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.

14 thoughts on “Fairly urgent to-do items for the designers of Financial Manager

  1. FM transaction searches are restricted to a single payment method. I would like to see the ability to search for a docket prefix across all payment methods, a feature FP had.

    FM requires a new password after 60 days. This is a bit too restrictive. I would like the password timeout to be admin configurable, or at least something more reasonable, like 90 to 120 days.

    It would like if the FM login were somehow linkable to one’s EFS login, so that as long as I am logged into EFS, I can pay fees without additionally logging into FM.

    I would like the receipts to use high-contrast text for everything, whereas they currently use very light gray for much of the text. For example, the new format for the Maintenance Fee Statement has a lot of the verbiage moved to an easy to overlook very light gray footer. The new look is trendy, but not the best for the low-color-contrast challenged.

  2. I am having trouble with using Chrome, as the USPTO black box below the payment methods covers up the payment methods and does not move down as you scroll down the payment method page. This does not occur in Internet Explorer and as such, I have had to switch between browsers (after forgetting once I input all the information for a Madrid filing this week, and had to start all over with the filing in Internet Explorer).

  3. It is not acceptable for U.S. government software not to work properly with Chrome and Edge, the most popular Internet browsers. Even Microsoft no longer uses Internet Explorer.

  4. It would be helpful if the user accounts were all linked to a main account, and the users could have one password, that didn’t need to be updated every several months. Currently, it’s an administrative nightmare when you have to continually update passwords and maintain an accurate list.

  5. It would be nice if law firm users could apply a nickname to a client’s deposit account that doesn’t affect anything established by the client. We have multiple Deposit Accounts and this would ensure there was no possible confusion and inadvertently using the wrong deposit account.

  6. I am not sure how easy it would be to implement, but i certainly agree with Bennett Smith that it would be great “if the FM login were somehow linkable to one’s EFS login, so that as long as I am logged into EFS, I can pay fees without additionally logging into FM.”

    I can see some potential issues with this, such as personnel authorized to upload or view items using your digital certificate, but whom you do not want to be able to pay for things. Although this, to me, doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, considering that these people can file things that may include an authorization to drain one’s deposit account.

    However, if the above was a big enough issue to prevent automatic access to FM when logged in to EFS, perhaps an additional location on the login screen, or a pop-up window, to enter FM credentials when logging in so you can log in to both systems at the same time.

    Alternatively, since all FM users have unique ID’s (to my knowledge), perhaps you can link the FM log-in to your digital certificate and log in only using your FM credentials in order to access EFS for patent filings.

  7. It seems that the comment is text only. My graphics appear in the original email post. Email chain follows. RICK
    ________________
    And that “System error” message is not browser or computer or even domain related. (I checked on 3 different browsers on two different PCs at different physical and logical locations.) Years ago I recall the PTO plowed 50 million dollars into IT infrastructure. And that was years ago. I do not understand why they continue to get tripped up. By comparison, I have not experienced any significant problems using the IB’s electronic services.

    RICK

    From: Efs-web [mailto:efs-web-bounces@oppedahl-lists.com] On Behalf Of RICK NEIFELD
    Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 10:06 AM
    To: Efs-web@oppedahl-lists.com
    Subject: Re: [Efs-web-L] Financial Manager

    Now after playing with the USPTO’s new my.uspto.gov account for a bit, it seems to be busted:

    From: Efs-web [mailto:efs-web-bounces@oppedahl-lists.com] On Behalf Of RICK NEIFELD
    Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 9:50 AM
    To: Efs-web@oppedahl-lists.com
    Subject: Re: [Efs-web-L] Financial Manager

    Responding to the new password requirement results in generation of a “New USPTO.gov account.” Allegedly the gateway to the future.
    Note the URL in the snippet below: my.ustpo.gov

    From: Efs-web [mailto:efs-web-bounces@oppedahl-lists.com] On Behalf Of RICK NEIFELD
    Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 9:42 AM
    To: Efs-web@oppedahl-lists.com
    Subject: [Efs-web-L] Financial Manager

    In a related post, someone noted that FM required them to update their password. Copied below is what I see when I log into FM. FM has not been running for along time. Why would it require us all to update our passwords now? Why no advance warning?

    Rick

  8. Because of the short period (60 days) and cumbersome requirements (12 characters, 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number, 1 special character), I am curious how strict the system will be when updating your password and if it will allow you to simply modify your existing password by addition or change of a character?

    An automatic expiration notification would be nice.

    I also feel the explanation and branding of myuspto.gov accounts / My Console / Financial Manager is lacking and confusing.

  9. I found it odd that when I set up my payment methods in FM that I needed three identifying numbers to transfer my deposit account. The only numbers required to use funds in my deposit account for the past 10 years have been the deposit account number and 4-digit code. I had no idea what the authorization code was, so I phoned the telephone number provided by the USPTO, which turns out is not the correct telephone number and I ended up being transferred several times. The person who ended up helping me asked for no identifying information except for my deposit account number and 4-digit code. She then provided the authorization code that was necessary to complete the transfer. Incredible.

    And as an aside, what is with the minimum balance requirement for deposit accounts? That has irked me for the last decade. As a solo practitioner, I have never required $1000 in available funds for a single transaction and it really angers me to be charged a penalty for dropping below the minimum. There does not appear to me to be any justifiable reason for this.

    • I always assumed the minimum balance requirement comes from the USPTO wanting an interest-free loan of at least a thousand dollars rather than some smaller amount.

    • Yes the transition process to migrate a deposit account from the pre-FM environment to the FM environment seemed not to have been well thought out. For many many years we at our firm had spent thousands and thousands of dollars through our deposit account, authenticating ourselves with nothing more than the deposit account number and a 4-digit code. Then for the FM migration suddenly it is not enough to present the deposit account number and the 4-digit code — it is additionally necessary to provide an “authorization code”.

      This would not be so bad if the USPTO had previously communicated this “authorization code” to us. But I am quite sure that USPTO had never previously communicated this precious “authorization code” to us in any way.

      After a while I worked out a guess as to why the designers of FM chose to require that we provide this super-secret authorization code as a precondition for migrating the deposit account into FM. The reason is that in FM, you can actually get money back from a deposit account if you click in the right place. In contrast, in the pre-FM environment, the only thing you could do in a computerized way with the deposit account was to spend money at the USPTO. Which is harmless. But giving money back, that’s sort of scary for the USPTO. That’s why the designers of FM chose to require that we provide this super-secret authorization code as a precondition for migrating the deposit account into FM.

      Like you, I was annoyed and disappointed about how difficult it was to reach the actual correct USPTO person who would be able to tell me our super-secret authorization code. The USPTO documentation for this migration process did not reveal this person’s telephone number. The online FM screens for this migration process did not reveal this person’s telephone number. The only way to reach this person was to get transferred repeatedly from one office to the next over the span of (in our case) about twenty minutes.

      And then like you, I was simultaneously astonished and disappointed when it turned out that this person revealed the authorization code to me over the telephone without actually doing anything to determine who I was or whether I had any actual legitimate connection with the deposit account. In other words as far as I can see, you could have called in and obtained my firm’s authorization code and I could have called in and obtained your firm’s authorization code, armed with nothing more than stuff that anyone could obtain from Public PAIR.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.