[author: Donald Zuhn]
In a Patents Alert e-mail distributed last month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that it was examining ways to modernize electronic filing. One proposal, Text2PTO, would allow applicants to submit applications in a text format. According to the Office's Alert, by submitting a text version of the application, applicants could use a validation wizard during the submission process to assure that any formatting (such as tracked changes) and private information are not part of the file, and that application parts can be recognized. Applicants could also run an optional analytics report to identify any errors in claims numbering and ensure that the abstract length is correct. In order to define and design the Text2PTO process so that it is user-friendly and best fits customer needs, the Office is seeking online filers to assist in gathering requirements, creating functional designs, and evaluating product releases. The Office will also be holding focus sessions to discuss the proposed process changes. Online filers interested in participating in the process are being asked to send an e-mail to efilingmodernization@USPTO.GOV.
USPTO Director David Kappos provided additional information regarding the Text2PTO proposal on his Director's Forum blog. The Director explains that under the new process, applicants would compose their applications using the same word processing software that they currently use, and then instead of converting the file to PDF format, would simply upload the text file to the USPTO. By submitting a text-based document instead of a PDF, the Director notes that applicants will be able to retrieve a copy of the document from the USPTO at any time throughout prosecution, facilitating review and/or amendment. In addition, a Text2PTO amendment validation tool will allow applicants to generate properly formatted mark-up language based on the types of changes made to the document. The Office expects the Text2PTO to provide significant cost savings by eliminating the need to scan, OCR, and error-correct incoming patent applications, and the Director indicates that such cost savings would be passed on to applicants through filing fee discounts for applications submitted through Text2PTO.
The Office is also looking at replacing its current fee collection system. As it kicks off its fee collection system replacement effort, the Office will be conducting a number of outreach efforts, including focus sessions, to solicit user input. Those interested in providing feedback are being asked to send their contact information; status as (1) individual pro se inventor or applicant, (2) in-house counsel, (3) law firm attorney practitioner, or (4) legal assistant or administrator; and approximate number of patent and/or trademark applications filed per year to firstname.lastname@example.org.