PTO awards $172 million data capture pact

The Patent and Trademark Office this month awarded a $172 million contract to Reed Technology and Information Services Inc. to convert hard-copy patent application files into electronic form.

Under the Patent Data Capture contract, RTIS Government Services will convert patent application files into an electronic format so PTO can publish its weekly Official Gazette and disseminate paper copies, text and image files.

The Official Gazette is PTO's journal of patents. It includes bibliographic data for all patents, re-examination certificates and statutory invention registrations as well as notices of interest to the patent community.

"The contract will support our day-to-day production operations," said Dennis Shaw, chief information officer at PTO.

Under the contract, RTIS will replace proprietary software currently used to "tag" patent information with Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), which is a standard way to identify what the tags will be. A tag identifies the beginning and end of any kind of information deemed important, such as the name of an inventor.

SGML "provides the ability do powerful retrieval of the information so you can find what you want," said Tommie Usdin, president of Mulberry Technologies Inc. "It also lets you do much more precise searching and nice typesetting for [printed documents]."

PTO eventually will replace the data capture contract with a project that will allow SGML patent documents to go directly into publication, Shaw said. That system should be in place in 2003. Along with the electronic filing of patent applications, which is scheduled to undergo a pilot test in the coming year, the system will save PTO at least $20 million a year, he said. The PTO contract is a follow-on to a pact awarded to RTIS in 1994, but the latest contract requires RTIS to process the patent files faster.

"We are compressing the processing cycle from the current 24 weeks down to 15 weeks," said Joseph Dariano, president of RTIS Government Services. The SGML format "should make data a lot easier for users [to search] and will enable Internet access more readily than it does today."

Every week, a number of patents— usually about 3,000— are published and made available to the public. However, as the transition is made to the new contract, Dariano expects RTIS to process about 5,000 weekly in order to meet the tighter schedule.

Other competitors for the contract included Atlis Systems Inc. and Solutron Inc., who were bidding as a team.

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