The USPTO has announced (see the press release that the USPTO altered to say “November 15”) that on November 8, 2023, seven weeks from today, it will shut down EFS-Web and Private PAIR. USPTO customers will be left only with Patentcenter. Barring some surprise, this will be a disaster for USPTO customers.
My firm was among the first beta testers of Patentcenter back in 2018. One of USPTO’s stated goals from the beginning was that eventually Patentcenter would bring forward all of the features and functions of EFS-Web and Private PAIR. From the outset, we found it very difficult to get the USPTO people to pay attention to our trouble tickets and our reports of missing features in Patentcenter. You can see here a bug list as of September of 2018, resulting from our beta-testing of Patentcenter.
A listserv (email discussion group) was set up several years ago for users of Patentcenter (click here for more information or to join the listserv). Membership in the listserv has grown to more than four hundred customers of the USPTO.
Today’s press release says:
Since its launch six years ago, Patent Center has undergone rigorous user testing and iterative improvements, based largely on public feedback.
This statement is pants-on-fire false. If the USPTO had been genuinely interested in receiving “public feedback”, the USPTO would have responded to numerous offers of communication from the Patentcenter listserv. The USPTO has gone out of its way to avoid receiving input from the listserv and to avoid communicating information to the listserv.
By December 16, 2021, the status of Patentcenter was so bad that seventy-four members of the Patentcenter listserv sent a letter to the then-acting-USPTO-director Drew Hirshfeld. You can see the letter here. The letter made six “asks”:
- Direct your Patentcenter developers to identify one or two people from their developer team to subscribe to the Patentcenter listserv to follow the postings. This might sometimes permit those people to pass things along from the listserv to appropriate colleagues on the Patentcenter developer team.
- Direct your developers to formally adopt the Patentcenter listserv trouble ticket page as a “to do” list for trouble ticket action by the developers.
- Direct your developers to formally adopt the Patentcenter listserv feature request page as a place for the developers to receive feature requests for Patentcenter.
- Direct your developers to report back to the people of the Patentcenter listserv each time the developers clear a trouble ticket, referencing the listserv trouble ticket number in the report.
- Direct your developers to report back to the people of the Patentcenter listserv each time the developers implement a feature request, referencing the listserv feature request number in the report.
- Direct your developers to cooperate with the people of the Patentcenter listserv by means of some periodic two-way communications by which the progress with trouble tickets and feature requests may be reviewed.
Acting Director Hirshfeld declined to do any of these things. The claim in the press release that Patentcenter has “undergone rigorous user testing and iterative improvements” is likewise pants-on-fire false, given that as of right now, there are some eighty-eight outstanding defects (see trouble ticket list) in Patentcenter, the highest-numbered one being CP152. The claim about “improvements” is likewise disingenuous at best. The Patentcenter listserv has identified more than forty feature requests (see list), most of which have been outstanding for more than three years. The USPTO has not implemented even a single one of the feature requests.
On July 11, 2023 I wrote to Assistant Commissioner for Patents, Greg Vidovich, asking that we please resume our periodic meetings about Patentcenter trouble tickets (PDF of email message). I did not hear back. Two days ago I sent a reminder email to him, and I called him on the telephone, reaching his voice mail, and I left a detailed voicemail message. Still I did not hear back. This silence is, of course, very discouraging.
The press release says:
In preparation for the transition, the USPTO is hosting several training events with question-and-answer sessions to further increase users’ familiarity with Patent Center.
In yesterday’s USPTO training event, the presenter falsely stated (blog article with recording of presenter’s voice) that it is possible for an applicant to carry out more than one entry into the US national phase from a single PCT application.
If the USPTO really plans to shut down EFS-Web and Private PAIR seven weeks from now, then it is absolutely necessary that the USPTO fix the eighty-eight outstanding trouble tickets within the next few weeks, and the USPTO needs to report back to the patent community (and to the Patentcenter listserv) as to each of the eighty-eight trouble tickets, one by one, when they are supposedly fixed. This will permit the trademark community to independently confirm that the defects have actually been corrected.
The need for independent confirmation that any particular defect has actually been corrected is not idle. In yesterday’s USPTO training event, the USPTO presenter was asked when the defect of ticket CP33 (failure of “sort by patent number” to work correctly) would be fixed. The USPTO presenter said that it had supposedly already been fixed. A member of the Patentcenter listserv checked it today and the “sort by patent number” feature still does not work correctly. The USPTO presenter’s statement that the defect had been fixed was false.
As one example of the USPTO’s abject failure to think through its announced plan of shutting down EFS-Web on November 8, 2023, consider the fate of any PCT application containing an ST.25 sequence listing. USPTO’s shutdown of EFS-Web will make it difficult or impossible for a proper national-phase entry to be carried out from such a PCT application (blog article).
The listserv community is considering a range of possible next steps in response to today’s announcement by the USPTO of the scheduled demise of EFS-Web and Private PAIR on November 8, 2023. If you have not already done so, you should join the listserv.