In the Federal CIO's crosshairs, patent office plots move to the cloud

U.S. Patent and Trade Office is planning a major IT migration

The United States Patent and Trade Office is planning a complete redesign of its IT systems and a move to a cloud platform.

USPTO director David Kappos is calling the project "Trademarks Next Generation," and said the office wants to take advantage of virtualization and cloud technologies to provide "full end-to-end electronic processing for Trademarks."

"We'd like to provide trademark applicants and trademark owners the ability to manage applications and registrations on-line, as well as an automated 'watch' service to notify requestors of status changes in applications and registrations, just to name a few functions," Kappos said in a blog post this week.

Part of what the agency wants to do is improve its internal operations. It has long been criticized for patent delays in processing, and high turnover of its patent examiners.

Kappos' blog post follows Federal CIO Vivek Kundra's comments earlier this month about the patent office. He cited it as an example of an agency using outdated systems and can take years to process a patent.

"One reason is because the USPTO receives these applications online, prints them out, and then someone manually rekeys the information into an antiquated system," Kundra said earlier this month.

The White House has made moving to the cloud a broad IT goal. IT officials at the patent office weren't available for an interview, but the agency did respond to written questions about its plans.

The agency said its broad IT goal was "migrating dedicated, distributed systems to cloud platform." It now has dedicated specialized systems, including mainframe- and Cobol-based.

More than 60% of all its applications are processed electronically, but moving those applications and others to a cloud environment means overcoming a number of potential impediments, incuding "time, money, and keeping the legacy systems operational while replacing them all," the agency said.

Neither the project cost nor timeframe for the move to the cloud has been calculated yet. The annual IT budget for this agency is $232 million.

The plan is to create an internal cloud until there is a "federally approved and secure cloud platform available," the agency said.

The USPTO says it is moving to cloud platform for reasons involving disaster recovery, redundancy, scalability, and reducing provisioning time and operational costs.

It expects that the new platform "cost for enhancing, maintaining, and operating the systems to decrease significantly and, hopefully, by more than the investment cost. The reduction in the system costs would provide the ROI (return on investment)" the agency said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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