Currently, the USPTO is looking to unload about 2 petabytes (i.e., 2000 terabytes) of patent-related data sets to an outside vendor in an effort to segregate public data from the examiner systems, and to make "virtually all public information from the USPTO accessible on the Internet. " Importantly, the PTO wants to make this information free of charge to the public, including current pay-for-service data products (e.g., XML Grants). Also, this change appears to be part of a longer-term "data dissemination solution" for allowing high-volume dissemination.
These data sets include:
• Application documents (Specification, Claims, Amendments, etc.)
• Meta Data associated with the Applications (Application Data/Transaction History/Patent Term Adjustment/Patent Term Extension Foreign Priority/Attorney Address/Continuity Data/Published Documents)
• Assignment Data, including history of assignments
• Fee Data Associated with the Patent Application/Patent
• Application Meta Data (document or paper type/ date of the paper/ page size)
Notably, the USPTO has no current plans to scan or convert paper files into electronic form.
According to the USPTO:
One of the agency’s potential solutions is to enter into one or more no cost contract(s) where the vendor(s) will fund the development of a secure infrastructure at the USPTO that will permit unrestricted delivery (exceptions to this may be treaties with foreign countries or data considered to be sensitive if shared with certain other specific countries/entities) of the data in bulk or a common machine readable format to the vendor. The vendor will be responsible for funding the ongoing operation of the infrastructure, including the maintenance of the historical data and the periodic updates to the data. The vendor will also be required to make the data that is provided by the USPTO available to the public on a no charge basis. As part of any resulting agreement, the vendor will be allowed to maintain, repackage (add value), distribute, and sell any resulting enhanced data sets and retain any fees collected.
For more information, see "USPTO's Data Dissemination Solution" via Fed BizOpps.gov (link)
Read the PTO's Q&A document on the project here (link)
For a timeline on the project, click here (link)
For a list of interested vendors competing for this work, see here (link)
See also, "Patent office wants help reselling data" (link)