Suit calls PTO systems flawed

Suit calls PTO systems flawed

Charging that the Patent and Trademark Office's databases are riddled with errors, the National Intellectual Property Researchers Association yesterday filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to stop the phasing out of paper patent and trademark records.

PTO declined to comment on the pending litigation, NIPRA v. James E. Rogan.

Rogan, Commerce undersecretary for intellectual property, earlier this year unveiled a plan to automate virtually all of PTO's activities to improve service and reduce costs.

PTO last year fielded the Examiners Automated Search Tool (EAST) and the Web Enabled Search Tool (WEST) as steps toward a paperless system. The office has long planned to phase out paper records, partly because it issues them in such volume'about 3,500 patents weekly, each patent ranging from 20 or 30 pages in length. It has maintained that the databases are more reliable than paper records because they can be searched more quickly and thoroughly.

NIPRA said in a statement that it is not opposed in principle to patent automation. But the association asserted that maintenance of paper collections, particularly for foreign records and trademark files, is essential until the automated searching tools can provide results equivalent to a combined search of paper and electronic records.

Association spokesperson Robert Weir said one of the suit's purposes is to direct PTO's attention to problems with EAST and WEST, including missing records and flawed search engines. NIPRA president James Cottone said that eliminating paper records 'makes no sense at this time, given the many bugs remaining' in the databases.

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