Fax Automation in Technology Center 1700

  In early April of 2000, Technology Center 1700 (TC 1700) deployed a
pilot program that automates the routing of incoming fax transmissions
and provides an acknowledgment of Official fax communications received
in Technology Center 1700. Deployment of this system to other Technology
Centers will begin later in calendar year 2000.

  The goal of the pilot program is to improve service to customers and the
efficiency with which fax communications are processed within Technology
Center 1700. These goals will be achieved by reducing the need for
retransmission of lost Official faxes and by providing faster delivery
of draft and informal communications to the examiners by eliminating
prior manual sorting and delivery steps. The pilot uses a computer-based
fax server that routes and stores fax transmissions based upon the
incoming United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) telephone
number. Faxes sent to Official fax numbers would be stored
electronically for 9 months or until a printed paper copy is made of
record in the patent application file. An Official communication that
lacks some formality such as a signature or fee will be treated as an
Official fax unless explicitly identified as a draft or informal
communication. A fax that is sent to an Official fax number would be
rerouted to an Unofficial fax number if it were identified as a draft or
informal communication. Faxes that are sent to fax numbers not
designated as "Official," or rerouted to such numbers, will not be
stored on the fax server after being deleted by the recipient. Although
the faxes are received and stored on the server, they appear to PTO
users as if they are being received on their workstation or a technology
center printer. Official fax submissions will be routed to central
printers in Technology Center 1700 for printing and matching with the
application files.

  An acknowledgment confirming receipt of the fax by TC1700 will be
transmitted to the sender's fax number. The acknowledgment will be sent
only for the Official fax telephone numbers. Customers can thus be
assured that their faxes are being received. The acknowledgment receipt
will be fax transmitted back to the sending fax machine. The fax server
can only be programmed to obtain a telephone number from the customer's
sending machine fax ID. Customers must ensure that their fax machines or
software are configured to transmit accurate ID data including the fax
telephone number. The transmission of a receipt will be attempted soon
after an Official fax transmission is received. Five attempts will be
made to transmit the receipt if the line is busy and three attempts will
be made if there is no answer. The receipt will indicate the date and
time of receipt at the USPTO of each fax transmission and the number of
pages received. If an incorrect telephone number is provided in the fax
ID or a fax connection cannot be established, no receipt will be sent.
Because the receipts are automatically generated by the software, we are
unable to provide replacement receipts. Nor can receipts be generated
for faxes that are rerouted from one fax number to another fax number.

  When an Official fax is entered into a patent application file, a
corresponding content entry will be recorded in the Patent Application
Location Monitoring (PALM) systems records for that application. PALM is
a USPTO computer records system that lists the status and content of
each patent application. Matching faxes with an application file and
updating PALM should be expected within two weeks of the date of receipt
of the fax in TC 1700. Status and content information for patent
applications in PALM are available to applicants and their
representatives with the Patent Application Information Retrieval system
(PAIR). See 65 Fed. Reg. 10762 (Feb. 29, 2000). PAIR is a USPTO system
available through the Internet for providing confidential status and
content information about patent applications to applicants and
registered practitioners. Enrollment information and downloadable
software for PAIR can be found on the USPTO's web site at
http://pto-ebc.uspto.gov/newusers.html. Thus, PAIR can be used to
determine if an Official fax submission (or any paper) has been entered
into the application file. Draft proposal communications sent to
examiners will not be recorded into PALM; hence, there will be no
corresponding PALM record to view with PAIR.

  A customer may infer that an Official fax is lost if a PALM content
entry for the fax is not recorded into PALM within two weeks of the
transmission of the fax. For customers who do not use PAIR, they may
suspect that the fax is lost if no communication is received within 30
days plus normal mail time for "After Final" amendments or 3 months plus
normal mail time for other amendments. If a customer is thinks that
his/her Official fax is lost, he/she can request that a new copy be
printed and matched with the application file. Requests for reprinting
the fax should be directed to the customer service representative for TC
1700. Customers can assist in locating faxes if upon request they
provide either a copy of the acknowledgment receipt or the date and time
of transmission, number of pages transmitted, sender's fax telephone
number, and the pilot fax telephone number used.

  Customer service should be improved since the automated system retains
an electronic copy of each Official fax received at an Official fax
number at least until the printed paper is made of record in the
application file. The electronic copy will be used, if needed, to reduce
the necessity for resubmission of lost faxes. The pilot program will not
eliminate all lost faxes, since some faxes are lost due to transmission
errors making the fax document received unusable.

  A select group of examiners in Technology Center 1700 will also be
participating in another aspect of the pilot program. The participating
examiners will be able to use special fax numbers for receiving draft or
informal fax communications that can be viewed and printed directly at
an examiner's workstation. Examiners participating in the pilot program
will provide their direct fax number during telephone interviews with
their customers. Participating examiners will also be able to send draft
communications by fax from their workstations when necessary to
supplement telephone communications. The pilot program should improve
customer service and efficiency by allowing participating patent
examiners to respond more quickly to draft communications, which will
presage the migration of automated fax capabilities to the rest of the

  New fax numbers are being used for the pilot program in Technology
Center 1700 as follows:

  -All Official Final replies for applications assigned to Technology
Center 1700 should be sent to 703-872-9311.

  -All other Official communications should be faxed to 703-872-9310.

  -Direct fax numbers to examiner PCs will be provided by participating

  An examiner's direct fax number should only be used for direct
communications requested by the examiner, e.g., draft proposals. The
direct fax number should not be used for routine transmission of
amendments or replies to Office actions.

  The old fax telephone numbers for Technology Center 1700 will remain
operational but they are not connected to the new automated fax system.
The new fax numbers should be used whenever possible.

  Problems with fax communications should be directed to the customer
service representative for Technology Center 1700 at 703-306-5665.

  Questions and comments may be directed to Patrick Ryan at 703-308-2383
or by e-mail to patrick.ryan@uspto.gov.

July 24, 2000                                          ESTHER M. KEPPLINGER
                                  Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations