USPTO Performing ‘Emergency IT Maintenance’ to Remedy Five-Day Outage

U.S. Patent Trademark Office USPTO Commerce

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) said today that an internal IT systems failure–that has shut down its major electronic database for patent-related activities since last Wednesday–has yet to be remedied, and that teams are working to restore service following an ongoing five-day outage.

USPTO experienced a maintenance issue that prompted it to shut down its Patent Application Locating and Monitoring (PALM) database just after 4:30 a.m. on August 15. PALM is the primary USPTO database that allows users to file patent applications, make payments, check the status of ongoing applications, and make FOIA requests, among other things. As of today, the database and roughly 14 systems that fall under it remained down.

“We have experts in databases, operating systems, and storage from within the USPTO and from external vendors working around the clock to restore the PALM database. Our best estimate at this time is that service will be restored sometime tomorrow,” USPTO said in a status update posted this morning.

“The USPTO has been performing emergency IT maintenance since Wednesday morning due to an issue with the agency’s PALM database, which affects many of our patent filing and payment systems,” USPTO Director Andrei Iancu said in a statement Friday. “I am also in constant contact with our acting chief information officer and his team about the around-the-clock work they are doing to restore the full functionality of these systems.”

USPTO, which is housed in the Department of Commerce, clarified that the outage was not the result of malicious activity. “This issue stems from an internal systems failure and is not the result of external causes,” Iancu said.

The outage may be causing serious difficulty for individuals, attorneys, and corporations that use PALM daily to track patent activities. USPTO last Thursday activated a contingency system to allow users to submit new patents while the main electronic filing system is down.

However, users are currently unable to access previously saved submissions, and USPTO said that information regarding ongoing applications may not be up to date since the time of the outage. USPTO staff are continuing to work on applications while the online systems remain down.

USPTO is encouraging customers to use alternative filing and payment methods, and is not planning to extend deadlines on applications, according to Iancu. He said the patent office is examining its options to deal with potential refunds to paper filing fees–which currently amount to $400 for regular entities, versus $240 for electronic filing.

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