The Article of Manufacture Requirement, 83063-83066 [2020-28110]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices January 13, 2020, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. EST. The established times may be adjusted as necessary to accommodate the timely completion of discussion relevant to the assessment process. Such adjustments may result in the meeting being extended from or completed prior to the time established by this notice. Additional SEDAR 73 workshops and webinar dates and times will publish in a subsequent issue in the Federal Register. ADDRESSES: The SEDAR 73 Assessment Webinar 1 will be held via webinar. The webinar is open to members of the public. Registration is available online at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/ register/6561279974832951051. SEDAR address: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405; www.sedarweb.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathleen Howington, SEDAR Coordinator, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; phone: (843) 571–4373; email: Kathleen.howington@safmc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils, in conjunction with NOAA Fisheries and the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions, have implemented the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) process, a multi-step method for determining the status of fish stocks in the Southeast Region. SEDAR is a threestep process including: (1) Data Workshop; (2) Assessment Process utilizing webinars; and (3) Review Workshop. The product of the Data Workshop is a data report which compiles and evaluates potential datasets and recommends which datasets are appropriate for assessment analyses. The product of the Assessment Process is a stock assessment report which describes the fisheries, evaluates the status of the stock, estimates biological benchmarks, projects future population conditions, and recommends research and monitoring needs. The assessment is independently peer reviewed at the Review Workshop. The product of the Review Workshop is a Summary documenting panel opinions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the stock assessment and input data. Participants for SEDAR Workshops are appointed by the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, and Southeast Fisheries VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 Science Center. Participants include: data collectors and database managers; stock assessment scientists, biologists, and researchers; constituency representatives including fishermen, environmentalists, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); international experts; and staff of Councils, Commissions, and state and federal agencies. The items of discussion at the Assessment Webinar I: • Finalize any data decisions remaining • Continue discussion on modelling issues and decisions. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations This meeting is accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for auxiliary aids should be directed to the SAFMC office (see ADDRESSES) at least 10 business days prior to the meeting. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 16, 2020. Rey Israel Marquez, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–28072 Filed 12–18–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Patent and Trademark Office [Docket No. PTO–C–2020–0068] The Article of Manufacture Requirement Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce. ACTION: Request for information. AGENCY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) seeks public input on whether its interpretation of the article of manufacture requirement in the United States Code should be revised to protect digital designs that encompass new and emerging technologies. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 83063 Comments must be received by 5 p.m. EST on February 4, 2021. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments and responses to the questions below by one of the following methods: (a) Electronic Submissions: Comments can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. To submit comments via the portal, enter docket number PTO–C–2020–0068 on the home page and click ‘‘search.’’ The site will provide a search results page listing all documents associated with this docket. Find a reference to this notice and click on the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in ADOBE® portable document format or MICROSOFT WORD® format. Because comments will be made available for public inspection, information that the submitter does not desire to make public, such as an address or phone number, should not be included. (b) Written/Paper Submissions: Send all written/paper submissions to: Mail Stop OPIA, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22314, ATTN: Elizabeth Shaw. Submission packaging should clearly indicate that materials are responsive to Docket No. PTO–C–2020– 0068, Office of Policy and International Affairs, Comment Request: Article of Manufacture Requirement of 35 U.S.C. 171. Although comments may be submitted by postal mail, electronic submissions are encouraged. Submissions of Business Confidential Information: Any submissions containing business confidential information must be delivered in a sealed envelope marked ‘‘confidential treatment requested’’ to the address listed above. Submitters should provide an index listing the document(s) or information that they would like the Department of Commerce to withhold. The index should include information such as numbers used to identify the relevant document(s) or information, document title and description, and relevant page numbers and/or section numbers within a document. Submitters should provide a statement explaining their grounds for objecting to the disclosure of the information to the public as well. The USPTO also requests that submitters of business confidential information include a non-confidential version (either redacted or summarized) that will be available for public viewing and posted on https:// www.regulations.gov. In the event that the submitter cannot provide a nonconfidential version of its submission, DATES: E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1 83064 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices the USPTO requests that the submitter post a notice in the docket stating that it has provided the USPTO with business confidential information. Should a submitter either fail to docket a non-confidential version of its submission or to post a notice that business confidential information has been provided, the USPTO will note the receipt of the submission on the docket with the submitter’s organization or name (to the degree permitted by law) and the date of submission. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Shaw, USPTO, Office of Policy and International Affairs, at Elizabeth.Shaw2@uspto.gov or 571– 272–9300. Please direct media inquiries to the USPTO’s Office of the Chief Communications Officer at 571–272– 8400. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Section 171 of title 35 United States Code, provides that ‘‘[w]hoever invents any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture may obtain a patent therefor’’ (emphasis added). To satisfy the requirement that the design must be for an article of manufacture, applicants have been required to show the design as applied to or embodied in an article of manufacture.1 The USPTO considers designs for computer-generated icons embodied in articles of manufacture to be statutory subject matter eligible for design patent protection under section 171.2 For example, a claim for a computergenerated icon that is integral to the operation of the computer and that is shown on a computer screen, monitor, or other display panel complies with the article of manufacture requirement.3 Because certain new and emerging technologies, such as projections, holographic imagery, or virtual/ augmented reality do not require a physical display screen or other tangible article to be viewable, the USPTO is exploring whether its practice should be revised to protect such digital designs. Although current jurisprudence has not addressed whether a digital design 1 Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., 938 F.3d 1334, 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2019) (confirming that ‘‘long-standing precedent, unchallenged regulation, and agency practice all consistently support the view that design patents are granted only for a design applied to an article of manufacture, and not a design per se’’); Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) 1504.01. 2 MPEP 1504.01(a)(I)(A). Note that a computergenerated icon is considered to be integral to the operation of a computer. See Ex parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 1259, *4–5 (B.P.A.I. 1992). 3 MPEP 1504.01(a)(I)(A). VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 not applied to or embodied in a physical article is eligible for design patent protection, the following section outlines current law and practice regarding the article of manufacture requirement. 35 U.S.C. 171—Patents for Designs The language ‘‘new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture’’ set forth in section 171 has been interpreted by the courts to include at least three kinds of designs: (A) A design for an ornament, impression, print, or picture applied to or embodied in an article of manufacture (surface indicia); (B) a design for the shape or configuration of an article of manufacture; and (C) a combination of the first two categories.4 A patentable design ‘‘gives a peculiar or distinctive appearance to the manufacture, or article to which it may be applied, or to which it gives form.’’ 5 Defining Article of Manufacture The 2016 decision by the Supreme Court in Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc. is instructive on the ‘‘article of manufacture’’ requirement of section 171.6 In that decision, the Court analyzed the term ‘‘article of manufacture’’ under 35 U.S.C. 289, a provision that provides additional remedy for infringement of a design patent. It found that the term ‘‘article of manufacture’’ has a broad meaning, and as used in section 289, encompasses both a product sold to a consumer and a component of that product.7 The Court found that an ‘‘article’’ is just ‘‘a particular thing,’’ and ‘‘manufacture’’ means ‘‘the conversion of raw materials by the hand, or by machinery, into articles suitable for the use of man’’ and ‘‘the articles so made,’’ and concluded that an ‘‘article of manufacture’’ is 4 Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., 137 S. Ct. 429, 435 n.3 (2016) (explaining the legislative history behind the ‘‘article of manufacture’’ requirement in section 171, ‘‘[a]s originally enacted, the provision protected ‘any new and original design for a manufacture.’ [sec] 3, 5 Stat. 544. The provision listed examples, including a design ‘worked into or worked on, or printed or painted or cast or otherwise fixed on, any article of manufacture’ and a ‘shape or configuration of any article of manufacture.’ Ibid. A streamlined version enacted in 1902 protected ‘any new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.’ Ch. 783, 32 Stat. 193. The Patent Act of 1952 retained that language. See [sec] 171, 66 Stat. 813.’’); In re Schnell, 46 F.2d 203, 209 (C.C.P.A. 1931); MPEP 1504.01. 5 Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., 137 S. Ct. 429, 432 (2016) (citing Gorham Co. v. White, 81 U.S. 511, 525 (1871)). 6 Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., 137 S. Ct. 429 (2016). 7 Id. at 436. PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 ‘‘simply a thing made by hand or machine.’’ 8 Moreover, the Court confirmed that its definition of ‘‘article of manufacture’’ comported with 35 U.S.C. 171 and 101, specifically noting that ‘‘‘article of manufacture’ in [section] 171 includes ‘what would be considered a ‘‘manufacture’’ within the meaning of [s]ection 101.’ ’’ 9 A Picture Alone Is Not Eligible for Design Patent Protection Historically, a picture standing alone is not patentable under section 171.10 The factor that distinguishes statutory design subject matter from a mere picture or ornamentation has been the embodiment of the design in an article of manufacture.11 For this reason, the USPTO has required that the design must be shown as applied to or embodied in an article of manufacture.12 8 Id. at 434–435 (for ‘‘article,’’ citing J. Stormonth, A Dictionary of the English Language 53 (1885) and American Heritage Dictionary, at 101 (‘‘[a]n individual thing or element of a class; a particular object or item’’)); id. at 435 (for ‘‘manufacture,’’ citing Stormonth, at 589 and American Heritage Dictionary, at 1070 (‘‘[t]he act, craft, or process of manufacturing products, especially on a large scale’’ or ‘‘[a] product that is manufactured’’)). 9 Id. at 435 (quoting 8 D. Chisum, Patents 23.03[2], pp. 23–12 to 23–13 (2014)); see also In re Nuijten, 500 F.3d 1346, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (determining that the Supreme Court’s ‘‘definitions address ‘articles’ of ‘manufacture’ as being tangible articles or commodities,’’ and thus concluding that ‘‘[a] transient electric or electromagnetic transmission does not fit within that definition’’ because during transmission, ‘‘energy embodying the claimed signal is fleeting and is devoid of any semblance of permanence,’’ and does not meet the definitions of ‘‘articles’’ of ‘‘manufacture’’). Indeed, the Nuijten court noted the Supreme Court had defined ‘‘manufacture’’ in the context of utility patents as ‘‘the production of articles for use from raw or prepared materials by giving to these materials new forms, qualities, properties, or combinations, whether by hand-labor or by machinery.’’ 500 F.3d at 1356 (quoting Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 308 (1980)). Note that this definition is similar to the ones for ‘‘article,’’ ‘‘manufacture,’’ and ‘‘article of manufacture’’ espoused by the Supreme Court in Samsung as applied to design patents. 10 Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., 938 F.3d 1334, 1340 (2019) (quoting Gorham v. White, 81 U.S. 511, 524–25 (1871) for this proposition). In Gorham, the Court discussed the reach of design protection as follows: ‘‘The acts of Congress which authorize the grant of patents for designs were plainly intended to give encouragement to the decorative arts. They contemplate not so much utility as appearance, and that, not an abstract impression, or picture, but an aspect given to those objects mentioned in the acts’’ 81 U.S. at 524–25 (emphasis added). See also MPEP 1504.01. 11 MPEP 1504.01. see also Ex parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 1259, *4–5 (B.P.A.I. 1992). 12 MPEP 1504.01. see also supra note 5; Samsung, 137 S. Ct. at 435 (citing Application of Zahn, 617 F.2d 261, 268 (C.C.P.A. 1980) (‘‘Section 171 authorizes patents on ornamental designs for articles of manufacture. While the design must be embodied in some articles, the statute is not limited to designs for complete articles, or ‘discrete’ articles, and certainly not to articles separately sold E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices 83065 Guidelines for Computer-Generated Icons and Type Fonts Absence of Precedent Directly Addressing New Technologies on the matter included the following observation: In 1995, the USPTO introduced examination guidelines for design patent applications claiming computergenerated icons.13 These guidelines are based on the USPTO’s understanding of the case law and the USPTO Appeal Board’s decision in 1992 in Ex parte Strijland regarding a ‘‘design for an information icon for the display screen of a programmed computer system.’’ 14 To be eligible for protection, the USPTO currently requires that a design for a computer-generated icon be: (1) Embodied in a computer screen, monitor, other display panel, or portion thereof; (2) more than a mere picture on a screen; and (3) integral to the operation of the computer displaying the design.15 The guidance with respect to type fonts is different.16 Examiners are instructed not to reject claims for type fonts under section 171 for failure to comply with the ‘‘article of manufacture’’ requirement on the basis that more modern methods of computergenerated fonts do not require physical printing blocks.17 Recent technological advances have allowed the development of designs that are not applied to or embodied in a physical product but can perform a utilitarian function, such as controlling electronic devices rather than just serving as merely a displayed picture. Examples include virtual laser keyboards used in receiving key strokes and hand movements as inputs and projected images for an automobile or for augmented and virtual reality applications. The USPTO is not aware of any judicial decision that addresses whether a claimed design that lacks a static ‘‘physical form’’ but is used as an integral part of the function of a digital product satisfies section 171. The majority of responding jurisdictions do not require a link between a GUI/icon design and an article as a prerequisite for registration. This is mainly because of the nature of new technological designs, which may be used in different articles/ environments. In most of these jurisdictions, the indication of an article is optional. In all of them, a patent design/design registration can be obtained for a GUI/icon design per se if it is represented alone. In most of them, the patent design/design registration covers the use of the claimed GUI/icon design in any article/environment.22 . . . ’’); Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., 938 F.3d 1334, 1340 (2019) (affirming this principle by relying on In re Schnell, 46 F.2d 203, 209 (C.C.P.A. 1931) (‘‘[I]t is the application of the design to an article of manufacture that Congress wishes to promote, and an applicant has not reduced his invention to practice and has been of little help to the art if he does not teach the manner of applying his design.’’), and Ex Parte Cady, 232 O.G. 619, 621–22 (Comm’r Pat. 1916) (‘‘[a] disembodied design or a mere picture is not the subject of [design] patent’’)). 13 MPEP 1504.01(a)(I). 14 Ex parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 1259 (B.P.A.I. 1992). 15 MPEP 1504.01(a)(I)(A); Ex parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 1259, at *4–5 (B.P.A.I. 1992). Furthermore, section 1504.01(a)(I)(A) of the MPEP applies the holding in In re Hruby, 373 F.2d 997 (C.C.P.A. 1967) to icons, noting that ‘‘the dependence of a computer-generated icon on a central processing unit and computer program for its existence itself is not a reason for holding that the design is not for an article of manufacture.’’ However, section 1504.01(a)(IV) explains that computer-generated icons that include ‘‘images that change appearance during viewing’’ may be eligible for design patent protection, but ‘‘no ornamental aspects are attributed to the process or period in which one image changes into another.’’ 16 MPEP 1504.01(a)(III). 17 Id. Traditionally, type fonts have been generated by solid blocks from which each letter or symbol was produced. Consequently, the USPTO has historically granted design patents drawn to type fonts. USPTO personnel should not reject claims for type fonts under 35 U.S.C. 171 for failure to comply with the ‘‘article of manufacture’’ requirement on the basis that more modern methods of typesetting, including computer generation, do not require solid printing blocks. VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 Global Trends Other jurisdictions have updated their laws and practices to accommodate design protection for new technologies. For example, Singapore modified its law to eliminate a requirement that a design must be applied to a physical article in order to be protected. Its law now provides protection for both nonanimated and animated graphical user interface (GUI) designs that are applied to an article or a ‘‘non-physical product.’’ 18 In defining a ‘‘non-physical product,’’ Singapore law recognizes ‘‘anything that (a) does not have a physical form; (b) is produced by the projection of a design on a surface or into a medium (including air); and (c) has an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the thing or to convey information.’’ 19 Likewise, Japan modified its law to broaden the scope of subject matter for design protection to include digital images that are not displayed on an article, such as graphic designs viewed or provided through a computer network and projected images,20 including images on screen, and images appearing through virtual and augmented reality.21 In addition, there have been discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) about design protection for new technologies, and a summary of a WIPO questionnaire 18 See Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, Practice Direction No. 4 of 2018 (June 20, 2018); cf. Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, Practice Direction No. 4 of 2014 (Dec. 10, 2014). 19 Id. 20 See Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Cabinet Decision on the Bill for the Act of Partial Revision of the Patent Act (Mar. 1, 2019), https://www.meti.go.jp/english/press/2019/0301_ 003.html (last visited July 16, 2019). 21 Id. PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Topics for Public Comment The public is invited to submit comments on any topics related to 35 U.S.C. 171 that they deem relevant. The USPTO is particularly interested in receiving views and comments on the questions presented below. The tenor and substance of the questions should not be taken as an indication that the USPTO is predisposed to any particular views, positions, or actions. The USPTO also invites the public to share their views and insights on other aspects of section 171 that are not addressed in the questions. To be eligible for patent protection, a design must comply with the ‘‘article of manufacture’’ requirement of section 171. The USPTO has interpreted the jurisprudence to require that designs for computer-generated icons meet the following criteria: (1) They must be embodied in a computer screen, monitor, other display panel, or portion thereof; (2) They must be more than a mere picture on a screen; and (3) They must be integral to the operation of the computer displaying the design. Some stakeholders have expressed that they are unable to obtain design protection for certain new and emerging technologies (e.g., projections, holographic imagery, and virtual/ augmented reality) because they do not meet the current criteria. 1. Please identify the types of designs associated with new and emerging technologies that are not currently eligible for design patent protection but that you believe should be eligible. For these types of designs, please explain why these designs should be eligible, how these designs satisfy the requirements of section 171, and how these designs differ from a mere picture or abstract design. In addition, if you believe that these types of designs 22 WIPO, Analysis of the Returns to the Second Questionnaire on Graphical User Interface (GUI), Icon and Typeface/Type Font Designs, SCT/43/2, Feb. 5, 2020, at 37, available at https:// www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/sct/en/sct_43/sct_43_ 2.pdf. E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1 83066 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 245 / Monday, December 21, 2020 / Notices should be eligible, but a statutory change is necessary, please explain the basis for that view. 2. If the projection, holographic imagery, or virtual/augmented reality is not displayed on a computer screen, monitor, or other display panel but is integral to the operation of a device (e.g., a virtual keyboard that provides input to a computer), is this sufficient to render the design eligible under section 171 in view of the current jurisprudence? If so, please explain how the article of manufacture requirement is satisfied and how these designs differ from a mere picture or abstract design. If you believe that these designs do not meet the requirements of section 171, please explain the basis for that view. 3. If the projection, holographic imagery, or virtual/augmented reality is not displayed on a computer screen, monitor, or other display panel but is interactive with a user or device (e.g., a hologram moves according to a person’s movement), is this sufficient to render a design eligible under section 171 in view of the current jurisprudence? If so, please explain how the article of manufacture requirement is satisfied and how these designs differ from a mere picture or abstract design. If you believe that these designs do not meet the requirements of section 171, please explain the basis for that view. 4. If the projection, holographic imagery, or image appearing through virtual/augmented reality is not displayed on a computer screen, monitor, or other display panel but is projected onto a surface or into a medium (including air) and is not otherwise integral to the operation of a device or interactive with a user or device (e.g., is a static image), is this sufficient to render a design eligible under section 171 in view of the current jurisprudence? If so, please explain how the article of manufacture requirement is satisfied and how these designs differ from a mere picture or abstract design. If you believe that these designs do not meet the requirements of section 171, please explain the basis for that view. 5. Do you support a change in interpretation of the article of manufacture requirement in 35 U.S.C. 171? If so, please explain the changes you propose and your reasons for those proposed changes. If not, please explain why you do not support a change in interpretation. 6. Please provide any additional comments you may have in relation to section 171, interpretation or application of section 171, or industrial VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Dec 18, 2020 Jkt 253001 design rights in digital and new and emerging technologies. Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. [FR Doc. 2020–28110 Filed 12–18–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–16–P CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION [Docket No. CPSC–2020–0027] Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Warning Label Comprehension and Interpretation by Consumers for Children’s Sleep Environments Consumer Product Safety Commission. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing an opportunity for public comment on a new proposed collection of information by the agency. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), federal agencies are required to publish notice in the Federal Register for each proposed collection of information, and to allow 60 days for public comment in response to the notice. This notice solicits comments on a proposed survey to evaluate consumer awareness of infant sleep product warning labels. The Commission will consider all comments received in response to this notice before submitting this collection of information to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval. SUMMARY: Submit written or electronic comments on the collection of information by February 19, 2021. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. CPSC–2020– 0027, by any of the following methods: Electronic Submissions: Submit electronic comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: https:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. CPSC does not accept comments submitted by electronic mail (email), except through https:// www.regulations.gov. CPSC encourages you to submit electronic comments by using the Federal eRulemaking Portal, as described above. Mail/Hand Delivery/Courier Written Submissions: Submit comments by mail/hand delivery/courier to: Division of the Secretariat, Consumer Product DATES: PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Safety Commission, Room 820, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814; telephone: (301) 504–7479; email: cpsc-os@cpsc.gov. Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and docket number for this notice. CPSC may post all comments received without change, including any personal identifiers, contact information, or other personal information provided, to: https:// www.regulations.gov. Do not submit electronically: Confidential business information, trade secret information, or other sensitive or protected information that you do not want to be available to the public. If you wish to submit such information, please submit it according to the instructions for mail/hand delivery/courier written submissions. Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to: https:// www.regulations.gov, insert Docket No. CPSC–2020–0027 into the ‘‘Search’’ box, and follow the prompts. A copy of the proposed survey is available at http:// www.regulations.gov under Docket No. CPSC–2020–0027, Supporting and Related Material. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cynthia Gillham, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 504–7991, or by email to: cgillham@ cpsc.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the PRA (44 U.S.C. 3501–3520), federal agencies must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for each collection of information they conduct or sponsor. ‘‘Collection of information’’ is defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502(3) and 5 CFR 1320.3(c) and includes agency proposed surveys. Section 3506(c)(2)(A) of the PRA (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)) requires federal agencies to provide a 60-day notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information before submitting the collection to OMB for approval. Accordingly, CPSC is publishing notice of the proposed collection of information set forth in this document. A. Warning Label Comprehension Survey CPSC is authorized under section 5(a) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), 15 U.S.C. 2054(a), to conduct studies and investigations relating to the causes and prevention of deaths, accidents, injuries, illnesses, other health impairments, and economic losses associated with consumer products. Section 5(b) of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. 2054(b), further provides that E:\FR\FM\21DEN1.SGM 21DEN1

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[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 245 (Monday, December 21, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 83063-83066]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-28110]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

Patent and Trademark Office

[Docket No. PTO-C-2020-0068]


The Article of Manufacture Requirement

AGENCY: Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce.

ACTION: Request for information.

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SUMMARY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) seeks 
public input on whether its interpretation of the article of 
manufacture requirement in the United States Code should be revised to 
protect digital designs that encompass new and emerging technologies.

DATES: Comments must be received by 5 p.m. EST on February 4, 2021.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments and responses to the questions below 
by one of the following methods:
    (a) Electronic Submissions: Comments can be submitted through the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. To submit comments 
via the portal, enter docket number PTO-C-2020-0068 on the home page 
and click ``search.'' The site will provide a search results page 
listing all documents associated with this docket. Find a reference to 
this notice and click on the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the 
required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Attachments to 
electronic comments will be accepted in ADOBE[supreg] portable document 
format or MICROSOFT WORD[supreg] format. Because comments will be made 
available for public inspection, information that the submitter does 
not desire to make public, such as an address or phone number, should 
not be included.
    (b) Written/Paper Submissions: Send all written/paper submissions 
to: Mail Stop OPIA, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 
1450, Alexandria, VA 22314, ATTN: Elizabeth Shaw. Submission packaging 
should clearly indicate that materials are responsive to Docket No. 
PTO-C-2020-0068, Office of Policy and International Affairs, Comment 
Request: Article of Manufacture Requirement of 35 U.S.C. 171. Although 
comments may be submitted by postal mail, electronic submissions are 
encouraged.
    Submissions of Business Confidential Information: Any submissions 
containing business confidential information must be delivered in a 
sealed envelope marked ``confidential treatment requested'' to the 
address listed above. Submitters should provide an index listing the 
document(s) or information that they would like the Department of 
Commerce to withhold. The index should include information such as 
numbers used to identify the relevant document(s) or information, 
document title and description, and relevant page numbers and/or 
section numbers within a document. Submitters should provide a 
statement explaining their grounds for objecting to the disclosure of 
the information to the public as well. The USPTO also requests that 
submitters of business confidential information include a non-
confidential version (either redacted or summarized) that will be 
available for public viewing and posted on https://www.regulations.gov. 
In the event that the submitter cannot provide a non-confidential 
version of its submission,

[[Page 83064]]

the USPTO requests that the submitter post a notice in the docket 
stating that it has provided the USPTO with business confidential 
information. Should a submitter either fail to docket a non-
confidential version of its submission or to post a notice that 
business confidential information has been provided, the USPTO will 
note the receipt of the submission on the docket with the submitter's 
organization or name (to the degree permitted by law) and the date of 
submission.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Shaw, USPTO, Office of 
Policy and International Affairs, at [email protected] or 571-
272-9300. Please direct media inquiries to the USPTO's Office of the 
Chief Communications Officer at 571-272-8400.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 171 of title 35 United States Code, provides that 
``[w]hoever invents any new, original and ornamental design for an 
article of manufacture may obtain a patent therefor'' (emphasis added). 
To satisfy the requirement that the design must be for an article of 
manufacture, applicants have been required to show the design as 
applied to or embodied in an article of manufacture.\1\
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    \1\ Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., 938 F.3d 
1334, 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2019) (confirming that ``long-standing 
precedent, unchallenged regulation, and agency practice all 
consistently support the view that design patents are granted only 
for a design applied to an article of manufacture, and not a design 
per se''); Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) 1504.01.
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    The USPTO considers designs for computer-generated icons embodied 
in articles of manufacture to be statutory subject matter eligible for 
design patent protection under section 171.\2\ For example, a claim for 
a computer-generated icon that is integral to the operation of the 
computer and that is shown on a computer screen, monitor, or other 
display panel complies with the article of manufacture requirement.\3\
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    \2\ MPEP 1504.01(a)(I)(A). Note that a computer-generated icon 
is considered to be integral to the operation of a computer. See Ex 
parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 1259, *4-5 (B.P.A.I. 1992).
    \3\ MPEP 1504.01(a)(I)(A).
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    Because certain new and emerging technologies, such as projections, 
holographic imagery, or virtual/augmented reality do not require a 
physical display screen or other tangible article to be viewable, the 
USPTO is exploring whether its practice should be revised to protect 
such digital designs.
    Although current jurisprudence has not addressed whether a digital 
design not applied to or embodied in a physical article is eligible for 
design patent protection, the following section outlines current law 
and practice regarding the article of manufacture requirement.

35 U.S.C. 171--Patents for Designs

    The language ``new, original and ornamental design for an article 
of manufacture'' set forth in section 171 has been interpreted by the 
courts to include at least three kinds of designs:
    (A) A design for an ornament, impression, print, or picture applied 
to or embodied in an article of manufacture (surface indicia);
    (B) a design for the shape or configuration of an article of 
manufacture; and
    (C) a combination of the first two categories.\4\
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    \4\ Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., 137 S. Ct. 429, 435 
n.3 (2016) (explaining the legislative history behind the ``article 
of manufacture'' requirement in section 171, ``[a]s originally 
enacted, the provision protected `any new and original design for a 
manufacture.' [sec] 3, 5 Stat. 544. The provision listed examples, 
including a design `worked into or worked on, or printed or painted 
or cast or otherwise fixed on, any article of manufacture' and a 
`shape or configuration of any article of manufacture.' Ibid. A 
streamlined version enacted in 1902 protected `any new, original, 
and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.' Ch. 783, 32 
Stat. 193. The Patent Act of 1952 retained that language. See [sec] 
171, 66 Stat. 813.''); In re Schnell, 46 F.2d 203, 209 (C.C.P.A. 
1931); MPEP 1504.01.
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    A patentable design ``gives a peculiar or distinctive appearance to 
the manufacture, or article to which it may be applied, or to which it 
gives form.'' \5\
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    \5\ Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., 137 S. Ct. 429, 432 
(2016) (citing Gorham Co. v. White, 81 U.S. 511, 525 (1871)).
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Defining Article of Manufacture

    The 2016 decision by the Supreme Court in Samsung Electronics Co. 
v. Apple Inc. is instructive on the ``article of manufacture'' 
requirement of section 171.\6\ In that decision, the Court analyzed the 
term ``article of manufacture'' under 35 U.S.C. 289, a provision that 
provides additional remedy for infringement of a design patent. It 
found that the term ``article of manufacture'' has a broad meaning, and 
as used in section 289, encompasses both a product sold to a consumer 
and a component of that product.\7\ The Court found that an ``article'' 
is just ``a particular thing,'' and ``manufacture'' means ``the 
conversion of raw materials by the hand, or by machinery, into articles 
suitable for the use of man'' and ``the articles so made,'' and 
concluded that an ``article of manufacture'' is ``simply a thing made 
by hand or machine.'' \8\ Moreover, the Court confirmed that its 
definition of ``article of manufacture'' comported with 35 U.S.C. 171 
and 101, specifically noting that ```article of manufacture' in 
[section] 171 includes `what would be considered a ``manufacture'' 
within the meaning of [s]ection 101.' '' \9\
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    \6\ Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., 137 S. Ct. 429 
(2016).
    \7\ Id. at 436.
    \8\ Id. at 434-435 (for ``article,'' citing J. Stormonth, A 
Dictionary of the English Language 53 (1885) and American Heritage 
Dictionary, at 101 (``[a]n individual thing or element of a class; a 
particular object or item'')); id. at 435 (for ``manufacture,'' 
citing Stormonth, at 589 and American Heritage Dictionary, at 1070 
(``[t]he act, craft, or process of manufacturing products, 
especially on a large scale'' or ``[a] product that is 
manufactured'')).
    \9\ Id. at 435 (quoting 8 D. Chisum, Patents 23.03[2], pp. 23-12 
to 23-13 (2014)); see also In re Nuijten, 500 F.3d 1346, 1356 (Fed. 
Cir. 2007) (determining that the Supreme Court's ``definitions 
address `articles' of `manufacture' as being tangible articles or 
commodities,'' and thus concluding that ``[a] transient electric or 
electromagnetic transmission does not fit within that definition'' 
because during transmission, ``energy embodying the claimed signal 
is fleeting and is devoid of any semblance of permanence,'' and does 
not meet the definitions of ``articles'' of ``manufacture''). 
Indeed, the Nuijten court noted the Supreme Court had defined 
``manufacture'' in the context of utility patents as ``the 
production of articles for use from raw or prepared materials by 
giving to these materials new forms, qualities, properties, or 
combinations, whether by hand-labor or by machinery.'' 500 F.3d at 
1356 (quoting Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 308 (1980)). 
Note that this definition is similar to the ones for ``article,'' 
``manufacture,'' and ``article of manufacture'' espoused by the 
Supreme Court in Samsung as applied to design patents.
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A Picture Alone Is Not Eligible for Design Patent Protection

    Historically, a picture standing alone is not patentable under 
section 171.\10\ The factor that distinguishes statutory design subject 
matter from a mere picture or ornamentation has been the embodiment of 
the design in an article of manufacture.\11\ For this reason, the USPTO 
has required that the design must be shown as applied to or embodied in 
an article of manufacture.\12\
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    \10\ Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., 938 F.3d 
1334, 1340 (2019) (quoting Gorham v. White, 81 U.S. 511, 524-25 
(1871) for this proposition). In Gorham, the Court discussed the 
reach of design protection as follows: ``The acts of Congress which 
authorize the grant of patents for designs were plainly intended to 
give encouragement to the decorative arts. They contemplate not so 
much utility as appearance, and that, not an abstract impression, or 
picture, but an aspect given to those objects mentioned in the 
acts'' 81 U.S. at 524-25 (emphasis added). See also MPEP 1504.01.
    \11\ MPEP 1504.01. see also Ex parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 
1259, *4-5 (B.P.A.I. 1992).
    \12\ MPEP 1504.01. see also supra note 5; Samsung, 137 S. Ct. at 
435 (citing Application of Zahn, 617 F.2d 261, 268 (C.C.P.A. 1980) 
(``Section 171 authorizes patents on ornamental designs for articles 
of manufacture. While the design must be embodied in some articles, 
the statute is not limited to designs for complete articles, or 
`discrete' articles, and certainly not to articles separately sold . 
. . ''); Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., 938 F.3d 
1334, 1340 (2019) (affirming this principle by relying on In re 
Schnell, 46 F.2d 203, 209 (C.C.P.A. 1931) (``[I]t is the application 
of the design to an article of manufacture that Congress wishes to 
promote, and an applicant has not reduced his invention to practice 
and has been of little help to the art if he does not teach the 
manner of applying his design.''), and Ex Parte Cady, 232 O.G. 619, 
621-22 (Comm'r Pat. 1916) (``[a] disembodied design or a mere 
picture is not the subject of [design] patent'')).

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[[Page 83065]]

Guidelines for Computer-Generated Icons and Type Fonts

    In 1995, the USPTO introduced examination guidelines for design 
patent applications claiming computer-generated icons.\13\ These 
guidelines are based on the USPTO's understanding of the case law and 
the USPTO Appeal Board's decision in 1992 in Ex parte Strijland 
regarding a ``design for an information icon for the display screen of 
a programmed computer system.'' \14\ To be eligible for protection, the 
USPTO currently requires that a design for a computer-generated icon 
be: (1) Embodied in a computer screen, monitor, other display panel, or 
portion thereof; (2) more than a mere picture on a screen; and (3) 
integral to the operation of the computer displaying the design.\15\
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    \13\ MPEP 1504.01(a)(I).
    \14\ Ex parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 1259 (B.P.A.I. 1992).
    \15\ MPEP 1504.01(a)(I)(A); Ex parte Strijland, 26 U.S.P.Q.2d 
1259, at *4-5 (B.P.A.I. 1992). Furthermore, section 1504.01(a)(I)(A) 
of the MPEP applies the holding in In re Hruby, 373 F.2d 997 
(C.C.P.A. 1967) to icons, noting that ``the dependence of a 
computer-generated icon on a central processing unit and computer 
program for its existence itself is not a reason for holding that 
the design is not for an article of manufacture.'' However, section 
1504.01(a)(IV) explains that computer-generated icons that include 
``images that change appearance during viewing'' may be eligible for 
design patent protection, but ``no ornamental aspects are attributed 
to the process or period in which one image changes into another.''
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    The guidance with respect to type fonts is different.\16\ Examiners 
are instructed not to reject claims for type fonts under section 171 
for failure to comply with the ``article of manufacture'' requirement 
on the basis that more modern methods of computer-generated fonts do 
not require physical printing blocks.\17\
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    \16\ MPEP 1504.01(a)(III).
    \17\ Id. Traditionally, type fonts have been generated by solid 
blocks from which each letter or symbol was produced. Consequently, 
the USPTO has historically granted design patents drawn to type 
fonts. USPTO personnel should not reject claims for type fonts under 
35 U.S.C. 171 for failure to comply with the ``article of 
manufacture'' requirement on the basis that more modern methods of 
typesetting, including computer generation, do not require solid 
printing blocks.
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Absence of Precedent Directly Addressing New Technologies

    Recent technological advances have allowed the development of 
designs that are not applied to or embodied in a physical product but 
can perform a utilitarian function, such as controlling electronic 
devices rather than just serving as merely a displayed picture. 
Examples include virtual laser keyboards used in receiving key strokes 
and hand movements as inputs and projected images for an automobile or 
for augmented and virtual reality applications. The USPTO is not aware 
of any judicial decision that addresses whether a claimed design that 
lacks a static ``physical form'' but is used as an integral part of the 
function of a digital product satisfies section 171.

Global Trends

    Other jurisdictions have updated their laws and practices to 
accommodate design protection for new technologies. For example, 
Singapore modified its law to eliminate a requirement that a design 
must be applied to a physical article in order to be protected. Its law 
now provides protection for both non-animated and animated graphical 
user interface (GUI) designs that are applied to an article or a ``non-
physical product.'' \18\ In defining a ``non-physical product,'' 
Singapore law recognizes ``anything that (a) does not have a physical 
form; (b) is produced by the projection of a design on a surface or 
into a medium (including air); and (c) has an intrinsic utilitarian 
function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the thing or 
to convey information.'' \19\ Likewise, Japan modified its law to 
broaden the scope of subject matter for design protection to include 
digital images that are not displayed on an article, such as graphic 
designs viewed or provided through a computer network and projected 
images,\20\ including images on screen, and images appearing through 
virtual and augmented reality.\21\
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    \18\ See Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, Practice 
Direction No. 4 of 2018 (June 20, 2018); cf. Intellectual Property 
Office of Singapore, Practice Direction No. 4 of 2014 (Dec. 10, 
2014).
    \19\ Id.
    \20\ See Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Cabinet 
Decision on the Bill for the Act of Partial Revision of the Patent 
Act (Mar. 1, 2019), https://www.meti.go.jp/english/press/2019/0301_003.html (last visited July 16, 2019).
    \21\ Id.
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    In addition, there have been discussions at the World Intellectual 
Property Organization (WIPO) about design protection for new 
technologies, and a summary of a WIPO questionnaire on the matter 
included the following observation:

    The majority of responding jurisdictions do not require a link 
between a GUI/icon design and an article as a prerequisite for 
registration. This is mainly because of the nature of new 
technological designs, which may be used in different articles/
environments. In most of these jurisdictions, the indication of an 
article is optional. In all of them, a patent design/design 
registration can be obtained for a GUI/icon design per se if it is 
represented alone. In most of them, the patent design/design 
registration covers the use of the claimed GUI/icon design in any 
article/environment.\22\
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    \22\ WIPO, Analysis of the Returns to the Second Questionnaire 
on Graphical User Interface (GUI), Icon and Typeface/Type Font 
Designs, SCT/43/2, Feb. 5, 2020, at 37, available at https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/sct/en/sct_43/sct_43_2.pdf.
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Topics for Public Comment

    The public is invited to submit comments on any topics related to 
35 U.S.C. 171 that they deem relevant. The USPTO is particularly 
interested in receiving views and comments on the questions presented 
below. The tenor and substance of the questions should not be taken as 
an indication that the USPTO is predisposed to any particular views, 
positions, or actions. The USPTO also invites the public to share their 
views and insights on other aspects of section 171 that are not 
addressed in the questions.
    To be eligible for patent protection, a design must comply with the 
``article of manufacture'' requirement of section 171. The USPTO has 
interpreted the jurisprudence to require that designs for computer-
generated icons meet the following criteria: (1) They must be embodied 
in a computer screen, monitor, other display panel, or portion thereof; 
(2) They must be more than a mere picture on a screen; and (3) They 
must be integral to the operation of the computer displaying the 
design. Some stakeholders have expressed that they are unable to obtain 
design protection for certain new and emerging technologies (e.g., 
projections, holographic imagery, and virtual/augmented reality) 
because they do not meet the current criteria.
    1. Please identify the types of designs associated with new and 
emerging technologies that are not currently eligible for design patent 
protection but that you believe should be eligible. For these types of 
designs, please explain why these designs should be eligible, how these 
designs satisfy the requirements of section 171, and how these designs 
differ from a mere picture or abstract design. In addition, if you 
believe that these types of designs

[[Page 83066]]

should be eligible, but a statutory change is necessary, please explain 
the basis for that view.
    2. If the projection, holographic imagery, or virtual/augmented 
reality is not displayed on a computer screen, monitor, or other 
display panel but is integral to the operation of a device (e.g., a 
virtual keyboard that provides input to a computer), is this sufficient 
to render the design eligible under section 171 in view of the current 
jurisprudence? If so, please explain how the article of manufacture 
requirement is satisfied and how these designs differ from a mere 
picture or abstract design. If you believe that these designs do not 
meet the requirements of section 171, please explain the basis for that 
view.
    3. If the projection, holographic imagery, or virtual/augmented 
reality is not displayed on a computer screen, monitor, or other 
display panel but is interactive with a user or device (e.g., a 
hologram moves according to a person's movement), is this sufficient to 
render a design eligible under section 171 in view of the current 
jurisprudence? If so, please explain how the article of manufacture 
requirement is satisfied and how these designs differ from a mere 
picture or abstract design. If you believe that these designs do not 
meet the requirements of section 171, please explain the basis for that 
view.
    4. If the projection, holographic imagery, or image appearing 
through virtual/augmented reality is not displayed on a computer 
screen, monitor, or other display panel but is projected onto a surface 
or into a medium (including air) and is not otherwise integral to the 
operation of a device or interactive with a user or device (e.g., is a 
static image), is this sufficient to render a design eligible under 
section 171 in view of the current jurisprudence? If so, please explain 
how the article of manufacture requirement is satisfied and how these 
designs differ from a mere picture or abstract design. If you believe 
that these designs do not meet the requirements of section 171, please 
explain the basis for that view.
    5. Do you support a change in interpretation of the article of 
manufacture requirement in 35 U.S.C. 171? If so, please explain the 
changes you propose and your reasons for those proposed changes. If 
not, please explain why you do not support a change in interpretation.
    6. Please provide any additional comments you may have in relation 
to section 171, interpretation or application of section 171, or 
industrial design rights in digital and new and emerging technologies.

Andrei Iancu,
Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of 
the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
[FR Doc. 2020-28110 Filed 12-18-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-16-P