Patent Center is not ready, and PAIR cannot be shut down tonight

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Just now I logged in at Patent Center and tried to view my outgoing correspondence.  I was greeted with a big red error message saying Search Limit Reached.  This is bug number CP178.  I opened EBC ticket number 1-843318724.   EBC agent 50 checked with the Patent Center team and reported back that this is a feature, not a bug.  This feature blocks data mining, he explained. 

I pointed out that the workaround is to use PAIR, and I pointed out that PAIR is going to get shut down tonight.  Agent 50 had nothing to say about this.   I assume that Agent 50, like everybody else in the EBC, is under strict orders not to say that the workaround for a Patent Center bug is to use PAIR or EFS-Web instead.

This is, of course, completely unacceptable.  In the past year I have paid over a hundred thousand dollars in fees to the USPTO.  As a paying customer, I should be able to view my outgoing correspondence.

What is really going on here, of course, is that the Patent Center developers failed to design Patent Center in a way that would scale.  As of a week ago, almost half of all user activity was on PAIR and EFS-Web.  Those users are being forced to migrate their work to Patent Center, and clearly Patent Center is inadequate for the present amount of traffic.  If PAIR gets shut down tonight, as USPTO has said it plans to do, then the inadequacy of Patent Center to scale will only be exacerbated.

I guess for now I will have to wait for the time, maybe days or weeks from now, when the EBC gets back to me to report the progress on clearing this EBC ticket.

16 Replies to “Patent Center is not ready, and PAIR cannot be shut down tonight”

  1. How many cases did you both search before you got this message? How long do you have to wait before you can resume searches, 24 hours? I will be using EFS Web and PAIR up until the last minute today!

      1. The message has appeared after no prior search in PC, after a couple of searches, or after multiple searches. It can reset after a few minutes or a lot longer (or sometimes if you start from scratch), but who has the time or patience to wait for the blasted thing to reset when you’ve got a hundred better things to do?

        I am not sure, but I think PC might be counting searches you do in PrivatePAIR too, and I’ve only turned to searching in PC when PrivatePAIR has frozen on me for some reason.

    1. I get that error message often on even my first search of the day in Patent Center. I just hit refresh until it goes away, usually within a few seconds.
      Definitaly a server capacity issue.

  2. That’s a completely bogus answer, but I suspect it will become a standard response, now that they can’t tell you to use EFS.

    Did Agent 50 have any explanation to help figure out what you did that triggered Patent Center to think you were data mining? Simply logging in and going to the Outgoing Correspondence page certainly shouldn’t do that. Even downloading each piece of outgoing correspondence shouldn’t do that.

    The error message is so completely unhelpful that even if blocking you were legitimate (which it isn’t, of course), the error message itself is a bug.

    1. Bogus answer indeed, just like the other answers/excuses they give to cover up the problems with the bug-riddled Patent Center.

      Let’s face it, the current version of Patent Center is like a pig putting on lipstick. No matter how much lipstick it applies, it’s still a pig.

  3. I’ve received the “search limit reached” error after fewer than ten search requests, but I have not determined a pattern in the number or type of requests that trigger it. Sometimes that error message goes away if you just refresh or go back to the home screen, but not always; sometimes another browser works, but other times you’re just stuck. I have not been stuck in a while, but I did receive the error within the past week (November 2023).

  4. This is one of the most annoying features of the flawed (I’d use some colorful words here, but I’d probably be censored) PC. The other day I was searching and trying to view documents (in a patent application that had a very lengthy file history which I didn’t want to download) and got this error multiple times. Needless to say, I was cursing like a sailor in frustration. I finally quit PC and logged into PrivatePair. Another problem I have with PC is that sometimes it will not let me view publications or issued patents or takes forever to do so.

    As to the data mining problem, what’s to stop someone from downloading entire file histories all at once? I’ve only seen this message pop up when trying to view or download documents separately.

  5. I also find their explanation of data mining to be rather bogus, and addressable as you mention. On numerous occasions I’ve received this error message simply by clicking the Documents & Transactions tab without ever attempting to view or download anything (for example, just moments ago).

    1. Ditto! I think any search will trigger the you’ve reached limit message, particularly if you’ve done any searches recently. I doubt that data miners will be inconvenienced by this feature because where there’s a will there’s a way (data miners and hackers live by this rule).

    1. Yeah, the USPTO morons shut it down without any contingency in place in case something malfunctions (which it will at some point). If the PC goes down for some reason (as it’s happened with EFS-Web in the past) forget about trying to fax anything as all the fax lines will be busy, and mailing is not an option either if you’re working late and the post offices are already closed because you won’t get a signature on your Express Mail receipt.

  6. I received that message when not even logged in, trying to view some file wrappers. On my first search, when I tried to download a file, I received the “search limit” error. I had previewed two files, then sought to download one. Hitting an undefined “search limit” was a bizarre welcome to the new Patent Center.

    1. Like Sandra Etherton said, the Search Limit is likely a cover for the Patent Center server’s limited bandwidth (or some software flaw) and not a deterrent for data miners.

      I think PAIR had the same problem at some point, not allowing users to download too many files at once, and then the USPTO took it up a notch by splitting Public and Private PAIR, supposedly to prevent PrivatePAIR users from mining data.

      I won’t be surprised if they implemented a fee-based option to allow you unlimited access/downloads in the near future, that is, you’ll have to pay to access/view unlimited data (premium package) as opposed to limited data (basic package).

  7. Workaround: I’ve found that I have to clear all previous downloads from my browser and the it will usually start letting me download again. Rinse and repeat. Absolute garbage software on the PTO’s part and they can’t even admit that this is obviously a bandwidth issue.

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