PTO takes orders over Web

PTO takes orders over Web



PTO is upgrading its OEMS Web site to permit online delivery of patent and trademark documents beginning in the fall.



Planned shopping carts, search tools will extend office's e-commerce effort

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

The Patent and Trademark Office has begun taking document orders from the public over the Web through an electronic commerce application known as the Order Entry Management System, or OEMS.

Customers can get their document facsimiles by automatic fax-back in hours instead of days by mail. This fall, PTO plans to go deeper into e-commerce by delivering documents over the Internet. The OEMS Web site, at www.uspto.gov/oems/index.html, will integrate search and shopping-cart functions.

Direct ordering, which requires a credit card, went live on June 7, said Patrick Rowe, director of PTO's Office of Public Records. But older methods of ordering trademark and patent documents'by postal mail, telephone, fax and e-mail'have not disappeared.

'We're the retail sales end of PTO,' Rowe said. 'More and more of our products are becoming commodities, and we work on the basis that people should be able to order however they want to.'

Prices vary by delivery method'U.S. mail, fax, leased box at the Patent Office or overnight delivery services such as Federal Express'and range from $3 to $50.

One PTO contractor ordered a patent copy and received it by fax within a minute, said Curtis Lutz, a branch chief in the Office of System Development and Acquisition.

Fax if you got 'em

But the fax-back service is limited to patents that already are stored electronically. PTO workers always query a customer who orders a copy that has more than 100 pages. 'That is going to tie up someone's fax machine for a while,' Lutz said. A few patents run to thousands of pages.

Among the 50T of patent information in the databases are images of some very old patents for Abraham Lincoln's canal boat-lifting device, the Statue of Liberty design and Thomas A. Edison's electric light bulb. Students request copies of them every week, Rowe said.

Customers who want their orders to go directly into PTO's order-entry buffer can register for a user identifier and password. When they log in, they see options for placing orders, checking order status and changing user information.

An alternate Web form, also accessible through OEMS, takes the same address and credit-card information but simply generates an e-mail that has to be entered manually into the order system, Rowe said.

OEMS' electronic retrieval engine pulls the requested images from data stores and sends them to a printer for hard-copy delivery or a fax machine for fax-back service, Lutz said.

The integrated search and shopping-cart functions Rowe envisions for the next release could suggest additional materials related to the documents in an order, just as online bookstores do.

In June, OEMS also began handling requests for certified copies of documents for legal and overseas patent proceedings, Lutz said. A legacy system formerly tracked such orders separately.

PTO customer-service representatives answer telephones from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time to accommodate queries from the West Coast, Rowe said. The OEMS order status function lets customers check their accounts 24 hours a day, however.

'Some people want to check online, others prefer to call,' Rowe said. 'We're letting them use whatever technology they're comfortable with.'

To build OEMS 2.0, Lutz said, PTO used Vision AppServer and AppBuilder from Unify Corp. of Sacramento, Calif.

The Vision rapid application development tools are platform-independent, said Phillip Beckman, Unify's federal account manager. AppBuilder created the pages that let users input data, make selections and match database records against orders, he said.

'Because they are taking the public's money, there are a number of firewalls in their architecture to protect credit-card information, and one of the challenges we had was working across those firewalls,' Beckman said.

PTO continues to use Unify Vision to develop new functions for OEMS 2.5, due out next month. 'It makes sense to develop all your systems with a common platform,' Lutz said.

About 10 PTO employees and contractors started work jointly on OEMS 2.0 in July 1997, Lutz said. Completion was originally scheduled for last March.

Most of the OEMS 2.0 work was done on a Hewlett-Packard Visualize K460 server running HP-UX, Lutz said.

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