Here's a nice resource for us. Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports are now available from Franklin Pierce Law Center, which offers the full text of the think tank's intellectual property, cyberlaw, and electronic commerce publications.
What is the Congressional Research Service? Pierce Law's IP Mall explains:
What are CRS Reports?
The Franklin Pierce Law Center IP Mall is pleased to offer the full text of intellectual property, cyberlaw and electronic commerce publications of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the 741-person, $68 million-per-year "think tank" that works exclusively for Members and committees of the United States Congress. CRS is part of the legislative branch of the federal government. CRS, which is a department of the Library of Congress, works exclusively as a nonpartisan analytical, research, and reference arm for Congress. The CRS mission is to support an informed national legislature.
The Congress turns to CRS first when it is in need of legislative research, analysis, or information in addressing the issues of the Nation. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the public policy research arm of the U.S. Congress. CRS works exclusively and directly for all Members and committees of the Congress. Throughout the legislative process, CRS provides analysis, research, and information services that asset to be objective, nonpartisan, and confidential, thereby contributing to an informed national legislature.
As you saw, there is a drop-down list by year. Pierce Law's IP Mall also has them organized in a topical index. For example, you'll find a collection of urls to IP law information. If you mine that list, you'll find goodies like this ABA brochure written for anyone considering a career in intellectual property law. And if you are thinking about specializing in patent law, here you go, a chapter just for you.
That same chapter points out that you don't have to be a lawyer already to be a patent examiner:
One intellectual property law career position that does not require a law degree is that of an examiner with the USPTO. The USPTO generally requires that an applicant for such a position have a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in a scientific or engineering subject. An applicant is not required, however, to have a law background, but may later acquire legal training at a local university while working in the USPTO. Interested students should contact the USPTO for its current technical requirements. . . .
The Patent Bar Examination
In order to practice patent law in the USPTO, a person must take and pass the "patent bar" exam (officially, the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases Before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). The exam is given once a year in the many cities listed in the USPTO's publication entitled "General Requirements for Admission to the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases Before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office."
A person need not be a law student or even a lawyer to take the patent bar. To be eligible to take the patent bar, an applicant must, in general, (l) hold a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in engineering or one of the sciences specified by the USPTO; (2) hold a bachelor's degree in another subject, and have taken a certain number of hours of specified science courses; or (3) have taken and passed the Engineer-in-Training (EIT) test. You need not be a lawyer.
Here's the complete Pierce Law CRS Reports list for 2005. Two interesting topics this year are:
Patent Reform: Innovation Issues [PDF] and
Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment [PDF].
The latter provides a definitive answer to when we should say libel and when we say slander. I'll remember it that slander starts with an "s" and so does "speech":
Defamation (libel is written defamation; slander is oral defamation) is the intentional communication of a falsehood about a person, to someone other than that person, that injures the person’s reputation. The injured person may sue and recover damages under state law, unless state law makes the defamation privileged (for example, a statement made in a judicial, legislative, executive, or administrative proceeding is ordinarily privileged). Being required to pay damages for a defamatory statement restricts one’s freedom of speech; defamation, therefore, constitutes an exception to the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court, however, has granted limited First Amendment protection to defamation. The Court has held that public officials and public figures may not recover damages for defamation unless they prove, with “convincing clarity,” that the defamatory statement was made with “‘actual malice’ — that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
The Court has also held that a private figure who sues a media defendant for defamation may not recover without some showing of fault, although not necessarily of actual malice (unless the relevant state law requires it). However, if a defamatory falsehood involves a matter of public concern, then even a private figure must show actual malice in order to recover presumed damages (i.e., not actual financial damages) or punitive damages.
So, now we know, and you can correct me authoritatively if I goof in the future. I know I speak for all of us when I say thank you to Franklin Pierce Law center, and to the Library of Congress and CRS, for making this wonderful resource available to the public.