Cereal box got smaller but price stays the same (USPTO Director’s blog)

35 USC § 153 says:

Patents shall be issued in the name of the United States of America, under the seal of the Patent and Trademark Office, and shall be signed by the Director or have his signature placed thereon and shall be recorded in the Patent and Trademark Office.

For as long as I have been in practice, such patents have arrived in the postal mail approximately every Friday, following the Tuesday of issuance.  We call them “ribbon copies” because on the cover, they have a gold seal and they used to have a representation of a red ribbon.  I review the patents each week, often with some sense of satisfaction at having played some small part in the process of obtaining the patent from the USPTO on behalf of the client.  We then ship each patent to the client, with a cover letter solemnly advising the client that the patent should be kept safely “among the client’s important papers”.

It seems this will come to an end, according to a new article has been posted to the blog of the Director of the USPTO. The article, entitled Modernizing how we issue patents and trademark registrations, is dated December 10, 2021.  In the blog article, the Director describes the Office’s plans to discontinue issuing physical patents.  Instead, the Office has in mind that inventors and corporations should be content to download a PDF file from the web site of the USPTO.  The Director helpfully mentions, however, that the USPTO has in mind that in the unlikely event that anybody actually does want to have a physical patent, it will still be possible to get one, by paying an extra $25 to the USPTO.

Conspicuously absent from the blog article is any mention of the notion of reducing the amount of the Issue Fee by $25 to make up for the fact of the USPTO being able to save the cost of preparing and mailing the physical patent.

So as far as I can see, what is proposed is that the cereal box will get smaller, but its price will stay the same.  Call me old-fashioned, but when I was a child growing up, I always considered this sort of thing to be a sneaky way for the manufacturer to accomplish what amounted to a price increase.


11 Replies to “Cereal box got smaller but price stays the same (USPTO Director’s blog)”

  1. I’m not really surprised. We’ve seen foreign patent offices do the same, but usually they issue some type of official certificate (such as in Europe or China). One would hope the US would follow suit, but given the way our USPTO operates, I’m fairly doubtful.

  2. Pretty soon they’ll stop examining patent applications and summarily issue a first office action rejection three years after submittal – all to save money. Of course, you’ll be invited to appeal.

  3. Carl, I missed where 35 USC was amended to authorize the PTO to stop issuing printed copies of issued patents, or to charge applicants for the privilege of receiving a printed copy. I also missed any rulemaking that authorized the PTO to start charging for that first copy. I guess the PTO really enjoys getting sued for ignoring its dutes under the law.

    If the PTO wants to save money, it can stop insisting on typing every application itself, and instead just take the text submitted by the applicant (as a paper copy, or as a pdf file) and publish that document. THAT would save costs in a number of ways: it would obviate the need for typists; it would obviate the need for patentees to check for mistakes in the text of the printed patents, limiting such checks to assuring that no pages or drawings have been omitted; and it would reduce the number of petitions for certificates of corrections. It also might reduce the office’s hellbent drive to implement its asinine .docx filing scheme.

    1. The Director’s blog article does mention plans for an APA notice-and-comment cycle on the discontinuance of issuing physical patents. It also mentions plans for discontinuing issuance of physical trademark registration certificates, and it floats the notion that maybe neither the Code nor the present Rules actually require physical trademark registration certificates, but it says the Office has in mind that nonetheless it will run an APA-style notice-and-comment cycle on the discontinuance of issuing physical trademark registration certificates.

      1. Going through rule-and-comment rulemaking is better than doing it w/o rulemaking (though I’m still not convinced that this can be done without a statutory change), as this will allow for the various questions and comments raised in the listserv to be brought to the attention of the PTO – including the one you mention in the blog post, viz. a reduction in the issue fee. Like many, I won’t miss paper copies. But I am sick of the PTO playing fast and loose with the rules on seemingly every front – restriction requirements, poorly-written (and poorly-reasoned) OAs, docx filing, absolutely deafness on patentcenter…

    1. Well first of all, thank you for posting.

      You might as well ask, what is going to happen if USPTO follows through on its program of selling a ribbon copy of a US patent for $25, and let’s say ten people each send in their $25 and ask to receive a ribbon copy of the US patent.

    2. Thankfully, the surrender requirement is a legal fiction. There is nothing physical to surrender – you don’t even have to cut two-column patents down the middle and glue each column onto a new sheet of Letter-sized paper. The reissue filing process will continue unchanged.

  4. It seems to me that the “presentation copy” that you can order for $25 is the same thing they already offer, and is not equivalent to the ribbon copy of the patent mailed today. I used to order presentation copies for inventors if their invention won an award. It is just the front page, with a gold seal, suitable for framing. You can order one from the Certified Copy Center: https://certifiedcopycenter.uspto.gov/published.html

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