The New Public PAIR – Now With ReCAPTCHA!
If you’ve recently had an opportunity to use Public PAIR (the Patent Office’s Patent Application Information Retrieval system that displays information regarding patent application status), you may have noticed that the site is now secured with an “image or audio challenge” that one must overcome to obtain access to the system. (Example below).
The security system that the Patent Office is employing is called ReCAPTCHA. ReCAPTCHA is a creator-recommended implementation of the CAPTCHA test, a challenge-response test used in computing to determine whether a user is human. The term “CAPTCHA” is a contrived acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”. A trademark application for the mark was filed by Carnegie Mellon University and has been allowed. Current computers are unable to solve a CAPTCHA test. Any user entering a correct solution to the test is presumed to be human. Accordingly, the CAPTCHA test severely limits access to the Public PAIR data by other computer systems and programs.
The Public PAIR system had been plagued with intermittent connectivity problems due to data mining, and ReCAPTCHA apparently is the Patent Office’s attempt to remedy these problems. We can personally attest to instances where public PAIR was unavailable for considerable lengths of time (although Private PAIR access never appeared to be affected).
Notably, the Patent Office also is leaving the door open to denying access for any future, unforseen activities (manual or automatic) that may also affect connectivity. (See the below excerpt from the Patent Electronic Business Center portal).
PAIR USAGE POLICY
To maintain general availability of USPTO information and services provided on the Internet, any activities or operations that cause a denial or diminution (decrease) of services to other customers, whether generated automatically or manually, may result in the Office’s denying access to the Office Internet resources to the offender.
Contact the Patent Electronic Business Center (EBC) with any questions or concerns about this policy. The Patent EBC is a complete customer service center that supports all Patent e-business products and service applications, and can be reached at 571-272-4100 or toll-free at 866-217-9197 between the hours of 6 am and 12 midnight Monday through Friday ET, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although we are hopeful that the ReCAPTCHA security will reduce the instances in which Public PAIR is unavailable, one has to wonder if the public will be negatively affected by a loss of information that was being provided via data mining services? Has this security upgrade positively or negatively affected any of our readers? Your thoughts are welcomed.