Update: The USPTO has issued a federal register notice delaying the effective date of the non-DOCX surcharge fee from January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2023, giving applicants more time to adjust to filing their patent applications in DOCX format. Sections of this blog have been updated to reflect the delayed effective date of the surcharge.

Word-processing format for applications will be required for users next January 1 in order to avoid surcharge

DOCX is the latest result of the USPTO’s ongoing mission to modernize and streamline its patent application systems.

Now you can file patent application-related documents in this word-processing file format through EFS-Web and Patent Center. To improve application quality and efficiency, the USPTO will transition to DOCX for all filers on Jan. 1, 2022. PDFs will continue to be an option; however, a non-DOCX surcharge fee will be effective on that date.

DOCX is supported by many popular applications, such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and LibreOffice. As an open standard format, DOCX offers a safe and stable basis for authoring and processing intellectual property documents. Its benefits include:

  • Increased efficiencies, eliminating the need to convert structured text into a PDF for filing.
  • Higher data quality, reducing conversion errors that can occur when converting to a PDF file.
  • A smarter interface that detects common errors, such as formatting errors, and provides instant feedback to prevent unnecessary delays in processing your application.
  • Privacy, providing automatic metadata detection (e.g., Author and Comments) and removal features to support the submission of only substantive information in the DOCX file.
  • Improved application quality, providing content-based validations pre-submission, identifying issues up front, and allowing for them to be addressed before examination begins.
  • Ease of use via automated document indexing.
  • Compatibility by eliminating the non-embedded font error, the most common obstacle in uploading a PDF, through uploading your file with supported fonts.

The USPTO published a Federal Register Notice last year and received helpful feedback that prompted a few changes during the transition to the DOCX format. Now, office actions are available in DOCX and XML formats with further enhanced DOCX features—including accepting DOCX for drawings in addition to the specification, claims, and abstract for certain applications.

Also, based on customer feedback, the submitted DOCX files will be adopted as the authoritative document. That change will simplify the filing process, allowing the applicant to only review the DOCX files before submission rather than reviewing the USPTO-generated PDF version.

The USPTO is offering DOCX training sessions and is ready to answer any questions you have about the new format. A DOCX information page, which includes FAQs, is at uspto.gov/patents/docx.

The training sessions will provide more information; demonstrate how to file and retrieve DOCX files in Patent Center, EFS-Web, and PAIR; and answer any questions.

Applicants can also file test submissions through Patent Center training mode to practice filing in DOCX. Training mode does not save or store data in USPTO systems.

There will be a listening session this fall to gather feedback and suggestions for further improving DOCX features.

For more information and to view frequently asked questions, visit the DOCX page of the USPTO website. If you need assistance, contact the Patent Electronic Business Center at [email protected] or 866-217-9197.