Patent office emphasizes users in new filing system

CIO John Owens told FedScoop that the agency is eager to receive feedback from intellectual property lawyers and firms.

User-centered design will be a top priority as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office develops its new online patent filing and viewing system, agency CIO John Owens told FedScoop.

The agency is eager to gather feedback from intellectual property lawyers, firms and other users before it starts development on its eCommerce Modernization, or eMod, platform, he said. Announced last month, eMod would aim to improve how patents are submitted and reviewed.

After the office receives feedback, a team will sift through suggestions to determine what functions the system should have, he said. Then, developers will “storyboard” different user scenarios — meaning they’ll draw pictures of what a user’s screen will look like and the workflow for different functions.

Owens has been outspoken about his support of DevOps, a trendy IT ideology that underscores the need for development and operations staffs to work together so they can release systems more quickly. And he said focusing on the user sets the stage for agile development, a key component of DevOps.


Users can give the agency feedback on the project’s Ideascale page, which currently has 85 ideas posted and 275 comments. They also can offer suggestions via email at or by attending one of the agency’s outreach events.

The update was part of a larger plan to overhaul the agency’s IT systems, he said. Patent office Director Michelle Lee has made it a priority for the agency to improve the quality of patents it issues — and cut into the office’s nearly 570,000-application backlog. In the past, she’s said improving the agency’s IT could help boost patent quality.

Earlier this year, his office released its Patents End-to-End platform, which would streamline how examiners evaluate patent applications. Owens said staff has taken to the new program.

“I’ve never seen a product launch as successfully as this one,” he told FedScoop at his headquarters office.

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