This blog article describes the first of two defects in USPTO’s effort to bring the “last 40 ack receipts” function of EFS-Web forward into Patentcenter.
The Patentcenter developers have said from the beginning that one design requirement for Patentcenter is to replicate each feature of EFS-Web (and each feature of PAIR). One feature of EFS-Web upon which many users rely is the “last 40 ack receipts” feature. One of the defining aspects of this feature in EFW-Web is that for any e-filing that has been carried out, the ack receipt is always instantly visible in the “last 40 ack receipts” page. There are many situations in which this instant visibility is crucial to office workflow.
When USPTO first released Patentcenter for alpha testing in the summer of 2018, the alpha testers immediately pointed out the absence of this “last 40 ack receipts” feature. It took nearly two years for USPTO to respond to these reports from users, and finally in August of 2020 the “View Receipt History” feature got turned on in Patentcenter. I blogged about this newly added feature of Patentcenter here.
It turns out that I was premature and incorrect in saying that USPTO had by now successfully brought forward the “last 40 ack receipts” feature into Patentcenter, in at least two ways. This blog article describes one of two deficiencies in the USPTO’s effort to implement the feature. In another blog article I describe a second deficiency in USPTO’s effort to implement the feature.
As I say, the instant visibility of the ack receipt in the “last 40 ack receipts” page of EFS-Web is crucial. Only if the ack receipt is instantly visible is the filer able to review it and figure out whether it is possible to relax, or whether perhaps the file needs to file the same things all over again to be on the safe side. One of the use cases is the situation where Patentcenter crashes or the logged-in session crashes or the filer’s computer crashes, and then the filer needs to be able to log in again to find out whether the crash happened before or after any possible success in the e-filing process.
Unfortunately USPTO’s way of cobbling together a screen in Patentcenter that is intended to provide the same function as “last 40 ack receipts” in EFS-Web is defective.
In EFS-Web, the very instant that an ack receipt comes into existence, it gets posted to some database that is dedicated to the reassurance of filers regarding the fact of an ack receipt having come into existence. This means for example that if there is a delay in the USPTO making newly filed documents visible in IFW, the filer can nonetheless look at the ack receipt to arrive at some level of reassurance that the e-filing task did actually succeed.
But in the design of the woefully defective “View Receipt History” page of Patentcenter, the USPTO got it completely wrong. The way that an ack receipt gets into “Vew Receipt History” is … get this, it only gets into “View Receipt History” is at such later time as the submission package finds its way into IFW.
Yes, you can’t make this stuff up. A chief point of “last 40 ack receipts” in EFS-Web is so that when USPTO foot-drags the loading of a submission package into IFW, the filer can nonetheless gain some reassurance that the submission will indeed later appear in IFW. But the USPTO designed “View Receipt History” so that only after the submission reaches IFW will the associated ack receipt become visible in “View Receipt History”.
Plainly stated, the “View Receipt History” function in Patentcenter fails at the stated design goal of bringing each feature of EFS-Web forward into Patentcenter. To satisfy this stated design goal, the ack receipt would need to be instantly visible in the “View Receipt History” screen. Instead, USPTO’s implementation has a built-in latency that (I am astonished to have to say it) guarantees that the visibility of the ack receipt will always be too late to serve its purpose.
For example about an hour ago I e-filed some follow-on documents in one of my patent applications. I did the e-filing in Patentcenter. The documents that I e-filed are not yet visible in IFW. (With Patentcenter, it is commonplace for USPTO to foot-drag the loading of newly filed documents into IFW for hours or even days, as reported in trouble ticket CP30.) And even now, the ack receipts for this filing are not visible in View Receipt History.
Yes in a situation that Joseph Heller would have appreciated, the USPTO has baked into its “View Receipt History” design a guarantee that the ack receipt will never be visible in “View Receipt History” until it is too late to serve the chief reason for its visibility there. Only after the ack receipt has reached IFW will it be visible in VRH, so the ack receipt will never serve to reassure the filer about a submission that has not yet reached IFW.
The corrective step is of course for USPTO to scrap the present document flow for VRH and to go back and look to see how the designers of EFS-Web did it. In practical terms, what it means is that there needs to be a safe place in Patentcenter where ack receipts get stored, that is not the same as IFW. And the engine in Patentcenter that causes an ack receipt to come into existence needs to be set up so that it instantly loads the newly created ack receipt into that safe place. The present latency in VRH of hours or days is unacceptable and needs to be eliminated.
This is trouble ticket CP37.