Electronic Patent Filing: On March 17, the Patent Office (PTO) is scheduled to release its brand-new Electronic Filing System for filing patent applications through an online format. Beta tests show that the new system works well, is easy to use, and will quickly become the preferred mode of operation for your firm.
The new system operates using PDF documents. Although there are other options available, you will likely want to purchase a full version of Adobe Acrobat so that you can easily create and manipulate PDF documents.
Electronic Access to Patent Files: The PTO has implemented a new version of “Private PAIR” that can be used to easily access the prosecution history of pending patent applications. Larry Aaronson, a partner at MBHB put together the following notes on starting-up the new system:
First access the Private Pair page through this link.
Next, in the "Select Digital Certificate" box, you will need to enter the full path and file name of your .epf file, which you can do easily by clicking on the "Browse..." button, and browsing to the file on your hard drive. Your .epf file is likely located on your hard drive in the "c:\program files\uspto" folder. It is typically named yourname.epf (where "yourname" is your last name). You can feel free to rename that file and/or copy it to a more convenient location on your computer. The important point is that you know where it is, so you can provide its path and filename when prompted.
Finally, in the "Enter Password" box, you will need to enter your password. That's the same password you used for accessing private PAIR before the change.
If you previously did not have access to private PAIR, you will not have an .epf file. Registered attorneys/agents can contact the PTO Electronic Business Center (866-217-9197 or 571-272-4100) to establish a digital certificate (and thus get an .epf file).
A registered attorney/agent's .epf file can be copied to an assistant's computer, or to a home computer, to allow access in the manner described above as well from the other computer. I.e., more than one computer can use the same .epf file. The PTO might have limitations on how many computers can concurrently use the same .epf file, so don't copy it to more than one or two other computers.
The above procedure works on both PCs and Macs.
Electronic Patent Assignments: In an previous post, Blair Hughes provided easy-to-use directions for electronically filing patent assignments.