Tactility is a set of technologies extending a browser-based Case Management System (Web CMS) to navigate a document-centered process in a structured fashion, despite stakeholders exchanging relatively unstructured PDF and DOC(X).
In many processes, counterparties exchange documents to reach a conclusion. Some processes are are governed by laws and rules (e.g. patent grant, litigation, building permit, 501(c)3 nonprofit determination, SBIR grant, etc.). Other processes are more ad hoc (e.g. contract negotiation, publications, research, etc.). But even in the latter case, organizations which regularly undertake a particular process may systematize it by, for example, using standard contract templates/clauses and tracking deviations.
Case Management System
Software adapted to work with documents in the context of a process is sometimes called a Case Management System (CMS). For example, the European Patent Office (EPO) tendered for a CMS in order examiners can view and annotate documents in dossiers containing applications, forms, actions, and prior art while navigating the patent grant process. Most modern CMS are implemented to run natively in a web browser (Web CMS).
A suitable exchange format requires counterparties be able to author, view and review (annotate and edit) documents. If documents are worked on in a central service, their format is irrelevant. However, most counterparties work in a distributed fashion. Possible exchange formats include email, PDF, DOC(X), and XML. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages:
- Email is easiest for ad hoc exchanges but is hard to manage for more substantial or prolonged interactions.
- PDF is a predominant exchange format. It is easy to view but typically entails difficulty “capturing” to other formats or preparing for editing
- DOC(X), with track changes support, is more suitable than email for substantial interactions but is susceptible to malware, cannot be limited to a schema (documents can include disallowed objects and structures), can inadvertently embed private document history, and is poor at tracking changes through multiple revisions.
- XML failed to achieve adoption for exchange format in all but the most regulated processes because it requires specialized tools to create, view, and modify. For example, the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) distributed free software to applicants whereby they could prepare applications in XML but discontinued supporting that software due to lack of adoption.
Tactility is a set of technologies which can be incorporated into a Web CMS. Tactility addresses key deficiencies of PDF—it automatically captures PDF to appropriate XML, keeps PDF and XML synchronized to ensure accuracy, and maintains annotations and edits across versions as counterparties exchange PDF. This approach leverages PDF’s human-readability, tracks changes across arbitrarily long revision cycles, and attains XML’s structure advantages.
While conventional Web CMS improves productivity only around document distribution, Tactility improves quality, timeliness, and productivity by focusing on detailed work within the documents instead of treating documents as opaque objects. For example, in the patent grant process, Tactility…
- progressively captures initial and amended filings to a XML patent schema;
- controls terminology (e.g. part references, figure references, claim references, and callouts);
- integrates structured object editors for mathematics, chemistry, tables, and biological sequences;
- analyzes a claim set as a collapsible hierarchy;
- propagates annotations across formats and versions; and
- uses annotations to automatically generate and maintain communications.
These capabilities can be reconfigured for other subject areas such as litigation, contract negotiation, financial audits, building permits, medical device regulatory filings, etc.
While Tactility provides a centralized, collaborative editing environment which can be configured for a particular subject area, its unique value proposition is accommodating a distributed working style where stakeholders work in their own environments (with legacy tools such as Microsoft Word) and interact only when exchanging documents.