A must-read for ST26 filers – a technical issue with the software

(Please also see my followup articles entitled Yet another must-read for ST26 users and Another must-read article for ST26 enthusiasts.)  (This article has been updated July 29, 2022 to include some suggestions from the nice WIPO people.)

Hello readers.  Have you filed any patent application (PCT or otherwise) in recent days using a sequence listing that you created using version 2.1.0 of the WIPO Sequence software?  If so, then this blog article is a must-read for you and there are some action steps for you.  

If you are getting ready to file any patent application (PCT or otherwise) in coming days, using a sequence listing, this blog article is likewise a must-read for you. 

The chief goals for this blog article are:

  • Get your attention if you are a user of version 2.1.0 of the WIPO Sequence software, because WIPO has identified a bug in the software that you need to know about.
  • Help you figure out whether this bug might affect one or more patent applications that you have already filed in some patent office or another (which might be a PCT application or might be an ordinary national patent application).
  • Help you to know what to do so that you can be smart about this bug between now and when WIPO releases a new version of the WIPO Sequence software to fix the bug.

The first thing you should do is click here to view and print out the email message that WIPO sent out today.  This email message is an important resource for any ST26 user.   The second thing you should do is subscribe to the WIPO Sequence Update mailing list (click here) to receive important notifications from WIPO about updates to the WIPO Sequence software, and to receive important notifications from WIPO about related ST26 issues.

The background here is that for patent applications filed prior to July 1, 2022, filers were supposed to hand in their sequence listings in a format called ST25.  Then for patent applications filed on and after July 1, 2022, it has been different and filers have been required to hand in their sequence listings in a format called ST26.  This is the situation for PCT patent applications filed on and after July 1, 2022, and it is also the situation for non-PCT patent applications, for example for ordinary national patent applications filed on and after July 1, 2022.  The normal workflow for nearly all filers in recent times has been that the filer would use software provided by WIPO called WIPO Sequence to generate the ST26 sequence listing.

One of the things that you can do (and should do) when you are running the WIPO Sequence software is to run a “validation” after the sequence listing has been generated, before filing the patent application.  You start by entering lots of information into the software, and eventually you export an XML file that is the sequence listing.  And then you upload the XML file into e-filing software at some patent office.  This might be for a PCT application or it might be for a national patent application.

The main point of this blog article is to emphasize that today and in coming days, with the present version of the WIPO Sequence software (version 2.1.0), you absolutely must run a “validation” of your XML sequence listing before uploading it to the patent office e-filing system.  What WIPO has learned is that due to a bug in version 2.1.0 of the software, “sporadically” the sequence listing will get generated “without a feature table”.

So for example suppose you just got done generating an XML sequence listing, and suppose you carried out the validation, and suppose the result is a report indicating:

The mandatory feature table is missing from this sequence.

If this shows up in your validation report, then there are two or maybe three things that you can say to yourself.  First, clearly you are going to want to do whatever it takes to somehow deal with the problem of the feature table being missing!  Second, you are very glad that you took the time to do this validation.  Third, you are very glad that WIPO went to the trouble to reach out to let filers know about this problem.

How do you somehow get the missing feature table into the sequence listing?  The answer is to follow nine steps that are listed in the WIPO message.  Then you run the validation again, and assuming you no longer get told that the feature table is missing, then you can safely upload the XML sequence listing to the e-filing software of the patent office.

Today is July 15, and what will surely be running through your mind is that you have already uploaded some ST26 XML sequence listings as part of your patent e-filing projects, as long ago as July 1, 2022, and between then and today.  What if this bug in version 2.1.0 of the WIPO Sequence software has already affected one or more of the ST26 XML sequence listings that you have already e-filed?  What if a feature table was missing from one or more of those ST26 XML sequence listings?

A first thing to consider is that maybe you were careful already.  Maybe every time you generated an ST26 XML sequence listing using the WIPO Sequence software during the past fifteen days, you already took the precaution of doing a validation before uploading the XML file to a patent office e-filing system.  If so, then you would already have noticed if a feature table was missing and you would have done something about it.

But to the extent that you wonder if there is any question about this, maybe the thing for you to do now is to go back and check every one of the XML sequence listings that you have e-filed between July 1, 2022 and today.  Carry out a validation on each one, hoping beyond hope that what you will not see in the validation report is:

The mandatory feature table is missing from this sequence.

WIPO has published a table where it tracks bug reports in the WIPO Sequence software.  You can see this “feature table” bug listed down toward the bottom of the table as item number ST26T-2907.  The description of the bug is:

Sporadically sequences are generated without a feature table.

Here is what WIPO says in its email about the possibility that a patent application already filed might be affected by this issue:

For PCT applications which have already been filed, the International Bureau is also working with relevant receiving Offices to find reasonable solutions to help applicants remedy any issues that have already been caused by the technical issue with the software mentioned above. Should any PCT applicant have encountered such problems, please immediately contact the International Bureau or the respective receiving Office.

I frankly offer my admiration to the people of WIPO for being candid about all of this.  What we see is WIPO openly publishing its bug report tracking table.  What we see is WIPO doing this email blast communicating this bug as widely as possible.  What we see is WIPO reaching out to patent offices as described above.  (WIPO also reached out to me today to ask if I could pass along the WIPO outreach messages about this issue to places like the PCT listserv and the ST26 listserv and this blog, which of course I am doing now.)

Of course this is not only a PCT issue.  The same issues surely present themselves for some national applications that got filed in the past fifteen days.  It would not surprise me at all if the folks at WIPO are likewise reaching out to national patent offices, whether officially or unofficially, to urge similar cooperative efforts in those Offices.

Presumably the words “reasonable solutions” in the WIPO email are a bit of a code phrase for something along the lines of “please allow affected applicants to hand in corrected sequence listings as needed, without unnecessarily raising new-matter issues.”

Oh and I expect that some time soon there will be a new version of the WIPO Sequence software that fixes this bug.  (A new version 2.1.2 is planned to fix this bug.)  When that time comes, filers will want to download that new version and stop using the present version 2.1.1.   (In general you need to always be using whichever version of WIPO Sequence is the current version.)  If you want to learn when the new version of the WIPO Sequence software is released, just subscribe to WIPO Sequence Updates, to the ST26 listserv, and subscribe to this blog.  I will be sure to post that news in both places.

The folks at WIPO remind me that WIPO Sequence has a feature that it always checks to see if there is a new version of the software available.  For this check to work, the computer that you are running needs to be connected to the internet.  Not only that, any firewall that you might have on your network needs to be not blocking the WIPO Sequence software from doing this check.  If the software invites you to upgrade, please make time to do the update.  This auto-update function is discussed in the user manual for WIPO Sequence.

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