| || ||Office Action Correspondence Subsystem (OACS)
The Office Action Correspondence Subsystem (OACS) was introduced in August 1999. OACS utilizes Visual Basic command language integrated within Microsoft Office 2000 to facilitate creation of written correspondence for both domestic and international applications. Examiners now have a standardized interface to create domestic application actions, including word processing created correspondence, and standard USPTO forms with text editable data entry fields. The interface allows creation of international application correspondence, including PCT forms with text editable data entry fields. OACS is integrated with PALM for extraction of bibliographic data into both the appropriate correspondence element and also into a separately created, local structured records management Microsoft Access database. OACS retrieves data from BRS to automate the citation of references. OACS provides a new multi-user "Post and Review" document editing facility that allows users to post documents to other users for review; the reviewers can make changes that are saved in the originators' files. Additional enhancements relating to IFW systems integration and performance improvements are planned.
Patent Application Capture and Review System (PACR)
The PACR system first came into existence in 1997 to replace the aging microfiche system used to capture initially filed application papers. In subsequent years, it was expanded to support interfaces to PALM, indexing of application processing, OCR, complete security review processing, and support of OEMS and PreGrant publication. PACR version 4.0 was deployed in support of IFW on June 30, 2003. The highlights of this PACR release are the new web-based Classification Security Review (CSR) and License and Review System (LARS) modules in support of initial classification and all stages of national security review of new applications scanned in IFW.
CSR streamlines the initial classification and first-level security review processes into one new user interface. The LARS system provides the application images to L&R examiners to perform second-level security review and allowing examiners to clear an application for foreign filing license or refer it to a DOD agency for third-level security review. PACR now has a new facility to write applications referred for third-level security review to a CD-R. CSR and LARS both use new PALM services so any security or classification changes update the PALM database immediately.
As the old PACR image database is replaced with IFW images files, the PACR modules are being upgraded to a new AIS called Patent Application Security System (PASS).
PASS utilizes the images captured by the new IFW scanning system and continues to support PGPClass and Pre-Grant Publication.
PCT Operations Workflow and Electronic Review (POWER)
POWER supports the administrative processing of PCT applications and related documents by the staff of PCT Operations. Using the electronic application images provided by POIS (see below), POWER conducts automated formalities review of this data, prepares drafts of necessary correspondence and electronically routes the application to the next available paralegal specialist. Via the user interface screens, the paralegal specialist confirms or rejects the system's indication of errors and completes any necessary correspondence. Based on pre-programmed business rules, the system automatically routes the electronic file to the next work step. If the applicant has requested that the USPTO prepare a certified copy of the priority document, an order is forwarded to the OEMS system at the appropriate time. The workflow subsystem tracks correspondence to which a response is expected and prompts user review if the response is overdue. POWER also updates PALM with any data changes, provides management reporting, and allows for exception processing as needed. All new international applications are processed by the POWER system.
PCT Operations Imaging System (POIS)
POIS supports POWER, the PCT Operations Workflow and Electronic Review system, by providing image capture, key entry of bibliographic data, and security review processing of PCT international applications. An automated first-level security review module reviews an OCR'ed version of the contents of the application searching for terms and phrases of national security interest. Such applications are referred to the Licensing and Review System where L&R examiners perform a second-level security review.
Image File Wrapper (IFW)
As part of USPTO's Image File Wrapper (IFW) efforts, the Office developed the Access to IFW/Patent Enterprise Access Integration (AIFW/PEAI) project to manage and coordinate access to IFW data, integrating new and existing functionality, provided by other systems, in a portal architecture. As envisioned, AIFW/PEAI provides Examiners, the public, applicants, and USPTO's international partners access to published patent data in general, and to unpublished data where allowed.
In Phase I, released in July 2004, other I.P. Offices and the general public gained access to public USPTO application images from IFW, via the Internet in PDF format, using the Public Patent Application Information Retrieval (Public PAIR) interface. IFW images previously made available to Private PAIR users only in TIFF format were made available in PDF format. Phase I also provided the capability for customers to receive certified copies of patents and patent application documents via the Internet, or fax. On-line ordering was previously available, however, only uncertified copies of patents were delivered via the Internet or fax.
A major Patent e-Gov milestone was achieved when the USPTO successfully began deploying the first release of the ePhoenix system to the Patent Corp on June 30, 2003. The following functionality was available in the first release:
· The central scanning facility and subsystem was in full operation
· All incoming new applications are scanned into the ePhoenix system
· Backfile applications are scanned into ePhoenix according to the planned sequence for the Technology Centers (TCs) moving to the Carlyle Campus.
· Follow-on papers for both new and backfile Patent applications are scanned into ePhoenix.
· Existing Patent Application Capture and Review (PACR) images, captured since 1997, are available via ePhoenix.
The USPTO took delivery of the first portion of its new Alexandria campus (Carlyle) in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004. As the USPTO operations were split between two campuses, the movement of papers and paper application files became increasingly more difficult to manage and the cost associated with paper handling increased dramatically. The use of the IFW system by examiners was phased in with the move sequence for the TCs moving to the Carlyle Campus beginning in December 2003, with full deployment completed August 2004.
In order to meet and overcome these operational challenges, the USPTO continued to capture pending back files in order to minimize the need to move paper to the new campus. The IFW system was integrated with the USPTO legacy systems to provide functionality that is unique to the USPTO business process. The integration of IFW into the USPTO environment will be in phased releases, building functionality incrementally to better manage implementation risk and increase productivity benefits of the project. The major functional elements include: image file wrapper management, workflow capability including messaging function, and integration of existing major USPTO automated information systems (such as PALM and OACS) using Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) technology.
During 2005, the planned personnel and facilities transition to the Carlyle campus was completed, resulting in over 5,000 employees relocated on-site without disruption to the business of issuing patents and registering trademarks.
During the fall of 2005, IFW File Inspection became accessible via the Examiner Portal, to provide Corps users an alternative interface to access IFW image content.
During 2005, and expecting to extend into 2006, improvements to the IFW examiner interface (eDAN) will provide added user capabilities. These include the ability to electronically annotate Information Disclosure Statements and enhanced system data sharing/access capabilities with other systems such as PALM, Private PAIR, and Public PAIR.
Trilateral Document Access (TDA) facilitates access by US patent examiners to the content of particular patent applications stored in participating foreign IP offices' application file wrapper systems that correspond to US applications. The first phase of TDA, File Wrapper Access, was implemented with the European Patent Office (EPO) to allow US examiners to view EPO application document images for published applications using the examiner's eDAN examination tool. As a result, since March 2005, U.S. patent examiners can conveniently compare selected EP application documents relating to the application under review.
In early summer 2006, USPTO will add File Wrapper Access with the JPO and examiners of both offices will be able to access the selected application documents in the file wrappers of the other office. In late summer 2006, USPTO and EPO will put TDA Priority Document Exchange (PDX) service into operation. PDX service will make it possible for USPTO to request priority documents from EPO on behalf of US Applicants who have filed claiming priority to an application at the EPO. Similarly, U.S. applicants who have subsequently filed at the EPO will be able to give USPTO permission to provide a priority document to the EPO on the applicant's behalf when the EPO sends a priority document request. PDX service between USPTO and JPO is under development for July 2007.
Patent File Wrapper (PFW)
As part of USPTO's Patent File Wrapper (PFW) efforts, studies conducted and a multi-year strategy was developed for replacing the current Image-based file wrapper system (IFW) with the next generation, text-based file wrapper system (PFW). PFW will enable smart text handling of all patent application documents. This will result in significant improvements in efficiency and file integrity.
Examiners have access to two search clients, both of which provide text and image search and display capabilities. One is a browser-based client called WEST (Web-based Examiner Search Tool); the other is a coded client called EAST (Examiner Automated Search Tool). WEST is designed for ease of use and rapid deployment of new functionality. EAST has a more complex interface, designed for greater user customization, more rapid retrieval of images, and greater use of the keyboard. Through these search clients, all USPTO patent examiners have access to full U.S. patent images from 1790 and full U.S. patent text search from 1920. The 1920-1970 segment of the U.S. database is the U.S. Patents OCR database. Access to another segment of the U.S. Patents OCR database covering the period from 1790 to 1919 was planned for 2005. Since the introduction of U.S. Published Applications in March 2001, the full text and images of these documents have been made available. Also available are the contents of the First Page DataBase (FPDB) project, IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletins, and Derwent's World Patents Index (WPI). The FPDB consists of the English-language Patent Abstracts of Japan (PAJ) from 1976, and five European Patent Office (EPO) member states (EP patent documents, France, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland), and WIPO patent documents (PCT Publications), from 1978. Additionally, examiners have access to full patent document images from 1920 for these same intellectual property authoring countries and organizations. The addition of full English-language text of EPO documents and full patent document images for additional intellectual property countries and organizations is planned.
In 1990, the USPTO began implementation of a set of "Sequence Rules". The Rules require patent applicants who file applications disclosing amino acid and nucleotide sequence information to include a submission of the sequence information in computer readable form (CRF) in a predefined, uniform format (37 CFR §§ 1.821-1.825). On September 8, 2000, the Rules were revised to allow submissions of sequences and associated information on compact discs.
The sequence submission requirement not only facilitates the examination of biotechnology-related patent applications, but also allows the USPTO to compile databases, i.e., Pending, Published, and Issued, of sequence information disclosed in US patent applications, pre-grant publications, and patent grants. As specified in the Rules, the patent applicant creates the CRF comprising the sequence information and submits the CRF to the USPTO's Scientific and Technical Information Center (STIC), which receives and evaluates each sequence submission to assess compliance with technical requirements and with the Sequence Rules. Once the submission is verified as being error-free, according to the Rules, the data are converted into a format compatible with the Automated Biotechnology Sequence Search (ABSS) system, the USPTO sequence search system managed by the Search and Information Resources Administration (SIRA) and the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). The data are then loaded into the Pending sequence database. Examiners and STIC staff may use the sequence information for prior art, double patenting and interference searches and other analyses. The USPTO retains a copy of applicants' original CRF submission for inclusion in a permanent archive.
The USPTO relies heavily on nucleic acid (i.e., DNA, RNA) and amino acid (i.e., protein) sequence information supplied in biotechnology patent applications. This information is used to assess whether the claimed invention complies with the statutory requirements of utility, novelty, non-obviousness, and provides an enabling disclosure of the technology behind the invention. As well as internal USPTO databases, claimed sequences are searched against publicly available nucleotide and amino acid databases for relevant prior art and other information. The USPTO keeps pace with the rapid expansion in sequence information filings by continuing to enhance the ABSS system. The ABSS system comprises a network of Sun Microsystems hardware and Biocceleration Bioaccelerators, which utilize the Smith-Waterman algorithm. Databases included in searches performed by the ABSS system are: EMBL, GenBank, Geneseq, Swiss-Prot, PIR, and SPTREMBL, as well as Pending, Published, and Issued.
More than 20 users, STIC searching staff, and some biotechnology examiners, can access the ABSS system 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The searching staff performs searches on behalf of more than 400 examiners from Technology Centers 1600 and 1700.
Supplementary Complex Repository for Examiners (SCORE/PSIPS)
SCORE, the Supplemental Complex Repository for Examiners, was deployed in August 2005 to provide Examiner and public access to supplemental file wrapper data through the electronic Desktop Application Navigator (eDAN) and the Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system. As of spring 2006, the repository is expected to comprise the entire biosequence database, biosequence search results back to June 2005, and other selected supplemental file wrapper information.
SCORE stores and displays Sequence Listings, design drawings, color drawings, sequence search results files, query-by-example search results files, 3-D protein crystal tables, mega tables, mathematical equations, computer source code, and other supplemental file information or mega sections of applications in the native electronic formats. SCORE allows specialized viewing software to be applied to application data, if necessary.
PatentIn and Checker
Since October 1990, the USPTO has made available to customers a set software tools to for creating biosequence listings: PatentIn and Checker. PatentIn and Checker provide customers with an efficient means to create and validate the Sequence Listing that must accompany, in paper form, or approved paper equivalent, and computer readable form (CRF), each biotechnology patent application that contains biological sequence information.
PatentIn, designed and developed in-house by the USPTO, is used by over 60 percent of customers who submit Sequence Listings. Several modifications and improvements to make PatentIn compatible for international use have occurred since 1990. Particularly, in 1996, the USPTO and the EPO began a cooperative effort to develop a Microsoft Windows-based version of PatentIn that would satisfy WIPO Standard ST.25. As a result of these efforts PatentIn 2.0 was released in 1998.
In FY03, USPTO released PatentIn 3.2.3, which can handle up to 100,000 sequences, with each sequence containing up to 4,000,000 residues. It is written in Visual C++, which makes it easily portable to any Windows-based system.
PatentIn 3.3 is an enhanced version of PatentIn 3.2.3 and contains some additional features designed to ease the authoring of sequence listings. It supports Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT and Windows 2000. Key enhancements over PatentIn 3.2 included in PatentIn 3.3 included Users do not have to remove the sequence bases from the sequence editor and then delete the related feature and publication information in order to skip a sequence during the sequence listing generation. A checkbox has been added to the sequence window to indicate if a sequence should be skipped. The sequence will be skipped if the box is checked and all data related to the skipped sequence can remain in the PatentIn 3.3 project during the sequence listing generation. PatentIn 3.3 allows sequence type conversion between non-protein type sequences by clicking on the new AlterSeqType button on the sequence window. Direct access from the main window to the database window instead of the journal window is provided in PatentIn 3.3. The system also provides direct access from any publication window to any other publication windows. More date validations are added to PatentIn 3.3. For example: all dates entered into the sequence listing must be earlier than the current date; the Current Filing Date must be more recent than the Prior Application Filing Date; and, the Publication Date must be more recent than the Filing Date.
Checker, also designed and developed in-house by USPTO, is a module of the validation and data entry system used by STIC technicians to check and load Sequence Listings into the in-house USPTO sequence database. The software allows public users to check completed Sequence Listings before submitting them to the USPTO. Use of Checker prior to filing Sequence Listings has resulted in fewer Sequence Listing errors discovered by USPTO, therefore fewer Sequence Listings returned to Applicants for correction. Checker 4.2 features full compatibility with the Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP operating systems as well as all Office 2000/XP products.