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Monday Nov 07, 2016

IT Innovation at the USPTO in 2016

Guest blog by Chief Information Officer John Owens II

As the year comes to a close, it is a perfect time to reflect on our current successes, and challenge ourselves to continually improve our information technology (IT) systems. As the Chief Information Officer, I am focused on driving innovation at the USPTO while protecting our nation’s cutting edge ideas.

The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) works hard every day to make sure both our existing systems and our new “next generation” systems enable examiners to accomplish their important work. We are building excellent tools for the public while we drive to fine-tune our own processes for greater efficiency. Supported by more robust, updated IT systems and tools, USPTO examiners will be able to leverage these tools, and new data, to issue the best quality patents. and trademarks. When we improve systems and services for our examiners, the public benefits as well.

Bringing you next generation technology

Since day one, I have been committed to getting rid of legacy systems and bringing next generation technology to USPTO employees. This year, we got even closer to that goal. For patent examiners, we’ve been testing a new Examiner Search tool that will replace the existing EAST and WEST systems.  Currently, 200 examiners are using it and it’s expected to be rolled out to all examiners in December 2016. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s End to End (PTAB E2E) system was deployed in July, supplementing the existing PRPS system, and has received tremendous positive feedback. In Trademarks, Law Office 122 is using Trademark Next Generation (TMNG) which we will roll out to the remaining Law Offices through fiscal year 2017. TMNG will replace all legacy systems with one, cohesive, web application. 

DevOps has a firm hold

Our journey towards DevOps is well on its way as we have partnered with the Office of the Chief Financial Officer to cement it in our culture through the continuous development of Fee Processing Next Generation. We’re piloting weekly deployments of bug fixes with great success. The lessons learned will cascade throughout all products.  We are also using blue green deployments on three products to decrease any outages to our customers during their maintenance.  As DevOps is very much a community culture, we also hosted DevOpsDays DC in June, which sold out in the first day.  We look forward to even more DevOps events in the future.

Embracing open source and open data

Open data is a call to action -- which is why we created the USPTO’s Open Data Portal.  We’ve been working hard to make our centuries worth of data into a form the public can easily access and manipulate.  We continue to add to and improve our GitHub library, and some of our current projects include design patterns, a tool to help parse patent data, and a trademark status app. 

Your customer experience

We constantly engage with our internal and external customers.  You are a critical partner in our success, and we’ve been working hard to make our systems as user friendly as possible.  To that end, we’re moving towards an enterprise single sign-on (SSO) with role-based accounts.  Which means, eventually you will not need to log in separately to every system you use, but instead just log in once, and we do the rest.  The SSO system will recognize what systems you are authorized to use and will give you access. 

Finally, in order to assist the intellectual property community, this year we opened two new Patent and Trademark Resource Centers, in Las Cruces, NM, and San Jose, CA. 

What to look for in 2017

In 2017, we will continue to expand the role-based accounts to more systems that will dramatically improve customers’ USPTO logged in experience.  Starting in the spring, we will be upgrading to Windows 10.  Late in 2017, you will be seeing improvements to how to search and file for both patents and trademarks. 
I look forward to sharing more updates with you in the future as we continue to use the latest technology to support the USPTO and the public.

Comments:

Mr. Owens, you stated that PTAB E2E "has received tremendous positive feedback." From whom, might I ask? From the clients who use it to file, watch, and access documents in AIA trials? From users accustomed to commercial websites--in terms of usability, mobile accessibility, workflow, or even lack of obvious defects and bugs in a production environment? I would find it surprising to hear that these communities have given "tremendous positive feedback." There are so many errors, inconsistencies, and flat out "bugs" that either haven't been fixed or the PTO has not indicated they're fixed (even where I know they are--the "Known Issues" document still lists them as problems). This has been a big step backwards for me and my team. Note that I have submitted feedback via the website. At one point, I received an email saying the email address I'd sent to was "unmonitored." I'd simply clicked the email icon (a mailto link), which pre-populated an email in my default mail application. My questions were never answered (including the follow up). From non-intuitive flows and inconsistent information (the User Guide spends 30+ pages on patent owners entering an appearance but none on filing a Patent Owner Response), to the far below standards UI for a "modern" web application (multiple independently scrolling tables? columns that are formatted different only different screens--alignment and text versus cryptic icons? poorly formatted columns for the width of text? puzzling and unchangable sort order of existing documents on Document upload screen?), this application does not appear to have had the "customer experience" at the forefront of its design or development--at least not the customers who are paying the fees (soon to significantly increase) to avail themselves of the adjudication the system is designed to enable.

Posted by Warren Thomas on November 07, 2016 at 06:44 PM EST #

Mr. Owens, you stated that PTAB E2E "has received tremendous positive feedback." From whom, might I ask? From the clients who use it to file, watch, and access documents in AIA trials? From users accustomed to commercial websites--in terms of usability, mobile accessibility, workflow, or even lack of obvious defects and bugs in a production environment? I would find it surprising to hear that these communities have given "tremendous positive feedback." There are so many errors, inconsistencies, and flat out "bugs" that either haven't been fixed or the PTO has not indicated they're fixed (even where I know they are--the "Known Issues" document still lists them as problems). This has been a big step backwards for me and my team.

Posted by Warren Thomas on November 07, 2016 at 06:45 PM EST #

(part 2 of long comment) Note that I have submitted feedback via the website. At one point, I received an email saying the email address I'd sent to was "unmonitored." I'd simply clicked the email icon (a mailto link), which pre-populated an email in my default mail application. My questions were never answered (including the follow up). From non-intuitive flows and inconsistent information (the User Guide spends 30+ pages on patent owners entering an appearance but none on filing a Patent Owner Response), to the far below standards UI for a "modern" web application (multiple independently scrolling tables? columns that are formatted different only different screens--alignment and text versus cryptic icons? poorly formatted columns for the width of text? puzzling and unchangable sort order of existing documents on Document upload screen?), this application does not appear to have had the "customer experience" at the forefront of its design or development--at least not the customers who are paying the fees (soon to significantly increase) to avail themselves of the adjudication the system is designed to enable.

Posted by Warren Thomas on November 07, 2016 at 06:45 PM EST #

Note that I have submitted feedback via the website. At one point, I received an email saying the email address I'd sent to was "unmonitored." I'd simply clicked the email icon (a mailto link), which pre-populated an email in my default mail application. My questions were never answered (including the follow up). From non-intuitive flows and inconsistent information (the User Guide spends 30+ pages on patent owners entering an appearance but none on filing a Patent Owner Response), to the far below standards UI for a "modern" web application (multiple independently scrolling tables? columns that are formatted different only different screens--alignment and text versus cryptic icons?), this application does not appear to have had the "customer experience" at the forefront of its design or development--at least not the customers who are paying the fees (soon to significantly increase) to avail themselves of the adjudication the system is designed to enable.

Posted by Warren Thomas on November 07, 2016 at 06:46 PM EST #

It has been about 15 years since I first noted specific IT issues for PTO to address, to improve public usability of PTO IT resources. Twice since then I noted the same issues and then gave up because no one listened. So, I list one issue here I hope you can resolve. The page http://appft1.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.html does not automatically set the focus to the sole text entry box on that page. There is no other use for this page, but to enter text in the sole text entry box (for published patent application number). Compare http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm (which sets the focus to the text entry box for patents. If you can resolve that problem, I will take heart that perhaps now someone is listening.

Posted by RICK NEIFELD on November 08, 2016 at 12:48 PM EST #

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