On Friday, December 10, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a proposed transition to officially issue U.S. patents and U.S. trademark registration certificates electronically in 2022. The USPTO will soon issue a notice of proposed rulemaking, which will request public comments on proposed revisions to the U.S. patent rules to permit the electronic issuance of U.S. patents. (While it is unnecessary to similarly amend the U.S. trademark rules, the USPTO will also request public comments on the proposed transition to provide only electronic copies of U.S. registration certificates.)

Currently, the USPTO mails an official paper ribbon copy of each issued U.S. patent and an official paper trademark registration certificate with a gold seal, to the correspondence address of record in the application file. The proposed transition seeks to replace this with an official electronic copy of each issued U.S. patent and trademark registration certificate, expected to bear a digital seal and the USPTO Director’s electronic signature. The official electronic copy would be downloadable and printable from the USPTO’s systems. However, the USPTO will still offer the option of a paper copy of an issued U.S. patent or trademark registration certificate with the traditional gold seal and Director’s signature for $25 (U.S.).

According to the USPTO, electronic issuance of a U.S. patent would occur within one week of the U.S. patent number being assigned. Measured from the date of the Issue Fee payment, this is expected to reduce the typical time to patent issuance by about two weeks. In practice, this will mean that there may be about two weeks less time available to file a continuation or divisional application after paying the Issue Fee.

Also according to the USPTO, electronic issuance of a U.S. trademark registration certificate would occur about one to two weeks sooner than under current practice.

The USPTO Director’s announcement is available at: https://www.uspto.gov/blog/director/entry/modernizing-how-we-issue-patents