Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NZ Patent Office closed again

Restaurant's "Sorry we're Closed" sign
Our local Patent Office has been closed for two days.  The sun still came up.  The sun still went down.  It’s been pretty much business as usual.  I think we can put this down to equal parts good luck and good management.

Hardware failure

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) is the trading name of the New Zealand Patent Office.  The Patent Office itself is one of the New Zealand government agencies that is part of the Ministry of Economic Development (MED).

On Saturday 24 September a hardware failure brought down the website of IPONZ as well as a gaggle of government agencies I had never heard of.

IPONZ limped through Monday 26 September in what it referred to as “reduced functionality” mode.  Its online services were not available.  But we could still email, fax, courier and hand deliver correspondence.

By early afternoon IPONZ had “declared the Patent Office closed for transaction of business on Tuesday, 27 and Wednesday, 28 September 2011.”

Legislative provisions

Section 5A of the Patents Act 1953 provides that the Commissioner can declare the Patent Office closed where, because of an emergency or other temporary circumstances, the Commissioner is satisfied that it is or will be necessary or desirable to do so.

IPONZ announced that:
“Clients cannot access the Patent Office website … or transact business using our online services or search the registers.  The Commissioner is satisfied that under these circumstances it is necessary and desirable to declare the Patent Office closed at short notice…  If the deadline for filing an application or document falls on a day when the Office is closed, then the application or document can be filed on the next day when the Patent Office is open and will be deemed to have been filed in time.”
This is fine if you only have deadlines imposed by IPONZ.  However, another way of looking at this is that you couldn’t get an IPONZ filing date on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Thank goodness we didn’t have one of those urgent client-about-to-disclose-that-day situations.

The message was clear.  If you can’t use IPONZ’s online services, then you can’t use IPONZ at all.  It seemed a bit odd that we could fax, courier and hand deliver documents to IPONZ on Tuesday and Wednesday but that IPONZ would not date stamp them because its website wasn’t working.

I can see their point.  It’s important to maintain integrity of processes.  But it does make me wonder just at what point we became so reliant on IPONZ’s online services?

History repeats

I commented in an earlier blog post about another hardware-inspired IPONZ closed day.  I think we were fortunate this time that the failure happened on a Saturday.  The Patent Office is officially closed on Saturdays and Sundays so no-one expects to get a filing date for correspondence anyway.  That was the lucky part.

IPONZ opened on Monday to allow stakeholders to do whatever they had to do.  Later that day IPONZ issued a clear statement that it would close for the next two days.  That was the good management part.

Hardware failures are a fact of life.  Following the last failure MED confirmed that it could provide a fault-impervious system if it wanted to.  But it doesn’t believe the cost of doing so is justified.  I agree with them.

So we will all just manage as best we can.

Photo courtesy of author Nick Papakyriazis under Creative Commons licence.

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