USPTO: Good Response on E-Mail System

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's recently launched E-mail Response Messaging System enables patrons to access customer support through a standard e-mail exchange.

The ERMS is continuously linked to USPTO's Office of Customer Support Services, general information services division, and is set up to reply with one of 48 pre-approved responses to frequently asked questions. Such questions include:

* What is the difference between a trademark and registration mark?

* Can I do a trademark search through the agency?

* Can I drop off my patent application in person?

However, if someone's e-mail inquiry contains questions that can't be answered with one of the pre-approved responses, the system sends an e-mail directing the customer to call (800) 786-9199 for assistance.

The ERMS, which was introduced Aug. 31 and set up by an outside contractor, has received about 70 e-mail messages a day, said Randy Bender, director of the office of customer support services. She said the system has performed so well that there are plans to use it internally in the future.

"We have patent and trademark examiners who e-mail questions to an internal help desk, and we want to use the system to handle those, put them in the database and better track how we respond to them," Bender said.

We tried out the system by sending the following question to usptoinfo@uspto.gov: Can I search for existing patents through your office? The system soon responded with a tracking number for our query, and within 24 hours, it delivered a detailed response.

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