Entries in Open Government (4)


The U.S. Patent Office

My recent praise of the U.S. Patent Office for its forward-thinking technology partnership with Google was perhaps premature. Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budge commented today that while "the Patent Office receives more than 80 percent of patent applications electronically...these applications are then manually printed out, re-scanned, and entered into an outdated case management system. The average processing time for a patent is roughly three years."

Here is an interesting statistic: only one of the top 10 government IT contractors was founded after the 1960, and that is Dell, who provides the computers, not the software.


USPTO and Google partner on opening patent and trademark data

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) faces a major challenge: an overload of patent applications (including sinister patent trolls) and far too few analysts to evaluate them. The quantity problem is compounded by difficulty of searching for existing patents and prior art that might discourage additional applications. The result is absurd wait times for would-be patent holders, lots of mockable patent granting decisions, and an overall lack of transparency of the patent process to the public.

But USPTO lately deserves more credit. Nearly a year ago to the day, I wrote about Peer-to-Patent, an innovative effort to open up the difficult and time-consuming task of researching prior art to the scientific and technical communities who possess the subject matter expertise to quickly evaluate patent applications. It was an early #gov20 success and its creator, Beth Noveck, was soon plucked from her job in academia to become the United States Deputy CTO for Open Government.

Today, Google announced another step forward. The USPTO is partnering with Google to bring 10 terabytes of patent and trademark data to the web for easy download. Analysts now have the data necessary to perform exciting trends analysis and otherwise parse the information to demystify patent granting. This must be a costly endeavor and I applaud USPTO for letting Google bear the costs. It's not often that a government agency so fully relinquishes control of its data for public consumption and this is a major #gov20 win.


SecDef responds to WikiLeaks video, but why not online?

Secretary of Defense Gates finally responded this weekend to the Wikileaks video "Collateral murder" that depicted American soliders gunning down several Iraqis and two journalists from their Apache helicopter.

After my recent post asking why the Department hadn't responded, this was a welcome development, especially since Secretary Gates did the right thing and defended the troops. But I must ask ... why was the response provided only on an ABC weekend news program? How many people did that reach? The Wikileaks video has spread so virally because it is a compelling link. Credit to @SumitAgarwalUSA, the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Outreach and Social Media for tweeting about the Gates response, but honestly a Yahoo! News article is a weak response to a powerful video.

Especially given DoD's release of its Open Government plan this week, the Wikileaks incident would have offered a perfect opportunity for the Department to engage on a difficult issue directly with citizens online. There is not even mention of the Gates response on the Department's website. In the battle of the narrative, Wikileaks has won.


Department of Defense Open Government Plan Embracing Good Ideas (first step at least)

Today the White House announced that all US government departments and agencies would be releasing their Open Government Plans to comply with the President's Open Government Initiative.

I clicked immediately to the Department of Defense page, expecting to be disappointed. When EVERY agency receives a green rating, as seen here, surely the bar is set too low. But I was pleasantly surprised: the DoD plan at least has 3 good ideas, suggested by users, that it has committed to implementing:

Click to read more ...