On March 31, we
that the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides non-Mac compatible software for filing patent applications electronically.
The Patent Application Specification Authoring Tool (PASAT) is used to author electronic (XML) versions of specifications. The USPTO claims that it doesn’t use formats such as PDF because it’s a proprietary file format maintained by a single vendor and that “output in XML format can be integrated at little or no cost as a viewing/navigation/reproduction capability into Web browsers and desktop productivity applications.”
However, patent attorney Erik Oliver said the USPTO “choose” XML and that you can take the DTD and any text editor or XML authoring tool and write patent applications on your Mac. He added that “the tool for Windows (both Word and WordPerfect) is awful and temperamental, especially the Word version.” Rather than using standard SSL encryption, they created a proprietary client that is Windows only for submitting the filings, Oliver told MacCentral.
“You can prepare the application on Macs, but you can’t file them using a Mac,” he added. “Quite honestly, I don’t think many people are using the tool. I tried it with Windows 2000/Word 2000/Internet Explorer 5.5 on a Dell laptop and found the process awful. And what their tool does to Word makes the word processor extremely unusable. Ultimately, they [the USPTO] missed the boat, and I don’t know too many attorneys doing electronic submissions as a result. Personally, I would have liked to see them use PDF as an intermediate step.”
Another Mac-using patent attorney, Larry Manber, said the problem is NOT in the requirement for Windows Word or Windows WordPerfect, but is in a proprietary form of XML encoding that’s “completely unnecessary, and way too complicated for most small law firms and private inventors.”
“If one tracks down the original request for proposal through the USPTO Web site, the criteria was ‘open platform’ — which was defined as running on Windows 95 and forward,” he told MacCentral. “I had extensive correspondence with an Apple small business rep about this evolving situation. While a private company is free to stipulate communication standards, the US government has to treat everyone the same, unless there is a good reason (equal protection clause of the constitution). This is the same as the Commerce Department requiring that anyone who wants to send mail can only use United Parcel Service.”
Manber said he “strongly urged” the Apple rep to pass the info on to the top level, and for Apple to “lobby the executive, Congress or FCC to require all federal agencies by law, regulation or executive order, to remain platform independent. He also copied his first round of e-mail to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
“The Apple rep replied with questions related to market share for the patent business,” Manber said. “I gave them the info, but pointed out that so many activities are tied to the government, in so many businesses, that the Mac and other non-Windows platforms are DEAD unless the feds keep an open standard. I truly don’t think that Apple gets it. I can complain to the USPTO until the cows come home, but Mr. Jobs could give the government an Internet photo op, and have a great deal more success.”