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October 11, 2004; Vol. 23 No. 30

Although electronic files are king at the Patent and Trademark Office, most applications still arrive on paper.

The 10,000 applications that have been submitted through PTO’s electronic filing system amount to a drop in a flood of paper.

“A little less than 2 percent are coming in electronic mode,” said Edward Kazenske, deputy commissioner for patent planning and resources. “I would say it has not been the success we have looked for.”

For some patent attorneys, paper filing is just habit.

“Because of the convenient location, it is just as easy” to hand-deliver applications, said attorney Kevin J. McNeely, who has offices in Washington, DC across the Potomac River from PTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA.

Washington, DC attorney Jeffrey Weiss said lawyers tend to be conservative and slow to adopt new technology. He also continues to file on paper.

“My perception is that the software they have come out with is not that user-friendly,” Weiss said. But he praised the concept of electronic filing.

“What the Patent Office is doing is consistent with what the courts are doing in a lot of jurisdictions-mandating electronic filing. I think that is fantastic.”

Weiss said he realizes e-filing eventually will become inevitable, and “people are going to have to bite the bullet.”

Kazenske acknowledged that tagging documents with Extensible Markup Language is not simple and that it probably does not fit into many offices’ existing business processes. Also, once documents have been filed, a digital certificate is necessary to access them online. “Those may be issues,” he said.

PTO plans to meet with attorneys this fall to identify other barriers to electronic filing.

Weiss predicted e-filing will increase, because PTO has been “very welcoming and willing to train people. They are doing the right thing, and they will get there.”


William Jackson
GCN Staff