Trifold patent file folders

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What a walk down memory lane!  In one of the patent practitioner listservs, a member today asked where they could purchase heavy-duty trifold patent file folders. 

When I was first in practice, I suppose everybody used folders like these.  In our office, the left-hand section was for client correspondence.  The middle section was the correspondence to and from the Patent Office (other than drawings).  The right-hand section was for drawings.

The front of the folder had preprinted fields for bibliographic data.  Title, application number, art unit, examiner name, reel and frame number.  A large tabular area in the middle of the front of the folder was intended to receive a handwritten log of all of the correspondence to and from the Patent Office.

Our firm went “paperless” in about 2008.  I say “paperless” in quotation marks because even now we consume boxes and boxes of printer paper and cartridges and cartridges of toner and ink in our printers.  But it was in about 2008 that we stopped using paper files and instead, the authoritative files in our office were electronic files stored on a file server.  (In those days the file server got backed up by means of physical data cartridges that got transported to the homes of selected firm personnel every day.  Nowadays it is a real-time backup to mirrored file servers located in the homes of selected firm personnel.)

At the USPTO, the color of the folder denoted the “series code”.  05 was one color, 04 was another.

In our office, manila was for domestic US patent files.  Orange was for foreign files.  

I was quite surprised to learn that even now there are office-supply companies that stock and sell sturdy trifold patent file folders.  They cost about four dollars each and are printed on 130-pound cardboard stock.

I gather that in some offices, the three sections of a trifold file folder got used in different ways than I described above.  Did you use them differently in your office? 

What colors did you use in your office for the files of different types?  Please post a comment below.

8 Replies to “Trifold patent file folders”

  1. I remember those days, with the paper files. We used the same system for sorting correspondence with the client, with the USPTO, and drawings. Our files were always green, and stood apart from any other files in our multi-practice firm. Everyone knew they were patent files. Oh, those were the days! Thanks for the memories.

  2. When I was an examiner in 1986, I recall all series were white file folders. I think re-exams and reissues were pink and orange. And then there the dreaded JUMBO file folders.

  3. Our standard was to put the originally filed application on the left, correspondence with the PTO in the middle, and client correspondence on the right. A current docket sheet was always supposed to be on top of the PTO correspondence, I think, although it might have been on top of the left side. Our folders were then put into redwells that would include paper copies of the IDS references and any other papers for that matter.

    Manila was for US patent applications. US Trademarks were blue. I think foreign patents were red and foreign trademarks orange, but we got rid of paper files at Wong Cabello around 10 years ago, before we merged with Blank Rome. With only a few exceptions, I haven’t touched one since then, even though other parts of Blank Rome were (and probably still are) primarily using paper files, particularly the TM practice in Philly. When I went solo in 2019, I determined I would never have any paper files.

    Different firms kept their paper files in different orders in the file room. Wong Cabello sorted them largely alphabetically by client, rather than by client number. Blank Rome I think sorted them by client number. The most bizarre I ever experienced was in my days at Akin Gump in Houston, which sorted the paper files by the last two digits of the client number. That was a truly awful idea, and no one could ever explain to me why that scheme made any sense. Unsurprisingly, we always had huge problems with misfiled folders.

  4. In my apprentice days, the boutique firm I worked at used the trifolds, and I continued that briefly after going solo. But not long after, I was transferred matter in a bi-fold that had two dividers, creating six spaces for different. I switched and never looked back until I went electronic. Even now, I still open physical bifolds for each matter, but there isn’t much in them; mostly engagement letters, original, wet-signed POA’s and Declarations, and the occasional item a client furnishes on paper.

  5. My firm initially use “manila” colored (also called “buff-colored”) for US and pink for PCT cases and foreign cases. That is because the firm I left when starting my firm used that color code. But my firm went paperless shortly after opening in 2002. So after one big order for paper folders, and other paper holding physical things, we ordered no more. The post that inspired this blog article asked for suppliers of those kinds of folders, now, in 2022. I am guessing that poster believes they have to store paper executed documents and raised seal paper documents, and therefore feels a need for paper folders to organize those documents.
    Back to the conversion to “all electronic”. My working theory was that anything in a paper process should be replicated in electronic processes. So my policy back then was to have, for each application, a Windows folder, and in that folder subfolders for: Correspondence; Prosecution; Drafts; and Executed Documents. That evolved a bit over time but the basic format remained the same. (Some of the changes were things like MasterIDS folders, pan-client or pan-filing family; Filing Family superfolders containing the application folders for all applications having the same disclosure. There were also non application folders, like a general folder for each client, and still are.) And we had an electronic FirmInbox into which all general correspondence not yet specifically tied to a docketed matter, such as scanned from paper correspondence, was plopped, for docketing and logging, before being logged, docketed, reported, and moved. I specifically avoided using commercially offered “Document Management” systems, finding them inherently suspect for a variety of reasons. I wonder if others would care to comment on their electronic processing experiences, or their migrations thereto.

  6. The bad thing about the tri-folds were the paper overflows. To avoid using a second tri-fold, we were always trying to stuff too many sheets of paper causing the fold hinges to come apart, the paper hanger flaps to rip, the hole punches in the paper to tear, and loose papers shoved in the pockets. Duct tape came in handy.

    For those that are paperless and want to relive or enjoy the fun of flipping through pages in the tri-fold format, I just came across this: https://www.gsmarena.com/microsoft_patent_reveals_possible_trifold_surface_phone-news-52454.php#image0 . A foldable LCD display for a tri-fold tablet/mobile device.

    1. Yes the way I remember it in my early days as an associate at the first firm where I worked, some files were so big that eventually there was a great big redweld file folder that was sort of duct-taped to the trifold (or vice versa) in a desperate effort to provide places for all of the paper.

      But there was one file where an IDS all by itself filled a whole banker’s box. And we sent it to the USPTO and somehow it never (apparently) found its way into the USPTO file. We had to send it in again. Anyway, our copy got stored someplace and in our trifold there was a single sheet of paper that simply said this is a placeholder for that IDS that is in a banker’s box.

  7. In our office, the manila tri-folds were for US patents, blue tri-folds were for foreign patents, and orange tri-folds was for trademarks – both US and foreign. We also put all correspondence on the right, everything to/from patent office (or foreign associate in the case of foreign matters) in the center, and all docket update sheets on the left. The push to go fully paperless is still a bit bumpy in our office as some attorneys are not willing to let go of paper files. We’ll get there eventually, though.

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