USPTO has made it plain that it really wants filers to file their US patent applications in Microsoft Word format, not as PDFs. (USPTO expresses this wish by saying it wants patent applications to be filed in “DOCX” format, but of course there is no single “DOCX” format, there are many variants of DOCX and the only variant that USPTO handles correctly is the variant that Microsoft Word generates.) There are many drawbacks to the way that the USPTO has implemented its handling of patent applications filed in a DOCX format, and one of them is that this can result in a long delay in the visibility of the newly filed patent application in IFW. It is yet another reason to simply file in PDF format.
By way of background, one of the big problems these days with e-filing of new patent applications at the USPTO is that it often takes hours, and sometimes takes days, for the newly filed patent application to show up in IFW. This can happen if the filer files the patent application in PDF format. The main point of this blog article is that the delay in visibility in IFW can be far worse if the filer chooses DOCX as the format for the filing.
In one of my recent e-filings, there was a delay of almost two weeks with the visibility in IFW of all parts of a newly filed patent application. And when I asked an EBC (Electronic Business Center) person why it took so long, he said it was because I had selected DOCX as my filing format. Here is what the EBC person wrote to me on June 18, 2020:
From what I was able to see four of your documents contained error messages that indicated a delay in processing. […] The error messages for the documents […] are listed below:
claims.docx- The margins of the attached document do not meet USPTO rules. This may cause processing errors or delays.
abstract.docx- The margins of the attached document do not meet USPTO rules. This may cause processing errors or delays.
specification.docx- The specification paragraph numbering is not in the proper format. Please review and revise if necessary.The margins of the attached document do not meet USPTO rules. This may cause processing errors or delays.
Keep in mind that USPTO’s stated reason for asking for Microsoft Word format is so that USPTO can scrape the characters from the DOCX file for use in USPTO’s internal processes, including the 18-month publication and the typesetting of the issued patent. With such a character-scrape, it is absolutely irrelevant what margins the filer might or might not have set in the DOCX file. And with such a character-scrape, it is absolutely irrelevant whether the paragraph numbering in the specification is or is not in “the proper format”. Indeed nothing in the Code or Rules even requires paragraph numbering in the specification at all. In my case I did not use Microsoft Word to create my DOCX file (I used Libre Office). If I had used Microsoft Word, then my paragraph numbering would have been in what USPTO defines to be “the proper format”. But the way that Libre Office generates paragraph numbers, they are not in “the proper format”.
So yes if you wonder in a particular case why it took so long for all of the documents in the case to find their way into IFW, consider that your ill-advised decision to file in DOCX format may be the cause.