USPTO Rejects Submission Because It Was Faxed 'Upside Down'

from the these-people-guard-our-innovation? dept

It's no secret that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has outdated technology. But did you know it was so bad they can't even figure out how to rotate a fax? Erik Sherman alerts us to a story he's written about the USPTO rejecting a faxed submission, because it was "received upside down." Seriously.
Your request to record a document in the United States Patent and Trademark Office was received via electronic fax on [date and time in 2010 omitted].

The faxed submission was received upside down. We are unable to continue processing these images.

Please resubmit your document.
My guess? Perhaps the "technology" to rotate a document was patented, and the USPTO didn't want to pay the licensing fee.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    lavi d (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    Alternative Transmission

    ...was received via electronic fax...

    As opposed to what? Mechanical fax? Organic fax?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    BBT, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:38pm

    Or it could have meant "upside down" along the other axis, meaning the front side of the paper was not scanned and instead the blank back side of the paper was. Meaning the USPTO got a blank piece of paper. Now, if you had the technology to magically figure out what was supposed to have been printed on a blank sheet of paper, that would be patent-worthy!

     

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  3.  
    icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:38pm

    Cue my misquoting troll... 3 2 1...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    Or it could have meant "upside down" along the other axis, meaning the front side of the paper was not scanned and instead the blank back side of the paper was. Meaning the USPTO got a blank piece of paper. Now, if you had the technology to magically figure out what was supposed to have been printed on a blank sheet of paper, that would be patent-worthy!

    Then wouldn't they have just said the page received was blank?

     

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  5.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re:

    There was a lot of discussion on Slashdot about this exact issue. The conclusion that I like best was that yes, someone patented the technology to flip those pages (interns), but it should be kicked out for prior art due to the existence of slave labor.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    People still send faxes? You've got to be kidding me.

     

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  7.  
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    Nate (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    My guess is that they print this stuff on 3-hole punched paper and when a document comes in upside down they can't turn the page because of the holes are on the other side. I'm not sure if they're required to keep a paper copy (I guess yes), and if so they just keep them in binders.

    //Not trying to say that the Patent Office is not strange for taking the time to tell the guy 'poor submission' rather than fixing it themselves.

     

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  8.  
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    a-dub (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Alternative Transmission

    As opposed to what? Mechanical fax? Organic fax?

    Actually yes. There is such a thing as a mechanical facsimile. But I see your point, there's really no need to clarify a fax as being electronic. Maybe this is yet another indication of how dated their systems are.

     

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  9.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:52pm

    Re:

    Generally "upside down" means the page was rotated 180 degrees. What you are describing is generally referred to as "face down".

     

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  10.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    Re:

    Think of how much less time it would have taken to photocopy the submission with the correct orientation than to draft and send an e-mail (even using templates) asking for a resubmission. Isn't the filing fee supposed to cover costs associated to things like this?

     

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  11.  
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    SureW (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    If only someone could define "up" for us...

     

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  12.  
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    Sirpa Aggarwal (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    I have 10 years of experience communicating with the USPTO, and thought I've heard and read it all by now. But apparently not. This was quite funny!

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Up

    I patented the concept of up already. They can't use it unless they're willing and ready to pay!

    Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!

     

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  14.  
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    Werner Van Belle (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Alternative Transmission

    Smoke Signals ?
    Pigeon ?
    Dead Pigeon ? -> could not be processed. Was tasty though.

     

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  15.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    i work in medical, and if i could tell idiots who can't fax documents to just stop, I would do it in a heart beat.(our faxes go into a fax server and turn into PDF's automatically, so they come to your mailbox upside down, and the only way to easily rotate them is to have the shitty Adobe suite.)

    favorite kind of person? Have a non-duplex fax scanner (OOOOLD) and they constantly scan the documents wrong side up. So we get a nice blank page, and then angry calls five hours later wondering why we didn't do whatever the hell was on the document.

    hate. people.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    BBT, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re:

    "Then wouldn't they have just said the page received was blank?"

    That would have worked too.

    I suppose the explanation that the employee is so stupid he can't put his pants on in the morning, yet somehow got the job...is possible. I'm just not finding it particularly likely. It requires the guy to be dumb enough to not think to flip the page, yet somehow smart enough to remember which way the page "should" be. That the guy happened to use a semantically equivalent phrase that you don't prefer is much more likely than your explanation. Yours makes for a good joke, though, so it's cool.

     

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  17.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Alternative Transmission

    Reminds me of the American tendency to say "tuna fish" rather than just "tuna"

    you have to make sure you differentiate it from tuna chicken and tuna pork.

    Seriously though, if these people are unable to rotate a piece of paper, how can the be trusted to determine if an invention is patent worthy of not?

    How long until:
    Can you rotate paper 180 degrees
    _ yes
    _ no

    becomes a standard part of job applications?

     

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  18.  
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    Xyro TR1 (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:17pm

    Unbelievable

    Flip the damn page over! LOL

     

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  19.  
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    SureW (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Alternative Transmission

    Reminds me of the American tendency to say "tuna fish" rather than just "tuna"

    To be fair "Tuna" could also refer to Bill Parcells and I wouldnt want it implied that I ate him with some mayo for lunch.

    Besides, you guys have the metric system up there and don't have the "180 degree rotate" vs "upside down" issue.

     

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  20.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:26pm

    Re:

    Hey! That's my line!!

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Angus, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Maybe...

    Maybe they have a requirement that the header and footer line that the fax machine adds HAS to be of the same orientation as the message. This is the gov't after all. Or the machine printed arrival date stamp has to be in the proper quadrant of the document.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re:

    "(our faxes go into a fax server and turn into PDF's automatically, so they come to your mailbox upside down, and the only way to easily rotate them is to have the shitty Adobe suite.)"

    This seems to be the only sensible explanation to this otherwise silly rejection....

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Royce, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Good for them

    I say, good for them. With the number of junk patents streaming in to the USPTO, doing a considerable amount of harm in the marketplace, if a submitter can't be bothered to look at the page orientation label on the fax machine that will transport his or her oh-so-precious IP, then perhaps it's not so precious after all and the USPTO really shouldn't bother with it.

     

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  24.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re:

    hell, i just assumed that was what they were doing. I can't imagine any large org using real fax machines if they have any kind of load.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:50pm

    Couldn't it just be that the USPTO makes more money by rejecting patents and making people refile. Therefore, employee "X" recieves patent submission, opens case file, determines fax submission is upside down, takes the time to fill out form to send rejection, puts case file on hold, and than charges some rediculous amount of hours on their time card.

     

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  26.  
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    Emo the Libertarian (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

    Course it could just be the bloated red tape that all of our Government works by now. I would bet that some where there is a rule (you know how they love those) that says if a fax is recieved as A (picture of a fax flipped) then we must ask for a resubmission, and no reason given. I am even willing to bet the poor government bee felt like a jackass for even sending the message...


    OR it could be that the worker bee is seriously pissed off at 1) the Government or 2) the people that are applying for patents for overwork... so they are looking for ways to screw with people.

     

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  27.  
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    Hosermage (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    Do you mean...

    All we have to do to stop this crazy patent process is to somehow disrupt the fax line? Hmmm...

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    pferland, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Alternative Transmission

    or maybe, they are trying to weed out the incompetent lawyers from people that have a real patent..

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Alternative Transmission

    >> ...was received via electronic fax...
    > As opposed to what? Mechanical fax? Organic fax?

    Commonly known as fax-to-email or fax-to-PDF.

    Yes, pressing "rotate" button in PDF reader was really hard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    JB, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "That the guy happened to use a semantically equivalent phrase that you don't prefer is much more likely than your explanation."

    BBT,

    That is not a semantically equivalent phrase. If someone were to receive blank pieces of paper through a fax machine, or even through e-mail from a fax, that person could not jump to the conclusion that the papers were put into the scanner/fax facing the wrong direction.

    Such a conclusion could only be reached if there were reversed, ghosted letters on the page/image due to the presence/absence of back-scattered light transmitted through the fibrous page, off the guide and back into the imager.

    Since this is technically possible, you could be correct. But, due to the wording of the response and the small possibility that ghosted letters were visible enough to recognize their incorrect direction, it is more likely that the USPTO clerk was either incapable of rotating a page or image, or was following some defunct rule of the patent office.

    ~JB

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 2:18pm

    Re:

    Sanity Rejects The Anti-Mike Because He's "Upside Down"

    Something like that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Re:

    Did you patent it? Did ya? ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 2:27pm

    Why not?

    If the USPO arbitrarily approves very bad patents, I don't see why they can't reject them for reasons that are just as arbitrary and unfathomable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    lux (profile), Feb 4th, 2010 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Why not?

    And you nailed it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2010 @ 9:28pm

    Ambiguous language in the communication , which could mean a couple of things. Why are so many immediately assuming that these are fax images rotated 180 degrees?

    Jeez, at least try and resolve the ambiguity before making fun of a communication from the PTO that may perhaps even turn out to be a fake.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    step back, Feb 5th, 2010 @ 3:09am

    Masnick,

    If you were half truthful --which often you are not-- you would have clued your minions to the fact that the 'fax' was sent to the "Assignment" branch of the US Patent Office. Probably it was not a fax and some USPTO clerk just put down the wrong phrase. They probably meant an electronically submitted PDF file.

    The Assignment Branch records as PDF files, electronic copies of contracts controlling ownership of a patent. No patent was "rejected" here. Probably what the USPTO meant was that some pages were upside down inside an electronically filed PDF file. They are merely asking the submitter to resubmit. No big deal. No one is having their patent "rejected". Nice try.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    !Saygin, Feb 5th, 2010 @ 6:28am

    Re:

    I don't believe that the USPTO requires paper copies internally. Fujitsu has a new Patent Office in Virginia that is entirely paperless. The Fujitsu office uses a third party vendor to store the electronic documents remotely and facilitate some communications with the USPTO; but basically, it's an entirely cyber relationship with the USPTO.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2010 @ 7:23am

    Yes, I think you're correct here. Probably it was not a fax. Probably it was a cabbage. Somebody mailed a cabbage, probably, and they just said 'electronic fax', probably by mistake. He probably meant to say cabbage, but he was looking (probably) at the fax machine at the time.

    And you're right again, probably they did probably mean upside down in a pdf file. It was also inside out, probably, but you probably don't hear them complaining about that do you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    DannyB (profile), Feb 5th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    Faxes may be converted directly to PDF

    If incoming FAXes are converted directly into PDF, then upside down pages may interrupt the USPTO's normal workflow.

    Considering the enormous speed at which the USPTO rubber stamps patents to get them quickly into the hands of anxious patent trolls, it is unlikely that they can spare the time to rotate a PDF page to make it viewable, even if the "examiner" knew how.

    USPTO would not want to infringe a patent on rotating upside down PDF pages to make them viewable. The examiner simply doesn't have time to check if the rotate command is patented.

    Taking time to do so may cause the ink on their rubber stamp to dry. Patent examiners just hate it when that happens.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Peter Pappas, Feb 5th, 2010 @ 8:41am

    Upside Down Fax

    This error, which affects a fraction of documents filed by fax, is due to antiquated software that is scheduled to be replaced next month. Our current software cannot read pages that are faxed in the wrong direction and consequently generates an automatic error message. The vast majority of filings are received electronically and are unaffected by this problem. We apologize for the inconvenience caused to fax filers and urge them to ensure that faxed pages are correctly oriented as we work to resolve this problem.

    Peter Pappas
    Chief Communications Officer
    USPTO

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 5th, 2010 @ 1:04pm

    Re:

    If you were half truthful --which often you are not-- you would have clued your minions to the fact that the 'fax' was sent to the "Assignment" branch of the US Patent Office. Probably it was not a fax and some USPTO clerk just put down the wrong phrase. They probably meant an electronically submitted PDF file.

    I see, so the "truth" is we should assume a mistake was made, rather than what was accurately said? Really?

    The Assignment Branch records as PDF files, electronic copies of contracts controlling ownership of a patent. No patent was "rejected" here. Probably what the USPTO meant was that some pages were upside down inside an electronically filed PDF file. They are merely asking the submitter to resubmit. No big deal. No one is having their patent "rejected". Nice try.

    Can you point to where I said a patent was rejected? I never did. For someone trying to call me out for not being truthful, that's really rather stunning. You should probably stop making stuff up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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