37 CFR § 1.4(d)(2)(i) says exactly what a virgule signature (the USPTO calls it an “S-signature”) is supposed to look like. The Rule says that what the signer must type between the two virgules (the two “slashes”) is at least one letter or Arabic numeral. Notably the Rule does not say that what must appear between the two virgules is the signer’s name. The signer is only required to provide his or her name “in printed or typed form preferably immediately below or adjacent the S-signature”. Which means that the USPTO got it wrong in the web-based issue fee payment form in Patentcenter, quoted at right.
It is disappointing that the Patentcenter developers programmed the validation wrong. The validation pukes on the user’s attempt to sign with a single character, even though a single-character signature complies fully with the Rule. This needs to be fixed. (This is trouble report CP29. USPTO was told about this in January of 2019 and still has not corrected it.) For my e-signature, for example, which uses one character, I have to fake out Patentcenter by putting a space before my e-signature. It has been more than a year and a half now and USPTO has still not corrected this mistake in Patentcenter.
It is also disappointing that the Patentcenter developers put apparently incorrect instructions into the signature block. The instructions say:
The name in the Authorized Signature text box must match that of the name provided in the Name text box.
I say “apparently incorrect” because the instructions don’t actually make sense. Nowhere in this signature block does there appear any text box labeled “Authorized Signature” and nowhere in this signature block does there appear any text box labeled “Name”. But if we try as best we can to guess what the author of this sentence was trying to say, what we arrive at is a guess that the author was probably trying to say:
whatever keys you push on the keyboard to type your name into the “First name” and “Last Name” boxes, you should push those same keys on the keyboard to provide the characters that go between the virgules in the “Signature” box.
My guess is that the author is under a mistaken impression that the Rule requires the entire text of the name of the signer to be provided between the virgules.
To the extent that the author is trying to impose some requirement that goes beyond that of 37 CFR § 1.4(d)(2)(i), the author’s efforts violate the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for at least a notice-and-comment procedure to be followed when amending a Rule. The instruction should be scrapped. This is trouble ticket CP39.
A remaining puzzlement about this signature block is the closing sentence, which says:
I also certify that this Fee(s) Transmittal form is being transmitted to the USPTO via Patent Center.
The puzzling thing about this is that the only way to reach this screen is by using Patent Center. Thus it is not possible to transmit this particular Fee Transmittal form to the USPTO by any means other than Patent Center. One might as well add some more certifications such as “I also certify that the device that I am using right now is connected to the Internet” or “I also certify that the device that I am using right now has a screen and I am looking at the screen” or “I also certify that my heart is beating right now.” Any of these statements is true, but none of them communicates anything that an observer would not already know just from the context of the situation.