Tuesday, August 16, 2005

USPTO LOOKS TO REVAMP ELECTRONIC FILING (AND THIS TIME THEY MEAN IT): Last Friday, the USPTO announced beta testing of a new, Web-based system which will start in December and is scheduled to go live in March.

The push to go increasingly digital reflects the office's drive to get through a backlog of about 850,000 pending applications as the number continues to rise. The office recently spent 18 months digitizing 250 million pages of paper records. (Now paper applications are scanned within days of when they arrive). It also plans to hire 950 new examiners this year and more than 1,000 each year for the next several years until they catch up.

Almost all applicants currently send their documents via mail (only about 2% are being filed electronically). In fact, the Patent Office is the "largest recipient of overnight mail in the world," said Margaret Focarino, deputy commissioner for patent operations.

The Patent Office has been talking about going paperless for years and received its first application in electronic form during a pilot test in 1999. Since then, everyone has successfully avoided using a confusing and often useless e-filing system due to endless SNAFU's and lousy product releases by USPTO vendors. Let's hope they get this one right (finally!).

Incidentally, the UK Patent Office is celebrating the one-year anniversary of e-filing. If you think they're doing better than the USPTO after 6 years, you're partially right - their e-filings are at a whopping 4% . . .

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