A patent improvement

Patent Electronic Business Center

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is now receiving the first of what

could be tens of thousands of patent applications filed electronically this

fiscal year.

Late last month, USPTO launched an Internet-based electronic patent

application filing system (EFS) that allows anyone to file the most common

patent applications confidentially via the Internet. So far, USPTO has received

three submissions via EFS, but the agency anticipates accepting as many

as 30,000 applications this fiscal year via the system.

The system, which USPTO pilot tested a year ago, will help the agency

eliminate the extra cost, mistakes and delay of manually processing patent

applications and gives the agency an intelligent patent file that is easier

to publish and search.

To file, users first need to contact USPTO to get a customer identification

number, a digital certificate to authenticate the user and secure the file,

and software applications to help prepare the application documents (see

box).

The software assembles all components of the application, calculates

the fees, validates the content, and compresses, encrypts and transmits

the file to USPTO. Filers receive immediate acknowledgment of the filing

and a serial number to help them track the application online.

Before EFS, filers had to wait about two months before receiving a serial

number, said Matthew Rosenberg, a patent attorney with Blumenfeld, Kaplan

& Sandweiss, a St. Louis law firm that filed the first two patent applications

through EFS. USPTO "added online tracking in the past year, but normally

[it took] much longer before you got a serial number," he said.

Patent applications

traditionally have been scanned, or manually re-keyed, and stored as an

image, which means they must be converted before the agency publishes them.

Receiving applications electronically reduces publication errors associated

with manual entry.

Electronic submissions are in Extensible Markup Language, which makes

them easier to publish and process, said Deron Burba, manager of USPTO's

patent re-engineering systems division. XML enables the definition, transmission

and interpretation of data be— tween applications and organizations.

Patent examiners can access the data in the documents, which is accurately

tagged, without having to re-key or convert the data. And the documents,

because they are in XML, are ready for publication. "It's a big savings

when it comes to publishing them to have them in [XML] format" because no

conversion is necessary, Burba said.

"By receiving intelligent and valid data, we don't have the data entry

errors we experienced in our data entry process," said Diane Lewis, a project

manager at USPTO representing patent customers. "The data comes in as a

standard presentation that's helpful in facilitating processing."

For now, the applications received through EFS are printed out in hard

copy for examiners. In the future, they will remain electronic, which will

make things easier for examiners.

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