For many years USPTO customers had been telling USPTO that it needed to scrap the dreaded “java applet” method of logging in which is the method that uses the EPF file. USPTO failed to act upon these suggestions and complaints from customers.
What finally pushed USPTO to devise a new way for logging in (the “MyUSPTO” approach) was not customer complaints but something else, namely that Oracle, the provider of Java, finally got around to announcing that it would start charging money for Java.
And indeed until a few weeks ago, it was all set that by February 15, 2019, USPTO would pull the plug on the EPF way of logging in.
It might be thought that this was the end of java applets for USPTO tasks. But no. Java is needed not only for the logging-in task, but also for the downloading of cited US patents and US patent publications from PAIR. What we are talking about is the ePatent reference program, which USPTO launched in 2004. USPTO launched ePatent reference at the time that USPTO ceased providing paper copies of cited US patents and cited US patent publications with paper-mailed Office Actions.
So if you are going to download cited US patents and cited US patent pubs from PAIR, you still need Java. And as of a month ago, you will need to pay a licensing fee to Oracle to be able to use Java.
I suspect that nobody at USPTO gave a moment’s thought to the fact that Java is needed for more than one task in PAIR. Not only for EPF logins, but also for downloading cited US patents and pubs.
Revised on March 18, 2019 to note that there is an advisory in PAIR that says:
Advisory (13FEB2019): Due to technical difficulties, users may not be able to complete downloads using ePatent Reference. USPTO technical teams are working to correct the issue.
The PAIR Announcements page does not provide any further explanation of this advisory. I cannot tell from what USPTO posted whether this February 13 Advisory is linked to the cutoff of the Java-based EPF login procedure that was previously scheduled to happen on February 15.