A blog from the USPTO leadership

You spoke, we listened: easing the transition to DOCX

Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO; Andrew Faile, Acting Commissioner of Patents; and Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer

A few years ago, the USPTO stepped up its efforts to use all available technologies to strengthen patents and reduce wait times by introducing the DOCX format for filing patent applications. 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. Filing in DOCX offers many advantages, including:

• Increased efficiency: eliminates the need to convert structured text to PDF for filing
• Improved data quality: reduces errors that can occur when converting to a PDF file
• Smarter interface: detects common errors, such as formatting errors, and provides instant feedback to avoid unnecessary delays in processing a request
• Confidentiality: Provides automatic detection and removal of metadata (eg, tracking changes and comments) to support submission of background information only in the DOCX file.
• Improved quality of submissions: Provides content-based validations before submission, identifying issues in advance and allowing them to be resolved before the review begins
• Ease of use: offers automated document indexing
• Compatibility: eliminates the font not embedded error, the most common obstacle when downloading a PDF, by uploading a file with supported fonts

Convinced that meaningful improvements to our application processes can only occur through collaboration with our users, we sought feedback on the transition to DOCX. Having heard that the new format could lead to translation differences, we have just announced an optional interim procedure to facilitate the transition. Until December 31, 2022, applicants can upload a backup PDF version of their application along with their DOCX version. There is no charge associated with this backup PDF. And there is no obligation to provide a backup PDF.

The backup PDF option will allow applicants affected by the new format to have confidence in the reliability and accuracy of filing applications in DOCX. Depositors can rest assured that in the event of a conversion discrepancy, they can rely on the backup PDF file to verify the substance of their original deposit. You can read more about Backup PDF in our recent Federal Register Notice.

This new option builds on the USPTO’s other transition flexibility initiatives. These include delay the effective date the non-DOCX surcharge from January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2023, to give users more time to adapt, and adopt submitted DOCX files as authoritative document to simplify the filing process. This allows applicants to review only DOCX files prior to submission rather than having to also check the USPTO-generated PDF version.

We look forward to continuing our engagement with the public on the DOCX transition to better serve the American innovation community. We also offer many resources to help applicants file in DOCX format. We frequently hold DOCX training sessions to demonstrate how to submit and retrieve DOCX files in the Patent Center and to answer questions. Candidates can also file test submissions via Method of formation of the Patent Center to practice filing in DOCX. And our DOCX page on the USPTO website includes frequently asked questions, a quick reference guide, and a video overview of filing DOCX documents in the Patent Center.

We encourage you to start filing your patent applications in DOCX now. This will not only streamline the process for you, but also improve our ability to review your application quickly and efficiently. If you need assistance, please contact the Patent Electronic Business Center at [email protected] or 866-217-9197. And please send your comments, suggestions, and additional questions to [email protected]
Thank you for your help and support as we work hard to improve our systems for the benefit of all.

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