Last Official Ribbon Copies Roll Off USPTO Presses
The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) issues new patents each Tuesday. This past Tuesday, 11 April 2023, was the last day for the USPTO to officially issue patents on paper. Starting next Tuesday, 18 April 2023, all patents will be officially issued electronically. The electronic issued patent will be a PDF that looks the same as currently available patent PDFs but prepended with two pages (examples below) that look like the front cover and inside cover of a traditional ribbon copy.
During a transition period of unspecified length, the USPTO will still mail a “ceremonial copy” bound and printed on heavy paper that will be “reminiscent of” the ribbon copy but will not actually be official. We expect the ceremonial copy to appear very similar to prior ribbon copies, but likely with a note indicating that it is not the official grant. Whenever the transition period ends, ceremonial copies will no longer be mailed but a patentee will be able to order them for a fee (perhaps $25).
Most Important Change: There will be less time from the issue fee payment until the patent grant. This gives less time for filing a continuation application, a petition to withdraw from issue, etc. Notably, the USPTO is planning to send an Issue Notification on Wednesday or Thursday for a patent issuing the very next Tuesday. This is significantly faster than currently, where the patent usually follows two weeks after the issue notification. The decreased time makes it even more important to make continuation decisions prior to payment of the issue fee.
Secondary takeaway: since ceremonial copies are not official, clients may not want to incur the administrative cost and postage to obtain the ceremonial copies. This is especially true for clients outside the U.S.
The USPTO does not have any current timeline to begin issuing Certificates of Correction electronically. Instead, they will continue to physically mail out “Gold Seal” Certificates of Correction.
Here are the first two pages of the USPTO’s sample electronic grant:
Hovering over the gold seal on the first page reveals that the PDF has a signature recognized as valid by our PDF software. Screenshot of tooltip:
Here is a screenshot of the properties of that signature: