iStock_000009890965_SmallAre you stuck at the office cranking away at that office action response that is due on Christmas Eve? If so, you will want to take a break and read this post.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) experienced a major power outage on December 22, 2015, which resulted in damaged equipment that required a shutdown of many USPTO online systems.  The USPTO is currently estimating that these systems will be impacted through at least Christmas Day.  What does this mean to trademark and patent practitioners?  No filing, searching or payments systems are currently in operation.  Uh-oh.  What about that filing that is due on Christmas Eve?  Don’t worry, you won’t be on the Naughty List for failing to file it.  Perhaps the USPTO was in the giving spirit when it announced:

In light of this emergency situation, the USPTO will consider each day from Tuesday, December 22, 2015, through Thursday, December 24, 2015, to be a ‘Federal holiday within the District of Columbia.’

So what are your options for those last-minute filings over the holidays?

First, you can rest easy and take advantage of the “gift” the USPTO has given us.  In this case, any action or fees due on December 22, 23, or 24 will be considered timely if the action is taken, or the fee paid, on the next business day on which the USPTO is open (if the systems are not fully operational by Monday, another notice should be issued).

There are also several options for alternative methods of filing during an outage, described in detail here.

One relatively quick and easy option is fax filing, if eligible.  The USPTO has confirmed that it is able to receive faxed documents.  However, please note that there are limitations on what can be filed via fax.  Notably, new trademark applications cannot be filed using this method.

Practitioners may also resort to paper filing, particularly if needing to file a new trademark application.  Normally, the filing date of the document is the date the document is received by the USPTO.  However, regulations provide that certain correspondence deposited in the Priority Mail Express® service of the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) will be considered filed on the date of deposit with the USPS.  Further, in certain situations documents filed on paper through the USPS with a certificate of mailing will be considered timely as of the date on the certificate.  Here also, some filings, including new trademark applications, may not be filed using the certificate of mailing procedure.

Finally, documents may be  hand-delivered to the USPTO between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.  If using this method today, bring some Christmas cookies with you!

Patent owners may pay their Patent Maintenance Fees by wire or mail as instructed here, and the payment date will be the date received at the USPTO, unless the certification of mailing procedure or the USPTO Priority Mail Express procedure described above is used.

Perhaps this “gift” from the USPTO will allow Santa’s lawyers to take a break from filing patent applications for all of those inventions on the North Pole and focus on what is really important: conducting due diligence for next year’s Naughty and Nice list.

Check this page for the latest information on operating status of the USPTO.