The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) launched its first electronic filing system (“EFS”) pilot program in 1999. The EFS system has grown in popularity ever since. Now, anyone with a Web-enabled computer can access the EFS-Web system and can file a patent application, without downloading any special software.
In May 2010, the USPTO announced the immediate availability of the EFS-Web Contingency system. The EFS-Web Contingency system increases the availability of the EFS-Web system, by being operational when the EFS-Web system is down (a primary portal outage). The EFS-Web Contingency system is similar to the EFS-Web unregistered system, in that the contingency system offers the same user interface, file format requirements, file validation, Electronic Acknowledgement Receipt, security, and equivalent functionality.
When the EFS-Web system experiences primary portal outage, caused by a system failure and/or an environmental factor (causing a power outage), the USPTO will post a notice of the portal outage and provide the link to the EFS-Web Contingency system. The system only permits users to sign in as an unregistered EFS-Web user. Once signed in, the user can file several types of documents, including: (1) provisional patent applications; (2) nonprovisional utility patent applications (including reissue applications); (3) nonprovisional design patent applications (including reissue applications); (4) international applications (under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”)) for filing in the U.S. Receiving Office; (5) national stage applications (under PCT) submitted with the basic national fee required; (6) requests for ex parte reexaminations; (7) requests for inter partes reexaminations; (8) petitions to make special based on age; (9) petitions to accept an unintentionally delayed payment of maintenance fees; and (10) petitions to make special under the accelerated examination program.
Although the EFS-Web Contingency system accepts the filing of a wide array of documents, it does not have the system capacity of the standard EFS-Web system. Some of the system limitations include: not accepting follow-on documents, not accepting follow-on fee payments to an existing patent application, and not being able to access previously saved submissions. Further, the EFS-Web Contingency system is only available during unexpected primary portal outage, when scheduled outages occur, such as general system maintenance and upgrades, the contingency system is not available.
Additional information regarding the EFS-Web Contingency system can be found at www.uspto.gov/patents/process/file/efs/contingency.jsp