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Digitizing the USPTO patent backfile

Rowberry, Simon; (2024) Digitizing the USPTO patent backfile. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities , Article fqad096. 10.1093/llc/fqad096. (In press). Green open access

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The digitization of the US Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) backfile of six million patents undertaken between 1951 and 2001 was a five-decade struggle, featuring several media transitions from print and microfilm to CD-ROMs and, finally, the Web. This mass digitization project is on a similar scale to Google Books and the Internet Archive, but it is rarely discussed within critical digitization scholarship or for its significance as a tool for knowledge production. In this article, I focus on the USPTO’s patent document’s digital and physical material form and how the current paradigm of access and storage of the digital backfile emerged. Through this case study, I build upon Ian Milligan’s distinction between the ‘text’ and ‘platform’ layers of a digitization project to demonstrate how historical decisions regarding format and metadata continue to influence how users retrieve and interpret documents, such as patents, online.

Type: Article
Title: Digitizing the USPTO patent backfile
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/llc/fqad096
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqad096
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright The Author(s) 2024. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Information Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10184255
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