Why it is super-important to get a Power of Attorney filed in absolutely every patent file

Over in the patent practitioner’s listserv (see EFS-Web) a question came up the other day about managing customer numbers.  One list member pointed out that Private PAIR nowadays offers really handy file management functions.  The Private PAIR user can easily update and change customer numbers, for example.  But alert listserv member Jeffrey Wendt reminded us that these really handy file management functions are available only with respect to application files for which the user has filed a Power of Attorney (and has the good luck that the USPTO has recognized the Power of Attorney).  And in fact there are many reasons, not only this PAIR file-management reason, why it is very very important to get a POA filed in every one of your active files.  I will list some of these reasons. Continue reading

Why a laser printer has three colors of toner instead of two or four colors of toner

One of my favorite listservs is the E-Trademarkscones listserv.  This community of trademark practitioners raises fascinating practice questions.  Here is a question raised by one of the listserv members:

Does anyone have any recommendations on the best printers to use for trademark practice? We obviously need something that prints true colors. So a low-end printer probably won’t do. But we are also looking for high-capacity, non-shared printers that are economical on ink. Anyone have a printer they love?

The part about printing true colors got me thinking about how colors work.  When I took physics class in college the notion of “color” was pretty simple — you would pass a beam of white light through a prism and what would come out was a spectrum of colors.  The spectrum (literally a continuous spectrum) was composed of an infinite number of distinct wavelengths, each of which would be emitted from a prism at a particular distinct exit angle.  But with printers, there are actually only three colors of toner.  How can this be? Continue reading

Success and failure with Dolby 5.1 surround sound

In this article I report success and failure with Dolby 5.1 surround sound on various streaming players.  There is no single best streaming player, I conclude, at least not among the streaming players that I tested.  The results are puzzling. Continue reading

Brexit and intellectual property

By now we have all seen the news.  The voters of the UK have decided to leave European Union.  I frankly feel this was not the best decision, but I will save my own detailed comments on this decision for later discussions.

For many readers the near-term question is how this will affect intellectual property protection.  Here’s my take on this.
Continue reading

Six days remaining to migrate your EFT methods to FM

USPTO rolled out its FM (Financial Manager) system in April of 2016. One of the USPTO’s goals is to force every customer using EFT (electronic funds transfer) for USPTO payments to migrate its EFT method into the FM system. To this end, USPTO has set a last possible date of June 30, 2016 (six days from now) for this task.

If you miss the June 30, 2016 date, USPTO says it will simply shut down your EFT method. To be able to use EFT in future, you will have to create a new EFT arrangement. Setting up an EFT payment method involves an eight-day delay. So you would have a gap of some days or weeks during which you would be unable to use EFT for paying USPTO fees.

Clearly it will save you a lot of trouble if you can get your EFT payment method migrated into the FM system before the remaining six days have passed.

In our office we have two EFTs set up (drawing from two different bank accounts).  We found that the migration of the EFT methods into FM was not very difficult (as compared with the high level of difficulty to migrate our Deposit Account).

The chief challenge is that once the EFT methods got migrated, each of the users within our firm had to go through a complicated and annoying process of constructing extra passwords for use of the EFT methods.  The result is that each user had to print out yet another password and tape it to his or her computer screen.  So much for improving security with these things.

Have you already migrated your EFT payment methods into FM?  How did it go?  Please post a comment below.

Six days remaining to migrate your Deposit Account to FM

USPTO rolled out its FM (Financial Manager) system in April of 2016. One of the USPTO’s goals is to force every holder of a Deposit Account to migrate its Deposit Account into the FM system. To this end, USPTO has set a last possible date of June 30, 2016 (six days from now) for this task.

If you miss the June 30, 2016 date, USPTO says it will simply shut down your Deposit Account and drop a refund check in the mail to the last known mailing address for the Deposit Account. To be able to use a Deposit Account in future, you will have to create a new Deposit Account and load money into it. Very likely this would take a week or so. So you would have a gap of some days or weeks during which you would be unable to use a Deposit Account for paying USPTO fees. Hopefully the refund check would not get lost in the mail.

Clearly it will save you a lot of trouble if you can get your Deposit Account migrated into the FM system before the remaining six days have passed. To do this, you will need an “authorization code” that you don’t have and that USPTO probably never provided to you. To obtain this crucial “authorization code”, call up the Deposit Account Branch at 571-272-6500. When we called, a few weeks ago, the person who gave us our “authorization code” was a nice person named Rebecca.

I expect this migration process will be particularly difficult or impossible for USPTO customers with complicated Deposit Account arrangements.  For example a large corporation with several outside counsel firms may have a single Deposit Account which it permits the outside firms to use.  Each of the outside counsel firms might phone up Rebecca trying to learn the crucial “authorization code”.  June 30 might come and go without the migration being successfully accomplished.

How did your Deposit Account migration go?  Do you have any tips to share?  Please post a comment.

Djibouti has joined the PCT

Djibouti has joined the PCT.  This brings the number of members to 150.  You can read about this here.  Djibouti deposited its Instrument of Accession with WIPO on June 23, 2016.  As a consequence, any PCT application filed on or after September 23, 2016 will automatically designate Djibouti.

The two-letter code for Djibouti is DJ.

Seeing the tot150-membersal now at 150 makes me think back to when I filed my first PCT application, in about 1986.  At that point the PCT was about eight years old, and the number of member states was about forty.  This graph shows the number of member states.


How to stream video with Dolby 5.1 surround sound

So you’d like to have Dolby 5.1 “surround sound” in your home theater.  The first step is, of course, to purchase a “surround sound” kit.  This will include six speakers — a subwoofer, a center speaker, and four small speakers to be placed in four corners of the room.  This will also include a six-channel audio amplifier.  Housed with the audio amplifier will be a decoder that can detect and receive a Dolby 5.1 surround sound signal, and that decodes it into six audio signals to be fed into the six audio amplifiers.  (You might find that your surround-sound amplifier is so old that it does not know how to decode a Dolby 5.1 signal, in which case you will have to replace your amplifier with a newer model.)

The next challenge is to find something to watch that has a Dolby 5.1 signal.  By far the easiest way is to purchase a DVD or Blu-Ray player that can read the Dolby 5.1 audio track on a disk and can pass the Dolby 5.1 signal to the decoder mentioned above.

There are two ways that you might connect your disk player to your surround sound amplifier for purposes of Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  One way is a shielded audio cable with an RCA plug at both ends.  The other way is a so-called “SPDIF” optical cable.  (If you get stuck with a disk player with an optical output and an amplifier with an RCA input, or vice versa, there are adapters you can purchase that will convert from one kind of connection to the other.)

Related to this is that you need to find a disk to play that has a Dolby 5.1 audio track.  Most recently released movies on DVD and Blu-Ray do have a Dolby 5.1 audio track.

When you cobble all of these things together, how do you know that you succeeded?  One indication that you have succeeded is that the amplifier will probably have a light or screen legend that will appear whenever the amplifier detects that the incoming audio signal is a Dolby 5.1 signal.  It is important to learn where this light or screen legend is, as I will mention below.  A second indication that you have succeeded might be that as you watch a movie, you hear non-identical things being emitted from the various room-corner speakers.

You might think that you could buy a “test DVD” that you could put into your DVD player to test this.  The test DVD would run through each of your six speakers one by one, with a voice saying (for example) “left front” that is emitted by the left front speaker.  Indeed you might think that the company that sold you your surround sound system would provide such a disk.  But I haven’t been able to find such a test DVD.

Once you get to the point where you can consistently get surround sound to work for watching movies on disk, and once you learn to interpret the lights or screen displays on your amplifier so that you know you are actually getting Dolby 5.1 to work, can you sit back and relax?  Of course not.  If there’s anything we have learned it is that physical media are on their way out.  Some day we won’t use disks any more and we will usually stream our entertainment.

Which then raises the natural question, how may we set up our streamed entertainment so that we can somehow get a Dolby 5.1 signal and feed it to our surround sound amplifier and get six-channel surround sound from our streaming service?  And that is the point of this blog article. Continue reading

Fairly urgent to-do items for the designers of Financial Manager

In April of 2016, USPTO launched its FM (Financial Manager) system with a modest feature set, namely it could be used for paying patent maintenance fees.  I blogged about this here.  The FM system was intended to be a successor to (and an abrupt replacement for) the Financial Profile (FP) system that USPTO customers had known and loved for many years.

A week later, USPTO extended the reach of FM to TEAS.  By this is meant that a TEAS user who reached the point of having to pay money would encounter the FM page instead of the familiar RAM page for paying the fee.  I blogged about this TEAS development here.

Within days of the launch of FM, it became clear to users that (a) USPTO had not been completely successful at bringing all features of FP forward into FM and (b) the feature set of FM had not been thought through very well.

Now within the past couple of weeks, the territory-creep of FM has gotten much broader.  It extends to OEMS (the system for ordering certified copies of things) and to EFS-Web.  USPTO intends that very soon, every USPTO e-commerce system that involves user payments will be migrated to the FM system.

So what are some of the missing features of FM?

For example suppose you are an FM administrator for your firm or company.  Suppose that today you hired a new employee and you need to get that employee connected to FM so that the employee can use your various payment mechanisms to pay fees to the USPTO.  Depending on the number of payment mechanisms that you have set up in FM, it might take anywhere from many dozens of mouse clicks to several hundred mouse clicks to get that employee fully connected to FM.

Of course the way it should work is this:

I log in to FM and I paste in the user ID of a new user.  And then I click on “add payment mechanism privileges” or some such.  And it brings up a list of all of the payment payment mechanisms for which I am an administrator.  And it lets me do a “select all” and then uncheck a few if needed.  And then all of the payment mechanisms get added to this new user.

In other words, adding a new user ought to be three or four mouse clicks instead of several hundred mouse clicks.

If USPTO had done meaningful beta testing of FM, I am quite sure that the beta users would have complained loudly about having to do several hundred mouse clicks every time a new employee is hired.  Given the absence of this feature, one is left with the sense that USPTO did very little if any beta testing of FM before rolling it out.

I suggested this feature to the FM developers two months ago.  Two months have passed and FM still does not have this feature.

Another problem area arises if as an FM administrator I add a payment method.  For example I might add a deposit account or a credit card.  The way FM works now, I certainly can add a new payment method.  But at that point, nobody at my firm or corporation can actually use the new payment method.  If I have, say, ten users in FM, it is likely to take around two hundred mouse clicks to enable each of those ten users to use the new payment method.

The alert reader will know where I am going with this.  The designers of FM should provide a feature like this:

I have just added a new payment method.  At that point, I click on “add users” or some such.  And FM brings up a list of all of the users who are connected with any of the other payment mechanisms for which I am an administrator.  And it lets me do a “select all” and then uncheck a few if needed.  And the selected users all get added to this new payment mechanism.

I suggested this to the developers of FM two months ago.  No such feature as of today.

A related feature would be a sort of “add from list”. Here is what is needed:

I add or select a payment mechanism.  And then I click on “bulk add users” or some such.  And it lets me paste in a list of users, separated by my choice of whitespace or commas or semicolons.  And the users all get added to this new payment mechanism.

The alert reader will guess what I am going to say next.  I suggested this feature to the FM developers two months ago, and it has not been implemented.

Another missing feature:

As an FM administrator I need to be able to click somewhere and generate a list of all of the authorized users in our firm or corporation.  (By this we mean a list of a list of all persons who have any privileges connected with any payment mechanisms for which I am an administrator.)  This list needs to show their user names.  (This is important because a user can change his or her user name at any time and might have changed it ten minutes ago.)  From this list it ought to be possible to click on a particular user to see a sub-page detailing the payment methods for which that person is authorized.

FM lacks this feature despite the feature having been suggested two months ago.

A related missing feature is this.  I am an FM administrator.  I need to be able to click on the name of one of our users, and bring up a list of the payment methods for which that user is authorized.

As things now stand there is no way to do anything resembling this except by doing several hundred mouse clicks through all of one’s payment methods.

Yet another missing feature is this.  Suppose an employee suddenly becomes an ex-employee.  For example suppose someone gets fired.  It would be helpful if I, as an FM administrator, could click on a user list to select that user.  And then if I could click on a button that simply cancels that user’s permissions to use all payment methods.

As things now stand in FM, the cancellation of all payment method permissions for a newly fired employee would take at least a few dozen mouse clicks and for some offices it would be several hundred mouse clicks.

What features would you like to see in USPTO’s Financial Manager system?  Please post a comment about this.