Agency broadens its use of XML

Agency broadens its use of XML

The Patent and Trademark Office is replacing its longtime proprietary markup language with more current technology.

Starting in January, the agency will use Standard Generalized Markup Language for publishing patents and then will switch to Extensible Markup Language in January 2002, said Bruce Cox, manager of PTO's Information Products Division.

Evolutionary shift

PTO in the 1970s started using computerized phototypesetting machines with a proprietary markup language informally known as BlueBook, Cox said. More recently it began accepting certain types of patent applications in XML, a subset of SGML.

'XML has more or less taken over the world,' Cox said.

The agency wanted a format that would remain system-independent for a long time, he said. The specification for SGML markup of patent documents is available at

The agency tried to make the SGML specification as close to XML as possible to smooth the transition, Cox said. 'We can't absolutely prevent people from filing on paper,' he said.

He acknowledged that the transition to electronic patent publishing could be tough for people accustomed to paper searches.

'But physically there's hardly any alternative,' Cox said. PTO will move to new headquarters in 2003, and its new building won't have space for the paper files.

'Patricia Daukantas


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