“The Office just days ago reiterated that EFS-Web and PAIR systems would be retired effective November 8, and now suddenly there is a one week reprieve. What could the Office possibly do in a week to correct the numerous problems the patent bar and associations have identified?” – Gene Quinn
On the heels of a report published Sunday by IPWatchdog, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today that they will be postponing the transition to Patent Center—the tool meant to replace legacy systems, EFS-Web and Private PAIR—until November 15. The stated goal of the delay is “to better respond to and incorporate additional valuable stakeholder feedback into the Patent Center system,” according to a blog post published today by USPTO Commissioner for Patents, Vaishali Udupa.
In Sunday’s report, we noted opposition to retiring the legacy systems on the originally scheduled date of tomorrow, November 8, from numerous IP organizations and users. While Udupa’s blog post seems confident the transition will move forward one week from now, it’s unclear what substantive fixes could be made in that short period of time.
According to the blog post and related alert released by the Office today, the agency is still “working to increase usability for sponsored accounts with large amounts of customer numbers and address any related issues. We are also ramping up coverage to our Electronic Business Center to respond to questions in real time and help ensure a smooth transition for our stakeholders.”
The announcement also includes a defense of the decision to retire the old systems:
“Retiring our legacy EFS-Web and Private PAIR systems ensures that we are better protecting confidential application materials and investing patent user fees responsibly. Maintaining these legacy systems during the development and testing of Patent Center made sense to ensure there was no interruption in service. Patent Center is now ready to become the sole system, and it is time to turn off the legacy systems so we can reinvest recovered resources into developing your ideas for new functionality and performance improvements.”
The latest post on Carl Oppedahl’s blog, “Ant-Like Persistence,” notes that the National Association of Patent Practitioners met with the USPTO via videoconference about Patent Center yesterday, November 6, and there was no mention of the postponement.
The NAPP posted on LinkedIn about that meeting, reporting that Udupa, Deputy Commissioner for Patent Administration, Richard Seidel, and members of the USPTO Patent Center development team met with NAPP President Rich Baker, Vice President Dan Smith, Alex Pokot, and Anne Fahrni via videoconference. The USPTO leaders noted during that meeting that “EFS was costing the USPTO $1 Million per month to keep open” and also said the old system has security risks. One such risk mentioned was apparently that “a paralegal could file a document without the approval of a registered patent practitioner.”
Udupa told the NAPP that the Office is “increasing the staffing on the USPTO call center and that Patent Center has been stress tested for the expected significant increase in usage later this week.”
By the conclusion of the meeting, according to the post, “the parties respectfully disagreed on the readiness of Patent Center to take over once EFS and PAIR are shut down.”
But sometime between that meeting and today, a decision was made to delay the transition by at least a week.
Commenting on the announcement today, IPWatchdog Founder and CEO Gene Quinn questioned whether further delays might follow:
“This development is curious, and is certainly going to cause at least some to wonder what is going on at the USPTO. The Office just days ago reiterated that EFS-Web and PAIR systems would be retired effective November 8, and now suddenly there is a one week reprieve. What could the Office possibly do in a week to correct the numerous problems the patent bar and associations have identified? One has to wonder whether someone has finally gotten through to the USPTO brass and this pause is more than a brief timeout. Time will tell, of course, but one week is certainly not enough time to rectify the serious problems still facing Patent Center. If I were a betting man, I’d bet next week there is another reprieve. We shall see.”