Patentcenter fails to complain promptly about lack of document description

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(This is trouble ticket CP28.)

When you upload a document in Patentcenter as part of an e-filing task, sometimes Patentcenter will make a guess as to the document description that makes sense.  Other times, Patentcenter will quietly offer a hint that maybe you should provide a document description.  That hint is communicated by a text-free rectangle as shown at right.  At this point you are on the “upload documents” page of Patentcenter.  Suppose you click “continue”?  What will happen next?

Of course what should happen next is that the “continue” button should be grayed out.  It should not even be possible to click “continue”.   Patentcenter should politely decline to move on to the next page. 

Or, if the designers failed to gray out the “continue” button, then what should happen next is that Patentcenter should put a big red border around this “hint” rectangle, and provide some words on the screen to communicate that a document description is going to be required before Patentcenter will allow you to move on to the next page.

But the designers of Patentcenter got this one wrong.  What happens next is that the “continue” button just works the way it always does.  Patentcenter moves on to the next page, which is the first of two “calculate fees” pages.  Suppose you click “continue”?  What will happen next?  What happens next is that Patentcenter moves on to the second of two “calculate fees” pages.  (Why is the “calculate fees” function spread out over two separate screens?  The developers have argued that this is somehow a feature, not a bug.  The developers say that this somehow saves time and trouble for filers.  For me, since many of my e-filing tasks do not involve paying money, all this does is frequently waste my valuable time as I sit through through two screen-loads and mouse-clicks and hourglasses.)  

Suppose you click “continue”?  What will happen next?  What happens next is that Patentcenter moves on to the next page, which is the “submit” page.  Note that nowhere on this “submit” page is there any warning that anything is amiss about a document description. 

Note that in any competent user interface design, the “submit” button should be grayed out right now, given that the document description is missing.  But the “submit” button is not grayed out.

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Suppose you click “submit”?  What will happen next?  Yes, three screens too late, Patentcenter finally gets around to mentioning that it feels you need to provide a document description for the uploaded PDF file.  You can see this tardy error message quoted at right.

It is easy to see what the developers of Patentcenter need to do to fix this.  Patentcenter needs to gripe promptly, right there on the “upload documents” page, and the “continue” button on that “upload documents” page should be grayed out until such time as the needed document description is provided.

What’s particularly sad about this is that I first reported this defect in Patentcenter (saving up a real or imagined defect regarding an uploaded document and springing it on the filer only three screens later when he or she tries to click “submit”) in my role as an alpha tester in January of 2019.  I reported it in Ideascale, that place where suggestions and trouble reports go if they wish to be ignored.  In other words, USPTO has known about this defect in Patentcenter for more than a year now and has not fixed it.

One thought on “Patentcenter fails to complain promptly about lack of document description

  1. Alternately, PatentCenter should allow the filing and punt it to a person at the PTO to review the document and assign a proper document description. We know someone does that review anyway, since people report the PTO changing the description from time to time. While I think preventing hitting Continue is the better approach, this would at least avoid all the headaches caused by the last-minute detection of the problem.

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