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

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 …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The USPTO doesn't want any responses faxed - just emailed, which begs the question why that wouldn't work as a fax alternative."

    Let me guess. With patents precedence matters. If the situation arises that two inventors submit similar claims at more or less the same time they need to decide who has precedence. With fax they know - transmission and reception are simultaneous. Enail is store and forwards so time of receipt is no indication of time of transmission and if that same situation arises they won't know and the loser will always claim theirs was first but delayed and/or dirty tricks were played with clock setting.

    OTOH a prolonged outage of all forms of communication to USPTO wouldn't lose anything of value to humanity as a whole.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Timing, and proof of it, could well be a key thing. Sending and receiving are indeed simultaneous, and what's more the sender can prove it. Being able to prove submission date and time independently is a big plus over asking for an email read receipt.

      1. G.Y.

        not quite simultaneous

        On fancy fax machines, the fax goes into a disk/SSD buffer, gets printed some time later (a long time if out of papers)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: not quite simultaneous

          Should still be ordered by time of receipt and hence transmission. If it's buffered by the sender they've only themselves to blame. But it wouldn't be stored & forwarded during actual transmission unlike email.

          1. bazza Silver badge

            Re: not quite simultaneous

            And if its the recipient's fax that's stored and delayed / lost the print out or failed email forwarding, it's the recipient's problem. The sender has their copy and their proof of sending and reception.

            1. AMBxx Silver badge

              Re: not quite simultaneous

              I thought US patents were done by 'first to find' (something like that) rather than the 'first to file' used by the rest of the world.

              If that's the case, the time on the fax/email wouldn't really matter.

              1. bazza Silver badge

                Re: not quite simultaneous

                Agreed, but you do still have to file at some point. Being able to say exactly when you did file is a big part of proving that you did indeed file, and gives the recipient very little room to manoeuvre if they've lost it!

  2. Nate Amsden

    co-location is a thing

    Don't need to host your servers at your HQ, can put them in a proper data center, don't need cloud of course. On prem OOTB DR solutions probably much easier to deploy as well for most kinds of apps, if that is super important.

    Though pick a good data center(cloud data centers are not good, as they are designed for less availability for less HW cost requiring more provisioning of resources(and resulting complexity) to compensate), and the your risks go way down.

  3. tin 2

    Fax is still a fascinating punchbag

    The IT world has inexplicably failed to create anything as simple and effective as the fax, yet every time someone either looks to keep or replace them, we scoff. I find it most interesting.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Fax is still a fascinating punchbag

      PDFs sent via WhatsApp or Signal is about as close as I think it gets, without the verifiable proof of sending.

      That's the beauty of circuit switched networks, someone else (the provider) is willing to say that the circuit was indeed created and used for x minutes. Packet switched networks cannot do the same thing, proof of sending requires cooperation from the recipient.

      1. Mishak Silver badge

        Re: Fax is still a fascinating punchbag

        What about people who send faxes via an online service? Where I live, it is no longer possible to order a phone line to connect a fax, so I cannot send them directly any more.

        I've not used a fax machine for decades (and have never connected - or wanted - the fax in my multi-function), but I have sent faxes using something-or-other-long-forgotten for some reason I can no longer recall. All patent-related work has been via email.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Fax is still a fascinating punchbag

          An online service still counts, provided it's giving the sender the receipts / acknowledgements the sender wants. An online fax sending service that didn't confirm delivery back to oneself as the sender is, effectively, no different to sending an email!

          Email is certainly the more sane way to go, and works far better when things are going smoothly. I guess there's just some very fastidious people out there who want "certainty".

          You probably can still connect a fax to the phone line you've got. AFAIK, when telephony moves from analogue / copper to VoIP, AFAIK you end up with a box in one's house that supports plugging in a telephone. The router I have here in the UK from the ISP has that. And, if the VoIP codec is a lossless one (as is quite common it seems), the fax machine will work just fine over that.

  4. Orv Silver badge

    Now if only doctor's offices would stop using fax.

    I can't tell you how many times I've had a prescription fail to go through because the doctor's fax system and the pharmacy's fax were incompatible. Once I had to switch pharmacies because it was the only way to consistently get my meds.

    Lately I've been dealing with mysterious cases of blood test results that vanish between the lab and my doctor's office, too.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      That's, well, odd. Fax was extremely well standardised, I wonder what was going wrong? Could be the pharmacy's phone line was really poor quality?

      Reading around few forums where die-hard dial-up BBS users hang around (there's more of those than there are dial up ISPs) the move away from analogue to VoIP can actually be a boon, so long as the telephony provider uses a lossless codec (and some of them are). Apparently, if the right one is used, you can get the legendary, never seen in the wild genuine article 56.6k connection speeds. Happy days.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        I used to run a big fax system and what I found is fax is only sort of standardized. There are a number of different modes and various manufacturers extensions, enough that sometimes two machines will just refuse to talk to each other.

        We had an expensive DID-compatible fax modem for receiving faxes, but for sending I used an ordinary US Robotics 56K modem because my testing with the vendors we used showed it had the best sending compatibility.

    2. Bebu Silver badge

      Still a thing?

      I thought faxes had actually died with voip. AU was possibly proprtionally the largest fax users back in the day but with the retirement of the copper POTS and mandated NBN (voip telephony) I assumed faxes had gone the way of the Norwegian Blue.

      《Now if only doctor's offices would stop using fax.》

      It may be the exception but our Drs get our imagining (X-rays, ultrasound, cat scans and mri) and pathology (lab) results via email and have for quite a while now. I suppose some places might use some sort of fax over Ip arrangement.

      I quite liked faxes but some of the machines were peculiarly complicated and often mongrels to operate.

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