USPTO released Patentcenter for alpha testing in the summer of 2018. Patentcenter, it is recalled, is the system that USPTO intends will replace PAIR and EFS-Web. Eventually USPTO will shut down PAIR and EFS-Web. USPTO has said from the beginning that one of its design imperatives for Patentcenter has been and is that every function and feature of PAIR and EFS-Web will be replicated into Patentcenter. One of the important features of EFS-Web is “last 40 acknowledgment receipts”.
Our firm was among the first alpha testers of Patentcenter. And one of the first issues that we raised with the Patentcenter developers in 2018 was that Patentcenter failed to provide “last 40 ack receipts”.
On November 20, 2019 Jeff Ingerman pointed out this problem with Patentcenter in Ideascale. You can see it here. This was idea number 383. It received two up-votes. But that did not lead to USPTO providing that function in Patentcenter. This offers a reminder of how useless Ideascale has been.
Then USPTO made Patentcenter open to all users. I launched the Patentcenter listserv and one of the earliest topics discussed was the need for this feature. I launched the Patentcenter feature request page and this feature got listed as FR4.
On May 10, 2020 the USPTO took a step toward providing this feature, as I described here. USPTO added an item in a drop-down list, an item that clearly was intended eventually to lead to “last 40 ack receipts”. Back in May if you were to click on that link you would reach a “404 page not found” error.
But now USPTO has quietly turned on the “last 40 ack receipts” feature in Patentcenter.
I have three reactions to this development.
First, my first reaction is yes, of course it is a good thing that the Patentcenter developers finally did get around to replicating this EFS-Web feature into Patentcenter. Many EFS-Web users rely on it and use it a lot, and this will help some of those users in their transition to Patentcenter.
Second, and I mean this as a very serious question, why did it take two years for the Patentcenter developers to get around to doing this? It speaks poorly for the USPTO that the USPTO so directly ignored it when the alpha testers pointed out this omission in 2018, and it speaks poorly for the USPTO that the USPTO likewise ignored it when a beta tester pointed out this omission in autumn of 2019 in Ideascale. It is unfortunate that what it took to get the Patentcenter developers to take this seriously was the formation of a listserv of 150 power users, and for the listserv to apply pressure at a very high level within the USPTO.
Third, and I also mean this very seriously, I feel it is very poor customer relations that I had to find out completely by accident that the USPTO finally got around to turning on this feature. It would be a matter of common courtesy for the USPTO to respond to the listserv to let the listerv know that the USPTO had gotten around to releasing this feature, and thus that FR4 could be closed. I learned of this only because one of the listserv members stumbled upon the newly turned-on feature, and posted to the listserv to report it.