September 2017 marks the planned release of the first iteration of the eCommerce Modernization (eMod) Patent Center (“the Alpha Release”), as well as the introduction of new EFS-Web and PAIR features by the USPTO. Effective September 10, features of the recently concluded eMod Text Pilot Program will be rolled out to the public. EFS-Web and Private PAIR users will be able to file structured text via EFS-Web and access structured text submissions and Office Actions via Private PAIR. Additionally, the Alpha Release, which is the next phase of the USPTO’s eMod Project that seeks to improve “the electronic patent application process by modernizing USPTO’s application filing and viewing systems,” will be made available to Pilot Program enrollees. The Alpha Release will include a new user interface and introduce new functionality that the USPTO aims to roll into future iterations of the Patent Center.
For the past year, registered users have been able to enroll in the Pilot Program and provide feedback on the new functionality as part of the USPTO’s Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative to more efficiently streamline management and submission of patent related documents to the USPTO. As part of the Pilot Program, enrollees had the ability to accept and deliver structured text submissions and Office Actions, as well as download XML files for specifications, claims, and abstracts for non-provisional applications, and provide continuous feedback of their user experience.
Following the conclusion of the Pilot Program, enrollees will receive the Patent Center Alpha Release. Despite having limited functionality for viewing and managing applications, the Alpha Release promises to provide users with a new user interface and serve as the first step in revamping an outdated system for submitting and viewing patent application documents.
Highlights of the Alpha Release and Next Steps
- The eMod Patent Center Alpha Release will allow for filings of utility, non-provisional, provisional, international, and design applications and their corresponding follow-on submissions. Remaining functionalities will have to be performed using legacy tools.
- The eMod Patent Center Beta Release is set to occur in early 2018 via open registration. The Beta Release will have a unified user interface and include updates from the eMod Text Pilot Program, as well as key functionalities of EFS-Web and PAIR.
- The USPTO is striving to make the Patent Center a unified system that features a single interface for filing and managing patent applications. The final iteration of the Patent Center will feature the ability to upload multiple documents simultaneously, to drag and drop documents for upload, and to save submissions at any time, among others.
- Ultimately, the USPTO hopes to incorporate enhancements from the Pilot Program, the Alpha Release, and the Beta Release into the Patent Center and transfer all functionality from the legacy systems to transition from, and eventually retire, EFS-Web and PAIR. Users will be informed of such developments through outreach events, Patents Alerts, as well as EFS-Web and/or PAIR.