owners for a twenty-five-year term from unauthorized
extraction, use, or reuse of any substantial part of a database.
    In the 105th Congress, Congressman Howard Coble, Chair of the House
Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, introduced H.R. 2652,
the ``Collections of Information Antipiracy Act''. House bill 2652
would provide a database owner with protection against misappropriation
of substantial portions of its database if such misappropriation would
harm the owner's actual potential market for the database or products
incorporating the database. House bill 2652 provides exceptions from
liability for use of data for not-for-profit, educational, scientific,
research, or news reporting purposes, although the contours of these
exceptions may not correspond precisely to fair use exceptions under
copyright law. House bill 2652 has been supported by a wide variety of
entities in the information industry and has been endorsed by the
Copyright Office as a constructive step to restore protection for
``sweat of the brow'' compilations that was eliminated in the Feist
    At the same time, a number of organizations, particularly in the
scientific and academic communities, have expressed concerns that H.R.
2652 may impede access to data necessary to scholarly and scientific
research. Scientists have stressed that many research efforts rely on
uses of entire databases, uses that might be deemed substantial
extraction under the bill's provisions and that privately controlled
databases might be priced so as to make many research projects
    Opponents of providing additional database protection have argued
that the database market is already characterized by single source,
niche marketers; that there is no apparent market failure, i.e.
undersupply of databases, because of the absence of comprehensive
protection; and that existing copyright and contractual law coupled
with current technology provide adequate protection to database owners.
    Internationally, in 1996, the European Union submitted a draft
international database protection treaty, similar in scope to the EU
Directive, to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In
anticipation of a WIPO Diplomatic Conference in December 1996, and
because of substantial concerns about provisions in the EU proposal,
the United States submitted its own proposal to WIPO. The 1996
Diplomatic Conference ultimately focused on copyright and neighboring
rights proposals; it did not resolve any issues related to possible
protection of databases. WIPO has established a timetable to resume
discussions concerning database protection in 1998.
    The April 28, 1998 database conference is intended to bring
together representatives from academia, private industry, and
Government for an in-

[[Page 13036]]

depth, day-long discussion of the fundamental questions related to
database protection and access. This conference is intended to help
policy makers understand the wide range of issues in this important
area by soliciting the advice of individual members of the public.
    The conference will consist of morning and afternoon plenary
sessions with additional, smaller working groups at midday. Conference
topics will explore whether a comprehensive regime of legal protection
is needed for compilations of data, what safeguards should exist to
ensure robust levels of scientific and academic research, what market
failures do exist or are likely to exist in data generation industries,
and whether government-generated or government-financed data should be
subject to special access rules.

    Dated: March 11, 1998.
Bruce A. Lehman,
Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and
[FR Doc. 98-6839 Filed 3-16-98; 8:45 am]