Patent office launches international application tracking tool

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. (Whitney Blair Wyckoff/FedScoop)

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The Patent and Trademark Office has debuted a new online tool that it says will help those filing for intellectual property protections abroad.

Called Dossier Access, the service allows users to track the status of patents in the world’s five largest patent offices: the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the European Patent Office, the Korean Intellectual Property Office, China’s State Intellectual Property Office and the Japan Patent Office.

U.S. patents only offer protection for inventions in this country. To receive similar protections abroad, inventors must file with foreign patent offices as well, USPTO’s Deputy Commissioner for International Patent Cooperation Mark Powell told FedScoop. But that process can be expensive and complicated. Even checking the status of an application can be tricky because other offices’ application documents are not always in English, he said.

As users search for the status of an invention’s applications, the Dossier Access portal queries foreign patent office databases in real time. It also offers translations of non-English applications. Dossier Access is part of a larger program, called the Global Dossier Initiative, to streamline the worldwide intellectual property system. The four other patent offices are also launching similar portals targeted to their citizens.

For the tool, the patent office used a database and algorithm developed by Europe’s patent office to match serial numbers of different offices’ applications to the same invention. The agency also worked with groups like the American Intellectual Property Law Association and Intellectual Property Owners Association to develop the interface of the tool, which went live last week.

“I think in the past, we’ve had a ‘if you build it, they will come’ model,” he said. “It worked OK — and in certain cases failed miserably. The entire idea here was to do it with user input.”

He said the likelihood an inventor applies for a patent in multiple countries varies based on the sector — and some items that are patentable in the U.S., like pharmaceuticals, may not receive the same protection in other countries.

In the long run, Powell said he hopes the portal will allow users to send applications to several offices simultaneously, cutting down on legal fees — which he said can run as high as $900 an hour — that he said make up the bulk of the cost of filing a patent.

“The key to all of this is trying to reduce the cost. Because filing internationally is enormously expensive,” he said. He added, “If we could automate the filling of one document into multiple offices, that will save a great deal of money.”

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Commerce Department, Departments, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
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