IP Australia automates with Web services

Australia’s intellectual property governing body, IP Australia, has embarked on a world-leading Web services project that will enable electronic patent lodgement to reduce the amount of manual processing required.

IP Australia’s acting CIO and director of IT architecture, Paul Ayers, said 60 per cent of all patent applications from patent attorneys are still paper-based.

“We have been looking at a project to make this electronic and are putting in a system now to facilitate this,” Ayers said. “It won’t eliminate all pen and paper processing but the top 10 patent firms apply for 60 per cent of all patents. And (any change) is probably a couple of years out as they need to adjust their IT systems.” The Web services project is using XML as the data interchange format because XML was chosen by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as the preferred standard.

“This project opens the door to international exchange of patent information so it will kill two birds with one stone,” Ayers said. “In November we will trial data exchange with WIPO. There is a push for international (intellectual property) communications.” Ayers said the Web services concept that IP Australia is running for the B-to-B project “is, as far as the team knows this is the first project to utilize such technology.”

“We’re now at stage one, the pilot, but this system will go into production,” he said. “We’re taking a risk-averse approach but we take our data seriously,” he said adding the IP Australia should go into production at the end of the year.

Ayers said this project is a significant step forward for document interchange and it is the most strategic project for IP Australia’s business.

The technology driving the project is being developed around IP Australia’s existing infrastructure and won’t require any upgrades.

“It’s a PKI system using Betrusted’s hosted security service,” he said. “We’re outsourcing the trusted net security server and archive it when it’s validated. Once we get the package it will be processed through our backend systems running on the same Solaris box. This is the last step as we only care about the information integrity.” IP Australia is also using the ATO-developed Common use Signing Interface (CSI) to digitally encrypt, or sign, the online applications.

“We’ve done a lot of work with other government agencies and the CSI is tried and tested and no investment is required,” Ayers said.

Also being used is the open source Hermes message service handler for secure document exchange, which Ayers believes is another first.

“The overall solution can be regarded as leading edge and we have carefully chosen both the technical architecture and outsourcing model to provide a cost-effective, safe and reliable method of communication between our partners and IP Australia,” he said. “We’re still going through the ROI but the real cost savings is in automating the manual processes like names and dates. At each stage we will review our costs and be careful with our investment.”

In addition to this Web service project, IP Australia is also on the lookout for a new CIO to oversee its completion as well as migrating off the remaining two mainframes, which are still in service, by June 2006.

Acting CIO Ayers said it’s a good opportunity for a change and to bring in fresh blood.

“Our previous CIO accepted a transfer to another government department after four years in the role,” he said. “We’d like to get off the mainframes by June 2006 but it will be a big challenge. We’re only using 30 MIPS and couldn’t justify the cost.”

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