Historically, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued patents as physical documents with an embossed seal and logo.  Until recently, there was even a ribbon attached.  However, recent prompting from many patent owners has caused the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to consider switching from a physically printed patent to an electronic publication both to expedite processing and reduce costs for all parties.

On Feb. 27, the USPTO released a notice (available here) revealing that it will officially switch to issuing electronic patents on April 18, 2023.

Here are the details:

  • Effective April 18, 2023, the USPTO will start to “issue” Letters Patents electronically (“The electronic patent grant will be the official statutory patent grant.”), which will be publicly available for download in Patent Center
  • During a transition period (whose length is still not finalized), the USPTO will also mail a “ceremonial copy” of the Letters Patent that “resembles the previous paper patents”
  • Following the transition period, the USPTO will no longer mail a ceremonial copy by default, but will make it available to purchase for a “nominal” fee
  • Similar to current practice, anyone will be able to purchase a “presentation copy” of the Letters Patent (“a certified copy of the first page of an issued patent” having “a unique certification statement with a special ribbon and seal” and that is “suitable for framing and display”) and/or a certified copy of the Letters Patent (the same as exists today, which is usable “for submission to a legal proceeding”)

Also, please note that this will shorten the post-Issue Fee Payment period.  If you do not currently file your continuations before paying the Issue Fee, start doing so.  If you need to use the Quick Path Information Disclosure Statement (QPIDS) procedure, do it fast.  In general, do things before paying the Issue Fee whenever possible.

If you have any questions about this topic, please contact the Womble Bond Dickinson attorney with whom you normally work.