One institution of domestic government that is sorely in need of implementation of the U.S. President Barack Obama campaign promise of "change" is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) - an inexcusably antiquated operation that has literally been left in the proverbial dust of foreseeable innovation by the fast pace of the modern digital era.
To show just how backward the USPTO is, they are still unable to unify a patent into ONE document - even if split into multiple modules in the case of larger documents, preferring rather to stick to a hopelessly outdated format that keeps the text of the patent separate from the images that accompany the patent, making the viewing of patents an enormously outdated chore for anyone involved in the patent business. We face the same problem at Yahoo Groups too, as Yahoo is another outfit populated by Rip-Van-Winkles. The USPTO argument that their way is the "patent standard" around the world by no means exculpates the patent offices for this glitch but rather proves that those patent offices are all about 20 years behind the times.
Worse, in what amounts to a technological scandal, the special TIFF format used by the USPTO is not geared to normal state-of-the-art graphic viewing programs used by everyone - that would be too simple, so that the average user is forced to buy programs to view the special USPTO patent graphic format - there being only one, very poor, free viewing program (AlternaTIFF) and one cripple-ware program (interneTIFF) that did not install on our system at all. Are patents really "of, by and for the people"? Nah. Only for the select few.
Brian, commenting at Nipper's The Invent Blog writes:
"I can’t understand why the USPTO uses a tiff format rather than a pdf format. I’ve gotten to where I rarely ever view images on the USPTO website anymore. Instead I either pull up the patent on Google’s patent search site or download the pdf from somewhere like pat2pdf.org."The user interface of AlternaTIFF is confined and cramped for some reason known only to its programmers to the left side of 1/3 of our 22-inch screen in a non-legible size and any sensible use of those images in magnification mode is an insult to digital intelligence.
Both of the aforementioned TIFF viewer programs are listed by the USPTO as having been tested on IE and Netscape, a browser discontinued two years ago, and AlternaTIFF has been tested on Opera. Someone might inform the USPTO that Mozilla Firefox is the second most popular browser in the world today and is regarded by many savvy observers to be the best browser available, used especially by the tech community in great numbers. That there are dozens of other browsers out there (Chrome, anyone?) using standard graphic programs and viewers with great success is a piece of information that someone should pass on to the USPTO as well. That an institution in America responsible for patents is itself a Model-T Ford as far as tech status is concerned merely verifies the incompetence that seems to run rampant in the top echelons of this institution.
As the USPTO itself writes:
"PTO's full-page images, nearly four terabytes overall, are stored and delivered at full 300 dots per inch (d.p.i.) resolution in an image file format called "TIFF," using CCITT Group 4 compression.... Unfortunately, due to the volume of the image data, available funding, and other technical considerations, PTO cannot convert these images to a format more popular on the Web either permanently or by converting on-the-fly as they are delivered. [ - comment by LawPundit: excuses, excuses. The USPTO is YEARS behind the times.]If you, as a normal web user, now download AlternaTIFF, you can view patent images only after you have installed the program as an add-on in your browser. Then you can look at the images that accompany U.S. Patent 7669123 - one at a time of course - and in a format that will make your hair stand on end.
As a result, you must install and use a browser plug-in.... An alternative method is to use third-party software or services to view these images either directly or after conversion to another format....
The plug-in you use cannot be just any TIFF image plug-in. It must be able to specifically display TIFF files using ITU T.6 or CCITT Group 4 (G4) compression.
The only free, unlimited time TIFF plug-ins offering full-size, unimpeded patent viewing and printing unimpeded by any advertising on Windows® x86 PCs of which we are aware are:
* AlternaTIFF: http://www.alternatiff.com/ (tested: IE, Netscape, Opera)
* interneTIFF: http://www.internetiff.com/ (tested: IE, Netscape)
For the Apple Macintosh®, Apple's freely distributed Quicktime version 4.1 or later works with our images for pre-Safari Macintosh, but does not provide direct printing capability.... [LawPundit: Gee, our Quicktime is currently in version 7.]
For Linux®, a plug-in called "Plugger" works nicely with Netscape Communicator®....
PTO cannot and will not provide direct user support for TIFF image display or printing beyond the provision of hyperlinks to known suitable free TIFF browser plug-ins....
Full-page images can be accessed from each patent's full-text display by clicking on the [Images] button at the top of the patent full-text display page. If you have a properly installed G4 TIFF image viewer or plug-in, this will bring up the full-page image of the first page of the patent along with navigation buttons for retrieving the other pages of the document. These buttons include buttons for the identifiable sections of each patent: Front Page, Drawings, Specifications, Claims, Certificates of Correction (if any), and Reexaminations (if any). [LawPundit comment: The forward and back arrows in the menu of AlternaTIFF do not to function in the version we got to run on our PC - you have to use the column menu left. A software interface out of the Stone Age.]
* Patent images must be retrieved from the database one page at a time. This is necessary since patents can be as long as 5,000 pages, and the resources required to allow downloading such "jumbo" patents are not available. Users employing third-party software which downloads multiple pages of a patent at once may find this practice subjects them to denial of access to the databases if they exceed PTO's maximum allowable activity levels. [LawPundit, commenting while falling over laughing. A denial of access for using newer technology? Unbelievable. One page at a time for patents as long as 5000 pages? And these people claim to have the competence to issue patents? Not in our book.]
* Successful printing of patent images is entirely dependent on the user's browser and image viewer software. PTO does not provide support for printing problems. We will suggest, however, based on our experience, that with most image viewers, images may best be printed using the plug-in's print button rather than the browser's print function." [LawPundit comment: Based on what we see, the USPTO should not be giving anybody ANY advice, but should rather be opening their ears TO TAKE ADVICE from the literally millions of people on this planet who appear to be more savvy about these things than they are.]
Do we need the USPTO? Not the one that presently exists.