The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has FINALLY expanded the vendor pool to meet its patent production requirements. The agency believes that the added competition will lower prices. Those lower prices may save the agency an estimated $150 million over the next ten years. Who knows? Maybe some of that savings will dribble down to the inventors who use the agency to receive patent protection.
The protection of intellectual property is the main goal of the USPTO. They are responsible for examining, issuing and maintaining the registrations of patents and trademarks in the United States. Sadly, they as a government agency have been … ahem … a bit lagging in encouraging free-market competition. They are historically not good at encouraging free market competition amongst their own providers.
Delain Law Office, PLLC is a boutique law firm that concentrates in helping inventors, authors and businesses navigate the intellectual property landscape. Thus, the USPTO’s use of only one vendor for any of its mission-critical work is a concern.
For the last 50 years, the USPTO knew of only one vendor capable of meeting the specified requirements for capturing patent data. After a thorough and exhaustive competition process and the execution of a new contract, the USPTO now says they are “…confident that the addition of a new vendor will provide USPTO with the added support it needs to continue to meet or exceed the quality and quantity requirements while also removing the risk of a single point of failure for mission critical work.”
This transition from a single vendor to a dual vendor environment, the USPTO claims, will result in agency cost savings per patent, thus allowing them to advance their work throughout the agency to better serve stakeholders.
The USPTO claims they encourage competition in business. And, slowly, they are moving toward putting their money where their mouth is. This addition of a competing vendor for patent data capture is one small step; I’d like to see more vendors admitted to the Club.
And I can point to at least one other instance where the USPTO favored one private company to the exclusion of all others, in violation of any government encouragement of free-market competition I’ve ever heard of. Specifically, when they first started their online portal for patent document filing, they REQUIRED a Windows interface on the client (user … my) end. This went on for several years. I, however, was and remain a Mac shop. I therefore was REQUIRED to go out and get a Windows machine (Windows running on Mac did NOT work for this) so I could file patent documents. You better believe I complained about the government favoring one private enterprise over another … and, lo and behold, the USPTO now allows both Windows and Mac to talk to the patent filing system. I do not know whether they allow any other operating system to talk to their filing system; I hope they do.