June 27, 2019
How USPTO can leverage IT innovation
By: Jake Brody

Fed Vision 2030, a new federal trends outlook, describes how the rapidly changing technology landscape is transforming the commercial world, impacting global economies and simultaneously moving the federal government in the direction of greater agility and ingenuity. The United States Patent & Trademark Office stands right at the intersection of these trends.

As a core fuel for our nation’s innovation economy and the globally recognized "gold standard" of protection of intellectual property rights for today’s innovators and forward thinkers, the USPTO also must innovate to transform itself. As Fed Vision 2030 suggests, the USPTO can leverage data, trust and authenticity to improve its processes, amplify engagement with its stakeholders and better meet its mission.

What are the keys to USPTO’s future? Data, virtualization, trust and authenticity.

The USPTO is awash with data. Patent applications may include software specs, hardware details, drawings and renderings, performance metrics and design parameters. All this data must be validated, and it also must be cross-referenced against similar data sets across a wide range of potentially related patents and applications.

This largely manual process could be enhanced significantly by the thoughtful application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities. AI and ML together could help USPTO to more effectively and accurately categorize and compare key data points, assess and evaluate patent applications faster, and provide greater insights into trends. Moreover, automating this process could free up patent examiners to devote their attentions to higher-level tasks.

Trust and authenticity, as Fed Vision 2030 points out, are key drivers of innovation. Here, too, the USPTO stands to benefit.

Those who apply for patents need to have a high degree of trust in the system. They need to feel certain that their innovations and unique ideas are safe in the hands of USPTO professionals and that the systems and processes the USPTO uses create a fair playing field. They also must be assured of the authenticitiy of the system, convinced that decisions are well-reasoned, fair and correct.

USPTO’s leadership team recently reached an important milestone in its effort to embrace technological change as a mission driver. Despite constraints of outmoded processes and legacy IT systems, USPTO leadership has been seeking to harness the potential of IT transformation to generate improved outcomes for patent holders, while reducing its backlog of pending applications.

By following the road map laid out in Fed Vision 2030—leveraging AI and ML for enhanced data management, and implementing sysems that ensure user trust and system authenticity—USPTO can go beyond its fundamental role as a registry of innovative ideas to become a key economic enabler, helping US businesses at all levels unleash the full potential of industry which in turns strengthens our local communities, economic competitiveness and national security.

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