The USPTO has by now presented at least one hundred forty-five webinars urging applicants and practitioners to e-file their US patent applications in DOCX format instead of PDF format. This has amounted to more than six webinars per month in the past 24 months (see graph at right). To promote these webinars, the USPTO has carried out at least fifty email blasts amounting, I imagine, to well over half a million outbound email messages. What is USPTO’s success rate at convincing applicants and practitioners to switch from PDF to DOCX?
In two recent webinars (blog article) about USPTO’s DOCX initiative, I polled the attendees and got some striking answers. Who, for example, has actually done any DOCX filings?
- Of the respondents at the first-day webinar, 52% said they have not yet done any DOCX filings. Another 29% have done “one or a few” DOCX filings. Only 18% have done “many” DOCX filings.
- Of the respondents at the second-day webinar, 53% said they have not yet done any DOCX filings. Another 27% have done “one or a few” DOCX filings. Only 20% have done “many” DOCX filings.
Well over eighty percent of respondents have done only “one or a few” DOCX filings or have done none at all.
Who is planning to do DOCX filings in the future?
- Of the respondents at the first-day webinar, 28% said they do not plan to do DOCX filings in the future. Another 14% plan to do “one or a few” DOCX filings in the future. Only 30% plan to do “many” DOCX filings in the future. 29% say they are “not sure”about whether they will do any DOCX filings in the future.
- Of the respondents at the second-day webinar, 35% said they do not plan to do DOCX filings in the future. Another 5% plan to do “one or a few” DOCX filings in the future. Only 18% plan to do “many” DOCX filings in the future. 42% say they are “not sure” about whether they will do any DOCX filings in the future.
The striking finding is that well over half (57%) of the first-day respondents either do not plan to do DOCX filings in the future, or are not sure. For the second-day respondents, the “no or not sure” answers added up to 77%.
Perhaps the most telling factor that might explain this lack of success in USPTO’s efforts is this: nearly all respondents felt that the USPTO has not done a good job of communicating pros and cons for a practitioner when e-filing in DOCX format. The answers were:
- Yes – 1.5% and zero percent
- No – 94% and 89%
- Not sure – 5% and 11%
To say this again — an overwhelming majority of respondents felt that the USPTO has not done a good job of communicating pros and cons of DOCX filing.
Now of course one might imagine some selection bias given that the respondents are people who chose to attend these webinars. And at the time of the polling the respondents had just heard half an hour of discussion of the many professional risks of the USPTO DOCX e-filing system. But even if one were to knock off some percentage points to try to account for this, the numbers for the USPTO’s DOCX conversion rate and “doing a good job of communicating” would still be very unfavorable.
Recordings of the webinars are now available for viewing.
4 Replies to “How successful have USPTO’s DOCX training webinars been?”
Thanks Carl, both for the webinar and compiling those statistics.
I have filed one docx filing. Or rather, I tried, as a test. I took an application containing many chemical structures that I prepared many years ago in the then-version of Word, opened in a recent version of Word and saved it as a “docx” file , and tried to file it.
The system puked and wouldn’t even let me upload it. “docx standard”. Rrrrriiiiiigggghhhht.
I have not attempted to use docx since, and I do not plan to, since the PTO will not save the document, and will convert it to a different format, which will be controlling. The gall of the PTO in thinking that anyone would accede to such a thing is astounding. Would anyone sign a contract on the understanding that the other party can change the contract, unseen to the signer, after signing, and that those changes are binding?
I sat in on one of those PTO webinars about docx filing. They lied (surprise), and at no point did they explain the downsides, not even in response to my questions about potential downsides.
Do they even have an OMB number yet for this?
Those numbers generally match what Commissioner Udupa told a Houston IP Law Association meeting on April 6, which was that 44% of patent filings are being done in DOCX today.
Makes sense that those not already using MS Word would be more reluctant to file in DOCX. Surprising the split between days wasn’t greater.