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No Time to Waste: Electronic Grants Have Important Implications For Patent Applicants

Innovation and technology are at the forefront of modern-day society, and businesses and individuals are constantly striving to create new and improved products. New electronic patent procedures are intended to streamline the grant process, but this also means that the timeline for decision-making prior to the patent’s issuance is reduced.

Electronic Patent Grants Will Replace Hard Copies in April 2023

Beginning on April 18, 2023, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will no longer issue hard copy, paper patents and will instead begin issuing patents electronically. These eGrants are intended to streamline the patent issuance process, reduce environmental waste, and cut an estimated $2 million in printing and mailing expenses.

All patent grants will be issued electronically in PDF format, but during a transition period, the USPTO will also issue a “ceremonial paper copy.” Patent recipients will still be able to request a USPTO-certified copy from the USPTO’s certified copy center for an additional fee.

Timeframe In Which Applicants Can File Continuation or Divisional Applications Significantly Reduced Under eGrant System

Under the USPTO’s current hard copy patent issuance process, patent applicants have several weeks before the USPTO mails the Issue Notification and several more weeks until the patent is issued. Applicants have often relied upon this delay when deciding whether to file a continuation or divisional application prior to the patent’s issuance.

With the new USPTO eGrant system, however,  the time between payment of the issue fee and patent issuance will be shortened, and applicants will have less time to make these important decisions.

The USPTO has declined to set a fixed timeline for patent issuance after the issue fee has been paid, but it is speculated that patent applicants may only have a few days to make the decision to file a continuation or divisional application before the patent is issued. Therefore, the USPTO recommends that these decisions be made before payment of the issue fee.

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