EFS Warning! Patent Office Not Ready for Java Update

Consider the title of this article a very mild way of stating my frustration with the Patent Office. Yesterday, as I was trying to file a simple document using the Patent Office’s Electronic System, I kept getting an authentication error when I was trying to log on. I could not figure it out. I know that my digital certificate is up to date and I know that I had the right password. What in the world could possibly be wrong?

Maybe it was because I was using Google Chrome. My paralegal that does most of the filing uses Internet Explorer. That had to be the problem, right? Mind you that I am now 20 minutes into this frustrating process, all to file a document that took me less time to draft! So, I open up IE and try to log on. Guess what? Authentication error again. Now the mild cursing begins (if you know me, you know that this is when spectators start giggling). I know what to do, I’ll delete the digital certificate from my computer and ask my paralegal to email me another one. You guessed it – that didn’t work either. How frustrating do you think it is that someone is able to log onto the PTO Electronic Filing System using my digital certificate just 10 feet from me???

No problem – I’ll just call the PTO. After navigating through about four operators and explaining the problem, I finally get a very helpful technician on the phone. I explain the problem to her and her first reaction was the following: “Did you update Java?” Well, not intentionally. I do remember that when I got into the office on Wednesday, my computer was restarted and I received the indication that Windows had performed some updates. That’s when it must have happened. To my surprise, the technician explained to me that the PTO system was not compatible with the Java update and that I would have to uninstall the update, and reinstall an old version of Java. Really? The United States Patent Office? The forefront of technology was not ready for the?

Here’s my single biggest gripe. I receive an update from the PTO every couple of days via email. It is some sort of breaking news, or some story about happenings within the PTO. Would it have killed you to let me know about this problem that way? How hard would it have been to send a quick email blast to every patent practitioner out there about this issue? I was humored when the technician told me that about 80% of the calls she received lately were for this very issue. By the way, I had about 1 hour of my day into this disaster by that point.

As promised by the technician, uninstalling the update and reinstalling the old version of Java did the trick. I can’t say that the Oracle site is the easiest thing that I have ever navigated, but, with a little help, I was able to find the old Java update 27 and install it. I haven’t even told you the good part yet. Once I got everything working, and once I was able to log onto the PTO Electronic Filing System, I was presented with a notice in big bold letters – something along the lines of “the Java update 29 is not compatible with the PTO Electronic Filing System.” What the heck kind of government operation was this? When I saw that notice, a string of profanity flowed from my mouth that was unmatched, even by the standards of Ralphie’s Dad from A Christmas Story. I sometimes refer to these types of meltdowns as an “Egyptian Conniption.” Present me with a government issue like this again, and you are sure to witness it.

To my friends at Patently-O that posted a story about this issue today, I am here to confirm that it is an issue. A little note to Director Kappos – I have been very pleased with all that has been accomplished by you as the PTO Director, but I can’t believe this one got by the IT folks at the PTO.

Editorial Note: This article was originally published on Tactical IP, but is reproduced here with permission in an attempt to notify as many patent attorneys, agents and paralegals before they initiate the latest Java update.



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Join the Discussion

4 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Aaron]
    November 16, 2011 09:55 am

    Way to go Mark! It seems PTO has followed your advice and sent out an eAlert this morning….

  • [Avatar for Roland]
    November 15, 2011 09:16 am

    To resolve the Java version problem:

    1. Uninstall Java if it has a version number greater than
    Note, if your system hasn’t been rebuilt in some years (ie. has had many Java updates installed) the uninstall may not complete cleanly, in which case you will need to delve into the Windows registry and filesystem to remove these traces. Some skill is required as I’ve not found a fully documented clean up guide.

    2 Download and install Java RE from one of the websites:

    (Aside: with FileHippo the old versions are listed under the latest version, so go to and then you’ll see a list of old versions.)

    4. Finally, disable Java auto-update. This being achieved by a user with ‘Administrator’ permissions. Run the Java console (Control Panel -> Java) and select the ‘Update’ tab then untick the box labelled “Check for Updates Automatically”. You may also want to check the ‘Advance’ tab setting “JRE Auto-Download” is also set to “Never Auto-Download”. you may wish to set yourself a reminder to review this at some stage in the future when hopefully Oracle/Sun and the USPTO have resolved the problems.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    November 14, 2011 07:12 am

    It is indeed sad when the Government’s own forms fail at upload.

  • [Avatar for EG]
    November 12, 2011 08:33 am


    I was “bitten” by the same problem as you. And fortunately, the USPTO technician guided me to the solution.

    The USPTO EFS web system is also very tardy when it comes to which Adobe Reader versions it supports for pdf files, especially fillable pdf froms from which the USPTO can “extract” the filled information, such as an ADS, from an electronically filed documetn via EFS. The USPTO supported versions of Adobe Reader are always well-behind the most recent version(s) (when you load the filled pdf form in EFS, you’ll get a “red” error message on validation). I simply “print” (using PaperPort) the filled form to create a pdf that will at least be loadable in EFS (with a “yellow” warning message) and then explain to my clients (who are now use to this message) that the document loaded but simply can’t be used by the USPTO to “extract” information for loading into PAIR.

    May be Congress needs to be told that all that fee diversion is causing “bread and butter” issues like this one. But that would be logical, and this Congress is driven solely by politics, as the AIA (the Abominable Inane Act) shows in allowing fee diversion to continue unabated (promises by Congress not to do so are meaningless to me).