The Internet Multicasting Service

Carl Malamud, President

August 4, 1995

Commissioner Bruce A. Lehman
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
14th and Constitution, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20321

Dear Commissioner Lehman:

Since January, 1994, the non-profit Internet Multicasting Service has maintained an on-line database of U.S. Patent documents, as well as the full text of SEC Edgar documents, for the American public to access at no charge. This service will terminate on October 1, 1995.

Our on-line service allows keyword searches of the full text of U.S. Patents using the WAIS, World Wide Web, Gopher, and Electronic Mail services. Bulk transfers are available via the File Transfer Protocol. A digital signature is added to each document to allow users to verify the contents. Background material and links to additional resources are also maintained on the system.

Since January, 1994, we've sent out over 1.5 million Patent documents to the public. Over 2900 documents per day are now being distributed, and there is a strong demand by users for the full database (the more fully developed SEC system, for example, sends out over 17,000 documents per day). Our current database of patent documents is 180,000 files and 7.1 Gbytes. Given the current average rate of data, we estimate that a year of your data is approximately 4.5 Gbytes.

Based on the access figures and the size of your database, it would be a trivial task to put the entire Patent database available on the Internet. The cost of computer equipment, routers, and disk drives is well under $150,000. Our staff maintains the Patent dissemination service for well under 0.5 FTE of a systems programmer and 0.5 FTE of a developer, for a total labor cost of under $100,000. Internet access is under $25,000/year. If you depreciate the equipment over 3 years, the total cost per year of providing Internet access to your entire database is $175,000.

Our Patent and EDGAR service has been funded partially by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Additional support was provided by our corporate sponsors, by a coalition of university research centers, and with a great deal of sweat equity and our own money added by our dedicated staff committed to this important public service.

Recently, the Congress passed and the President signed the Paperwork Reduction Act, which becomes law October 1. This bill was a key provision of the Contract with America and has received the strong support of the Clinton administration. The law reads:

In case there is any doubt, the committee reports go on to stress that information dissemination is an "integral part of the information life cycle," and emphasize that the purpose of the law is to "enunciate clearly the obligation of Federal agencies to ensure effective public access to government information."

Many of us have learned from the last two years of this demonstration project. It has been remarkable to see how large a portion of the American public has interest in these key documents. It has also been remarkable to see the advances in technology that allow making dissemination to all members of the public a realistic and cost-effective goal. We hope you will embrace both the spirit and the letter of the laws recently passed by the Congress and signed by the President and that you will ensure that Patent data remains available on-line and does not get auctioned off to the highest bidder. We look forward to seeing your Internet service and will continue to be available to your staff as you make this important transition to the information age.


Carl Malamud

Vice President Gore
Hon. Ron Brown, Secretary of Commerce
Ms. Sally Katzen, Office of Management and Budget

Hon. Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House
Hon. Robert Dole, Majority Leader of the Senate
Hon. Connie Mack, Republican Conference Secretary
Hon. Thomas Daschle, Minority Leader of the Senate
Hon. Richard Gephardt, Minority Leader of the House