eOffice Action - Basics
- How do I gain access to Private PAIR?
To access Private PAIR you must:
- be a registered patent attorney/agent, an Independent Inventor, or a person granted limited recognition;
- have a customer number; and
- have a digital PKI certificate.
Instructions on how to apply for a Customer Number and digital PKI certificate can be found on the Patent EBC Web site.
- What is e-Office Action?
The e-Office Action program is a USPTO initiative available through Private PAIR. The e-Office Action program is designed to notify applicants, via e-mail, that new Office communication is available for viewing and downloading in Private PAIR. Applicants who opt-in to the program will receive a daily e-mail notification that will replace the daily POSTAL MAILED PAPER DELIVERY of Office communication.
Please Note: The e-Office Action program is based on applications associated to a Customer Number. Applicants with multiple Customer Numbers must opt-in each Customer Number to receive separate e-mail notifications.
- Who may participate?
Effective on June 29, 2009, any registered attorney or agent of record, and pro se inventor who is a named inventor, in a patent application associated with a Customer Number through which Private PAIR is accessed, may participate in the e-Office Action program. To access Private PAIR, the participant must have a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate linked to the participant’s Customer Number.
- What are the key benefits of participating in the e-Office Action program?
- Minimizes the risk of delayed or lost Office communication sent by mail
- e-Mail notification expedites the availability of Office communication up to three days faster than communication sent by postal mail
- Eliminates receipt of paper copies thus reducing paper communication processing errors and docketing time
- How is e-Office Action different from the current paper delivery of Office communication?
USPTO currently mails Office actions and all other communications to applicants. Applicants electing to participate in the e-Office Action program will receive daily e-mail notifications at their designated e-mail addresses from the USPTO that Office communication is available for secure viewing and downloading in Private PAIR. Opting into the program means that the USPTO will discontinue mailing participating applicants paper copies of Office communication. Applicants participating in the e-Office Action program will rely solely on e-mail notifications and the Office communication that is electronically available in Private PAIR rather than paper copies of communication send through the mail.
- What is the new View e-Office Action Notifications search?
View e-Office Action Notifications is a new search query created specifically for e-Office Action Participants. Only customer numbers enrolled in e-notification will be listed in this new search. Users will be able to search using a new calendar function within the past 90 days for a specific date or date range.
- What information is contained in an e-Office Action e-mail notification?
An e-mail notification provides comprehensive information regarding the new Office communication. The information in the e-mail notification includes application number(s), Image File Wrapper (IFW) Document Code, mail room date, the attorney docket number, as well as your correspondence address and associated Customer Number. Basically, you will know exactly what you are being notified for prior to accessing the actual communication in Private PAIR. (Please refer to the e-Office Action Computer Based Training module for additional details and to view a sample e-mail notification).
- Will the Office communication documents be attached to the e-mail notification?
No. The actual Office communication documents can be accessed via Private PAIR.
- How many e-mail addresses can I associate to e-Office Action?
The e-Office Action program requires at least one e-mail address. Up to a maximum of three valid e-mail addresses can be assigned to receive e-mail notifications. For example, these e-mail addresses may be an individual’s e-mail address, a general mailbox, or a docketing department’s e-mail address.
- When I download or view new correspondence using View e-Office Action Notifications search, will the “Earliest Image View Date” and “Viewed By” columns be automatically entered?
Yes, the “Earliest Image View Date” will display the date that the new correspondence was first viewed or downloaded. The “Viewed By” column will display the PKI certificate holder’s name used to view or download the new correspondence the first time.
- Can I view an e-mail history of e-mail notifications?
Yes. Specific e-Office Action related events with corresponding date are available in the Transaction History tab in Private PAIR. The Transaction Description events are self explanatory and are labeled as “Email Notification,” “Electronic Review,” and if applicable “Mail Post Card.” In addition, an OA.EMAIL document is placed in the file wrapper of the application notified that day. The OA.EMAIL document is a truncated version of the daily e-mail listing details of only that specific application number’s new communication.
- Which business units in the USPTO do not participate in the e-Office Action program?
Since several areas of the Office have independent mailing processes, participants will continue to receive paper mailings for communications prepared by certain business units including (but not limited to): the PCT Operations Division – International Branch, BPAI for interference proceedings, Central Reexamination Unit (CRU), Office of Enrollment and Discipline, and Office of the Solicitor.
- Which USPTO business units participate in the e-Office Action program?
Participants will receive e-mail notifications for any communications prepared by the following participating business units: Technology Centers, the Office of Patent Application Processing (formerly Office of Initial Patent Examination (OIPE)), Office of Data Management (Pre-Grant Publications and Office of Publications), Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) for ex parte appeals of rejections, Office of Petitions, and Office of Licensing & Review.
- Does e-Office Action program change the policy for communication via the Internet?
By registering for the e-Office Action program, participant is authorizing the Office to send e-mail notifications of Office communications entered by the participating Office business units in the applications associated with the Customer Number. The e-Office Action program does not, otherwise, change the policy for communication via the Internet set forth in the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) § 502.03. The e-mail notification is simply an automated e-mail sent by the Office. It is not an e-mail sent by the examiner. The program does not alter the Office policy prohibiting an applicant or examiner from engaging in improper e-mail correspondence.
eOffice Action - General
- What application types are included in the program?
The program includes provisional applications and non-provisional applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111, including utility, plant, design, and reissue applications and national stage applications under 35 U.S.C. 371. However, the following applications and proceedings are not included in the program: international applications under 35 U.S.C. 363, reexamination proceedings, and interference proceedings.
- What are the steps I must take to participate in the e-Office Action Program?
A few steps make it simple and easy to begin participating in the USPTO’s e-Office Action program.
- Log-in to Private PAIR and select View Customer Number Details from the menu list. This will take you to the Details for Customer Number screen so you can review current Customer Number details.
- Next, select the ‘Request Customer Data Change(s)’ button near the bottom of the web page to enter the Edit Customer Details screen.
- In the heading section on the Edit Customer Details screen, select: Receive Correspondence Notification via e-mail.
- Finally, enter up to a maximum of three e-mail addresses where the notifications will be sent, preview your changes, then submit your change request to the USPTO.
- After completing this process, PAIR will send a test email to each modified or new e-mail address.
- How do I view the new Office communication once I have been notified?
There are three methods to access new Office communication in IFW via Private PAIR. The first method is to search by individual application number then select the IFW tab to access the file wrapper. The second method is by Customer Number via the Outgoing Correspondence search. The optimal method is by Customer Number via the View e-Office Action Notifications.
- How often will I receive e-mail notifications?
Participants will receive an e-mail notification daily for each Customer Number, including weekends, by 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time. An e-mail notification is sent only when there is new Office communication that day for applications associated with the participant’s Customer Number. Once you are opted in, any Office action currently in process will continue to be mailed in a paper format.
- Can I opt out of the program anytime after I elect to participate?
Yes. Participants in the e-Office Action program can easily opt-out of the program at anytime. From the Details for Customer Number page, participants must select from the menu items: Receive Correspondence via Postal Mail, then review changes, and submit your changes to the USPTO. Please note that switching repeatedly between electronic and paper communication within a calendar day may result in notification delays. Also, opting out of the program will not stop the distribution of courtesy postcards for any unviewed communication for which an e-mail notification was sent. Should you elect to return to paper communication, it is recommended that one e-mail address remain assigned to the Customer Number in order to deliver e-mail notifications still in process.
- What happens if I forget to view my Office communication?
As a courtesy, the USPTO will mail a reminder postcard to the applicant if new communication has not been accessed in Private PAIR within seven calendar days after the sending date of e-mail notification. Please note that the postcard is sent only for communications that require an applicant’s response such as a Final Rejection, Non-Final Rejection or Notice of Allowance and Allowability.
- When I attempt to select the View e-Office Action Notifications search, the radio button is inactive.
You must have 1 or more customer numbers enrolled into e-Office Action. Once a customer number is enrolled in the program, the radio button will become active and that customer number will then display in the drop-down list. You can enroll in the e-Office Action program by selecting the View Customer Number Details option under PAIR Administration.
- What if I did not receive an e-notification today or suspect that I did not receive a notification in the past, can I contact the Electronic Business Center?
You can contact the EBC or you can access any day within the past 90 days using View e-Office Action Notifications and search for new electronic correspondence. If there are no results for that day and customer number, then no e-notification was sent.
- I have multiple customer numbers enrolled in e-Office Action. Why is there not a “Select All” in the customer number drop-down list?
At this time, e-notification download capability is limited to a single customer number at a time.
- What is the difference between View Outgoing Correspondence and View e-Office Action Notifications?
- View Outgoing Correspondence displays all new outgoing correspondence for applications associated to customer numbers linked to the user’s PKI digital certificate regardless if the notification was delivered by postal mail or electronic notification. This intermixing of correspondence can make identifying, viewing, printing or saving electronically notified correspondence challenging.
- The View e-Office Action Notifications query will only display new outgoing correspondence for applications associated to customer numbers linked to the user’s PKI digital certification that are enrolled in the e-notification program. Now that the electronically notified correspondence has been identified, users can easily view, print or save new correspondence using a few quick steps.
- What should I do if I do not get notified or get notified late via an e-Office Action e-mail notification?
Please refer to sections 10 and 12 of the OG notice
- If I utilize an e-mail spam filter, what configuration setting must be performed to allow the e-mail notification?
The USPTO.GOV domain must be listed in the ‘allow’ or ‘white’ list.
Additional spam filter configurations are:
- The subject name of the notification: Private PAIR Correspondence Notification for Customer Number XXXXX, where XXXXX refers to your Customer Number
- The ‘From’ field of the e-mail is PAIR_eOfficeAction@uspto.gov (link sends e-mail). Please do not reply to this email address
- How do I associate my existing patent applications to my Customer Number?