More on THAT website ...

Feelings are clearly running high over the new UK Patent Office website, which has been the subject of one post and some comments on this weblog over the past day or so. In keeping with its commitment to serving the public's needs, the Patent Office has emailed the IPKat as follows:
"I see you've already had a few comments : the site has changed dramatically and we realise this may come as a bit of a shock to people the industry who are everyday users. Whilst things have moved around a lot there is very little that was on the old site that is not on the new. Its just a matter of getting used to the change".
Indeed. The IPKat is not averse to change, but at least one half of the team prefers it when the benefits of that change are (i) plainly apparent and (ii) introduced with words of gentle guidance and warning.

Disbelief was the IPKat's first reaction when he accessed his favourite site, only to find that it had mutated ...

The IPKat also wonders if the Patent Office (which he continues to view with admiration, respect and indeed affection) would be kind enough to answer the following questions:

1. Was the new website trialled by control groups of existing users and potential users? If so, how many - and when? And what were the findings?

2. Is the Patent Office planning to monitor users' responses to the new site?

3. Was any feedback openly sought from existing users as to how they found the old site (which was pretty good, to put it mildly)?

4. Did the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys or the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys - both of which have very considerable experience of running accessible and user-friendly IP websites themselves - have any opportunity to make any suggestions, constructive or otherwise, as to how the website could and should work?

5. Did any of the academic institutes which regularly send their students to the Patent Office website have a chance to offer any input?

6. What advantage is there in letting something like this come as a shock to users? The website exists for the benefit of the users, not the other way round. The IPKat will repeat that because he's angry at having wasted time and effort when he was working under time pressure and really could have done without this: THE WEBSITE EXISTS FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE USERS, NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND.

Anyone wanting to know how users feel about change should read this
MORE ON THAT WEBSITE MORE ON <em>THAT </em>WEBSITE Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 Rating: 5


  1. I'm not even sure that those working at the Patent Office itself were aware of the changes (apart from the fact that something was changed yesterday). A case in point being that Phil Thorpe (a Hearing Officer, and clearly a very experienced and able man) was unable to point delegates at today's CIPA seminar on inventorship and entitlement to any addresses on the website for more information, other than to say that the information was "there, somewhere".

    I might also point out that at least one other reference to a specific page on the website was included in today's seminar by a very senior member of the profession. This would, of course, not work. I imagine he would not be impressed, but I will let him speak for himself if he wishes to.

  2. Before the site changed I could dowload any patent, design or trade mark form when needed. Now there is a glitch and the forms do not download directly and, if saved to a file, have unusable areas. Hopefully this problem will be overcome but advance warning of the change would have been appreciated. I first learnt the change form IPKat.

  3. Although I'm an Australian lawyer, I used to use the UK TMO to work out classes for the goods/services claimed in my clients' applications.

    But now with the new design, the link that is meant to lead to the classification database simply goes straight back to the front page - in a frame.

    Was this site actually tested before it went live?

  4. Another negative feature of the new site is that there used to be a useful groups of pages giving access to decisions by type and by year and then listed reverse chronologically for each year. This made it easy to check for new decisions periodically. This has now gone and instead there is general search facility. While that is a useful addition, it is not excuse for removing the old pages.

  5. Given the Patent Office comments of "there is very little that was on the old site that is not on the new", I was wondering if anyone (from the PO or otherwise) could answer for me the following questions:

    1. Why, when a link to an old page is followed, is there not an automatic redirection to where the page is now? Surely the people responsible for redesigning the site will have a list of these?

    2. Where is the list of applications made under sections 27 and 75, previously available here? (An answer that includes "they are all published in the Journal anyway" does not really help).

    3. Why is it no longer possible to automatically check for changes on the site, eg using Are there plans to provide an RSS feed so that we don't have to keep manually checking?

    4. Where has all the information about the Patents Act 2004 gone?

    I could go on, but I have other things to do.

  6. This is a really annoying thing to have done. All the links on our intranet and records system are now broken and have to be re-written. Some warning about the changes would have been useful so that we could have had our updates ready to roll.

    And look at this page -- the search box doesn't even appear on the screen!

    What a botch job! How about thinking about the users?

    Previous poster mentioned RSS feeds. They really should think about that. Access to data at the Patent Office has always been bad and this website update confirms that view. For instance, if I just want to look at e.g. the miscellaneous page in the OJ (where the interesting stuff hides) then why should I have to download the whole bleeding OJ??? Megabytes of wasted bandwidth at both ends How about a RSS feed of new items in each section? Or the option just to download a PDF of one section? Someone in Newport should grab database access by the proverbials and sort things out.

  7. Just thought I'd respond directly to one of the IPKat questions, and a comment from someone else on this list.

    Q3. Was any feedback openly sought from existing users as to how they found the old site (which was pretty good, to put it mildly)?

    Answer: Yes. I actually wrote to the UKPO a few months back asking if they were going to be adding RSS feeds for updates. The response to that query was a pretty clear "No", and a link directing me to a feedback page on their old website, which explained that they were planning on updating the site in the near future. How I would have found this feedback page without being told about it, I don't know.

    My big gripe about the new website is that it is no longer possible to view a list decisions. You have to fill in the search form boxes. It also means that you can't just have a quick look at the list to see if any new decisions have come out, but need to run a search every time. Annoying is not the word!

  8. I've received this email from Tibor Gold, one of the most respected figures on the UK IP scene:

    "This is what I tried to post re PO website
    Yes I was promised consultation but it never came. I spent days and days in visits to my office and talking to those who have promised enhancements to the TM search pages. Very disheartening.

    Specifically: there was a useful page 'Forms and Fees' listing all the forms in pdf AND explaining what they do AND telling you if a fee is payable. When I went to the new website to check a fee the page was gone - someone in Wales must think I remember which Form carries a fee and if so how much...

    Plus ca change, plus c'est pire".

  9. I presume Tibor is referring to what is now available here. However, as he says there is a lot that is missing compared to the information available on the previous site.

    If I may quote the patent office themselves:

    "Change is not always easy and we recognise that it may take time for many of our regular users to become accustomed to the new format. However we hope you will find the new format friendlier, quicker and easier to use".

    Patent attorneys will probably be quite good at getting used to change, given the many changes to patent law over recent times. It is not this that is the problem (though it is quite annoying). It is the quite LARGE amount of material that is clearly missing from the new site that is the main concern. Others now seem to have gradually become aware of this too. We all have the ability to eventually "become accustomed" to the new version (I have already), but I for one am not able to become accustomed to not being able to access important material that I could do before.

  10. I wrote a comment above about how the link on the trade mark section of the Patents, Trade Marks website led straight back to the front page, albeit in a frame.

    I'm currently doing a trade marks practice exam and one of the questions relates to classification of goods. So I'd thought I'd see if the problem had been fixed.

    It's been fixed alright. There doesn't seem to be a link to a classification guide anywhere on the website; at least, not where you'd think it would be - in the trade marks section!


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