EFS-Web is broken today

(Revised at about 2AM on May 15 to reflect that well after midnight, USPTO finally got EFS-Web working again.)

As most readers know, the USPTO’s EFS-Web system is broken today.  And I mean completely broken.  You can’t get to “EFS-Web for registered users” at all — it merely takes you to a page that mentions EFS-Web Contingency.  You also can’t get to “EFS-Web for unregistered users” — that too merely takes you to the page that mentions EFS-Web Contingency.  And EFS-Web Contingency is broken too.  (It goes slow as molasses and never actually lets you “submit”.)

For filers, the main thing to keep in mind is that if you are filing a new patent application or you are entering the US national stage, you can’t fax it in.  You will have to take it to the Post Office and send it by Priority Mail Express (née Express Mail).  We sent our youngest associate to the late-night Post Office in Denver a few minutes ago and he successfully mailed the one patent application that had to go out today from our office.

For lesser tasks such as responding to an Office Action you can try to fax it.  As a reminder the fax number is 571-273-8300.  It looks like USPTO’s fax server is unable to keep up with the traffic, however.  One of our faxes has failed three times and we have not managed yet to get it to go through.  We finally had to resort to a Certificate of First-Class Mail for an envelope that we dropped into a mail box shortly before midnight.

Having delivered the main emergency message, I will now talk about what USPTO did wrong that led to today’s disaster.

A year ago I wrote to the USPTO and stated that USPTO ought to move its EFS-Web Contingency server from the patent office in Alexandria, Virginia to the Detroit patent office.

USPTO failed to do so.

If USPTO had done what I said, no one would have this problem today.  No single fault would have knocked out independent servers in two cities that are 1000 miles apart.

When USPTO receives our Priority Mail Express package, I imagine that the Office of Patent Application Processing (née Office of Initial Patent Examination) will be tempted to send us a Notice of Missing Parts asking us to pay the $400 for filing a non-electronic patent application.  If OPAP does this, I can promise that it will not go well.  I call upon Acting Director Lee to issue an order to OPAP not to charge the $400 fee for any paper filing that was deposited with the Postal Service on May 14, or that was hand-delivered to the Patent Office on May 14.

And I urge Acting Director Lee to get the EFS-Web Contingency server moved to Detroit without further delay.

For those who, like our firm, had to file at least one patent application via Priority Mail Express … keep in mind that the fastest way to learn your new patent application number will be to watch for it in Financial Profile.  See “Best Practice: using USPTO’s Financial Profile system“.



3 Replies to “EFS-Web is broken today”

  1. I’ve been following this saga on the efs-web mailing list, but didn’t realize your associate had to drive to Denver. Good thing there’s not 2 feet of snow on I-70 this evening!

    As for the Detroit satellite office, that would eliminate some sources of failure (power outages, network switch/router/firewall failures, etc.), but there are many ways the system could be engineered so that a Detroit contingency system would go down along with the Alexandria main system. And I would think that, generally, the less dependent the contingency system is on the main system, the more administrative headaches there will be to transfer any filings to the main system. I also would imagine that you wouldn’t want to have the contingency system in Detroit without an experienced IT staffer on location. My understanding is that the Detroit IT staff is simply helpdesk roles, not the sysadmins and database admins.

    That said, based on the information I have, I think it would be worthwhile to move EFS-contingency to Detroit (or even Silicon Valley).

  2. Thanks, Carl, for explaining what I suspected to be the case. I just returned from a sprint into the one post office in the Boston area that is open until midnight. I truly feel for those who are caught out tonight without access to a late-night post office. The USPTO absolutely needs to have an emergency system that is as far separated from the main system as possible. They could keep the current contingency system in Alexandria for routine outages *and* open another at another office.

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