The U.S. Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today that effective June 30, 2003, all newly filed patent applications will be converted to electronic applications and processed electronically. Additionally, over the next 15 months, the USPTO will scan more than a half million pending applications into the electronic system. The USPTO's new electronic application processing system is called the Image File Wrapper (IFW). The IFW uses software acquired from the European Patent Office. The IFW electronic file will become the official file for all purposes.
"The creation of an end-to-end electronic patent application process by October 1, 2004, is a key component of the agency's 21st Century Strategic Plan," noted Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property James E. Rogan. "By providing a patent application process that is simpler, faster, and more efficient, the USPTO will better serve its customers and be more responsive to the demands of the national and global marketplaces."
Automated patent processing will provide more efficient, quality-focused and customer-friendly service. Unlike paper patent applications that can be viewed only by one employee at a time in one location, IFW provides multiple USPTO employees concurrent access to application information saving time and securing file integrity. Customers also will benefit from IFW allowing them the ability to view the contents of their own applications in IFW online via the Internet.
The Agency expects to scan over three million pages per week, making this one of the largest scanning operations in the world. An initial 100 terabytes of data storage is necessary to support IFW and manage all the documents related to the electronic processing of patent applications. In comparison, approximately 400 million copies of the latest Harry Potter novel would occupy the same amount of space.