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February 26, 2013


Don, glad you pointed out the PKI certificate notice. What you didn't mention was that following the security lapse, the PTO inquisitors sent threatening letters to anyone who had accessed a file that they weren't officially authorized to access (but which the PTO let them access), demanding a confession that the data accessed hadn't been used or saved, and pulling the PKI certificate of anyone who didn't timely recant - even the accession had been inadvertent, say due to a typo when entering an application number. The announcement concerning the new PKI policy would seem to be an admission that the PTO overstepped its authority (or at least the terms of the PKI agreements then in force) when it acted in such a heavy-handed manner. Compounding the issue, as reported in one of Carl Oppedahl's listserve groups, was that the employees who sent those letters mixed up practitioner numbers and customer numbers, so that, in some cases, firms in which no one had obtained access to files they weren't supposed to be able to see received letters from the PTO.

It would be nice if the PTO would move away from its current PKI system to something more user-friendly, like the WIPO authentication system (which doesn't randomly revoke certificates without prior warning).

Thanks for the post, Don. Just in case anyone else didn't notice, the PKI rules include a provision about 'deemed export' applying to foreign nationals inside the U.S. Probably not a problem for most organizations, but good to be aware of, seeing how the PTO handles these things:

"6. Restrictions on the Export (Including Deemed Export) of Technology and Software
Included in Patent Applications
I understand that technology and software included in unpublished patent applications may be
subject to export controls set out in the Export Administration Regulations (15 C.F.R. parts 730-
774). Access to such technology and software by any person located outside the United States or
by a foreign national inside the United States constitutes an export that may require a license
from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”). I agree not to
use (and to make sure that each designated employee will not use) or permit the use of the
USPTO certificate in a manner that would violate or circumvent the Export Administration

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