Beginning a couple of years ago, some very nice people in the Issue Branch at the USPTO have promoted patent quality, and have promoted science and the useful arts, and have saved us as patent practitioners from a lot of stress and malpractice risk, by looking out for IDSs that have not been considered. In the past, we as patent practitioners had to pester the Examiners to consider such IDSs. Those very nice people in the Issue Branch at the USPTO do the pestering for us nowadays. I am guessing I will never get to learn the names of those very nice people, and will never have the opportunity to thank them directly. All that I can do, I guess, is thank them in this blog. Maybe someone at the USPTO who knows who those nice people are can print out this blog article and show it to them. Continue reading
From time to time I will encounter a patent practitioner who feels let down by the USPTO’s Application Assistance Unit. Indeed every now and then I will run into a practitioner who will say, surely in jest, that they feel the phrase “Application Assistance Unit” is an oxymoron. In my own experience, it is quite rare that the AAU fulfills its promise. A chief use case for the AAU is the filer who received a Notice indicating that there was some real or imagined flaw in an inventor’s declaration, or in an application data sheet, or in a power of attorney, and that the document involved is being bounced due to its real or imagined flaw. The Notice is invariably profoundly unhelpful and never actually comes out and says what exactly was supposedly wrong with the bounced document. The Notice always says that if you want to know what exactly was supposedly wrong with the bounced document, you can get the answer by placing a telephone call to the AAU. And in my experience, what never happens is the AAU actually answering the question.
So what can you do if you are not happy with how it went in your telephone call to the AAU? Continue reading
Yes, if you feel the need to protect your privacy at the Trademark Office, the price continues to be $100.
Today the Commissioner for Trademarks granted another of my petitions asking that I not be required to reveal to Trademark Office employees where I sleep at night. You can see the granted petition here.
USPTO has made it plain that it really wants filers to file their US patent applications in Microsoft Word format, not as PDFs. (USPTO expresses this wish by saying it wants patent applications to be filed in “DOCX” format, but of course there is no single “DOCX” format, there are many variants of DOCX and the only variant that USPTO handles correctly is the variant that Microsoft Word generates.) There are many drawbacks to the way that the USPTO has implemented its handling of patent applications filed in a DOCX format, and one of them is that this can result in a long delay in the visibility of the newly filed patent application in IFW. It is yet another reason to simply file in PDF format. Continue reading
This blog article describes the first of two defects in USPTO’s effort to bring the “last 40 ack receipts” function of EFS-Web forward into Patentcenter. Continue reading
It is commonplace that if one has Patentcenter open in two or more browser windows in the same browser, the “signed in” status will be inconsistent between the various browser windows.
Because the problem is intermittent, one assumes that this is not merely some coding error that can be fixed consistently by means of a simple correction of one line of code. Instead there are probably weird “race conditions” between internal processes within various USPTO systems, or synchronization failures between various USPTO systems. The problem is probably a very deep and difficult-to-fix problem rather than a simple fix-a-line-of-code problem.
I expect this is a “failure to scale” problem. As more users log ino and use Patentcenter, the various systems that are supposed to work together to provide a seamless user experience end up failing to keep properly in touch with each other.
This is trouble ticket number CP36.
PAIR has two modes — “Public PAIR” and “Private PAIR”. EFS-Web has two modes as well, a signed-in mode and a not-signed-in mode. So it is more or less to be expected that the USPTO developers of Patentcenter set it up so that there is a signed-in mode and a not-signed-in mode. The user interface of Patentcenter does an extremely poor job of letting you know if you have shifted from signed-in mode to not-signed-in mode and vice versa. But after one has used Patentcenter for some time one eventually picks up that one can figure it out by closely watching the blue menu bar at the top of the page. If you see five choices in that blue bar, it means one thing:
If you see eight choices in that blue bar, it means something else:
Can you guess which blue bar means which? Yes, you would probably guess that whichever menu bar has more choices, probably that is the menu bar that means your status is “signed-in”. And that is indeed the situation.
The main point of this blog article is that there is something defective in Patentcenter, probably at some very deep level, in the way that Patentcenter keeps track of whether you are signed in or you are not.
If you are signed in, this status is supposed to last a minimum of some period of time. If I recall correctly, that period of time is thirty minutes. So for example if you just e-filed something in Patentcenter, and less than thirty minutes have passed, you should be able to click around in the workbench in Patentcenter and you should be able to see the applications in your workbench.
But what many in the Patentcenter listserv have noticed is that the signed-in status in Patentcenter often disappears long before the end of the 30-minute timeout period. When it does so, this happens without notice. No pop-up asking you if you wish to continue being logged in.
I imagine this defect in Patentcenter is at some very deep level in the system, given how important it is for Patentcenter to keep track of which files each logged-in user is permitted to see.
This is a big problem in Patentcenter. It has trouble ticket number CP35.
Patentcenter, it is recalled, is the system that USPTO intends will replace PAIR and EFS-Web. Eventually USPTO will shut down PAIR and EFS-Web. USPTO has said from the beginning that one of its design imperatives for Patentcenter has been and is that every function and feature of PAIR and EFS-Web will be replicated into Patentcenter. One of the important features of EFS-Web is the web-based ADS.
In December of 2019, I noted that the web-based ADS feature of Patentcenter was defective. I was astonished to see that in Patentcenter, the drop-down list of Offices in which a priority application might have been filed omitted the European Patent Office. I reported this to the Electronic Business Center (“EBC”) and the EBC opened a “trouble ticket”.
Some fifty thousand times per year, an applicant files a patent application at the USPTO that claims priority from an EP application. If you use EFS-Web to file such an application, you can pick EPO from the appropriate drop-down list in the web-based ADS.
But as I say, astonishingly in Patentcenter the exact same drop-down list failed to include EPO as one of the choices.
USPTO says that one of the ways that beta testers of Patentcenter can report bugs in Patentcenter is by reporting the problem to the EBC. In my case, in December of 2019 I not only reported this problem to the EBC, but I took the extra step of opening an EBC trouble ticket. But it is clear that this bug reporting path does not work. In six months I never heard back from the EBC about this trouble ticket.
Then USPTO made Patentcenter open to all users. I launched the Patentcenter listserv and one of the earliest topics discussed was this defect in Patentcenter. I launched the Patentcenter trouble ticket page and this bug got listed as CP9. I blogged about this bug here.
Now the USPTO has quietly fixed this bug in Patentcenter.
I have three reactions to this development.
First, my first reaction is yes, of course it is a good thing that the Patentcenter developers finally did get around to fixing this defect in Patentcenter. Fifty thousand times per year an applicant in the USPTO claims priority from an EP application.
Second, and I mean this as a very serious question, why did it take six months for the Patentcenter developers to get around to fixing this bug? It speaks poorly for the USPTO that even though USPTO says one of the ways to report Patentcenter bugs is by reporting them to the EBC, the fact is that reporting a bug to the EBC seems to go into a black hole and the bug does not get fixed. It is unfortunate that what it took to get the Patentcenter developers to take this seriously was the formation of a listserv of 150 power users, and for the listserv to apply pressure at a very high level within the USPTO.
Third, and I also mean this very seriously, I feel it is very poor customer relations that I had to find out completely by accident that the USPTO finally got around to fixing this bug. It would be a matter of common courtesy for the USPTO to respond to the listserv to let the listerv know that the USPTO had gotten around to fixing this bug, and thus that CP9 could be closed. I learned of this only because one of the listserv members stumbled upon the newly corrected bug, and brought it to my attention.