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Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

Patent and Trademark Office

37 CFR Parts 1, 5, 10, 41, and 104

[Docket No.: 2003-P-020]

RIN 0651-AB64

Changes To Support Implementation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office 21st Century Strategic Plan

AGENCY: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) has established a 21st Century Strategic Plan to transform the Office into a quality-focused, highly productive, responsive organization supporting a market-driven intellectual property system. The noteworthy changes in this final rule are: Providing for an alternative signature on a number of submissions; adjusting the fees for a number of patent-related petitions to reflect the actual cost of processing these petitions; codifying the current incorporation by reference practice and also providing the conditions under which a claim for priority or benefit of a prior-filed application would be considered an incorporation by reference of the prior-filed application; expanding the submissions that can be filed on a compact disc; eliminating the requirement for copies of U.S. patents or U.S. patent application publications cited in an information disclosure statement for all applications; providing that a request for information may contain interrogatories or requests for stipulations seeking technical factual information actually known by the applicant; providing that supplemental replies will no longer be entered as a matter of right; providing for the treatment of preliminary amendments present as of the filing date of an application as part of the original disclosure; and eliminating the requirement in a reissue application for the actual physical surrender by applicant of the original Letters Patent.
DATES: Effective October 21, 2004, except that: The changes to 37 CFR 1.4, 1.6, 1.10, 1.27, 1.57(a), 1.78, 1.84, 1.115, 1.137, 1.178, and 1.311, and new 37 CFR 1.57(a)(1) and (a)(2) are effective September 21, 2004; and the changes to 37 CFR 1.12, 1.14, 1.17, 1.19, 1.47, 1.53, 1.57(a)(3), 1.59, 1.84(a)(2), 1.103, 1.136, 1.182, 1.183, 1.291, 1.295, 1.296, 1.377, 1.378, 1.550, 1.741, 1.956, 5.12, 5.15, 5.25, and 41.20 are effective November 22, 2004.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Hiram H. Bernstein, Senior Legal Advisor, by telephone at (703) 305-8713 or Robert J. Spar, Director, Office of Patent Legal Administration (OPLA), at (703) 308-5107, or by facsimile to (703) 305-1013, marked to the attention of Mr. Bernstein, or by mail addressed to: Mail Stop Comments--Patents, Commissioner for Patents, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Office has conducted a “top to bottom” review of the patent application and examination process (among other processes) as part of the 21st Century Strategic Plan. The 21st Century Strategic Plan is available on the Office's Internet Web site (www.uspto.gov). While many of the changes to the patent application and examination process necessary to support the 21st Century Strategic Plan require enabling legislation (and implementing rule changes), the Office has determined that a number of initiatives can be implemented under the Office's current rulemaking and patent examination authority set forth in 35 U.S.C. 2(b)(2), 131, and 132. This final rule revises the rules of practice in title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to improve the patent application and examination process by promoting quality enhancement, reducing patent pendency, and using information technology to simplify the patent application process.

This final rule specifically makes changes to the following sections of title 37 CFR: 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 1.10, 1.12, 1.14, 1.17, 1.19, 1.27, 1.47, 1.52, 1.53, 1.57, 1.58, 1.59, 1.63, 1.69, 1.76, 1.78, 1.83, 1.84, 1.85, 1.91, 1.94, 1.98, 1.102, 1.103, 1.105, 1.111, 1.115, 1.121, 1.131, 1.136, 1.137, 1.165, 1.173, 1.175, 1.178, 1.179, 1.182, 1.183, 1.215, 1.291, 1.295, 1.296, 1.311, 1.324, 1.377, 1.378, 1.550, 1.741, 1.956, 5.12, 5.15, 5.25, 10.18, 41.20, and 104.3. This final rule also amends title 37 CFR by adding new § 1.57 and removing § 1.179. The Office is not proceeding with the proposed changes to §§ 1.55, 1.116, 1.138, 1.502, 1.530, 1.570, 1.902, 1.953, 1.957, 1.958, 1.979, and 1.997 in this final rule. In addition, the Office adopted proposed changes §§ 1.704 and 1.705 in a separate rule making.See Revision of Patent Term Extension and Patent Term Adjustment Provisions,69 FR 21704 (Apr. 22, 2004), 1282Off. Gaz. Pat. Office100 (May 19, 2004) (final rule).

The following legal advisors and staff of the Office of Patent Legal Administration may be contacted directly for the matters indicated:

Hiram Bernstein (703) 305-8713: § 1.136 and 1.324.

Joni Chang (703) 308-3858: §§ 1.8, 1.10, 1.91, 1.94, 1.98 and 1.111.

Jeanne Clark (703) 306-5603: §§ 1.55 and 1.98.

Terry Dey (703) 308-1201: § 1.178.

Elizabeth Dougherty (703) 306-3156: § 1.121.

James Engel (703) 308-5106: §§ 1.12, 1.14, 1.17, 1.53, 1.59, 1.102, 1.103, 1.131, 1.182, 1.183, 1.291, 1.295, 1.296, 1.377, 1.378, 1.741, 5.12, 5.15, 5.25, 41.20, 104.3.

Karin Ferriter (703) 306-3159: §§ 1.6, 1.19, 1.47, 1.52 (other than (e)(1)(iii) and (e)(3)), 1.58(a) and (c) (other than landscape), 1.63, 1.69, 1.83, 1.84, 1.85, and 1.165.

Anton Fetting (703) 305-8449: §§ 1.17, 1.53, 1.59, 1.103, 1.105, 1.182, 1.183, 1.295, 1.296, 1.377, 1.378, 1.741, 5.12, 5.15, 5.25, 41.20, 104.3.

Kery Fries (703) 308-0687: §§ 1.76, 1.704, and 1.705.

Eugenia Jones (703) 306-5586: §§ 1.8, 1.10, 1.27, 1.55, 1.57(a), 1.78, 1.91, and 1.94.

Michael Lewis (703) 306-5585: §§ 1.4, 1.19, 1.52(e)(1)(iii) and (e)(3), 1.57(b)-(f), 1.58(b) and (c) (landscape), and 10.18.

Cynthia Nessler (703) 305-0271: § 1.311.

Mark Polutta (703) 308-8122: §§ 1.213, and 1.215.

Kenneth Schor (703) 308-6710: §§ 1.137, 1.173, 1.175, 1.179, 1.550, and 1.956.

Fred Silverberg (703) 305-8986: § 1.115.

The Office published a proposed rule proposing changes to the rules of practice to improve the patent application and examination process by promoting quality enhancement, reducing patent pendency, and using information technology to simplify the patent application process.See Changes to Support Implementation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office 21st Century Strategic Plan,68 FR 53816 (Sept. 12, 2003), 1275Off. Gaz. Pat. Office23 (Oct. 7, 2003) (proposed rule). The Office received thirty written comments (from intellectual property organizations, law firms, businesses, and patent practitioners) in response to this notice of proposed rule making. The comments and the Office's responses to those comments are included in the discussion of the specific rule to which the comment relates. Comments generally in support of a change are not discussed.

Discussion of Specific Rules

Section 1.4:Existing § 1.4(d)(1) sets forth the requirements for personal signatures (meaning handwritten signatures) for most correspondence with the Office and indicates that original signatures, or direct or indirect copies of such signatures, are permitted.

Section 1.4(d)(1) is amended to specifically indicate that the signatures covered under § 1.4(d)(1) are all handwritten signatures (except for the type of correspondence submitted pursuant to paragraph (e) of § 1.4) and that dark ink or its equivalent must be used. Section 1.4(d)(2) is rewritten to provide for the signing of correspondence by use of an S-signature, which is defined as a signature between forward slash marks, but not a handwritten signature as defined in §§ 1.4(d)(1) or (e) depending on the type of correspondence the signature is applied to. An S-signature includes any signature made by electronic or mechanical means, and any mode of making or applying a signature not covered by either a personally signed handwritten signature permitted under §§ 1.4(d)(1) or (e), or an Electronic Filing System (EFS) character coded signature permitted under § 1.4(d)(3). The S-signature of § 1.4(d)(2) can be utilized with correspondence filed in the Office in paper, by facsimile transmission as provided in § 1.6(d), or via the Office Electronic Filing System as an EFS Tag(ged) Image File Format (TIFF) attachment, for a patent application, patent, or a reexamination proceeding. Paragraphs (d)(2)(i) through (d)(2)(iii) of § 1.4 set forth the specific requirements for S-signatures. Paragraph (d)(3) of § 1.4 sets forth the requirements for electronic signatures on correspondence filed via the Office Electronic Filing System in character coded form. Thus, any signature other than a personally applied handwritten signature (which is covered by paragraphs (d)(1) or (e) of this section) is covered by the provisions of (d)(2) and (d)(3) of § 1.4. Former paragraph (d)(2) has been redesignated as new paragraph (d)(4)(i) of § 1.4 in view of the provision of new paragraphs (d)(2) and (d)(3) of § 1.4 for S-signature and EFS character coded signature signed documents. Paragraph (d)(4)(ii), certifications as to the signature, has been added to include paragraphs (d)(4)(ii)(A) (Of another), (d)(4)(ii)(B) (Self certification), and (d)(4)(ii)(C) (Sanctions). Paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(A) requires that a person submitting a document signed by another under paragraphs (d)(2) or (d)(3) of this section is obligated to have a reasonable basis to believe that the signature of the person present on the document was actually inserted by that person, and should retain evidence of authenticity of the signature. Paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(B) requires that a person inserting a signature under paragraphs (d)(2) or (d)(3) of this section in a document submitted to the Office certifies that the inserted signature appearing in the document is his or her own signature. Paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(C) provides that violations of the certifications as to the signature of another or a person's own signature, set forth in paragraphs (d)(4)(ii)(A) and (B) of this section, may result in the imposition of sanctions under §§ 10.18(c) and (d). Section 1.4(e) has a conforming amendment based on the changes made for § 1.4(d)(1) regarding a signature that is handwritten and the use of permanent ink that is dark or its equivalent. Provision is also made, § 1.4(h), for the requirement of ratification or confirmation (which includes submission of a duplicate document) or evidence of authenticity of a signature where the Office has reasonable doubt as to its authenticity or where it does not clearly identify the person signing.

Requirements of Signatures:Section 1.4(d)(1) has always been defined to cover all handwritten signatures, except for the signatures on the type of correspondence submitted under paragraph (e) of § 1.4.See Changes in Signature and Filing Requirements for Correspondence Filed in the Patent and Trademark Office,57 FR 36034, 36035 (Aug. 12, 1992), 1142Off. Gaz. Pat. Office8, 9 (Sept. 1, 1992). Section 1.4(d)(1) has been amended to confirm this definition and to make it clear that handwritten signatures are not covered by §§ 1.4(d)(2) or (d)(3). The term “handwritten” has been added both as a title for, and in the text of, § 1.4(d)(1) to specifically indicate the type of signature covered by the paragraph. Additionally, the permanent ink requirement of the paragraph has been clarified by reference to “dark ink or its equivalent” in accord with § 1.52(a)(1)(iv). Section 1.4(d)(1) has additionally been amended to indicate (by specifically excluding §§ 1.4(d)(2) and (d)(3)) that a handwritten signature may not be provided under the S-signature provisions of new paragraph (d)(2) of § 1.4 and the EFS character coded signature provisions of new paragraph (d)(3) of § 1.4.

Section 1.4(d)(2) creates an S-signature, which is defined as a signature inserted between forward slash marks, but not a handwritten signature as defined by §§ 1.4(d)(1) or (e). An S-signature includes any signature made by electronic or mechanical means, and any other mode of making or applying a signature not covered by either a personally signed handwritten signature permitted under §§ 1.4(d)(1) or (e), or an Electronic Filing System (EFS) character coded signature permitted under § 1.4(d)(3). The S-signature of § 1.4(d)(2) can be utilized with correspondence filed in the Office in paper, by facsimile transmission as provided in § 1.6(d), or via the Office Electronic Filing System as an EFS Tag(ged) Image File Format (TIFF) attachment, for a patent application, patent, or a reexamination proceeding. The S-signature must be in permanent dark ink or its equivalent.

Section 1.4(d)(2)(i) requires that an S-signature must be in letters, or Arabic numerals, or both. Appropriate spaces and punctuation (i.e.,commas, periods, apostrophes, or hyphens) may be used with the letters and numbers. The person signing must personally insert the S-signature between two forward slashes (/* * */).

Section 1.4(d)(2)(ii) requires that if the S-signature is that of a registered practitioner of record signing pursuant to § 1.33(b)(1), or a registered practitioner not of record signing pursuant to § 1.33(b)(2), the practitioner must provide his or her registration number as part of, or adjacent to, the S-signature. A number character (#) may only be used as part of the S-signature when appearing before a practitioner's registration number; otherwise, the number character may not be used in an S-signature.

Section 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(A) requires that in addition to the S-signature, a printed or typed name of a signer must be provided preferably immediately below or adjacent to the person's S-signature.

Section 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(B) requires that the printed or typed name must be reasonably specific enough so it can readily be ascertained who has made the S-signature.

Section 1.4(d)(3) establishes the use of an EFS character coded signature, which is an electronic signature, for correspondence submitted via EFS in character coded form for a patent application, or an assignment cover sheet signed consistent with § 3.31. The electronic signature must consist only of letters of the English alphabet, or Arabic numerals, or both, with appropriate spaces and commas, periods, apostrophes, and hyphens as punctuation. Letters of the English alphabet are the upper and lower case letters A through Z.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(i) establishes that the presentation to the Office (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or lateradvocating) of any paper by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, constitutes a certification under § 10.18(b) of this chapter.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(A) establishes certifications as to the signature of another for a person submitting a document signed by another under paragraphs (d)(2) or (d)(3) of this section. Thus, the submitting person is obligated to have a reasonable basis to believe that the person whose signature is present on the document actually inserted the signature on the document, and the submitting person should retain evidence of authenticity of the signature.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(B) establishes that a person inserting a signature under paragraphs (d)(2) or (d)(3) of this section in a document submitted to the Office certifies that the inserted signature appearing in the document is his or her own signature.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(C) establishes that violations of the certifications as to the signature of another or a person's own signature, set forth in paragraphs (d)(4)(ii)(A) and (B) of this section, may result in the imposition of sanctions under §§ 10.18(c) and (d).

Section 1.4(e) has been amended to clarify that “personally signed” refers to a handwritten signature and that permanent dark ink or its equivalent is required.

Paragraph 1.4(h) provides for a ratification, confirmation, or evidence of authenticity of a signature handwritten pursuant to §§ 1.4(d)(1) and (e), and S-signature pursuant to § 1.4(d)(2) and an EFS character coded signature pursuant to § 1.4(d)(3)), such as where the Office has reasonable doubt as to the authenticity (veracity) of the signature.

Correspondence which is filed using the EFS TIFF image form is defined to be a black and white image at 300 dots per inch (dpi), either uncompressed or with CCITT Group 4 compression.

Discussion of signature requirements: The rule change is intended to facilitate movement of documents between practitioners, applicants, and the Office. The rule change doesnotcreate the ability to file Official correspondence by electronic mail messages (e.g., e-mail) over the Internet to the Office. Pilot programs such as the program at the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) are not affected by this rule change (see standing orders at the URL:http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/dcom/bpai/standing2003May.pdf).

Although the Office will now accept correspondence with S-signatures or EFS character coded signatures, the Office can only authenticate what is in the Office records. Applicants and practitioners must be cognizant of the issues of changed document appearance and content and take appropriate steps to ensure that their records, if in electronic form, can be rendered and authenticated at some later time as being the unaltered S-signature or EFS character coded signed original document.

Section 1.4(d)(1) covers all handwritten signatures, except for the handwritten signatures on the types of correspondence covered by § 1.4(e). The requirement in § 1.4(d)(1) of permanent dark ink or its equivalent relates to whether a handwritten signature is compliant and is not limiting on the type of handwritten signature that is covered by § 1.4(d)(1). Thus, § 1.4(d)(1) would cover handwritten signatures in red ink or in pencil; although, under § 1.4(d)(1) neither would be acceptable since red ink is not dark, and pencil is not permanent. A scanned image of a handwritten signature filed via the Office's EFS is permitted as a copy under § 1.4(d)(1)(ii).

A signature applied by an electric or mechanical typewriter directly to paper is not a handwritten signature, which is applied by hand. Accordingly, if a typewriter applied signature is used, it must meet the requirements of § 1.4(d)(2). Adding forward slashes to a handwritten (or hand-printed) ink signature that is personally applied will not cause the signature to be treated under § 1.4(d)(2). Thus, such a signature will be treated under §§ 1.4(d)(1) or (e) with the slashes ignored. The end product from a manually applied hand stamp or from a signature replication or transfer means (such as by pen or by screen) appears to be a handwritten signature, but is not actually handwritten, and would therefore be treated under § 1.4(d)(2).

Paragraph 1.4(d)(2)(i) defines the content of an S-signature for correspondence submitted to the Office in paper or by facsimile transmission or via the Office EFS as a TIFF attachment. The Office is adopting a standard of only letters, Arabic numerals, or both, with appropriate spaces and punctuation (i.e., commas, periods, apostrophes, or hyphens) as the S-signature. “Letters” include English and non-English alphabet letters, and text characters (e.g., Kanji). Non-text, graphic characters (e.g., a smiley face created in the True Type Wing Dings font) are not permitted. “Arabic numerals” are the numerals 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, which are the standard numerals used in the United States.

The Office recognizes that commas, periods, apostrophes, and hyphens are often found in names and will therefore be found in many S-signatures. These punctuation marks and appropriate spaces may be used with letters and Arabic numerals in an S-signature. A sample S-signature including punctuation marks and spaces, between two forward slashes, is: /John P. Doe/. Punctuation marks, per se, are not punctuation and are not permitted without proper association with letters and Arabic numerals. An S-signature of only punctuation marks would be improper (e.g., /-----/). In addition, punctuation marks, such as question marks (e.g., /???/), are often utilized to represent an intent not to sign a document and may be interpreted to be a non-bona fide attempt at a signature, in addition to being improper.

The S-signature must be placed between two forward slashes. This is consistent with the rule adopted in the Trademark Office, and the international standard.SeePCT Annex F, section 3.3.2. The S-signature between two forward slashes cannot contain any additional forward slashes. The presentation of just letters and Arabic numerals as an S-signature without the S-signature being placed between two forward slashes will be treated as an unsigned document. Script fonts are not permitted for any portion of a document except the S-signature.See§ 1.52(b)(2)(ii). Presentation of a typed name in a script font without the typed name being placed between the required slashes does not present the proper indicia manifesting an intent to sign and will be treated as an unsigned document.

To avoid processing delays, the Office needs to readily determine whether a document has been signed. The filing of a document does not imply that the document has been signed. The Office does not want to investigate as to whether a mark (e.g., extraneous marks or a non-permanent ink presentation of a name) comprises a signature. Therefore, the Office will only interpret the data presented between two forward slashes as an S-signature. Hence, documents intended to be unsigned should be very clear that any data presented between forward slashes is not intended to be a signature and must avoid placement of any letters or Arabic numerals between two forward slashes in a signature area.

To accommodate as many varieties of names as possible, a signer may select any combination of letters, Arabic numerals, or both, for his or her S-signature under § 1.4(d)(2)(i).

Paragraph 1.4(d)(2)(i) also defines who can insert an S-signature into a document. Section 1.4(d)(2)(i) requires that a person, which includes a practitioner, must insert his or her own signature using letters and/or Arabic numerals, with appropriate commas, periods, apostrophes, or hyphens as punctuation and spaces. The “must insert his or her own signature” requirement is met by the signer directly typing his or her own signature on a keyboard. The requirement does not permit one person (e.g., a secretary) to type in the signature of a second person (e.g., a practitioner) even if the second person directs the first person to do so. A person physically unable to use a keyboard, however, may, while simultaneously reviewing the document for signature, direct another person to press the appropriate keys to form the S-signature.

The person signing the correspondence must insert his or her own S-signature with a first single forward slash mark before, and a second single forward slash mark after, the S-signature (e.g., /Dr. John P. Doe, Jr./). Additional forward slashes are not permitted as part of the S-signature.

For consistency purposes, and to avoid raising a doubt as to who has signed, the same S-signature should be utilized each time, with variations of the signature being avoided. The signer should review any indicia of identity of the signer in the body of the document, including any printed or typed name and registration number, to ensure that the indicia of identity in the body of the document is consistent with how the document is S-signed. Knowingly adopting an S-signature of another is not permitted.

While an S-signature need not be the name of the signer of the document, the Office strongly suggests that each signer use an S-signature that has his or her full name. The Office expects that where persons do not sign with their name it will be because they are using an S-signature that is the usual S-signature for that person, which is his or her own signature, and not something that is employed to obfuscate or misidentify the signer. Titles may be used with the signer's S-signature and must be placed between the slash marks (e.g., /Dr. John Doe/), or with the printed or typed version of the name.

Paragraph 1.4(d)(2)(ii) requires that a practitioner signing pursuant to §§ 1.33(b)(1) or 1.33(b)(2) of this part must place his or her registration number, either as part of, or adjacent, his or her S-signature. A number character (#) may only be used in an S-signature if it is prior to a practitioner's registration number that is part of the S-signature. When a practitioner is signing as an assignee, or as an applicant (inventor) pursuant to §§ 1.33(b)(3) or 1.33(b)(4), a registration number is not required and should not be supplied to avoid confusion as to which basis the practitioner is signing,e.g., as a practitioner or as the assignee.

The requirement that an S-signature for practitioners be accompanied by a registration number is consistent with Article 9(1) of the Patent Law Treaty (June 1, 2000) (PLT) and § 1.34.

The space provided for a registration number and a printed/typed signer's name on some Office (fillable) forms is above the space provided for a signature. The space provided for the registration number and printed/typed signer's name is compliant with the “adjacent” requirements of § 1.4(d)(2)(ii) discussed above, and § 1.4(d)(2)(iii) discussed below.

To ensure that it will always be clear who has made the S-signature, § 1.4(d)(2)(iii) requires that the signer's printed or typed name (i.e., William Jones) always must be presented adjacent or below (preferred) the S-signature (§ 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(A)), and that it be reasonably specific enough so that the identity of the signer can be readily recognized (§ 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(B)).

Paragraph 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(A) sets forth the requirement that the signer's name must be presented in printed or typed form either immediately below (preferred) or adjacent to the S-signature. The printed or typed name requirement is intended to describe any manner of applying the signer's name to the document, including by a typewriter or machine printer. It could include a printer (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) associated with a computer or a facsimile machine but would not include manual or hand printing.See§ 1.52(a)(1)(iv). The printed or typed name may be inserted before or after the S-signature is applied, and it does not have to be inserted by the S-signer.

A printed or typed name appearing in the letterhead or body of a document is not acceptable as the presentation of the name of the S-signer. To accommodate as many S-signatures as possible, a signer may select any combination of letters, Arabic numerals, or both for his or her signature. The flexibility in selecting combinations of letters and/or Arabic numerals for S-signatures means that the identity of the signer may not be clear from the S-signature if it is not a name. For example, a collection of letters/numbers when presented for the first time without a full printed or typed name that does not appear to be a person's name (e.g., /123456XYZ/) does not identify any person as the signer. This is so even where the signer has submitted a previous document with such S-signature and an identification of the name of the signer. Similarly, where the S-signature, if it is not the signer's name, appears to represent an identifiable person with a name different in some respect from the signer, the identity of the signer would not be known. For example, a practitioner named “William Jones” S-signs an amendment “/B. Jones/” which also has a certificate of transmission signed by a paralegal with the name and signature “Bob Jones.” In this situation, the S-signature on the amendment would not clearly identify “William Jones” as the S-signer.

In view of the flexibility allowed by the S-signature, the requirement of § 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(B), that the printed or typed name of § 1.4(d)(iii)(A) must be reasonably specific enough so that the identity of the signer can be readily recognized, becomes very significant. While the § 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(B) requirement is also intended to provide some flexibility (e.g., Bob may possibly be used instead of Robert), the ultimate issue is whether the Office can clearly identify who S-signed the document and, if not, § 1.4(h) may be triggered.

The proposed requirements relating to the usage of a signer's actual name, or complete name, or the capitalization of only the family name have not been included in the final rule because the underlying requirement relating to the presentation of a name is already addressed in the existing rules dealing with the document that is being signed, and therefore, such requirements are not necessary in § 1.4. For example, the requirements for a declaration under § 1.63 have not been changed, nor are any changes in § 1.4 intended to supersede the requirements of § 1.63. An S-signature may be used to sign a declaration under § 1.63 if all of the requirements of § 1.63 are met.

As with signatures to be treated under § 1.4(d)(2), signatures to be treated under § 1.4(d)(3) must be placed within forward slash marks.

In § 1.4(d)(3), the “Character coded” form is the terminology of PCT Annex F used to describe an EXtensible Markup Language (XML) document created by filling in an EFS menu. The reason that the Office is limiting the electronic signature for correspondence in character coded text form submitted via the EFS to only letters of the English alphabet, or Arabic numerals, or both (with appropriate spaces and commas, periods, apostrophes, and hyphens as punctuation) is that if the correspondence containing non-Englishletters or characters is opened by the Office, these non-English letters or characters when rendered may appear as a “box” or translated to a character in a different font and language if the character setting used by the author of the correspondence is not compatible with the character setting used by the Office.

Thus, the content requirements that letters in an electronic signature for correspondence submitted via the EFS in character coded text form under § 1.4(d)(3) (must be in the English language) is more stringent than the letter requirements (letters in any language are permitted) under § 1.4(d)(2). Note that S-signatures on attachments in TIFF images submitted via the EFS are governed by § 1.4(d)(2) rather than § 1.4(d)(3).

The electronic signature permitted for EFS in § 1.4(d)(3), however, does not have a requirement for the presentment of the signer's name in printed or typed form as set forth in § 1.4(d)(2)(iii)(A) and is therefore less stringent in that respect. This is because the EFS preparation protocol for creating a document in EFS requires one to insert information (an electronic signature) into a data field on a screen but there may be no accompanying data field for inserting a name either “adjacent or immediately below” the electronic signature, and therefore such a requirement has not been made. There is a field in a screen in EFS, however, for typing in the name of the electronic signature signer so it is not necessary to include a separate requirement for it in the rule.

Documentation about the EFS and a description of electronically signing an EFS document is in theEFS Submission User Manual—ePAVE for New Utilitywhich is available at:http://www.uspto.gov/ebc/efs/downloads/document.htm.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(i) contains the previous reference to § 10.18 certifications regarding certifications made on presenting a paper to the Office.

For paper documents utilizing an S-signature, the previous mode of authenticating handwritten signatures, such as by comparing handwritten signatures, is not available.

The question may be raised as to whether a person's S-signature was in fact inserted in a document by that person or some other person. To address this authentication concern, the rule has been revised to include §§ 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(A) and (B) which set out certifications that apply to persons inserting an S-signature, or an EFS character coded signature, as well as to persons who submit documents with such signatures inserted by another person. Section 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(A) also includes a provision for retention of evidence of authenticity.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(A) adds the requirement that a person submitting a document signed by another under §§ 1.4(d)(2) and (3) is obligated to have a reasonable basis to believe that the person whose signature is present on the document was actually inserted by that person. Such reasonable basis does not require an actual knowledge but does require some reason to believe the signature is appropriate. For example, where a practitioner e-mails a § 1.63 declaration to an inventor for signature by the inventor and receives an executed declaration by the inventor in return from the inventor, reasonable basis would exist. Where an assignee was involved in the transmission of the declaration form and/or the executed declaration, an additional showing of chain of custody (e.g., e-mail chain with attached documents from the inventor to the assignee to the practitioner filing the declaration) involving the assignee would be required. Additionally, evidence of authenticity should be retained. This may involve retaining the e-mails sent to the inventor and any cover letter or e-mail (with the signed document as an attachment) back to the practitioner from the inventor in the example relating to execution of a § 1.63 declaration.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(B) adds the requirement that the person inserting a signature under paragraphs (d)(2) or (d)(3) certifies that the inserted signature appearing in the document is his or her own signature. This is meant to prohibit a first person from requesting a second person to insert the first person's signature in a document. While the certification is directed at the person inserting another's signature, the person requesting the inappropriate insertion may also be subject to sanctions.

Section 1.4(d)(4)(ii)(C) provides that violations of the certification as to the signature set forth in paragraphs (d)(4)(ii)(A) and (B) of this section, may result in the imposition of sanctions under §§ 10.18(c) and (d).

Section 1.4(e) has been amended to conform to the changes made to § 1.4(d)(1) in regard to the signature being handwritten and the permanent ink being a dark ink or its equivalent.

Pursuant to § 1.4(h), the Office may additionally inquire in regard to a signature so as to identify the signer and clarify the record where the identity of the signer is unclear. The inquiries concerning evidence of authenticity (veracity) of a signature are consistent with PLT Article 8(4)(c) and Rules 7(4), 15(4), 16(6), 17(6), and 18(4). An example of when ratification or confirmation of a signature may be required is when there are variations in a signature or whenever a name in an S-signature is not exactly the same as the name indicated as an inventor, or a practitioner of record. Hence, whatever signature is adopted by a signer, that signature should be consistently used on all documents. Also addressed is the treatment of variations in a signature or where a printed or typed name accompanies the S-signature or the EFS character coded signature but the identity of the signer is unclear. In such cases, the Office may require ratification or confirmation of a signature. Ratification requires the person ratifying to state he/she personally signed the previously submitted document as well as, if needed, the submission of a compliant format of the signature. Confirmation includes submitting a duplicate document, which is compliantly signed if the previous signature was noncompliant (as opposed to unclear).

In lieu of ratification, the Office may require a resubmission of a properly signed duplicate document. Resubmission of a document may be required, for example, where ratification alone is inappropriate, such as where the image of the signature is of such poor quality (e.g., illegible font) that the Office is unable to store or reproduce the document with the signature image.

Ratification or confirmation alone does not provide a means for changing the name of a signer. For example, when an inventor changes her/his name and the inventor desires to change her/his name in the application, such change must be accompanied by a petition under § 1.182 and, preferably, an Application Data Sheet (ADS).See Manual of Patent Examining Procedure§ 605.04(c)(8th. ed. 2001) (Rev. 2, May 2004) (MPEP) andAdvance Notice of Change to MPEP 605.04(b), (c) and (f)—Application Data Sheets Are Strongly Recommended When Inventor Information is Changed, 1281Off. Gaz. Pat. Office54 (Apr. 13, 2004).

In addition, the Office may require evidence of authenticity where the Office has reasonable doubt as to the authenticity (veracity) of the signature. Evidence of authenticity may include evidence establishing a chain of custody of a document from the person signing the document to the person filing the document. Proper evidence of a chain of custody will aid in avoiding the impact of repudiation of a signature.

Where there has been a bona fide attempt to follow the rule, but where there is some doubt as to the identity ofthe signer of a signed document, the Office may require ratification of the signature. Note, ratification would only be an effective remedy if the signer was a proper party to have executed the document to be ratified. For example, a practitioner of record may ratify his or her signature on an amendment, but not the signature of a secretary who is not a practitioner or inventor in the application. A registered practitioner may, however, ratify the amendment made by another registered practitioner but may not ratify a document required to be signed by an inventor, such as a § 1.63 declaration. Similarly, an inadvertent typographical error or simple misspelling of a name will be treated as a bona fide attempt to follow the rule, which would require ratification only where there is some doubt as to the identity of the signer rather than be treated as an unsigned paper requiring resubmission. Where there is an obvious typographical error so that the Office does not have some doubt as to the identity of the signer (and therefore notification to applicant is not needed), further action by applicant would not be required and, where appropriate, the obvious error will be noted in the record.

The inadvertent failure to follow the format and content of an S-signature will be treated as a bona fide attempt at a signature but the paper will be considered as being unsigned correspondence. Examples of correspondence that will be treated as unsigned are: (1) the S-signature is not enclosed in forward slashes; (2) the S-signature is composed of non-text graphic characters (e.g., a smiley face) and not letters and numerals; and (3) the S-signature is not a name and there is no other accompanying name adjacent or below the S-signature so that the identity of the signer cannot be readily recognized.

Treating the document as being unsigned could have varying results dependent on the nature of the document. For example, in new applications, treating an improperly signed § 1.63 oath or declaration as a missing part could result in the imposition of a surcharge and a two-month period for reply (with extensions of time possible) to supply a properly signed new oath or declaration. Ratification, in this instance, would not be appropriate.See§ 1.53(f)(1). Other correspondence, such as amendments, could be treated under the procedures for unsigned amendment documents set forth in MPEP §§ 714.01 and 714.01(a) and a one-month time period for reply be given for either ratification or submission of a duplicate amendment which is properly signed.

If the signer, after being required to ratify or resubmit a document with a compliant signature, repeats the same S-signature in reply without appropriate correction, the reply will not be considered to be a bona fide attempt to reply, and no additional time period will be given to submit a properly signed document.

Existing § 10.18(a) directed towards certifications made upon the signing of a document submitted to the Office is focused narrowly on the “personally signed” documents containing the handwritten signature defined in § 1.4(d)(1). As the intent of the Office is to provide an equivalent alternative means for signing a document by the use of S-signatures and EFS character coded signatures, the Office is herein promulgating a conforming change to § 10.18(a) to cover S-signatures.

Comment 1:One comment suggested broadening the rule to permit additional documents to be electronically signed.

Response:The comment is not adopted. The comment is interpreted to mean that electronic mail messages should be permitted as a mode of correspondence with the Office, which is not a signature issue. Electronic mail messages are not generally permitted, but this is for a number of reasons, with the requirement for signature not being a significant factor. Among the issues which remain unresolved with respect to accepting electronic mail messages are secure transmission, compatible character/font sets and file formats for proper rendering of the message and receipt of documents infected with a virus. Documents that are required by statute to be in a particular form, such as an oath, cannot be authorized by a rule change to be in a different form,e.g., a notarized oath changed to an electronic signature. Because § 1.4 makes no provision for an electronic notarization, an oath will not be able to be executed as a result of these changes to § 1.4. A declaration that does not require notarization, however, can be electronically signed.

Comment 2:One comment suggests that the Office allow for electronic mail message submissions with simultaneous verification by postal mail.

Response:The comment is not adopted. The manner of submitting correspondence such as by electronic mail message, is not addressed by this rule. Electronic submission of documents is being addressed in guidelines related to the electronic filing system. In any event, having to match and compare duplicate submissions (paper and electronic mail) would create a significant processing and analysis burden on the Office.

Comment 3:One comment suggests clear demarcation of electronic signature (now referred to as an S-signature) by statement rather than use of back-slashes, etc.

Response:The comment is not adopted. The comment proposal requires analysis of text beyond simple inspection of a document for the presence or absence of a signature. It is not clear from the comment what is a “clear” statement of signature or how typing a statement that a typed name is a signature can be less burdensome than typing slashes. Further, the signature format employing slash characters is the standard adopted by the PCT and the Office intends to be consistent with international standards.

Comment 4:One comment suggests the Office should afford the public more flexibility with respect to the format and content of an electronic signature (now referred to as an S-signature).

Response:The comment is adopted in-part. The comments requested more flexibility in the format (e.g., not being limited to slashes, capitalization), and less onerous consequences for deviations from the specified format. The Office will not adopt any changes with respect to permitting a format that does not include slashes so as to be consistent with the PCT standard for electronic signatures and which can be readily identified as an S-signature. The final rule, however, does not contain a requirement for the identification of first and family names, and capitalization will not be required to indicate the family name, even though what is a family name may vary in different cultures. Also, the format of providing the signer's name is made less restrictive (e.g., there will not be a requirement to separately indicate the actual name when typed or printed) to also reduce the possibility for format errors.

The final rule also adopts a more flexible approach that allows both practitioners and non-practitioners to sign any combination of letters and Arabic numerals. The flexibility for practitioners to deviate from their registered name will be permitted. Similarly, the requirement for the signature to contain an actual complete name has not been adopted, just like there will not be a requirement to identify the first and family names by capitalization as discussed for format in the previous comment. The less restrictive content requirements reduce the possibility for content errors.

Comment 5:One comment suggests the Office should allow a time period tocorrect an incorrect electronic signature (now referred to as a S-signature) without penalty. There is a concern that failure to adhere to an electronic signature format will result in treatment as an unsigned paper.

Response:The comment is adopted in-part. The comments expressed the concern that an S-signature that was made with a good faith effort but fails to conform to an actual or complete name may be treated as unsigned with significant adverse consequences. The final rule has been modified to permit deviations from an actual or complete name where the identity of the signer can still be readily determined. Examples of such deviations are where a first name of “Bob” is substituted for an actual name of “Robert,” “Peggy” for an actual name of “Margaret,” “Mike” for an actual name of “Michael.” In the absence of some other source of confusion, the mere transposition of letters, or the presence or absence of a letter in a name will not be treated as a nonconforming signature. Similarly, where a practitioner's registration number contains a transposition of numerals or a single erroneous digit, and the identity of the practitioner can be determined from the name and the balance of the registration number, the S-signature will not be treated as an improper S-signature.

Where a document is treated as being unsigned, the granting of any period for curing the defect will be handled under existing Office practices for unsigned documents.

Comment 6:One comment suggests that “actual name” versus “complete name” in proposed § 1.4(d)(1)(iv)(A) is confusing.

Response:The comment is adopted. The rule is clarified by removing “actual” and “complete” from the name requirement. Any special requirements for the presentation of a name are already addressed by the underlying document and rules pertaining thereto,e.g., oath or declaration,see§ 1.63(a)(2).

Comment 7:One comment suggests the requirement to “personally insert” electronic signature (now referred to as an S-signature) should permit insertion under practitioner's direction/control.

Response:The comment is not adopted. The requirement that the person signing must insert his or her own S-signature is essentially the same as the “personally insert” requirement of Rule 10.18 (which is not being amended by this rule making) and § 1.4(d)(1) for handwritten signatures.

Comment 8:One comment suggests that the USPTO should dictate order of names not capitalization. Another comment suggests that the USPTO should set a standard for the presentation of a name as a preference not a requirement.

Response:The comment is adopted in part. The capitalization requirement is not included in the final rule and any requirement for the order of names is addressed by the rules pertaining to the underlying document,e.g., oath or declaration under § 1.63.

Comment 9:One comment suggests that the proposed rule is detailed, burdensome, and easily inadvertently violated, having draconian penalties. The rule should merely require applicant to make certain that the document has been signed.

Response:The comment is adopted in part. As explained in the response to the comments above, the detailed requirements for family name and capitalization have not been included in the final rule to reduce the possibility of inadvertent violation. The signature is not required to be the signer's name and the printed or typed name need only be reasonably specific enough to identify the signer. The comment that “applicant make certain that the document has been signed” is more burdensome on an applicant than the proposed rule and final rule. The final rule includes certification requirements as to the signature but does not require an investigation as to the actual signing where there is reasonable basis to believe the document has been signed appropriately by the person whose signature is on the document. For example, a practitioner receiving an electronic mail message from an inventor with a declaration S-signed by the inventor attached to the e-mail may satisfy the certification requirements in the final rule, whereas if the comment were adopted (in whole), the attorney would have needed to investigate further before it could be submitted.

Comment 10:One comment suggests that in some countries individuals do not have both a family and a given name,e.g., India.

Response:The comment is adopted. The requirements with respect to specifying the first and family names is not included in the final rule. Any special requirements for the presentation of a name are already addressed by the underlying document and rules pertaining thereto,e.g., oath or declaration,see§ 1.63(a)(2).

Comment 11:One comment suggests a more detailed procedure is necessary for the inventor to change his/her name on the record.

Response:The comment is not adopted. The rule change does not affect current practice with respect to name changes, which are addressed in MPEP §§ 605.04(c), 719.02(b).

Comment 12:One comment suggests opposition to all e-initiatives.

Response:The comment is not adopted. The change is in support of the Administration's e-government initiatives and principles espoused in the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA) to promulgate procedures for electronic signatures.SeePub. L. 105-277, §§ 1701 through 1710, 112 Stat. 2681, 2681-749 through 2681-751 (1998).

Section 1.6:Section 1.6(d)(4) is amended to provide that black and white drawings in patent applications may be transmitted to the Office by facsimile in order to provide more flexibility to applicants for filing individual papers in applications that contain drawings. Although the rules of practice will now permit the submission of black and white drawings by facsimile, photographs or drawings with detail should not be transmitted by facsimile. Furthermore, color drawings must continue to be hand-carried or mailed to the Office instead of being submitted by facsimile. In addition, the Office will publish drawings that are received as long as they can be scanned, and will not, in general, require replacement drawings to replace drawings transmitted by facsimile, even if the facsimile transmission process results in the drawings being less sharp than the original drawings. Applicants should note that the use of facsimile submission of drawings will not cause the submission to be processed faster than the Office would process a paper drawing received on the same day as the facsimile submission. The facsimile submission must first be rendered into paper form and then processed as would a submission initially made in paper.

Section 1.6(e) is removed and reserved because the provisions of § 1.6(e) are deemed more appropriately placed in § 1.10. This is because the “Express Mail” provisions of § 1.10 are the only means by which correspondence can be accorded a filing date other than the actual date of receipt in the Office. Thus, the provisions of § 1.6(e) have been transferred to § 1.10 along with some changes. Situations in which “Express Mail” is returned or refused by the United States Postal Service (USPS) have been specifically addressed in § 1.10(g) and (h). Section 1.10(i) is similar to § 1.6(e) and addresses situations where there is a designated interruption or emergency in “Express Mail” service.

Comment 13:Several comments asked the Office to identify what drawings would be acceptable when transmittedby facsimile, whether applicants would be informed when a facsimile transmission of a drawing was unacceptable, and whether there would be any adverse term adjustment consequences of transmitting a drawing with too much detail to the Office.

Response:The Office cannot predict what drawings will be acceptable when transmitted by facsimile, but can provide applicants with a simple self test. If an applicant is not certain that a drawing submitted by facsimile will be of an acceptable quality, the applicant can test the quality of the drawing either by transmitting by facsimile the drawing to themselves, or by photocopying the drawing. If the facsimile-transmitted or copier drawing looks the same as the original, and the original was legible, then the drawing is extremely likely to be acceptable when transmitted by facsimile to the Office. Facsimile-transmitted and photocopied photographs generally bear little resemblance to the document intended to be submitted, and transmitting photographs by facsimile should be avoided. Drawings such as flow charts, on the other hand, generally do reproduce well, and may be accurately transmitted by facsimile.

If the Office receives drawings that do not have satisfactory reproduction characteristics (§ 1.84(l)), or that are illegible once scanned, the Office will inform the applicant that the drawings do not comply with § 1.84. If the Office action in which applicant is required to supply corrected drawings is a Notice of Allowability, and drawings are filed after the mailing date of the Notice of Allowance (which is generally mailed with the Notice of Allowability), any patent term adjustment will be reduced pursuant to § 1.704(c)(10).

Comment 14:One comment noted that the proposed rule contained text that had been previously removed from § 1.6(d)(4) (Reorganization of Correspondence and Other Provisions,68 FR 48286 (Aug. 13, 2003), 1274Off. Gaz. Pat. Office59 (Sept. 9, 2003) (final rule)), and suggested that “Drawings submitted under §§ 2.51, 2.52, or 2.72 and” be deleted.

Response:The suggestion has been adopted.

Section 1.8:Section 1.8(a) is amended to clarify that the provisions of this section do not apply to time periods or situations set forth in sections that have been expressly excluded from § 1.8 as well as situations enumerated in § 1.8(a)(2). The amendment to § 1.8(a) clarifies that the list enumerated in § 1.8(a)(2) is not exhaustive, and the provisions of § 1.8 do not apply to the time periods or situations that have been explicitly excluded from § 1.8. For example, provisions of § 1.8(a) do not apply to time periods and situations set forth in §§ 1.217(e) and 1.703(f) because the exceptions are provided explicitly in § 1.217(e), “[t]he provisions of § 1.8 do not apply to the time periods set forth in this section” and § 1.703(f), “[t]he date indicated on any certificate of mailing or transmission under § 1.8 shall not be taken into account in [patent term adjustment] calculation.”

Section 1.8(b) is also amended to permit notifying the Office of a previous mailing, or transmitting, of correspondence, when “a reasonable amount of time has elapsed from the time of mailing or transmitting of the correspondence.” Recently, many applicants experienced substantial delays in delivery of their correspondence by the USPS to the Office. These applicants did not wish to wait until the application was held to be abandoned before notifying the Office of the previous mailing of the correspondence and supplying a duplicate copy of the correspondence and requisite statement in accordance with § 1.8(b)(3).

With the amendment to § 1.8(b), in the event that correspondence may be considered timely filed because it was mailed or transmitted in accordance with § 1.8(a), but was not received in the Office after a reasonable amount of time had elapsed (e.g.,more than one month from the time the correspondence was mailed), applicants would not be required to wait until the end of the maximum extendable period for reply set in a prior Office action (for the Office to hold the application to be abandoned) before informing the Office of the previously submitted correspondence, and supplying a duplicate copy and requisite statement attesting on a personal knowledge basis or to the satisfaction of the Director to the previous timely mailing or transmission. If the person signing the statement did not sign the certificate of mailing, then the person signing the statement should explain how they have firsthand knowledge of the previous timely mailing or transmission. Such a statement should be filed promptly after the person becomes aware that the Office has not received the correspondence. Thus, although a statement attesting to the previous timely mailing or transmission of the correspondence is required, filing a petition to withdraw the holding of abandonment would not be necessary in such circumstance. The amendment to § 1.8(b) provides applicants an expedited procedure to resolve delayed mail problems.

Before notifying the Office of a previously submitted correspondence that appears not to have been received by the Office, applicants are encouraged to check the private Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) System (which can be accessed over the Office's Internet Web site) to see if the correspondence has been entered into the application file. The private PAIR system is a system which enables applicants to read the Office's electronic records, including the Image File Wrapper (IFW), for a patent application or patent. Private PAIR is available to applicants who have a customer number associated with the correspondence address for an application and who have acquired the access software (Entrust Direct Software and a PKI certificate). Applicants may contact the Electronic Business Center (EBC) at (703) 305-3028 for more information on private PAIR.

The Office proposed to amend §§ 1.8(b), 1.17, 1.116, 1.137, 1.502, 1.570, 1.902, 1.953, 1.957, 1.958, 1.979, and 1.997 (and relevant subheadings) to make clear the distinction between termination of a reexamination proceeding and the conclusion or limiting of prosecution in a reexamination proceeding and to make other technical changes to the reexamination rules. The Office is not proceeding with these changes in this final rule; however, these changes continue to be considered as to a future final rule making directed to miscellaneous technical reexamination rule changes.

Comment 15:One comment asked what date would be used as the date of receipt, when a duplicate copy of the paper was filed with a showing under § 1.8. The comment continued to ask what date would be used if the original paper was subsequently found. In addition, the Office was asked how the applicant would know whether the paper was received.

Response:The date of receipt that would be entered into Office records would be the actual date of receipt of the duplicate paper, unless applicant established that the papers were actually received on an earlier date with a post card receipt or other evidence. If the Office accepts a paper pursuant to § 1.8, and the original paper later is located (as where the original paper was originally placed in the wrong application file), then the original paper will be treated as a duplicate paper and will not control the timing of subsequent actions such as the timing of the filing of an appeal brief. Any applicant having a doubt about the due date of an appeal brief should either assume that the brief is due on theearlier date, or confirm with the examiner that a later date is appropriate. When applicants use private PAIR to view the image file wrapper, applicants will have generally the same information about the patent application that the examiner has. Accordingly, an applicant can know about the same time as an examiner when a paper has been received. Applicants can also include post card receipts or use facsimile transmissions in order to obtain additional information about when a paper is received by the Office. The procedure of § 1.8 is available not just when the Office did not receive a paper, but when the paper has not been received in the appropriate location (e.g.,where applicant transposes digits in the application number on the application papers, and the Office does not recognize the error).

Section 1.10:Section 1.10 is amended to add paragraphs (g), (h), and (i) to address the effects of interruptions or emergencies in USPS “Express Mail” service. For example, Friday, November 16, 2001, the USPS issued a memorandum temporarily and immediately suspending “Express Mail” service to Washington, DC zip codes 202xx through 205xx. The suspension included service to the zip code for certain correspondence mailed to the Office (20231).

Applicants frequently rely on the benefits under § 1.10 to obtain a particular filing date for a new application. The filing date accorded to an application is often critical. For example, applicants who do not file their applications in the United States within one year from when their invention was first described in a printed publication or in public use or on sale in this country are not entitled to a patent.See35 U.S.C. 102(b). Furthermore, to be able to claim the benefit of a provisional application or to claim priority to a foreign application, the nonprovisional application claiming benefit or priority must be filed within one year from the filing of the provisional application or foreign application. Therefore, the procedures by which applicants may remedy the effects of an interruption or emergency in USPS “Express Mail” service, which has been so designated by the Director, should be specifically addressed in the rules of practice.

The Office published a notice on October 9, 2001, that provides procedures for the situation in which a post office refuses to accept the deposit of mail for delivery by “Express Mail” Service and the situation in which “Express Mail” is deposited into an “Express Mail” drop box and given an incorrect “date-in.”See United States Postal Service Interruption and Emergency,1251Off. Gaz. Pat. Office55 (Oct. 9, 2001). The procedure for remedying the situation where the United States Postal Service (USPS) refuses to accept the deposit of mail for delivery by “Express Mail” as contained in the notice has now been incorporated into § 1.10(h).

The Office's prior framework to address postal emergencies was detailed in § 1.6(e), “Interruptions in U.S. Postal Service.” Section 1.6(e) provided that if interruptions or emergencies in the USPS which have been so designated by the Director occur, the Office will consider as filed on a particular date in the Office any correspondence which is: (1) promptly filed after the ending of the interruption or emergency; and (2) accompanied by a statement indicating that the correspondence would have been filed on that particular date if it were not for the designated interruption or emergency in the USPS.

The provisions of § 1.6(e) are more appropriate in § 1.10 since “Express Mail” is the only means by which correspondence filed in accordance with § 1.1(a) can be accorded a filing date other than the actual date of receipt in the Office. Thus, the provisions of § 1.6(e) are transferred to § 1.10 along with some changes. Sections 1.10(g) and (h) specifically address situations in which “Express Mail” is returned or refused by the USPS due to an interruption or emergency in “Express Mail.” Section 1.10(i), as revised, is similar to § 1.6(e) and addresses situations where there is a Director designated interruption or emergency in “Express Mail” service.

Section