Profiling the US National Technical Information Service (NTIS)

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The US Department of Commerce just released their monthly National Technical Information Service (NTIS) newsletter (PDF) and I was immediately reminded of how valuable this resource is. NTIS is a database of bibliographic information containing summaries of scientific, technical, engineering, and business information products acquired by NTIS from 1964 to present. Contrary to what you might think, NTIS is not limited to contributions from US sources, although unclassified US government research is a highlight of the collection.

Read on to find out how you can use NTIS in your prior art search today–if you don’t you’ll never know if this is the missing piece to your prior art puzzle!


The NTIS database is an in-depth source of unclassified government reports from both US and international governments. The complete electronic file contains over 2.0 million records dating from 1964 to the present day with over 30,000 new records added each year. The NTIS database is widely regarded as the largest central resource currently available of government-funded scientific, technical engineering, and business related information. Examples of government sources providing documents to NTIS include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Departments of Energy and Defense, the German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology and the Japan Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

Technical reports predominate the database, but other records such as conference proceedings, journal articles, and theses are also part of NTIS.

Although only consisting of bibliographic records, NTIS touts:

Once identified in the NTIS Bibliographic Database, most items are available for purchase directly from NTIS! The full reports are available from NTIS for almost 90 percent of the titles announced on the database. There are more than 600,000 titles available in digital format.

This is a welcome feature, since document location can be a three ring circus of its own, with additional charges for a researcher on site to find the original copy. This is, of course, if you have a researcher who can access the proper archive!

There are several ways to search NTIS:

The for-pay options allow access to the full contents of the NTIS online database, while the on-site free search version is less granular in terms of the availability and functionality of certain fields such as “category.” Category (or subject heading) is the main classification system used to index the subject material within NTIS. NTIS classifies records into 39 subject categories with several subcategories per category. Other useful fields beyond the usual bibliographic information (author, title, date, abstract, etc.) include corporate source, descriptors (controlled vocabulary meta-tags), and CAS registry numbers. NTIS also contains all patents and patent applications issued to US government agencies that are available for public licensing (under NTIS subject category 90).

I hope you enjoyed your tour of NTIS! Please watch your step on the way out and don’t feed the geese!

Patent Information from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.

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