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USPTO Won't Accept Upside Down Faxes 427

Posted by samzenpus
from the left-handed-reading-glasses dept.
bizwriter writes "This may seem like a joke, but it's not. The US Patent and Trademark Office will not accept patent filings faxed in if they arrive upside down. That's right, the home of innovation of the federal government is incapable of rotating an incoming fax file, whether electronically or on paper."


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USPTO Won't Accept Upside Down Faxes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:07AM (#31021698)

    fax machines record incoming number

  • Re:Post ideas here. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:09AM (#31021724)

    Irfanview can rotate image files in batch mode.

  • Re:Post ideas here. (Score:5, Informative)

    by fuzzix (700457) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:15AM (#31021790) Journal

    I work at a federal regulatory agency which is having the same issue. They were asking IT/tech/computer people if there was a solution around. Nobody knew of any software that auto rotates images based on text. Anybody? Reply here.

    Run gocr on the document (run 1), rotate it 180 degrees and run gocr on that (run 2).

    If (no of dictionary words(run 2) > no of dictionary words(run 1)) {
            doc = rotated doc;

  • Re:Post ideas here. (Score:3, Informative)

    by CSHARP123 (904951) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:20AM (#31021856)
    Here is a Free software that rotates Jpg files. [] You can write a batch script to rotate the images. Hope this helps.
  • Re:Post ideas here. (Score:3, Informative)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:21AM (#31021868) Homepage Journal

    Is rotating the images manually based on text so much view?
    In irfanview: [r][r][s][enter]
    Or are your clerks too stupid to recognize rotated text and need software to recognize it for them?

  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:01AM (#31022336) Homepage Journal

    That one's just an application. Here's one they granted in 1994:

    • US5276742: []
          Rapid detection of page orientation
  • Found one (Score:3, Informative)

    by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:06AM (#31022412) Homepage Journal

    I found one patent they granted that they might be worried about:

    (And a poster higher up found this application, which is still in the examination phase: 20090274392: page orientation detection based on selective character recognition [].)

  • by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:01AM (#31023100) Journal

    Update: There is now a discussion on the article that covers this very topic. Someone theorized that the USPTO received blank pages (meaning that "upside down" meant "back to front".

    The author's reply:

    According to the people involved, that is not the case. The page was simply put in bottom side first. Otherwise, the response would have been that the received fax was blank.

  • by phiz187 (533366) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:27PM (#31024996) Homepage Journal
    Here is some info from the USPTO website: []

    Why are you telling me that my document is "upside down"? In a routine fax transmission, page orientation (top of the page first into the machine or bottom of the page first) is not critical because the reader can easily flip and arrange the pages to read them top to bottom. However, it is critical to our process that each page is faxed top to bottom with the top margin being fed first into the machine. Once they have been received in PTAS, fax transmitted assignments are processed strictly by electronic means. Although the PTAS software can rotate a document 180 degrees for viewing purposes, when the electronic document is extracted to generate the archival microfilm record, each page is extracted exactly as it was first received. Accordingly, a document sent "upside down" would be microfilmed upside down. To further complicate matters, because the system generated recordation and reel and frame markings on the pages would be in the opposite orientation, the resulting document would be difficult to read.

  • Re:Idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by Facegarden (967477) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:14PM (#31026228)

    And then finally they'll get the bright idea to implement software that recognizes whether it's upside down and only print out the ones that are right-side up!

    They can't implement that software because a method for doing that has already been patented []!

    Much though I dislike software patents, that doesn't prevent using text to detect orientation. Someone upthread [] came up with a solution that wouldn't violate that patent, namely OCRing all orientations and the one with the most dictionary words is the correct orientation.

    The posted patent compares letter width to letter height, and uses that to determine if the image is sideways. If the document is all capital letters or in Russian, it looks at the 'T's in the document, otherwise it uses 'i's. It then figures the ratio of what appear to be correctly oriented 'T's or 'i's to incorrectly oriented 'T's or 'i's and uses that to determine whether or not the document is upside down.

    To circumvent that, you could test something different. If using different letters and the same overall formula don't evade the patent, you could still use factors like frequency analysis ('b' and 'd' are more common in English than 'q' and 'p') or attempting to detect different known incorrect characters (there's no English letter that looks like a sideways 'b', 'd', 'p', or 'q' or an upside-down 'k' or 'h' or 'y' (though an upside-down 'y' looks like a backwards 'h')

    As someone mentioned in a patent-related posting recently on slashdot, the government is actually not bound by patent law - they can legally use any patented technology they need.

    This is just a situation where some idiot at the patent office didn't know how to rotate a file, so they just made some rule that outlawed it because it was easier.

    At least, I'm guessing, didn't RTFA. The point is they're not held back by patents.

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly. - Henry Spencer, University of Toronto Unix hack