Don't Find That 24-hr Post Office Yet (Update on USPTO Systems Outage)

Posted Thursday, December 24, 2015.

Yesterday I posted about a “major power outage” at the headquarters of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). (Read the original post here.) As of this writing (Dec. 24, 10AM PT) the USPTO data systems are still inaccessible via the Internet. The outage includes systems for searching, filing and payment of fees.

The USPTO expects the outage to continue at least through Friday.

An issue relates to filing deadlines. For example, what happens if an applicant for a patent received an Office Action on September 23, 2015 having a three-month time period for a response? That would make the due date December 23. However, because of the systems outage, filing a timely response (assuming one waited until the last day) would be impossible.

In its earlier status posts, the patent office reminded us all that they also accept submissions by regular mail. Deadlines are considered met if an envelope containing a submission is postmarked no later than the due date, and provided the submission is accompanied by an affidavit of mailing. (USPS Priority Mail Express is another option.)

Before electronic filing became prevalent, many patent practitioners had the location of the closest 24-hr post office committed to memory. (For the Seattle area, it used to be in Tukwila, just north of Sea-Tac airport.) Once we all migrated to electronic filing, however, this process became a thing of the past.

It was looking like we needed to dust off those affidavits of mailing in response to the USPTO systems outage. Also of note is that certain discounts are only available if documents are filed electronically - submission by mail incurs a higher filing fee in some instances.

However, the USPTO has granted some relief by declaring all days between December 22, 2015 (the first day of the outage) and December 24 a holiday. December 25 is a holiday and the following two days (December 26-27) are a weekend. By doing so, the USPTO enables us to file everything that should have been filed from December 22-24 on Monday, December 28 (by which time the systems are anticipated to be operational again).

This relief should even hold for PCT applications, as PCT rules state that due dates are determined based on local Receiving Office days of operation. (See PCT Rule 80.5.) If a PCT deadline occurred on December 23 and a PCT filing was due that day, even though other Receiving Offices and the offices of WIPO are open on December 23, relief to file any documents at the USPTO through December 28 will be available.

Blog Archive