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USPTO Won't Accept Upside Down Faxes 427

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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  • Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:43AM (#31021444)
    Just send every single tax filing both ways. The right one gets filed, and wrong one gets rejected. Twice the work for the government.
    • Re:Idea (Score:5, Funny)

      by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:49AM (#31021522)

      Just send every single tax filing both ways. The right one gets filed, and wrong one gets rejected. Twice the work for the government.

      I'm not sure why you would want to send your tax papers to the US Patent Office.

  • by boneglorious ( 718907 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:44AM (#31021450) Journal
    I practice civil disobedience by sneaking into the patent office and quickly rotating the faxes upside down...
  • If only... (Score:4, Funny)

    by daha ( 1699052 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:44AM (#31021454)

    If only there were some unique invention they could license that was capable of such a process as rotating a piece of paper or an electronic image... Excuse me, I feel an urgent need to contact a patent attorney.

  • candy? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MentlFlos ( 7345 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:47AM (#31021490)
    When they buy a bag of M&Ms do they throw away all the W, E and 3s too?
    • lol - Sadly, it took me a little while to get it.
      I can't mod you up... so I'll spam you up :)

    • Re:candy? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:18AM (#31021824)

      When they buy a bag of M&Ms do they throw away all the W, E and 3s too?

      Why was that moded 'Funny'?

      The other day, I went to Home Depot and bought nails. I get home, open the box, and what do I see?! Over half - HALF- of the fucking nails have the points on the wrong end!


  • ... but unfortunately they granted a patent on that in 1987 and don't have the money for the absurd licensing fee the patent holder is asking. Unfortunately the "novel" method patented covers both clockwise and counterclockwise but they're currently looking into rotating them 179 degrees, making the document slightly slanted but avoiding royalties.
  • I would just 'love' to work there now. Check each fax and for anything that is software turn the pages upside down and watch the fun.

  • by Mashdar ( 876825 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:50AM (#31021530)
    My guess is that they don't print them any more, and it was a PITA to turn your entire monitor upside down!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      .pu deddom teg reven stnemmoc drawoc suomynona ym yhw s'taht oS

  • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:52AM (#31021552)

    ...turning the page over would breach US Patent #65535 "Method and process for static image manipulation by manual substrate reorientation" and probably also the nototiously over-broad US Patents #55378008 "Process for Bi-manual gluteous maximus location" and #45056 "Method for organising mass inebriation events at a beverage fermentation facility".

    They do have to follow their own rules, you know...

  • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:53AM (#31021568)
    I just can't see any insightful or interesting comments coming from this, much less the story itself.

    And I don't mean that in any sort of disrespectful way. This just seems more suited to the "idle" section for its absurdity.

  • by boneglorious ( 718907 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:53AM (#31021574) Journal
    But wait, if you send it upside down, won't it arrive blank?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Selivanow ( 82869 )

      I actually think that is what the form letter is referring to. If more people on /. used their brains, well, it wouldn't be ./

    • by Teun ( 17872 )
      That was (almost) the first thing that cam to mind, but then how would they know, did this sheet have 'back side' written on it or how else did it differ from any other blank sheet?
  • Because the USPTO has all the power, they can decide on anything to cut down on the number of applicants.

    The same thing is also happening in the job market with all the power in the hands of employers.

  • Post ideas here. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:57AM (#31021604)

    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.

    • It's called "convert the file to a PDF" and "hit Ctrl+R and OK" twice.

      • Excuse me, it may be "Ctrl+Shift+R". Regardless, it should be a task even a federal bureaucrat can handle without a million dollar study on the project.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        most decent fax recieve servers already save as pdf. so step 1 is not needed.

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

      by fuzzix ( 700457 ) <> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:15AM (#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;

    • umop apisdn (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rockoon ( 1252108 )
      Note the lack of reading comprehension in the replies here so far.

      To automatically detect that the document is upside down might also create false positives: documents that are right side up being flagged as being upside down.

      The title of this comment, "umop apisdn", is upside down. How many people caught that vs how many thought that it was gibberish?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CSHARP123 ( 904951 )
      Here is a Free software that rotates Jpg files. [] You can write a batch script to rotate the images. Hope this helps.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SharpFang ( 651121 )

      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?

      • Or are your clerks too stupid to recognize rotated text and need software to recognize it for them?

        Why should our tax dollars pay for some clerk to spend 5 seconds per page of a 100 page document to flip every image, when it's the $500/hour attorney who screwed things up and who should refile, at his or her own expense?

    • by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:31AM (#31021986) Journal

      A few years ago I worked for a CLEC (phone company) and we received ASR's (service requests) from other phone companies by FAX. It was all electronic documents that were automatically converted by OCR into a standard format.

      On occasion we would get an ASR that was sent in upside down (top to bottom) and the OCR program could not cope with it. As we were only dealing with a few dozen of these a day it was easy to rotate the image as they were all stored in PDF format.

      The patent office deals with hundreds or thousands of applications a day, some percentage come in by FAX. I imagine that either they do not want to spend the staff hours to rotate documents for storage or reading or this is a holdover from the bureaucratic, arcane ways of the patent process.

      If you have ever filed a patent (successfully) you are aware that there are some weird requirements for formatting.

    • As stated earlier, interns are cheap. And interns have a multifunction interface which allows them to perform more than one task. Many tasks which require interacting with people are best solved by other people. I guarantee the cost of an intern is cheaper than government procurement procedures for software purchases.
  • simple reason. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by will_die ( 586523 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:58AM (#31021610) Homepage
    Since they have a form letter for this it is more then just turing the paper around. So just applying technical thinking I can think of three quick reasons.
    1) The don't print them out and instead file them electronicly. OCR software would have problems with documents that have some parts upside down.
    2) They apply some additional printing, barcode, date, etc that is used when storing the documents. Having info upside down would cause the info to be in the wrong place when human start handling it since they would want it in a readable order.
    3) Pages are printed on both sides, same basic problems as 2.

    Overall a none story unless FAX is the only way they accept the paperwork and in that case it is a matter of WTF are they still using faxes for.
    • So if the OCR step fails, rotate the image and retry the OCR. If it fails again it was unreadable, so you'd need to manually intervene anyway.

      • So if the OCR step fails, rotate the image and retry the OCR. If it fails again it was unreadable, so you'd need to manually intervene anyway.

        Sure, and you want to pay for a government employee to do that? I don't. Make the $500/hour patent attorney refile his or her papers if they weren't properly filed the first time. They get paid enough that they should fix their own mistakes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pbhj ( 607776 )

      I'm guessing as part of the receipt process, these are legal docs after all, the incoming facsimile pages are immediately stamped and barcoded automatically. Then you have a problem, you can't tamper with the docs and remove the stamp as this is a legal notation of receipt. You can't modify the incoming doc and then stamp it as unaltered from that received as that would be a minor fraud.

      When you digitise and rotate so the docs are readable onscreen the tagging and barcodes are now misplaced - print a header

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dachannien ( 617929 )

        It's good to see that somebody around here actually thinks instead of spewing forth uninformed garbage across the tubes.

        The department in question handles the legal documentation which forms a record of the assignment of rights in a patent or trademark to another party. Much as with land deed records or other such documentation, the sanctity of these documents must be preserved when they are recorded. That limits the options available for modifying the documents.

        Documentation relating to the prosecution o

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 )

      The recipient fax usually prints off some relevant information in the margins. If the document were rotated, it could overwrite this data, or make it harder to find. In the case of quasi-legible printing, it's important to know that you're looking at it the correct way.

      Put it this way. If we ever switch to first-to-file, you're going to want a good record of when you faxed something. Or someone contests your patent based on prior art around the time if your submission. Or lots of reasons.

      Everything on

  • by fiddlesticks ( 457600 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:58AM (#31021618) Homepage

    Reading the FA, it could be that the faxer sent the fax the wrong way up/ down - so the office received a blank fax.

    This would seem a perfectly valid reason to reject the submission

    • Then wouldn't the reason be "we received a blank page"?

    • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @12:01PM (#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.

  • Rather than hire more staff to handle the increasing volume of patent applications the USPTO has decided to lower its volume by requiring that you send your fax right side up. If the volume starts to get back up to normal they'll simply turn their fax machines upside down and claim that everyone needs to stop sending upside down faxes.
  • The standard charge against all government orgs, especially about the Post Office, is that they are staffed by morons who follow the rules and don't pay any attention to cost. They fly a charter plane 200 miles to deliver a single 43 cent first class letter.

    I am glad in this instance they are paying attention to costs. Imagine how much it would cost to rotate the entire post office every time a fax comes in the wrong orientation and rotate it back when it comes in the correct orientation. Good for them th

    • I don't think I've ever seen a signature that is so perfectly apropos to the subject of the post before. :)

  • Govt is trying to save money due to budget shortfall. Here is the typical steps involved in collecting the fax that came through (Manual operation)
    1. Person (Govt Employee) needs to get up from his chair
    2. Walk towards the Fax machine
    3. Collect the papers
    4. Walk back towards his/her cubicle
    5. Sit down

    If people are sending fax upside down, the person has to perform an extra step of rotating the pages. By cutting that step, the govt is saving enormous amount of money. Also think about dealing with Govt
  • next time you're at McDonalds (or whatever), while the person is filling your order, rotate the tray.

    What I mean is, they'll probably put the burguer or soda first, then the fries, when there's only the first item in your tray, rotate it.

    have fun

  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:11AM (#31021752) Homepage Journal

    Everyone's going to make this smart ass joke, but there's actually a serious question here.

    The USPTO grants patents for utter nonsense. Then, to maintain credibility, they have to abide by the law saying that all those nonsense things are illegal for 20 years.

    If someone during a board meeting pointed out that rotating electronically received data communications was patented, the board would be required to decide to stop doing that (or license the patent, but maybe they can't, or maybe the patent holder said no).

  • that's because rotating the image of a fax is patented and they can't afford the license !

  • Well gosh darn, I'm surprised they have started to use them fax machines. I reckon it's still OK for me to continue to send it my applications by using smoke signals ain't it? I'm wonderin' why the folks hereabouts didn't tell me they now use fax as I have just purchased one of them telex thingys.

    Well I guess they use fax to promote the fact that they are the center of all innovation after all.

    Perhaps I should submit a "rotator" device for a patent. You takes the piece of paper in one rotator on the

  • Rather than asking why some employee of the USPTO can't flip the scanned faxes in Adobe or some other PDF viewer at *our* expense, we should be asking why we aren't blaming the $500/hour patent attorney who screwed up his filings and who (and not his client) should absorb the cost of refiling.
  • Alteration? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Known Nutter ( 988758 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:34AM (#31022764)
    Could it be that the USPTO flipping the image constitutes altering the image?
  • by phiz187 ( 533366 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:27PM (#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.

  • Fairly Normal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Artagel ( 114272 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:46PM (#31025242) Homepage
    I practice before the USPTO. This kind of thing is fairly common for the agency. Actually, I am pretty blase about this one. But that tells you what kind of organization it is, I guess. I lost may capacity for outrage years ago.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.