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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Tracks IT Assets

The federal agency tagged more than 115,000 items to improve inventory efficiencies and reduce costs.
By Lauren S. Roman
Feb 13, 2017

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a performance-based federal government agency, is funded by the fees charged for filing patent applications and trademark registrations. Its mission is to administer the laws and regulations related to patents and trademarks in order to promote industrial and technical progress in the United States, and thereby strengthen the domestic and global economies. The USPTO carries out its mission by examining patent and trademark applications, issuing patents and registering trademarks, disseminating patent and trademark information to the public, and encouraging a domestic and international climate in which intellectual property can flourish.

The USPTO comprises nearly 13,000 employees, plus an estimated 2,000 contractor support personnel. Its main campus is located in Alexandria, Virginia, and consists of eight buildings housed on approximately 2.5 million square feet of office space. The agency also has four regional offices located in Detroit, Denver, Dallas and San Jose. It maintains more than 115,000 assets—including IT and AV equipment, photocopiers, hubs, iPads, printers, routers, servers and televisions—at its various locations.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark is headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
The agency falls under the Department of Commerce (DOC), which requires all bureaus and offices to inventory assets annually. To meet the DOC's mandate on time, the USPTO conducted inventory counts four times annually. Property accountability officers (PAOs) and property custodians (PCs), including senior-level executives and GS 14- and 15-level employees, were responsible for conducting the counts. Some of the PCs are also patent and trademark examiners who review applications. These employees spent roughly 7,700 hours a year managing assets rather than reviewing revenue-generating applications. The USPTO also found that, on average, a patent and trademark examiner often spent up to six hours every year verifying equipment.

Tom King, who works in the Office of Administrative Services (OAS), is responsible, along with Vickie Bryant, for overseeing the Chief Administrative Office's (CAO) property- and asset-management programs at the USPTO. King and Bryant were both aware of how time-consuming the asset-inventory process was, and of the impact on the agency's mission. They knew there had to be a more efficient way, and thus reached out to Wes Clark, from the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), to discuss ideas.

"By and large," King says, "most government agencies consider asset management to be secondary compared to their main mission. We saw that automating the location and movement of our assets with RFID technology would allow us to spend more time fulfilling USPTO's main goals."

In September 2016, the USPTO deployed an RFID asset-tracking solution. The system monitors more than 115,000 IT assets at multiple locations and spans more than 160 floors where nearly 15,000 federal employees and contractors work. The expected return on investment for the $2.8 million project is 18 months, King says.

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