US Trademark Office still wants to keep faxes, but is willing to try this cloud thing

Finally, we've arrived in the future

The US Patent and Trademark Office is soliciting ideas for a radical transformation of its tech stack: the replacement of its on-premise fax systems with a cloud-based alternative. 

Yes, the trusty old USPTO does still take faxes, but only in certain circumstances. Impressively, most of its modern document filing is done electronically, though faxing is still an option in case of emergencies.

Like, for example, a week-long outage in 2018 when the USPTO's main database went down and the Office was compelled to dust off its ancient technology. The USPTO is currently using RightFax faxing software that it claims has only suffered one unplanned outage in the past 18 years. 

"The system successfully supported alternate Patents and Trademarks processing during extended primary database outage in 2018, scaling from a 30,000 page throughput per day to 100,000 per day, and supporting extended business backlogs for months thereafter," the USPTO said in its request for information.

When thinking about the 2018 outage after the fact the USPTO apparently had an epiphany: if there was a "catastrophic disruption" to the USPTO's central headquarters, "alternate processors that may have been distributed across available national regions could not have received or processed public customer document submissions." Thus, a cloud-based system is needed so the hardware is someone else's responsibility. 

You'll need a very particular set of skills

As the USPTO is only making a request for information, it's not preparing to make a big jump into the high-tech world of faxing cloud quite yet - just gathering ideas. That said, the Office isn't exactly opening the doors to all comers - it has a very tight list of features that must be included. 

The USPTO doesn't want to lose any of its existing "service, system and messaging integrations, including automated workflow and [API] features … without compromising the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of sensitive customer data [and] made available to only those USPTO personnel authorized to process it." 

Along with that, the system has to support both analog and digital fax intake, naturally, and "must interoprate with USPTO public user, internal user and server authorization and authentication methods." 

And the product should be certified by FedRAMP, the government's program for assessing baseline security of cloud products, though that's not strictly required. 

Anyone interested in pitching ideas to the USPTO will have to get them in by October 23. The USPTO doesn't want any responses faxed - just emailed, which begs the question why that wouldn't work as a fax alternative. ®

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