Lawsuit stalls PTO automation

The Patent and Trademark Office has suspended its switch from paper to electronic record-keeping for patent search files because of a lawsuit filed by the National Intellectual Property Researchers Association.

In a letter sent recently to House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), undersecretary for intellectual property James Rogan rescinded the agency's certification that the switch to electronic systems would not affect the public negatively. He said PTO would revise its implementation plan.

'In order to permit appropriate revisions to the plan and to avoid needless, time-consuming and costly litigation. ' USPTO will resume maintenance of its paper public search collections while it revises the plan,' Rogan wrote to Sensenbrenner.

In a concurrent press release, Rogan said the patent office remains committed to adopting e-commerce technology.

The nonprofit NIPRA sued PTO in August in District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, charging that its patent databases are riddled with errors and that paper patent records still are essential to conducting proper patent searches. [To read GCN's online coverage, click here]

A patent office spokesman said the agency's plan for automation 'has always been a work in progress' and that the office continues to receive advice about how to proceed from various organizations.

NIPRA vice president Robert Weir said the court had ordered PTO to develop a consent agreement to settle the lawsuit.

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