Broadly speaking, Patentcenter does extremely poorly on validations. The designers of Patentcenter would merely need to have looked at ePCT to see how to do validations correctly. Here are examples of validations and how to do them right and how to fail to do them, and how to do them wrong.
First, what do we mean by validations? In European client practice, “validations” means “money paid to individual national patent offices after a European patent is granted.” But in today’s context, “validations” means “cross-checks in the user inputs when a patent document is being filed.”
And my main points here today are:
- Patentcenter generally does a very weak job at this.
- If the Patentcenter developers had gone to the trouble to talk with people at WIPO back when they were developing Patentcenter, they could have learned about ePCT and could have done much better.
- Even if they had not wanted to talk with people at WIPO, they could have at least looked at ePCT to see validations that were carried out, to learn from them.
- Many validations have been proposed in USPTO’s Ideascale system from as long ago as the start of alpha testing of Patentcenter some 20 months ago, none of which ever got implemented (the general theme being “Ideascale is where good ideas go to die”).
- To the very limited extent that Patentcenter does validations at all, it tends to be only in areas where USPTO did it to try to protect the USPTO or reduce work that USPTO people would have to do, rather than to benefit applicants or to protect applicants from losses of rights.
- Some validations in Patentcenter are so poorly implemented that they become “the boy who cried wolf” and thus benefit no one. (See blog article.)
Validations that protect the applicant. A category of validations that the Patentcenter developers pretty much completely missed is validations that protect the applicant, as contrasted to validations that are meant to save work for the USPTO.
In the world of PCT, for example, a way to really screw up is to fail to have at least one applicant that is a domiciliary or citizen of a State that is party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty. And guess what? The software provided by WIPO validates this and warns the filer if the the filer looks like they are on the verge of screwing this up.
In the world of PCT, a filer who is not paying attention could try to pick an IPEA that makes no sense given the ISA that had previously been selected. Or might try to pick an ISA that makes no sense given the Receiving Office that the filer has selected. Or might try to select a Receiving Office that makes no sense given the locus of the applicants. These things all get validated by the software provided by WIPO, and the consequence is (at a minimum) saving embarrassment for the filer, let along possible loss of substantive rights.
But as general matter to the very limited extent that Patentcenter validates user inputs, it is merely to enforce USPTO’s own internal business process rules or to save work for USPTO personnel, not to save filers from embarrassment or loss of rights or unnecessary expense. Examples of applicant-protective validations which Patentcenter could do, but does not do, are:
- validating priority claims against DAS (article)
- checking to see whether an ADS is or is not e-signed (article)
- checking to see whether an “excuse” box got checked for the non-inventor applicant (article).
I am sure that if the Patentcenter developers were to ask WIPO, the folks at WIPO would be glad to share their list of validations that they carry out in ePCT. The USPTO people could look to see which of those validations would make sense to do in Patentcenter.
It’s too late now, but one wishes that the Patentcenter developers had paid attention to the validations that the alpha testers of Patentcenter proposed in Ideascale back in 2018 and early 2019.