What if you were not happy with service from the Application Assistance Unit?

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From time to time I will encounter a patent practitioner who feels let down by the USPTO’s Application Assistance Unit.  Indeed every now and then I will run into a practitioner who will say, surely in jest, that they feel the phrase “Application Assistance Unit” is an oxymoron.  In my own experience, it is quite rare that the AAU fulfills its promise. A chief use case for the AAU is the filer who received a Notice indicating that there was some real or imagined flaw in an inventor’s declaration, or in an application data sheet, or in a power of attorney, and that the document involved is being bounced due to its real or imagined flaw.  The Notice is invariably profoundly unhelpful and never actually comes out and says what exactly was supposedly wrong with the bounced document.  The Notice always says that if you want to know what exactly was supposedly wrong with the bounced document, you can get the answer by placing a telephone call to the AAU.  And in my experience, what never happens is the AAU actually answering the question.

So what can you do if you are not happy with how it went in your telephone call to the AAU?

Quite by random chance the other day I stumbled upon a web page on the USPTO web site that says:

If you have already contacted the AAU, we want to hear from you. Were you satisfied by the assistance provided by our staff? Please let us know what we can do to improve.

The page has a button “submit feedback” that launches your email client with the start of an email message to “AAUFeedback@uspto.gov” and with a subject line of “AAUFeedback”.

What I found, to my astonishment, is that this email address actually goes somewhere at the USPTO.  Last week when I received particularly disappointingly poor service from the AAU, I wrote a detailed email message to this email address, recounting the several aspects of the interaction that I thought had gone particularly badly.  And this is the amazing part.  What happened the following day is an actual telephone call from a fairly highly placed person at the USPTO.  After that, I received an actual email message from an even higher-placed person at the USPTO, who revealed for the first time what the supposed defect was in the Power of Attorney that I had filed.

So I guess the alert practitioner should keep this email address in reserve, for use in the occasional case where things have gone particularly poorly with the AAU.

Have you used this AAUFeedback contact?  If so, how did it work for you?  Please post a comment below.

2 thoughts on “What if you were not happy with service from the Application Assistance Unit?

  1. After many calls to the AAU, we receive an email asking for feedback linking to a survey. However, there is no way to identify which call the email is referring to. I received one such email today, but I have no recollection of the specific call. Here is the text of the email:

    We’d like your feedback!

    Dear Valued Customer,

    Your feedback is very important to us as we strive to continually enhance your customer experience.

    We invite you to provide your opinions about the office action you recently received from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding a trademark application. If you received office actions for multiple trademark applications, share your overall feedback on those you received in the last week.

    The survey will take about 3-5 minutes and your responses will be kept strictly confidential.

    Thank You,
    USPTO Trademarks Business Unit

    Here is the link to the survey:


  2. I wasn’t aware of this email address, thanks for posting.

    I have always been baffled by the several aspects of the AAU, starting with the name: it is not applications that are in need of assistance. It is applicants that are in need of assistance.

    But more frustrating is that, by design, the AAU has nothing to do with the people conducting pre-exam functions, who in many cases are the ones sending those inscrutable notices. By design, we cannot contact the pre-exam people (who are employed by an outside contractor, not the PTO), and neither can the AAU. So the AAU is very often singularly unhelpful, because the people working there may have no more information than we do.

    In the past, there was one individual I identified who actually works for the PTO, ostensibly in OPAP, whom I would contact by phone if some notice was particularly opaque and the AAU unhelpful. Other times I would contact the PTO legal department. Next time, I’ll try this email.

    But what would be best is if the PTO abolished this wall between OPAP and the AAU.

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