USPTO latest agency looking to outsource their data (Cross-Posted from FGI)

Our friend James Jacobs wrote the following post on his really informative Free Government Information blog.  Given the timeliness of this posting, we will cross-post it here:

Carl Malamud made me aware (see his letter to USPTO CIO John Owens) of a posting on FedBizOpps of a Request for Information (RFI) from the US Patent and Trademark Office:

“This RFI seeks to obtain information from interested parties, including the vendor community, about potential opportunities to acquire patent and trademark data in bulk (my emphasis) and to provide such data to the public without cost. The USPTO is seeking comments on the identified problem and solutions that will make the data available to the public without charge.”

While there is mention in the RFI of IP data being easily accessible to the public, there’s no mention of data.gov. This seems to be purely a “no-cost” way for USPTO to upgrade their IT infrastructure by giving away public domain information.

This is worrisome on so many levels as it is just one more example of a government agency looking to outsource and privatize public domain information *and* its IT infrastructure — see for example the Thomson West contract with the GAO to digitize their legislative histories. Additionally, in a vague nod to transparency, USPTO will be holding 1 (yes only 1) vendor information meeting on Sept 24. I’m not sure how USPTO thinks that a 2 week notice for a meeting held in DC will help the cause of transparency. Shouldn’t they have several meetings in different geographic locations to talk about such a huge and important public resource (nearly 2 petabytes of data!!)?

Luckily, this is only at the RFI stage, not RFP stage. USPTO is currently only looking for information on how to do this. This is the time for the government information/transparency communities to submit ideas for how the USPTO could make their patent information available *without* giving it away to vendors. Please contact the USPTO at the addresses below and give them ideas for making their data open, standardized and freely available in bulk.

Public Meeting:
Thursday, 24 September 2009
9:00 a.m. -11:00 a.m.
USPTO Campus in the Madison Auditorium
600 Dulany Street
Alexandria, VA, 22314

Contracting Office Address:
P. O. Box 1450 – Mail Stop 6
600 Dulany Street, MDE, 7th Floor
Alexandria, Virginia 22313-1450

Primary Point of Contact.:
publicdatadissemination@uspto.gov

Secondary Point of Contact:
V. Anne Tugbang,
Contracting Officer
vanne.tugbang@uspto.gov
Phone: 5712726550
Fax: 5712736550

by James R. Jacobs

[On a related note: Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian, wrote a letter to John B. Owens, on September 17, 2009.  The letter is posted here.]