PTO headquarters building

Patent Office preps for surge in applications

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is lining up sources of IT services to meet the storage, engineering and virtualization demands from a huge upsurge in the number of patent applications it anticipates will be filed in the next three years.

USPTO projects that it will be on the receiving end of more than 692,000 patent applications and 517,000 trademark applications annually by 2017, according to procurement documents. That marks a sharp increase from the 445,613 patent applications and 354,775 trademark applications the agency catalogued in 2006.

Amid a rising tide of applications, the agency plans to hire 1,200 additional patent examiners each year over the next five years to reduce the time it takes to review an application. The new hires will place USPTO’s systems and networks under additional stress, according to the agency.

The agency’s 2010-2015 strategic plan sets the context for the current struggle, noting that patent and trademark filing has increased significantly over the last decade. The upsurge “has resulted in increased demand for USPTO services,” the agency said, and “put considerable strain on the USPTO’s workforce, workloads, information technology infrastructure and management -- all of which jeopardizes the USPTO’s ability to review and issue timely, high-quality patents and trademarks.”

On top of that, the federal budget environment complicates matters. The USPTO’s Performance and Accountability Report, published in November 2013, noted that the “sequestration experienced in FY 2013 impacted many IT improvements.”

Nevertheless, USPTO last month issued three awards for assorted IT services under its Infrastructure, Design, Engineering, Architecture, and Integration (IDEAI-2) set-aside program for small businesses. The agency selected AEEC, eGlobalTech and Octo Consulting Group for IDEAI-2, which altogether could be worth more than $100 million. And earlier this month, USPTO also awarded a full-and-open IDEAI-2 companion contract to General Dynamics Information Technology. The contract has a ceiling of $50.85 million.

Tasks to be awarded under IDEAI-2 will cover a range of IT services, including, LAN/WAN networking, wireless technology, Voice over IP systems, virtualization and storage area networks (SANs), according to USPTO’s statement of work. Network engineering, security engineering, public key infrastructure, unified communications engineering and video engineering services will also be sought, according to FedBizOpps.

Scope of services

Under its IDEAI-2 contract, Octo Consulting Group will provide system design and engineering for patent and trademark application processing and examination, according to the company. It will also offer services that support USPTO’s management and administrative systems for disseminating patent and trademark information to the public.

Octo Consulting Group will begin providing those services in early May.

In addition to IT service management, storage architecture is expected to be a key requirement for USPTO under IDEAI-2. Storage is critical for the agency given the number of applications and supporting imagery it must manage. “As the number of patent applications grows ... storage is really going to be the life blood” of the IT infrastructure USPTO provides, said Jay Shah, executive vice president at Octo.

Partnering arrangements under IDEAI-2 underscores this. AEEC’s partner roster includes Data Storage Science, which will support the contract’s SAN work. In addition, Ironclad Technology Services will provide consolidation and data warehousing support; and Chartis Consulting will contribute infrastructure modernization and virtualization, according to a company statement.

Jodee Heidmann, senior manager at Octo, said she also sees an opportunity to integrate Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) approaches into the company’s work under the new contract, and “apply those best practices in our tasking.”

Rajiv Kadayam, eGlobalTech’s director of Information Technology Solutions, said the objectives of IDEAI-2 “are to refine and develop IT systems to automate application processing and to help USPTO meet increasing system workloads.” The firm aims to apply its expertise in agile development, emerging technologies and IT transformation to meet those goals, he said.

Meanwhile, USPTO will be apple to tap several other programs as it updates IT systems to keep up with the application volume. Beyond IDEAI-2, contracts include technical advisory services blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) and the Software Development and Integration -- Next Generation (SDI-NG) multiple-award contract, which was awarded in 2011.

SDI-NG covers areas ranging from commercial and custom application integration to program management support.

Under its BPA, Octo has been helping USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board with business architecture, said Octo’s Shah. The objective is to streamline paper-intensive legal processes.

Overall, USPTO is looking for a higher level of automation as it anticipates an increasing workload. That shows few signs of abating in the coming years, but there’s at least one upside to the volume of applications.

An uptick in patent and trademark applications points to a healthier economy as inventors seek to protect their intellectual property.  “It is actually a promising sign that they have this massive backlog,” Shah said.

About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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