By Donald Zuhn --
On Monday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced the implementation of a new authentication method for signing into the EFS-Web and Private PAIR. According to the Office, the new method is safer and simpler, grants access to multiple USPTO systems with one consolidated sign-in, and eliminates the need to share credentials by providing practitioners and their support staff with their own USPTO.gov accounts. The new method also helps to resolve browser compatibility issues, and will provide users with access to the EFS-Web and Private PAIR until the full release of Patent Center, which is scheduled to replace the EFS-Web and Private PAIR, in 2020.
The Office also announced the release of a migration tool, which allows existing PKI digital certificate holders to link their USPTO.gov accounts to their current PKI digital certificates. To migrate an existing PKI digital certificate, users must have a USPTO.gov account. Users who need to create a USPTO.gov account can do so by following the steps under the "Create a USPTO.gov Account" tab at the Office's authentication change webpage. Once a USPTO.gov account has been created, users can follow the steps under the "Migrate your PKI Certificate" tab at the Office's authentication change webpage (or refer to the Guide for Migration) to link that account to their PKI certificate. The Office notes that users should allow 1–2 business days after the migration steps are finished for the migration process to be completed. Once the process is completed, users will be able to sign into the EFS-Web or Private PAIR using their USPTO.gov account. Users should use the following new links to sign into the EFS-Web or Private PAIR using their USPRTO.gov accounts:
Additional information regarding the new authentication process can be found in the Office's Patent Electronic System Access Document. This resource includes information about USPTO.gov accounts; two-step authentication; signing in and signing out from USPTO systems; Patent Electronic Access roles for practitioners, support staff, and inventors; suspension of accounts; authorization; authentication steps; the sponsorship process (by which practitioners can grant or remove sponsorship for support staff individuals to work under their direction and control); and the Office's verification policy and identity proofing of sponsored support staff. With respect to identity proofing, the Office notes that "[e]ach practitioner will be responsible for verifying the identity of the person using any sponsored support Staff account."
Practitioners are cautioned that migration to link USPTO.gov accounts to PKI certificates should be completed by the end of October, sponsorship of support staff should be completed by the end of November, and that PKI certificates are scheduled to be retired in December. The Office notes that the Sponsorship Tool will not be available until November, so support staff should continue to sign into the EFS-Web and Private PAIR using PKI certificates until November.
Users requiting assistance to create a USPTO.gov account should call the USPTO Contact Center (UCC) at 800-786-9199. Users requiring assistance with migration should contact the Patent Electronic Business Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-217-9197. The Office will also be offering several informational sessions on authentication changes; a schedule of upcoming sessions can be found at the "Information sessions" tab at the Office's authentication change webpage. A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the authentication change for EFS-Web and Private PAIR can be found here.