The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is a governmental agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. For ease of reference, this office will be referred to as "the office" in this article. The head is referred to as the commissioner. The office has the responsibility for reviewing patent applications and determining whether or not to grant or issue a patent thereon. It does not have jurisdiction to determine whether a patent is infringed. Moreover, except to the limited extent authorized by the patent reexamination procedure, it has no jurisdiction over issued patents and cannot make determinations of patent validity or invalidity.

About 2,000 people with degrees in engineering or science are employed by the office to review and examine patent applications; they are referred to as patent examiners. Examiners conduct independent searches of the inventions described in the applications and then make decisions as to whether the invention described and claimed merits the granting of a patent.

The commissioner has the authority to promulgate rules and regulations for the purpose of administrating the patent and trademark laws so long as such rules are not inconsistent with these laws. In addition, the commissioner has the power to make rules that govern the recognition and conduct of those persons who represent applicants before the office. To be recognized as a patent agent or patent attorney and to advise and assist in the preparation or prosecution of applications and other business before the office, a person must comply with certain rules and regulations.

In the event an examiner refuses to allow or permit issuance of a patent for an application, the applicant has the opportunity at a particular stage of the proceedings to file an appeal from the examiner's decision to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (hereafter referred to as "the board"). The board is composed of senior examiners, who are referred to as patent law administrative judges. Cases appealed to the board are considered by a three-member panel of the board.

A publication titled Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office. This publication is a guide to how the office interprets the laws, rules, and case law and how the patent examiners are to apply the same when examining and ruling on patent applications. Likewise, a similar publication available from the U.S. Government Printing Office titled Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) is a guide for trademark examiners in how to apply the laws, rules, and case law when ruling on trademark and service mark applications.

Another important publication available from the U.S. Government Printing Office is titled the Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (OG). This is published each week in two separate sections. One is the patent section and the other is the trademark and service mark section. The patent section of the OG includes a short description of each patent granted during the week of publication, an index of the names of the patentees and the assignees for that week, notices of rule changes, and various other matters of interest with respect to patents.

Since 1929, published decisions in patent, trademark, and copyright cases have been reported in the United States Patent Quarterly (USPQ and USPQ2d). This is published by the Bureau of National Affairs, Washington, D.C., which also publishes the weekly newsletter Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Journal. The latter contains news of matters of current development and interest in the patent, trademark, and copyright areas.

Decisions by the federal courts in trademark, copyright, and patent cases can also be found, depending on the particular court and the particular year in which the case was decided, in the Federal Reporter (F.), the Federal Reporter second series (F.2d), the Federal Reporter third series (F.3d), the Federal Supplement (F.Supp.), the Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.), and The United States Reports (U.S.).

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