What public bodies do with their websites is a matter of keen interest to the IPKat and his readers, particularly when there are consequences for the IP community (see earlier IPKat posts here and here, together with comments posted there). The saga continues.
Patent Office website
David Pearce (Eric Potter Clarkson LLP) has sent the IPKat the following correspondence. David wrote to the UK Patent Office webmaster last Monday:
"With regard to your new design of website, I have a few comments/complaints.On Friday 29 September Nick French, the Internet Team Manager, responded:
1. I note that decision O/226/06 (Sony Electronics Inc.) no longer appears to be available on the website. Is this an oversight perhaps?
2. While I am aware that you do not recommend 'deep linking', I find it incomprehensible why all previous links to pages have now changed, even though the material itself has not. I refer in particular to the Manual of Patent Practice, the practice notices and the individual patent decisions, all of which now have different addresses. I obviously do not expect you to do anything about this, but I would like to register my strong disapproval of this practice. Many people rely on the information available on your website, and it does not help ease of access if the information is arbitrarily moved around.
3. I personally found the ability to browse the patent decisions quite useful. This does not seem to be now available, except via a search page. A browsing facility would be nice to have back, if possible. After all, there are not that many decisions to view.
Over all, I am not impressed with the new website. It does not look any better, and is no easier to navigate around. A thumbs down all round, I'm afraid".
"Thank you for your email and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.David answered straight away:
In answer to your questions:
1. There are approximately 23 TM and 10 Patent decisions that are currently missing from the new website. Steps are being taken to include these together with more recent decisions as soon as possible and I remain hopeful that they will be available early next week. [...].
2. Due to the significant changes that we made on the website, the renaming of pages was unfortunately unavoidable. We have however attempted to put re-directors in place for as many references to our old site as possible so that users are automatically sent to the correct page on the new site.
If however you are still experiencing problems accessing information, please supply me with a list of information you are specifically looking for and I will be happy to supply you with a list of URLs.
3. I have discussed this request with our technical team and they are currently investigating ways in which we can supply a browse facility showing lists of all decisions (in a similar way to those on our old website). We hope we can implement a solution within the next few weeks.
If you have any further comments or suggestions with regards to our new website then please do not hesitate to contact me".
"Thank you for your reply. I understand your delay in replying, as I imagine you will be busy at the moment.Nick French came swiftly back with this:
You may also have noticed a few more 'gripes' on recent postings to the IPKat, which I hope you will also be able to take into account.
I had been wondering whether there were any other decisions that were lost in the move, but was unable to check. I only knew about the one I mentioned, since I had a link to it from my own website. I am glad to hear that you will be checking for others. Thank you for the copy. I notice, however, that the pdf copy is now available from two different urls on the site. Am I to assume that the correct place for the future is in the root directory, along with all other pdfs?
A redirection facility would be most welcome. It is difficult to check whether all the old material is still there in some form, since I have no local copy to refer to. I was instead relying on the material being available from your website. I will see if I can compile a list, and perhaps let you know if I am still unable to find things after giving you a little time for things to settle down.
To save you being asked the same questions by others, would you mind if all or part of your reply was reproduced more widely?".
"All the PDF decisions are held within the database so the correct route to them should be via the decisions search interface. However the browse facility, once available, should also provide users with an alternative route to the summary and decision.How very Britishly polite, the IPKat says. And ultimately how very sad that so much avoidable annoyance and frustration has been inflicted on so many sincerely committed members of the IP community.
If you feel that my previous response will be of benefit to colleagues then I am happy to agree to your request.
If I can be of any further assistance then please do not hesitate to contact me".
Information Commissioners' website
The IPKat was convinced that the affliction of the Patent Office website was a one-off phenomenon, so he was both surprised and disappointed to receive this email missive from respected scholar and BAILII godfather Professor Philip Leith (School of Law, University of Belfast):
"It's not just the Patent Office. The Information Commissioner removed a whole load of research reports in their updated site. I thought it was a mistake and contacted them, to be told it was now policy. I have complained to Richard Thomas that it hardly proves their claim to be interested in research (or, I suppose, Freedom of Information). They see these sites as pushing a corporate view rather than being a historical resource, I think. But now they are left with broken links all over the place and no systematic way of referencing documents. A mess, in other words".So it would seem. Still awaiting a reply from the Information Commissioners, Philip adds:
"You could also suggest that if anyone is bothered by boring old research reports cluttering up their nice new web sites, they could consider archiving it all to www.bailii.org who will index the materials with a sensible citation system, store it for eternity, and make it freely available to the research community".Now, that's a really constructive suggestion and the IPKat would be delighted to see it taken up. The Patent Office, too, could make its decisions of hearing officers and Appointed Persons available for browsing on BAILII, which already provides similar facilities for Patents Court (and other) judicial decisions.