April 7, 2011
In response to our post on Regulation Identifier Numbers (RINs), a law librarian called to remind us that our warning related to searching by RINs and Docket numbers applies equally to the regulations.gov site. She noted that, “One of the many problems with the site is the lack of coordination over details such as the language in the Register that should tell folks to use the docket number or the RIN to locate the actual docket in Regulations.gov.”
We also discussed one important note: the availability of public comments. Public comments are regularly requested by our customers. Typically, we’ll refer customers to one of just two databases on Westlaw:
FTX-PUBCOMM: The FTX-PUBCOM database contains Public Comment Letters. The IRS solicits comments from the public on new or changed proposed regulations, on released Chief Counsel Notices, or on released Revenue Procedures, et al.
FSEC-MISC: Federal Securities Exchange Commission – Miscellaneous Documents has Publicly Available Telephone Interpretations, Comments filed on proposed rule, concept or interpretive release, and policy statements.
We’ll also note that the agency often comments on submitted comments within the Federal Register. See, for example 65 FR 38510-01.
Comment 6: Two comments indicated that the presence of some structure should not prevent the invocation of the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 112, 6. The commentors suggested that the third prong of the 3-prong analysis be modified to read that “the phrase ‘means for’ or ‘step for’ must not be modified by sufficient structure, material, or acts for achieving the claimed function,” citing Seal-Flex, Inc. v. Athletic Track and Court Constr., 172 F.3d 836, 50 USPQ2d 1225 (Fed. Cir. 1999), and Unidynamics Corp. v. Automatic Prod. Int’l, 157 F.3d 1311, 48 USPQ2d 1099 (Fed. Cir. 1998).
What may have been overlooked was the comments section of Regulations.com where comments for a number of participating agencies might be read and submitted.
Again, with the caveats… Not all agencies participate in the program. According to regulations.gov FAQ’s
A Non Participating agency is a federal agency that publishes federal registers on Regulations.gov and in some cases receives comments through the website. Because these agencies do not participate in the program, the submitted comments are not visible through Regulations.gov. In order to view these comments, users should contact the agency directly. In order to find the contact, reference the section in the Federal Register entitled “For further information contact.”
Finally, our caller also recommended the ABA Report to Congress and the President from the Committee on the Status and Future of Federal e-Rulemaking (pdf).