PTO selects five vendors to market e-filing services for patents

The Patent and Trademark Office last week signed contracts with five companies to sell electronic-filing services to patent applicants.

The companies will integrate their applications with PTO’s Electronic Filing System. EFS has proven so difficult to use that PTO receives about 3 percent of patent applications through it.

The five companies receiving 10-year contracts are Aspen Grove Inc. of Needham, Mass.; AutoDocs LLC. of Falls Church, Va.; First to File Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif.; LegalStar Inc. of Williamsville, N.Y.; and LexisNexis Group of Atlanta.

The companies will make money through fees that patent applicants will pay to use the online services.

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PTO officials said EFS proved that e-filing makes sense, but the process “now can be better addressed by vendors with a profit motive and market experience.”

“This is the first and most ambitious step in the effort to automate patent processing,” said James E. Rogan, PTO director and undersecretary of Commerce for intellectual property.

The five contracts move PTO from a one-size-fits-all approach to multiple methods for patent applicants, Rogan said.

“Each of the five companies will be pursuing their own business plan,” he said.

The five contracts came on the heels of the agency’s announcement that it is revisiting its automation initiatives to boost the use of electronic data and will likely adopt a system used by PTO’s European and Japanese counterparts.

PTO technical and contract employees will work with the five contractors to bring the systems into operation, said Douglas Bourgeois, the agency’s CIO.

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