The United States Patent and Trademark Office provides software for filing patent applications electronically — but it’s not Mac compatible.
The USPTO’s EFS is an electronic system for submitting patent applications, computer readable format (CRF) biosequence listings, and pre-grant publication submissions to the USPTO via the Internet. It includes authoring tools to help the applicant prepare a patent specification in XML format, a software package called ePAVE (electronic packaging and validation engine) to assemble the various parts of the application and transmit the application to USPTO over the Internet, and a digital certificate to secure the transmission of the application to the USPTO
The Patent Application Specification Authoring Tool (PASAT) is used to author electronic (XML) versions of specifications. But to use it, you’ll need Microsoft Word or WordPerfect for Windows. You would think that it would be fine to electronically file an application saved in Portable Document Format (PDF) — but you should think again.
“The benefits of electronic filing are achieved only if the process is standardized so that file formats submitted to the USPTO can be readily received, used by USPTO information systems and maintained for the full retention life of the application,” the USPTO says on its Web site. “PDF is a proprietary file format maintained by a single vendor. The ability to transfer PDF Patent application documents to a new technology environment is constrained and requires extra resources. Output in XML format can be integrated at little or no cost as a viewing/navigation/ reproduction capability into Web browsers and desktop productivity applications. XML is currently a preferred file format for conducting electronic commerce.”
The smidgen of good news for Mac users is that you can view and order copies of issued patents on our computing platform of choice. However, according to a note on the USTPO site: “Internet Explorer on the Macintosh platform will NOT permit a proper image attachment. You must use Internet Explorer version 5 or Netscape in order to use the payment server with the Macintosh platform. Also, Internet Explorer that sits behind a Microsoft Proxy Server will NOT connect properly. However, if you upgrade Internet Explorer to 5.01 or higher the site will work properly.” (Thanks to MacCentral reader, Tom Gallagher, for the heads-up on this situation.)