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May 07, 2015


Given the history here, this isn't entirely surprising, but it remains disconcerting: a state, maintaining maintaining public records, limiting access to those records. Or worse: since the IFW is now *the* official record, what are large offices supposed to do when the run up against the data limit (something I'm guessing will happen more quickly for them than for smaller offices)? How is any firm supposed to represent its clients, or do its work, if the PTO is going to limit access to the data on the firm's own files?

About 7 or 8 years ago, the EBC made a change in PAIR, both public and private, so that you couldn't toggle between screens. That ability to toggle had been a useful feature when researching file histories online.

There are other annoying aspects to how the EBC maintains the IFWs, and how it runs EFS. Like the fact that it takes all the useful information out of PDF files (such as the information that makes those files searchable) and converts everything into unsearchable files. Moreover, in so doing, it greatly increases the size of those files. And then it has the chutzpa to complain that it doesn't have the bandwith to support bulk downloads.

I'm sure some of the more tech-savvy veteran patent attorneys out there can shed more light on the ways in which the PTO has over the years made its electronic access sub-optimal. If you follow Carl Oppedahl's EFS listserve (a forum that has proven itself to be much more amenable to practical give-and-take between practitioners than these blog comment fora), there are weekly stories of issues with EFS and PAIR.

One suggestion I have if you find yourself locked out: try using an IP masking program, so that you can change the IP address that the USPTO sees. I haven't done this yet myself - I haven't needed to, as I haven't gotten locked out downloading documents from PAIR - but it's certainly worked in other contexts where my access to files was being limited, for example due to my geographic location. I would think that, at least for public PAIR, this is worth a shot.

I frequently download entire file histories in the course of my work, and have not, as yet, run into problems.
It would be nice if the PTO told us what the limits were. If I were to have a rush job and find that my access was suddenly limited, I'd have a powerful urge to do some throttling of my own.


I tried to obtain a single file wrapper contents yesterday and was greeted with a similar "error."

If "bulk" is now going to be meant to include all the documents of a single file wrapper, the Office may want to remove the "select all" option within the image file wrapper of the contents of that file wrapper.

Well, Yes downloading file wrapeer is creating issues since past few weeks.

Hence,the best way available is to download only relevent data.

However, .zip file of complete Prosecution can be downloaded form Google. Provided the application that you are seeking is availble in it! If it is a recent application, chances are rare!
Here is the link:

There is a limit on the number of file histories one can download in a 24-hout period. After that, the system locks you out until the next day. It is not new, but very annoying when you download for a project, but not an automated "bulk downloader." I have never run into a restriction on a number of documents within a single file history

The USPTO should recognize the difference between truly "bulk" downloads such as to do metadata analysis, and just trying to download the file history of a single patent.

From the Google link provided by Prakarsh Buch:

"This crawl operates continually and will be retrieving both already-submitted documents and new documents as the USPTO makes them publicly available."

One has to wonder then if Google is getting a "free pass" from the USPTO...


Thanks for this post. Sigh. More news that PAIR and the service it supposedly provides needs to be overhauled. Also, I wonder if making what are otherwise publicly available records unavailable for download because of how many/much are downloaded is compliant with current US statutes.

I am still receiving the "failed Network error" message for attempting the SINGLE image file wrapper contents (all contents in one single application).

If this is indeed a new definition of "bulk download," there be some serious recalibration of Office definitions needed.

This is not new. I have only received this message when downloading huge file histories or lots of file histories in a day.

I received this message the other day, but I was still able to go in and obtain individual office actions. I just couldn't download the entire file history that day.

I have experienced increasing problems with downloads. They come at the worst times for my work and seem to happen around 8-9 pm California time, no matter what day it is. I thought that this was due to the PTO daily uploads, but it is now obvious to me that bulk down-loaders like Google are likely the real problem. I appreciate that banning Google, Lexis, et al., from down loading bulk info would be restraint of trade, but can anyone think of a practical suggestion the patent bar can make to the PTO to have these companies stagger their downloads? P.S. I live in Mt. View, otherwise known as Googleville. The executive management offices are a mile from my home. I would be happy to walk over a petition seeking fair internet practices....

Since the IFW is the official record, it is essential that Applicants be able to refer to it at any time to confirm its accuracy. We have had many 'issues' with EFS, most notably on due dates and while uploading 'large' files such as references for an IDS (for example, EFS crashing repeatedly during an upload; also trying to log in to EFS on a due date only to have it not work over and over again). As a result of some of this, I think it is very advisable to check the IFW to confirm that what one thinks has been filed with EFS has actually been filed (because we have found on some occasions that it is not). Limits on downloading data from PAIR can interfere with this very important check by Applicants on a faulty system that the PTO has sought to encourage Applicants to use and have confidence in. This is the kind of posture that makes Applicants doubt the PTO values inventors' and assignees' best interests.

Here are some comments that were submitted by a Patent Docs reader:

The issues we have been recently but now habitually experiencing on Public and/or Private PAIR are:

- Public PAIR only: unable to download large file wrappers (for our pharmaceutical opinion work, we download a lot of complete file histories including foreign references)

- continually receive inaccessibility messages that Private/Public PAIR is busy or unavailable, when we search for a patent or application; have to refresh the screen multiple times

- the worst and most disturbing problem: we frequently receive the error message that the patent or application we're searching for is NOT available/found on Public PAIR even when it IS. Multiple searches for the patent or application usually finally result in it appearing but not always; accessing it through searching for a parent or child application will work.

The third problem started pretty recently – not sure exactly when but within the past year or so. We never once experienced it before that. The second problem is becoming much, much more common, to a very annoying degree, it's difficult to get our work done at times. As to downloading large file wrappers, the only one we were unable to download on Private PAIR was gargantuan (as opposed to all of the quite large ones we download all of the time).

Yes I got the same error in downloading a single IFW.

Still receiving errors - even on attempts with only partially selected (not entire) items from the Image File Wrapper.

This needs some attention and/or comment from the Office...

I tried to download the IFW for an application today--after 2 hours it had downloaded a little less than 9 MB. I went away for awhile and when I came back Windows said the download had been interrupted.

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