December's advice article
File your Application Electronically to Avoid the Surcharge for Paper Filing
In today's world we pay our bills online, we communicate online, we take and send our photos online and we file our taxes online. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) would like more patent applications to be filed online as well.
About 12 years ago, the pilot program for online patent filing began at the USPTO and today, 93 percent of all patent applications are submitted that way. From January 2006 through January 2011, the USPTO received 524,344,014 pages through our Electronic Filing System (EFS-Web). Considering that one tree is chopped down to make 80,500 pages of paper, it's fair to say there are 6,514 more trees still standing and growing because our patent applicants chose to file online. If you were to stack the paper equivalent of the more than 500 million pages that were filed online, the stack would be 120 times taller than the Empire State Building. The USPTO's Electronic Filing System has saved an estimated $5,243,440 in paper.
The recently enacted America Invents Act includes a section, "Electronic Filing Incentive," which went into effect on Nov. 15, 2011, and added a surcharge for paper filing. When filing your non-provisional or utility application online, applicants can also pay a reduced filing fee of $95 for small entity filers. The search and examination fee remain the same.
You can still file your application in paper form, but large entity filers will be charged a $400 surcharge and small entity filers a $200 surcharge for any non-provisional utility patent application submitted in paper on or after Nov. 15, 2011. This fee is in addition to the filing, search and examination fees.
Filing your application online provides you with the same legal protection as paper-based filing. You receive an electronic receipt and dated confirmation that you can print and keep for your records.
EFS-Web is a patent application and document submission solution that uses standard Internet browser screens and prompts that enable you to submit portable document format (PDF) files, ASCII text files, or a PCT-EASY compressed file directly to the USPTO.
Online submissions are protected through state-of-the-art security methods such as Transport Layer Security (TLS). If you sign up as a registered filer, you are given a digital certificate, one of the most secure methods available. The digital certificate gives you access to your patent application's history through Private PAIR (Patent Application Image Retrieval). The USPTO recommends that you submit your application as a registered filer, receiving a customer number and digital certificate. This way you can submit subsequent documents during the course of your application.
EFS-Web gives you the ability to file patent applications and other patent documents online in a fraction of the time and at substantially less cost than with paper filing. You forgo printing, postage and courier costs, and you receive immediate notification that your submission has been received. Unlike paper filing, most new applications submitted online can be viewed in Private PAIR within an hour after filing.
EFS-Web validates whether the PDF files and data you are trying to file can be accepted before they are submitted. If there is a problem, EFS-Web will tell you why the document cannot be submitted, allowing you to take corrective action quickly.
Using EFS-Web, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can file patent applications and documents without downloading special software or changing document preparation tools and processes.
The USPTO's Electronic Business Center (EBC) can assist with questions or concerns from the public Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to midnight ET. The EBC can be reached by telephone at 866-217-9197 or 571-272-4100, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
USPTO.gov also has additional information about online filing.
So consider using the Electronic Filing System for your application submissions, and save a tree.