USPTO Transitions to Issuing Electronic Patents in April 2023, Expect Less Advance Notice of Issue Dates
Starting on April 18, 2023, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will begin issuing patents electronically instead of in paper form. The USPTO will continue mailing a “ceremonial” patent in paper form during a “transitory period” of unspecified length.
The transition to issuing electronic patents is important because there will be a reduction in the time it takes applicants to receive a patent after payment of the issue fee. This change was first announced in December 2021 and was recently explained in a Federal Register Notice on February 28, 2023. The electronic patent will have a new USPTO digital seal with the Director’s digital signature and an encrypted digital signature embedded within it to validate the electronic document as the issued patent. The cover sheet of the electronically issued patent will look almost identical to the cover sheets currently used for paper patents, except for the digital seal and signature. Patents will be available for download in both public and private views of the USPTO’s Patent Center (www.uspto.gov) on the issue date.
Electronically issued patents will be granted shortly after the patent number and issue date are assigned. Patents will continue to be issued on Tuesdays. However, the USPTO will no longer be sending out Issue Notifications a few weeks in advance of issue dates. Instead, the USPTO expects Issue Notifications to be available in Patent Center usually on the Wednesday or Thursday before the patent issues.
With this change, Applicants will only have a few days advance notice of the issue date of a patent. There will be less time to file continuing applications, Quick Path Information Disclosure Statements, and petitions to withdraw an application from issue after payment of the issue fee. Moving forward, it will be critical to make decisions regarding the filing of continuation applications before payment of the issue fee as the period for filing continuation applications will be reduced.