Trademark Automation:

Search System Improved But Funding for Replacement Should Be Deferred

IMTEC-91-66: Published: Sep 11, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 3, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Patent and Trademark Office's (PTO) actions and plans to improve and replace T-Search, the automated search and retrieval system used to determine whether an applicant's trademark is confusingly similar to pending or registered trademarks.

GAO found that: (1) PTO has acted to address users' complaints by moving T-Search to a different mainframe computer, and improving its access, speed, and availability; (2) in order to improve the quality of information in the database, PTO instituted standards for data entry and improved the training provided to data entry staff; (3) for fiscal year (FY) 1992, PTO requested $1.4 million in its budget proposal, but funded the systems upgrade effort during FY 1991 because of the system's age; (4) PTO decided to replace the T-Search system because it believed a new system using modern technology would more effectively and efficiently meet user needs; (5) PTO planned to issue a solicitation for the T-Search replacement system in FY 1991, but delayed issuance by about 6 months because of schedule slippage for studies needed to justify the procurement; and (6) for FY 1992, the PTO budget proposal included $3.3 million to develop the replacement system, but PTO will not obligate any of those funds until FY 1993.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Pursuant to the recommendation, Congress reduced the PTO FY 1992 budget request by the $4.7 million PTO requested for T-Search upgrades and replacement.

    Matter: The House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and Judicial Administration, may wish to reduce the PTO budget request for FY 1991 by $1.4 million, the amount PTO requested to upgrade T-Search. The Committee may also wish to defer the $3.3 million requested for the replacement system until PTO provides the Committee with the analyses and studies needed to justify replacing T-Search.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: PTO has completed the analyses required to justify T-Search replacement projects, including a functional requirements document and a cost/benefit analysis. Results of these analyses have been provided to the Committee in response to questions during budget authorization hearings. These analyses were also used to support the FY 1993-94 budget request for trademark automation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks to: (1) ensure that PTO completes the analyses and studies needed to justify T-Search replacement projects; and (2) provide the results of these analyses and studies to the Committee so it will have information on which to evaluate the PTO need for increased computer spending authority for FY 1992 and beyond.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce


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