Anatomy of a RIN.

April 5, 2011

We geeked out a bit last week* on Regulation Identifier Numbers (RINs) and learned that maybe they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.  For the unititated, RINs are extremely useful for tracking the history of proposed administrative rules.  Here’s how it works:

The Regulatory Information Service Center (RISC) assigns RINs to each regulatory action as directed by Execuitive Order 12866.  See section 4(b).  Also, the Office of Management and Budget asked agencies to include RINs in the headings of their Proposed Rule documents when publishing them to the Federal Register.  So, RINs make excellent search terms for tracking history of a rule.  For example, our patent practitioner readers will recall that the USPTO attempted to change rules related to continuation practice a few years ago until the Eastern District of Virginia stepped in (511 F. Supp. 2d 652).  To review the history of those proposed regs, try this in the FR:

Westlaw: 0651-AB93 0651-AB94

WestlawNext: advanced: 0651-AB93 0651-AB94

Here’s a break down of what these numbers mean.  The RIN consists of a 4-digit agency code (0651 for the USPTO) plus a 4-character alphanumeric code.  When an agency needs a RIN for a rulemaking, they contact the RISC.  RISC assigns a number where the first four digits are the agency number and then the next a unique four digit code. The first 4-digit RIN code that can be assigned  is AA00, the second is AA01 and so forth until you get to AA99.  After that, numbering begins at AB01, AB02, etc. 

Often we’ll search for the name of the agency (e.g. pr(patent /3 office)).  But, knowing the agency code might streamline this process and sophisticate your alerts.  Check out the list of agency and department agency codes RISC provided us last week:

AgenciesAndSubAgencies (pdf)

List of Agency Codes (xls)

But, there’s one important caveat.  We tested a number of queries and noticed a number of ‘missing’ RINs.  What the heck?  RISC wrote us,

Using the RIN to research rulemaking documents in the Federal Register can be helpful, but it will not be a perfect process.  Many agencies do not put the RIN on the document published in the Federal Register and sometimes print a document with the wrong RIN.  Therefore, you may get some desirable results from such research, but with lots of potential for error.  There has been an effort for years to get agencies to publish their documents with the RIN, but they do not always obtain a RIN for documents until later when they send one to OMB for review or report published actions to a rulemaking in the Unified Agenda.

*Contributors to this post include Reference Attorneys Judy F., Dan P.