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Like a great eatery that doesn’t advertise, Silicon Valley’s patent resource center isn’t well known in the tech community. But many who have discovered it over the years have become avid fans and are now fighting to keep it alive. The Sunnyvale Center for Innovation, Invention and Ideas, or Sci3 (pronounced “sigh cubed”) is one of three centers in the country that has a partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, providing access to the PTO’s database and other information about the patent system. Tucked into the Sunnyvale library, Sci3 has been subsidized by the city, which is cutting off its funding in March. “For me it’s going to be somewhat of a disaster,” said patent attorney Mikio Ishimaru, who is leading the campaign to raise at least $40,000 to keep the center in business for another year. Ishimaru, who headed Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s technology law department before he went into private practice, regularly attends courses at the center, as does his staff. The seminars are taught via video�conference by PTO examiners and specialists, who take questions from participants. Ishimaru said the classes help people understand what new examiners are being taught and how to interpret their responses to patent applications. The classes have given us “invaluable insight to do things right the first time around and get the patents through a lot easier,” Ishimaru said. “In terms of stimulating and supporting a creative climate here, the center is invaluable,” said Sunnyvale technology consultant Stan Hendryx, of Hendryx & Associates. He noted that community members have received more grants from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Advanced Technology program than any members of any other city in the country. Diane Daly, another local technology consultant, took Sci3 classes when she got a job that required her to have an understanding of patent prosecution. “Without those, I would be completely lost,” she said. “I couldn’t get that depth of information out of an office bookshelf.” More than 400 people attended Sci3 seminars during the last six months of 2004, coming from law firms, corporations and research centers, including Yahoo Inc., Genentech Inc., IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Sci3 was established as a partnership with the PTO in 1994. The patent office already had a relationship with the Sunnyvale library, which became a Patent and Trademark Depository Library in 1963, housing copies of the 6.84 million patents issued in the United States since 1790, as well as all registered trademarks. The Sunnyvale center, and two other partnership libraries in Houston and Detroit, are the only places in the country where people have access to the PTO’s entire database. Ishimaru said the agency’s Web site provides only a subset of that information. Sci3′s operating costs are about $300,000 per year, two-thirds of which are covered by the courses that the center offers. Ishimaru said the city of Sunnyvale has paid about $40,000 to $50,000 to cover the remaining expenses. The city did a survey of the center’s users and found that 80 percent of them were from outside Sunnyvale. Faced with budgetary pressures, the City Council in October voted 3-to-2 to close Sci3, which is staffed by one part-time and two full-time librarians. The city later delayed the shutdown to give the center’s supporters a chance to raise money. A nonprofit foundation called the Friends of Sci3 is now trying to make up the deficit. Ishimaru said he thinks the facility can generate more income by broadening its services. “We would like [the center] to offer more courses beneficial to a greater portion of the community,” he said.

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