(Please also read Another must-read article for ST26 enthusiasts.)
Earlier today I posted a blog article entitled A must-read for ST26 filers – a technical issue with the software. Here is a followup article that is yet another must-read for ST26 users. This article provides further information which I learned from nice WIPO person Mike Richardson, information which he posted to the ST26 listserv.
Mike reminds us of the description in the bug report:
sporadically the sequence listing will get generated without a feature table.
You might think that this means that when things go wrong in this version 2.1.0 of the WIPO Sequence software, it would mean that there are no feature tables at all in the sequence listing. Mike tells us that what has been observed is that when this bug in the software manifests itself, sometimes the observed problem is that while most individual sequences in a listing will have their associated feature table, maybe it will be just one of the sequences in the listing that has its feature table missing.
Part of what Mike is getting at is that some ST26 users are very sophisticated and they might open up an XML sequence listing using (for example) Notepad or some other text editor. Or a sophisticated ST26 user might have a general-purpose XML editor that they use for a variety of XML editing purposes and they might open up the XML sequence listing using that general-purpose XML editor. Or the sophisticated ST26 user may open up the XML sequence listing in a web browser. (Some web browsers have a native ability to view XML. Some power users of ST26 have plugins that they have added to their web browser so that it can view XML.) The point here is that the ST26 user might open up the XML sequence listing and might see, for example, a feature table in SEQ ID 1, and they might think “oh what a relief this sequence listing is okay”.
And Mike’s point is that unfortunately the bug that has been reported in version 2.1.0 of WIPO Sequence is not a bug that consistently loses all of the feature tables. Instead maybe it only loses one feature table for one sequence. So his point is, the mere fact that you happen to see, for example, a feature table for the first sequence in your XML sequence listing is not a reason to assume that everything is okay with this particular sequence listing.
His point is that you really want to do the proper validation using the WIPO Sequence software. It will work its way through each of the sequences in the sequence listing, one by one, and it will catch it if the feature table had the bad luck to have gotten lost for any one of the sequences in the sequence listing.
Version numbers. Mike’s next point is to talk through the various releases of WIPO Sequence that you as a user may have used between July 1, 2022 and now. One thing he points out is that the bug has been identified in version 2.1.0. The version before that was 2.0.0. If you used 2.0.0 to prepare some XML sequence listing that you uploaded to some patent office (PCT or non-PCT), does this mean you don’t need to worry? He suggests you ought to check. He suggests do the validation on that XML sequence listing right now.
He also points out that if you for some reason are still using 2.0.0, you should update to the current version.
Related to this is that right now the current version is 2.1.1. If you used version 2.1.1 to create some sequence listing that you uploaded to some patent office (PCT or non-PCT), does this mean you do not need to worry? Nope! Mike says that as far as anybody knows this bug where a feature table might get lost is just as much present in version 2.1.1 as it is in version 2.1.0. So if you used 2.1.1, he says please go back and do the validation on that XML sequence listing that you uploaded to see if it had the bad luck to have a feature table get lost.
If right now the version on your computer is 2.1.0, should you upgrade to 2.1.1? Mike says yes. 2.1.1 fixes other stuff that needed fixing.
Wouldn’t it be nice if ePCT itself were to carry out a validation of your XML sequence listing at the time of your upload? If ePCT were to do this, then ePCT could warn you if for example a feature table had gotten lost. If ePCT were to do this, then ePCT could warn you if any of a wide range of other things might be wrong with your XML sequence listing. What Mike says is that WIPO can’t yet do this in ePCT. It would slow down ePCT too much to have to do all of this computation at the same time that it is doing everything else that it does. I have to imagine that the WIPO folks are going to keep this on their internal wish list and will try to figure out a way to make it possible.
One thing that Mike says WIPO does plan to do is, they plan to make it so that ePCT will snoop around inside your XML sequence listing to look at its metadata to see which version of WIPO Sequence you used to generate your XML sequence listing. The idea is that if you had failed to be trendy, modern and up-to-date, then ePCT would scold you. ePCT would maybe look up the version number in a database and depending on how bad your version was, maybe it would scold you really a lot. I imagine for example that if it saw that you had used version 2.1.0 (the one that loses feature tables sporadically) it would scold you really a lot.
Keep in mind that if we make a list of all of the ways that an ST26 user could come to ruin with a problem like we are talking about here, WIPO cannot protect you from all of them. For example, when you are e-filing a PCT application in RO/US, and if you upload an XML sequence listing, you are not uploading it to ePCT at all. Instead, you are uploading it to EFS-Web or to Patentcenter. So no matter how hard the WIPO folks try to do, say, a version check in ePCT to see if you were using an outdated version of WIPO Sequence, this is not going to save you if you are filing in RO/US. I don’t suppose that in our lifetimes, the developers at the USPTO will go to the trouble to do a version check in EFS-Web or in Patentcenter in real time at e-filing time to see if the XML sequence listing that you uploaded had been generated using an outdated version of WIPO Sequence. I don’t suppose that in our lifetimes, the developers at the USPTO will go to the trouble to carry out an actual validation of the XML sequence listing in EFS-Web or in Patentcenter in real time at e-filing time to see if the XML sequence listing that just got uploaded is missing a feature table or is otherwise flawed in some way. These are the same USPTO developers who don’t bother to program in a validation check in EFS-Web or Patentcenter to see whether an Application Data Sheet has been e-signed. Not even with the web-based ADS of Patentcenter do they check to see whether it has been e-signed. If they won’t even validate super easy things like that, what makes you think they would ever bother to do something like checking in EFS-Web or in Patentcenter to see whether the version of WIPO Sequence that you used was out of date, or was a known flawed version?
Yet another aspect of this is that we all realize that sometimes when an ST26 user is filing a patent application, it is not a PCT patent application at all. For example maybe the ST26 user is filing an ordinary national patent application in some national patent office. In such a case, there is nothing that WIPO can do to bring about, say, a validation of the XML sequence listing. There is nothing that WIPO can do to bring about, say, a version check to see which version of WIPO Sequence the filer used to generate the XML sequence listing.
Returning to Mike’s comments. Mike tells us that what WIPO has seen since July 1, 2022 is that in a few instances, a filer has actually used a version of WIPO Sequence that is in the 1.x.x numerical range. This software is very very old. It is so old that it does not comply with the most recent version of the ST26 standard. Anybody who is still using WIPO Sequence software dating from the 1.x.x numerical range should absolutely for sure without delay get rid of that software and at least get the current version.
And yes, as soon as a new version of WIPO Sequence gets released that is known to be free from this “missing feature table” problem, everybody should upgrade to that version. And again if you want to learn when that new version of the WIPO Sequence software gets released, just subscribe to the ST26 listserv, and subscribe to this blog. I will be sure to post that news in both places.