The other day I blogged about a nice enhancement recently provided by USPTO — see “Now you can update entity size yourself!” At the same time, USPTO added a second nice enhancement. You can now independently check whether USPTO made mistakes with any of the three Customer Number fields in its databases.It will be recalled that any US patent or patent application may have as many as three different Customer Numbers associated with it in USPTO’s databases. They are:
- the Correspondence Address (CA) customer number (CN),
- the Power of Attorney (PA) customer number (CN), and
- the Fee Address (FA) customer number (CN).
The CA CN determines who gets to see the application in Private PAIR. The CA CN also determines where the USPTO will send mail if the USPTO sends mail. If the CA CN is set up for electronic notifications, then the CA CN determines where exactly the electronic notifications get sent.
If the USPTO has recognized a Power of Attorney in an application, then the PA CN defines which practitioners exactly have Power of Attorney.
The FA CN determines where RAM will send maintenance fee mail.
Until the last few days, Private PAIR played “hide the ball” on the question of which particular CN USPTO had entered into the Power of Attorney field in its databases. As for the CA CN, you could look in Private PAIR and it would reveal the answer to the question which particular CN USPTO had entered into the Correspondence Address field in its databases. And as for the FA CN, you could work your way through the RAM system (hand-keying the application number and patent number into a form) and eventually learn which particular CN USPTO had entered into the Fee Address field of its databases. But it was impossible to learn which particular CN USPTO had entered into the Power of Attorney field in its databases.
It was likewise often impossible to learn the answer to this question from any of the paper correspondence from USPTO. For example the Form N570 which states that USPTO has recognized a Power of Attorney only lists the CA CN, not the PA CN. So it does not answer this question.
In our office we have hundreds of files for which we very intentionally use a first CN for CA CN purposes and a second CN for PA CN purposes. There are many real-life situations where this is the best way to serve a client or foreign patent firm. (The CA CN might be used, for example, to force the USPTO to send outgoing correspondence notifications to the client or foreign firm as well as to us.)
There’s a place on Form PTO/AIA/82B (and on its precursor Form PTO/SB/80) where you can specify these two distinct numbers. Toward the top of the form you can specify the PA CN and in the middle of the form you can specify the CA CN. And in the past what we had seen was that about one percent of the time, USPTO personnel would screw up the handling of the form, getting the two numbers swapped or using one of the numbers twice and overlooking the other number. And the problem was that it was impossible in PAIR to independently confirm whether USPTO had screwed up the PA CN or gotten it right.
The recent big development is that for the first time, USPTO has configured Private PAIR so that it will spill the beans on which CN USPTO has entered into the PA CN field in its databases. To see this, bring up an application, and click on the “Address & Attorney/Agent” tab. You will see that as of a few days ago, you can click on any of three links to bring up a screen that spills the beans on the CA CN, the FA CN, and the PA CN.
I first asked USPTO to add this feature five years ago. Now after five years, USPTO has added this feature.