The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office released EFS-Web 1.1 which adds new features and functionality for e-filing documents. 1311 TMOG 155 (Oct. 24, 2006).

In October 2000, the USPTO implemented an electronic filing system for patent applications (EFS/ABX) and form generation, validation and submission (ePAVE) of the patent application. However, the system was viewed as not user friendly and not widely accepted by the patent community.

In March 2006, the USPTO introduced EFS-Web, a web-based electronic filing system for transmitting patent application documents in a pdf format. The EFS-Web system has been widely accepted by the patent community. The USPTO is hoping that the system will be as successful as TEAS, the Trademark Electronic Application Filing System. While the new system has been widely accepted, it is limited to filing national phase U.S. patent applications and to documents that can be submitted in pdf format.

On October 14, 2006, the Office introduced EFS-Web 1.1 to accommodate the filing of PCT international patent applications at the U. S. Receiving Office; petitions to accept unintentionally delayed payment of maintenance fees; requests for amended publication, redacted publication, and early publication, voluntary publication or replication of a patent application; and documents related to accelerated examination.

Even more importantly, EFS-Web 1.1 also accepts documents written as text files (txt) for electronic submissions. Thus, the new version allows e-filers to submit files such as sequence listings, computer program listings and mega tables in a txt format. This change eliminates the need to submit such materials on computer readable disk media. Further, the USPTO has indicated that it has relaxed its rules for sequence listings to accommodate the filing of such listings/tables through EFS-Web. The Office is expected to publish rule changes shortly.

Support for the EFS/ABX and ePAVE systems was discontinued on November 11, 2006.

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In an unrelated development, the USPTO announced termination of its Document Disclosure Program, effective as of February 1, 2007, because provisional patent applications afford far more benefits and protections and because some independent inventors who used the program apparently thought (incorrectly) that they were actually filing an application for patent. Changes to Eliminate the Document Disclosure Program, 71 FR 64636 (November 3, 2006).

The Document Disclosure Program was implemented in 1969 in order to provide a form of evidence of conception of an invention only. Under the program, an inventor submits to the USPTO a signed written description of the invention to enable a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention in the United States. No oath or claim is required. After two years, the disclosure document is destroyed unless it is referred to in a separate letter in a related provisional or non-provisional patent application. A disclosure document cannot be relied upon as a priority document (domestic or foreign).

According to USPTO, a provisional application provides the following benefits over the Document Disclosure Program:

  1. A provisional patent application (which is retained for five years) is regarded as a patent application;
  2. A provisional patent application is evidence of both conception and constructive (assuming it complies with the requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶1); and
  3. A provisional patent application can be used to claim priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119.

The USPTO found that since 1976, only 0.04 percent of patent applicants have relied on disclosure documents. The Office did not find the $100 fee for a provisional application (verses the $10 fee for filing a Document Disclosure) to be a significant financial burden on independent inventors or small entities.

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