User comments prompt changes in new patent application filing format

A few years ago, the USPTO advanced its efforts to use all available technology to strengthen patents and reduce pendency times by introducing the DOCX format for patent application filings. DOCX is a widely available word-processing file format supported by many popular applications such as Microsoft Word 2007 or higher, Google Docs, Office Online, Pages for Mac, and LibreOffice.

The USPTO sought feedback on the transition to DOCX. Amid concerns that the new format might result in conversion discrepancies, the agency recently announced an interim, optional procedure to ease the transition.

Through Dec. 31, 2022, applicants may upload a backup PDF version of their application with their DOCX version for free. And there is no obligation to provide a backup PDF.

Applicants can be assured that should there be any conversion discrepancies, they can rely on the backup PDF to verify the substance of their original filing. You can read more about the backup PDF in the Federal Register:

This new option builds on the USPTO’s other transition-easing initiatives. These include delaying the effective date of the non-DOCX surcharge fee from Jan. 1, 2022, until Jan. 1, 2023, to allow more time for users to adapt, and adopting submitted DOCX files as the authoritative document to simplify the filing process.

Filing in DOCX offers many advantages, including increased efficiencies that eliminate the need to convert structured text into a PDF for filing. Its superior data quality reduces errors that can occur when converting to a PDF file.

Also, DOCX’s smarter interface detects common errors, such as formatting errors, and provides instant feedback to prevent unnecessary delays in processing an application. It provides better privacy via automatic metadata detection (e.g., track changes and comments) and removal features to support the submission of only substantive information in the DOCX file.

If you need assistance, contact the Patent Electronic Business Center at [email protected] or 866-217-9197. Send your additional feedback, suggestions, and questions to [email protected].