Unacceptable situation at the USPTO

Well, we are going into our fifth hour of EFS-Web and PAIR being broken at the USPTO.  When a customer tries to get into EFS-Web, the very disappointing situation is that this message shows up on the USPTO web site:

EFS-Web and EFS-Web Contingency are unavailable.

The system status page on the USPTO web site says:

The USPTO is performing emergency maintenance on multiple systems which began at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, August 15 and is expected to be completed by 5:30 a.m., Thursday, August 16 ET.

On a practical level this means that it may well turn out that it is impossible to get a same-day filing date at the USPTO for filing of new patent applications today.

Of course you can go down to the post office and file by means of Priority Mail Express.  But then USPTO will ding you with a $400 penalty for failing to e-file.

This situation is unacceptable.

Keep in mind that if the thing that you need to do is filing a PCT application, you have about another hour and half during which you could file it at RO/IB.  You don’t necessarily have to use RO/US as your way of filing a PCT application.

More than two years ago (on April 1, 2016) I explained (blog post) what USPTO did (or rather, should have done) to guard against this kind of failure.  Unfortunately it seems that even now in 2018, USPTO permits all too many single points of failure that can lead to the main EFS-Web server and the contingency EFS-Web server to both be broken at the same time.  It’s as though both e-filing servers were plugged into the same extension cord, and through a bit of bad luck somebody tripped over the extension cord and unplugged it.

Earlier today I dropped emails to several of the people at the USPTO who are in charge of these systems.  One by one, each of these people sent me an automated “vacation” email.  Here are some of the vacation messages:

  • I am out of the office and will return 8/17.
  • I am currently out of the office and will return on 8/20.
  • I’m currently out of the office and will return on Thursday (8/23).

14 thoughts on “Unacceptable situation at the USPTO

  1. Pingback: A big day on the Ant-Like Persistence blog - Ant-like Persistence

  2. I just had my digital certificate expire with absolutely no warning. While I can file paperwork as an unregistered filer, I can’t get into private PAIR at all to retrieve records or file any document in an existing case that has not yet published.

    The certificate action form can be faxed to the USPTO (it requires a hand signature – an electronic signature will not be accepted). Retrieval is said to take 3-5 business days and one is notified by email. Then one must call the EBC to set it up, as I understand it.

    Has anyone else dealt with this?

    • Keep in mind the following.
      First, when an EPF file expires, the unpleasant Java applet will actually obtain a new cert and will store it someplace for you. So now you can go on a treasure hunt and try to find it.
      Second, you can just borrow your colleague’s account for the day. In our office for example we simply share all EPF files and passwords among all of the people in our office.
      Third, you could have previously downloaded and saved your “recovery codes” which would permit recovering your cert immediately.
      But yes, if these three points do not help, then you get to wait maybe a week for the new cert to get generated and sent to you.

    • Yes, I too had unexpected issues with my digital certificate a couple of days ago. I got an error: “Entrust Error 704 – Error authenticating user, certificate is revoked or expired”.

      I phoned the EBC at their direct line: 571-272-4100. A very helpful employee there worked me through resetting my certificate via the EFS online system. I was able to use the USPTO EFS portal website, enter a couple of reset codes that he gave me, and then download a new .epf certificate.

      Note, this online recovery probably won’t work until EFS is back up. But maybe give their direct line a call, and see if they can help out.

      • Reposting this as a reply rather than a new comment.
        If multiple people use your certificate, it may have been renewed when one of them was using it, and they would have received a pop-up notification that it has been renewed. If you then try to log on using your copy of the old certificate, you’ll get an authentication error. You might want to ask around, and tell anyone who uses your certificate to let you know if it has been renewed so you can copy the renewed certificate from wherever it is stored to your computer.

        • Thank you for posting! Yes this is exactly right, you can go on a treasure hunt and sometimes you can find the new certificate.

    • Continuously at my firm. Per the USPTO a couple of months ago, the system only randomly provides an expiration warning pop-up, by which you can capture your renewed certificate. There are no plans to make any changes or repairs to ensure consistent notification, due to the expected rollout of Patent Center in 2020. Maddening!

  3. If multiple people use your certificate, it may have been renewed when one of them was using it, and they would have received a pop-up notification that it has been renewed. If you then try to log on using your copy of the old certificate, you’ll get an authentication error. You might want to ask around, and tell anyone who uses your certificate to let you know if it has been renewed so you can copy the renewed certificate from wherever it is stored to your computer.

  4. Haven’t done a fax filing in >10 years, but ye olde typewriter worked to complete the cc charge form, as did ye olde fax machine, and I did get a return fax from the USPTO within 5 minutes after filing, around 20:30 today. May not be trendy, modern and up-to-date, but considering the USPTO’s systems today….

  5. Any word on why the systems are down this time?

    If the PTO left the EFS-Web Contingency server in Denver after the 2015 catastrophic crash, how did we have another one in 2018?

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