Patentcenter feature request: direct link from application file to e-file in that application

This blog post describes a Patentcenter feature request — a direct link from any particular patent application file to a page for e-filing in that particular patent application. 

If I am in ePCT and if I have opened a particular PCT patent application in my ePCT workbench, then with just one mouse click I can bring up a screen to e-file a document or take an action in that particular PCT patent application.

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In contrast, in Patentcenter, if I wish to e-file a document or take an action, I must go through several manual steps.  A typical click path for me is to copy the application number, and then attempt to commit to short-term memory the confirmation number.  Then with a series of right-clicks I eventually manage to open a new window for “existing submissions” and then a new window for “follow-on submission”.  At that point I paste the application number into the screen and I hand-key the confirmation number into the screen.  I then click “continue” and at that point I find out whether or not I recalled it correctly.

(This violates my usual rule about never hand-keying anything that can be copied and pasted, but the violation is safe because if I make a mistake keying in the confirmation number, no harm can come of it other than an error message on the subsequent screen.)

But if USPTO were to follow WIPO’s example, USPTO would make it so that a user who has reached a particular patent application in the user’s Patentcenter workbench could simply click a “deep link” which would go directly to the “follow-on submission” page for that particular patent application.  This would save the user a lot of unnecessary copying and pasting and clicking and right-clicking.  

The user who prefers to proceed by entering an application number and confirmation number could continue to do so as before.  But the user who would choose to use the “deep link” would save perhaps two minutes of time for each such filing.

I personally begged USPTO people for this feature in EFS-Web some six years ago in a conference room in Alexandria.  But the feature did not get implemented.

WIPO provides this feature in ePCT.  And USPTO ought to provide this feature in Patentcenter.

Playing a devil’s advocate, wouldn’t such a feature make it too easy for a person to accidentally e-file something in the wrong patent application?  The answer, of course, is no not at all.  First, whenever you reach the “follow-on submission” page, the first thing you see is an enormous banner like this one:

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Even if you have not yet had your morning coffee, there is no way you will snooze through it if this is not the application that you though it was.  The biggest text on the page is the application number, your docket number, and the title.  But even if that were not enough to catch your attention if somehow you were accidentally on the verge of accidentally filing something in someone else’s patent application, this enormous banner tells you the customer number name, in this case the name of the patent firm and the firm’s client.  The first named inventor is also on this banner.  

And once again, keep in mind that if you got here by means of a “deep link” such as I am suggesting, then by definition this application was in your workbench.  It must have been one of your patent applications.

Okay, the skeptic says, what about the risk that by this deep link I might e-file a document in one of my applications but not in the particular one of my applications that I intended to file it in?  To which my responses include:

  • Okay so what?  The e-filed document is going to have the application number on it, and if the document got into the wrong file, it won’t match, and later the lack of a match will help in getting things straightened out.
  • The benefits far outweigh the risks.  This deep link feature will save tens of thousands of hours per year for USPTO customers, and will only rarely if ever actually lead to a document ending up in an unintended file.
  • WIPO has been providing this feature for six years now and the sky has not fallen.
  • Anybody who is worried that they can’t trust themselves to click the correct deep link can always just do it the hard way and go enter the application number and confirmation number into the screen quoted above.

Actually the more I think of this, I realize there might be a cluster of deep links for each application page on the workbench.  One deep link would be for “upload documents/pay fees”.  Another deep link would be for “corrected ADS”.  Another deep link would be for “eTerminal disclaimer” and so on.  This is a direct counterpart to the concept of “actions” in ePCT.  

This is Patentcenter feature request FR1.

What do you think of this feature request?  Do you think the sky will fall if USPTO makes this feature available in Patentcenter?  Please post a comment below.

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