Patent office’s open data efforts detailed in new report

USPTO headquarters (Alan Kotok/Flickr)

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A new report offers a look at where the U.S. patent office stands in its push to provide better access to its data.

Released Thursday, the report details the dialogue from an open data roundtable held late last year at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Northern Virginia. At the event, the agency presented a draft of its roadmap for opening data and heard comments from roundtable attendees.

Thomas Beach, senior adviser in the patent office’s Office of the Undersecretary and Director, told FedScoop open data is a critical program for the agency.

“We as an agency have been in the data dissemination business for a long time, and we’re striving to, with engagement from our user community, provide the best quality data possible,” Beach said.

The roadmap, which is part of the agency’s larger open data strategic plan coming out before the summer, lays out three primary objectives:

  • Provide data and application programming interfaces, or APIs, to the public.
  • Engage with the developers and technologists to do innovative things with data.
  • Collaborate with the private sector to shape the direction of the agency’s open data efforts.

In the future, Beach said he hopes the agency can have a kind of “API factory,” where it regularly puts out APIs as it develops new IT systems. He also hopes the agency will be able to mesh its data with that of other agencies.

But Beach acknowledged the patent office faces several obstacles as it opens more of its data. For one, the agency is working off several older IT systems. However, he notes the agency is debuting new digital tools for patent and trademark examiners this year.

At the same time, it faces legal challenges with cleaning data sets that other agencies don’t. It can’t, say, change the wording on a patent application to make it more searchable because it could impact the scope of the patent.

For the event, the patent office partnered with Governance Lab, a unit from New York University that has hosted similar roundtables for agencies in the past. The new report was released by GovLab in collaboration with the Center for Open Data Enterprise, which took over running the roundtables in January. The report includes lists of comments from the events attendees, including members of industry, representatives from academic institutions, Presidential Innovation Fellows and USPTO participants.

The report includes a forward from agency Director Michelle Lee, who said USPTO has taken the feedback from the event seriously.

She also noted the office has created its first public GitHub account to share design elements and an internal Club for Open Data Enthusiasts to help its staff showcase the power of open data.

“As we redouble our efforts to make our data accessible in a useful format, we want to be responsive to our users’ needs,” Lee wrote.

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Commerce Department, data analytics, Departments, open data, Tech, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office