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Getting Started With the Online Patent Application Process and EFS-Web

By John DiGiacomo

Over the past 20 years or so, the US Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has “gone digital” almost completely. That is, where allowed, most patent applications are now filed electronically via the USPTO’s Electronic Filing System-Web (“EFS-Web”). EFS-Web is an internet portal/website that allows for the submission of patent applications and supporting documents.The EFS-Web service can be accessed by unregistered users, but anyone who is serious about obtaining a patent for their invention will sign up and become what is called a “registered eFILER.” Upon registration, the portal will assign a Customer Number and Digital Certificate for access to the EFS-Web portal. There is an integrated web-application called the Patent Application Information Retrieval (“PAIR”) system. This is where patent applicants can access and electronically view the status of their application and copies of documents filed. Those who want to file their own patent application can use the EFS-Web portal to make the filing process easier. But the system is complex and not for the “faint of heart.” This is one reason that hiring a skilled and experienced patent attorney is preferable. Here is a quick summary of how the EFS-Web portal works.

For convenience, the EFS-Web portal offers some “fillable” forms for items like Cover Sheet needed for provisional patent applications, the Information Disclosure Statement, the Application Data Sheet and more. See here. Use of the “fillable” forms is not required and, if not used, then the proper form must be prepared offline and properly uploaded. With respect to uploading documents, this can be somewhat complicated. But in basic terms, documents must be converted into Portable Document Format (“PDF”) and then uploaded. Most of the documents that are uploaded will be PDFs (although in some areas of the EFS-Web portal, ASCII text files or PCT-Easy Zip files can be uploaded). Documents uploaded to the EFS-Web are deemed sufficient for the USPTO and “hard copies” do not need to be mailed. Among the factors that cause complications are limits on file size (25MB), the fact that uploaded PDFs cannot have external web links and the fact that each document uploaded must be properly indexed. The system has prompts that can help with indexing, but misindexing uploaded files will cause processing delays.

  • Examples of documents that are needed to support a patent application include:
  • Specifications — the detailed written description of the invention
  • Claim or claims — the sufficient and legally compliant statement or statements of what the inventor claims that the invention does or is
  • Drawings — showing the invention or detailing the progression of a process or method

Even though the USPTO encourages applications and documents to be filed via the EFS-Web portal, there are some limitations. For example, as of now, the USPTO does not allow applications for plant patents to be filed electronically. Further, there are some types of documents that must be submitted via mail. An example would be documents that are certified — such as a certified copy of a foreign patent application.

The EFS-Web portal can also be used for the submission of various USPTO fees (including the basic filing fee for the patent application, search fee, examination fee, etc.). Payment options include use of a credit/debit card, a USPTO deposit account or electronic fund transfer.

Contact Revision Legal For more information or if you have an invention or design that you want to patent, contact the patent lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100.

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