Christmas comes early at US Patent office after massive IT outage

Extra holidays added after 'major power outage' takes out critical apps

Updated The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has suffered a “major power outage” that has led it to effectively declare and extended, early, Christmas.

“A major power outage at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, occurred Wednesday, Dec. 22,” the agency reports, “resulting in damaged equipment that required the subsequent shutdown of many of our online and IT systems.”

Filing, searching, and payment systems are all down, as are the applications used by patent examiners. Faxes are also off the agenda for a while: the agency can't receive them.

The USPTO has therefore decided it “will consider each day from Tuesday, December 22, 2015, through Thursday, December 24, 2015, to be a 'Federal holiday within the District of Columbia'.”

Declaring the 22nd through 24th to be Federal holidays isn't just a nicety: it means payments due on those days will be accepted on the next business day, while correspondence sent to the organisation “will be considered filed in the USPTO on the date the USPTO received the electronic transmission.”

The organisation says it is working hard and fast to sort things out before Christmas and will post more news of its capabilities on December 28th.

A little light Googling suggests the USPTO is a user of Juniper (PDF) and EMC and Cisco products.

Here's hoping the USPTO's tech team can get this sorted before the real holidays arrive: data centres aren't much of a place to spend the festive season. ®

Updated to add

The Patent Office has shed new light on its plight: something went very wrong in the electrical supply to the USPTO’s main building, severely damaging two power filtration systems.

"Because of their size, these large and highly complex power filtration systems cannot be easily replaced," said the office's acting chief communications officer Patrick Ross.

"We are working with service providers to obtain a source of uninterrupted conditioned power to the data center as soon as possible."

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