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Patent And Trademark Office Ratchets Up IT Spending

Agency plans for healthy annual growth in technology investment in next five years to automate application process.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will spend heavily on IT over the next five years to automate the process of issuing patents and trademarks. The agency will spend $450 million in fiscal year 2008, up from $300 million this year, at an annual growth rate of 9%, according to analysis conducted by the market-intelligence firm Input.

Spending on IT will show strong growth over the five years, but Input's figures are a bit high, says a spokeswoman for the Patent and Trademark Office. She pegs the office's IT spending increase at $387 million in 2008, up from $280 million this year. That's still a healthy 7.6% annual growth rate. These funding levels are dependent on yearly congressional authorization as well as approval of pending legislation to increase trademark and patent fees. The office is a self-funding agency.

Erik TerHaar, Input's manager of federal market-development services, doesn't see any problems with the office getting Congress to appropriate the needed dollars. "Appropriators have recognized USPTO's IT needs in recent budget cycles and will continue to do so given the line drawn between the agency's core business functions and innovation, which stimulates the economy," TerHaar says. "IT dollars budgeted in support of agency mission have the strongest voice in the appropriations process and bring vendors to the heart of a federal agency."

Most of the IT spending is earmarked for the acquisition and support of technology, outsourcing IT services, and paying IT personnel salaries to automate the way the agency accepts applications, issues documents, and maintains records relating to the issuance of trademarks and patents, the spokeswoman says. The agency plans to complete the trademark system by Sept. 30 and the patent system a year later.

The Patent and Trademark Office in December began prototyping a system to replace paper processing of patent applications with electronic processing. The system includes front-end administrative processing of new applications for patents and trademarks, as well as processing and examination of pending applications. Paper documents are scanned into electronic image files, including the specification, oath or declaration, drawings, information-disclosure statements, amendments, examiner decisions, and file jacket notations. The electronic image-based processing system being deployed was designed with core software developed by the European Patent Office.

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