Modernizing how we issue patents and trademark registrations
Blog by Drew Hirshfeld, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO
Like so many other service agencies and organizations, it is imperative that our business practices evolve to meet the needs of inventors and entrepreneurs who look to our agency to help safeguard their valued intellectual property. With that in mind, today we are announcing our transition to the electronic issuance of patents and trademark registrations in 2022.
For patents, we have issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to seek public feedback on our proposal to revise the rules of practice to issue patents electronically. Under the current rule (37 CFR 1.315), the USPTO is required to deliver or mail a patent “upon issuance to the correspondence address of record.” Under the proposed changes, the USPTO would no longer physically deliver the patent by mailing it to the correspondence address, but would issue the patent electronically via our patent document viewing systems (i.e., Patent Center and Patent Application Image Retrieval (PAIR)). Patentees would also be able to download and print their electronically issued patents through these systems.
This change comes with many benefits for patent owners. For example, the new process will result in electronic patent issuance with the USPTO seal and the Director’s signature within one week after the patent number is assigned, reducing the pendency of every issued patent application by approximately two weeks.
The proposed changes represent another step toward the full digitization of our patent application processing and streamlining of our services. Beginning in 2001, we implemented the electronic filing system for patent applicants and have since launched numerous initiatives to provide high-quality services, including the Image File Wrapper system, the eOffice Action program, Public/Private PAIR, and Patent Center, among others.
While no similar amendment to the trademark rules is necessary, we still believe it is important for the public to have the chance to give us feedback about our transition to only providing digital copies of registration certificates. To that end, we recently issued a public request for comments on replacing paper registration certificates with digital versions. This change reflects a strong preference expressed to us by our trademark community. We anticipate the transition to digital delivery of trademark registration certificates to begin in the spring of 2022.
And similarly to patents, this new electronic process will benefit trademark owners by providing a more accessible and timely registration certificate – one they will be able to view, download, and print a complete copy of at their leisure. This change will also allow us to issue trademark registrations 1-2 weeks faster than our current process by discontinuing the printing, assembling, and mailing of paper registration certificates upon issuance. Since we currently issue 6,000-9,000 printed trademark registration certificates per week, this will reduce paper processing to a minimum.
Once the transition is complete, for customers who wish to continue to receive paper “presentation copies” of issued patents and trademark registration certificates with an embossed gold seal and a Director’s signature, that option will still be available for a $25 fee per copy. On future digital formats, we plan to use a digital seal and electronic Director’s signature to officially authorize the patent or trademark.
By gathering feedback from the public regarding this transition to electronic patents and trademarks, we can fully consider all views as we continue to modernize our processes while continuing our core mission of providing the high-quality patents and trademark registrations our customers have come to expect and deserve from America’s innovation agency.
As always, we look forward to working with our stakeholders to ensure their needs are met, and that American innovation continues to drive our nation, and the world, forward.