The Fool’s Errand That Is DOCX

(Update:  The letter did get sent, and the USPTO received the letter (blog article).)

This blog article provides a document The Fool’s Errand That Is DOCX, dated December 27, 2022.  This blog article invites you to sign a letter urging USPTO people to read the document. 

The USPTO announced its “DOCX initiative” for filing of patent applications some six years ago.  My patent firm was one of the first beta testers of that initiative.  During these past six years, I have pointed out again and again various flaws and mistakes in USPTO’s evolving development of its DOCX initiative.  During these years the USPTO has made things worse and worse for science and the useful arts, by setting it up so that any patent practitioner foolish enough to file a patent application in USPTO’s DOCX program will face substantial malpractice risks, some of which would not become apparent until TYFNIL.

Last week the USPTO doubled down on the flaws in its DOCX program, publishing a Federal Register notice (click here) that stubbornly maintains the January 1, 2023 start date for the $400 penalty for any filer with the temerity to fail to file a patent application in USPTO’s Microsoft Word DOCX format.  The start date for this $400 penalty is now a mere five days away.  Supposedly within the next few days, Director Vidal will publish another Federal Register notice providing “breathing room” for further discussion (blog article).

USPTO’s doubling down of last week makes it quite clear that I did not succeed in my many past communication efforts to the USPTO.  I have collected, all in once place, the points that I have tried over the past few years to communicate to high-up decisionmakers at the USPTO.   The document is called The Fool’s Errand That Is DOCX.  You can see the document here.

What would it take to somehow prompt the USPTO decisionmakers to read this document?  Maybe a letter, signed by patent applicants and practitioners?

You can see here the letter that I invite you to sign.  This letter will close for signature tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, December 28.   To sign it, click here.

Dear Director Vidal:

The signers of this letter are dismayed by the USPTO’s Federal Register notice dated December 20, 2022 which keeps in place a $400 penalty to be imposed upon a patent filer that declines to file a patent application in keeping with USPTO’s DOCX filing program.  The signers of this letter, personally or through their firm or corporation, have filed over NN patent applications in the past ten years, and have paid over $MM in fees to the USPTO in the past ten years.

We urge you to read and give full consideration to Carl Oppedahl’s document The Fool’s Errand That Is DOCX, dated December 27, 2022.  We urge you to direct your decisionmakers for the USPTO’s DOCX filing program to read the document and to give full consideration to it.  A copy of that document is attached.

Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,  etc.

Again, to sign the letter, click here.  Keep in mind that the letter will close for signature tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, December 28.

8 Replies to “The Fool’s Errand That Is DOCX”

  1. This has gained attention of former APJ William Smith, now Patent Agent at Adam R. Stephenson, LTD, who posted on linked in:

    “This will go down as a shameful chapter in PTO history. Waiting for the IG and/or GAO to investigate. Would not be surprised to see the Rep controlled House conduct oversight hearings.”

  2. All my recent patent applications in DOCX have met with a warning of errors on the claims document. It allowed me to continue and submit anyway, and later the claims are correct in content and format, indicating that the receiving software is incorrect. My documents are created with Libre Office within Linux, which is my right to do, the USPTO may not force me to use Microsoft software, particularly that it is a poorly written software, second rate, at most.

    Though this is, in principle, not a big deal, it is at least conceivable, and most likely will occur, that in the future the USPTO will refuse to accept the DOCX document that is marked by the USPTO software as defective – and then the applicant will not be able to file the patent application.

    I oppose the DOCX system. I suggest a combination of *.pdf and *.txt files, the former for reading and etc., the latter for searching for words if the OCR fails to extract the ASCII file from the *.pdf file.

  3. “Pretty much everything in this quoted paragraph is pants-on-fire false.” I love that characterization.

    As my father told us, if you don’t lie, you don’t have to remember what you said. I guess the corollary is that if you don’t lie in the first place, you don’t have to stick with the lie to try to save face later.

    Super work, Carl. Thank you for putting this together. I’ve signed.

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