Maybe some USPTO progress away from bad parts of its DOCX initiative

(An important followup letter got sent on February 14, 2023 to the USPTO — see blog article.)

Readers, I am delighted to be able to report what looks like a bit of progress by the USPTO, away from some of the bad parts of its DOCX initiative.  A meeting took place on February 1, 2023 with some representatives of the patent practitioner listserv committee.  You can read about the meeting below. 

It will be recalled that on December 23, 2022, 117 patent professionals sent a letter to Director Vidal (click here to see the letter), reiterating opposition to the USPTO’s DOCX rules.

It will also be recalled that on December 28, 2022, 82 patent practitioners sent a letter to Director Vidal (click here to see the letter), urging Director Vidal to read The Fool’s Errand That Is DOCX, and urging her to direct her underlings to read it.

After that, a videoconference took place between six USPTO people, led by Deputy Commissioner for Patents Richard Seidel, and five people from our patent practitioner listserv community.  This was on February 1, 2023.   You can see here a thank-you letter that the five practitioners sent to the USPTO.  The letter summarizes a bit of what was discussed during the videoconference.

As you can see from the thank-you letter, one thing that developed during the meeting is the USPTO considering a possible two-path filing approach, where either a text-based PDF file or a DOCX file (applicant’s option) would be accepted by the USPTO, without penalty, for the filing of a US patent application.  Please read the thank-you letter to see some particular comments and suggestions that were offered to the USPTO as to some details about how it might implement the “text-based PDF file” filing approach.

The idea here is that one path available to a patent applicant would be to print its patent application to a PDF file in a way that provides text content within the PDF file.  This PDF file, as filed by the applicant, would be the “controlling” document in terms of what exactly the applicant filed as its patent application.

Seidel did not want to remove DOCX as a filing format, saying significant numbers of DOCX filings are already being made.  For a patent applicant that feels comfortable using a DOCX format, the two-path filing approach would allow that format as well.  (I have made no secret of my concerns as to professional liability risks for patent practitioners in using this approach for filing a patent application.  But it may well be that some applicants will not see those risks the same way that I do, and will choose to make use of the DOCX path.)

What the five practitioners heard from the USPTO people is that the USPTO is “considering” making this two-path filing approach available.  In other words, it is not yet a sure thing.  But let’s hope the USPTO does move forward on this.

It was left that in a few weeks, the USPTO will make a follow-up meeting possible about all of this.

The USPTO deserves recognition for making this February 1, 2023 meeting possible.

I also urge the reader to realize that the 117 signers of the December 23 letter, and the 82 signers of the December 28 letter, also helped to make this February 1, 2023 meeting possible.  I offer my thanks to those signers, and I hope you will thank them as well.

Again, I suggest you read the February 2, 2023 thank-you letter to see some of the comments and suggestions provided to the USPTO by the five practitioner attendees about this possible two-path filing approach.

3 Replies to “Maybe some USPTO progress away from bad parts of its DOCX initiative”

  1. Thanks to ‘all the folks’ who are moving, shaking, and signing in attempts to get things done and preserve the integrity of ‘the patent process’ as a whole!

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