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Thank you, Bruce. In the years since the topics of IP and
patents first appeared on this list, yours is the first positive
and informed response that enables us to understand what
steps are being taken to apply technologies of interest
to the list members, and to improve the patent processes
across national boundaries. Quite often the responses
have been to place all blame on one nation, or to fault
the patent process in its most general case by claiming
that patents are obsolete and should be done away with.
It is good to know that the USPTO is working to improve
its performance, and working with the international
community to share results and policies.
Excellent. Much appreciated.
I changed the topic so we can find this one later. :-)
From: Bruce.Cox@USPTO.GOV [mailto:Bruce.Cox@USPTO.GOV]
The European Patent Office, the Japan Patent Office, and the World
Intellectual Property Organization are working with the USPTO to explore
means of reducing redundant efforts -- for example, examine once, assign
classifications once, rather than every office doing this over and over when
they each get the same application (as they do, tens of thousands of times a
year). See http://pcteasy.wipo.int/efiling_standards/EFPage.htm for the
mutually agreed markup for patent application structures, one of the first
major steps in this direction. The three major offices will all be using
this markup for electronic applications and for publications within the next
few years (USPTO by 2004 January).
It appears now that a thoroughly revised International Patent Classification
(IPC) will incorporate many of the distinctive features of the USPC
(frequent updates, scope notes, subclass definitions). You can see that
this could create further opportunity for reducing redundant work among the
industrial property offices without abandoning the value of a classification
scheme for patents.
Patent applications are sorted on arrival for workload distribution.
Clerks, using text searching and their knowledge of the US Patent
Classification, assign a classification that will get the application to the
right art unit for further processing. Attempts were made to automate this,
but automatic classification that improved on what the humans did (~70%
success rate, as I recall) was too expensive, I'm told. For this purpose,
70% is good enough. For the final classifications provided by examiners
after they have studied the application, it probably isn't possible to
achieve good-enough results through automation, or if it is, it would
probably again cost too much. I'm not aware of any current projects in this
direction among any of the industrial property offices.
Claim markup is designed to support claim steps (hierarchy), and there are
tags for claim dependency. There are some interesting ideas about how to
exploit this. It could help in managing examiners' performance plans and
setting fee structures, but no one has suggested how it could be exploited
to improve searching. It is, after all, merely logical structure markup,
revealing nothing about the technology claimed.
But don't loose hope. Just having XML markup is a major improvement over
the previous markup that was specific to a piece of 1970's photocomposition
hardware used by the printer. Now, at least logical structure and rendering
are separated. As the PTO and patent information value-added resellers
learn how to exploit the XML, demand for more advanced markup will likely
increase. There is a great deal of inertia to overcome not just in the
industrial property offices, but throughout the industrial property
community, from filers right through consumers of the final information
byproducts. Management here fully supports XML on the basis of its
potential benefits, but there is little to show for what markup we have
introduced so far. When management has some real experience with actual
tangible benefits, then I expect things will accelerate. Could take five
years or more to get there, in my opinion.
One final comment before letting this thread get back on point. The Patent
Law Treaty appears to go a long way toward harmonizing policy among patent
offices, and, although not yet implemented, seems to be already driving some
technical issues here.
Bruce B. Cox