PTO Rule Changes:

The PTO has announced a large set of rule changes. I have listed a few of the highlights:

Incorporation by Reference: A claim for priority or benefit will now be considered an incorporation by reference of the prior-filed application as to an inadvertently omitted portion of the specification or drawings.

Newly added Sec. 1.57(a) now allows for all or a portion of the specification or drawings that is inadvertently omitted from an application containing a priority claim for a prior-filed foreign application, or a benefit claim for a prior-filed provisional, nonprovisional, or international application, to be added to the application by way of a later filed amendment if the inadvertently omitted portion of the specification or drawings is completely contained in the prior-filed application even though there is no explicit incorporation by reference of the prior-filed application. The phrase "completely contained'' requires that the material to be added to the application must be expressly (as opposed to implicitly) disclosed in the prior application.

Information Disclosure Statements: The format of the IDS has been codified -- however, PTO Form 1449 is still accurate.  The Office has also announced that "it will no longer be necessary to require a copy of each cited U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication in an IDS regardless of the filing date of the application or the national stage entry date under 35 U.S.C. 371, unless it is [explicitly] required by the Office."

Signatures: 37 CFR 1.4 has been amended to allow for "S-signatures" made by electronic means for many types of submissions to the PTO.  An S-signature is a signature inserted between forward slash marks.

Fees: The Office has determined the fees for many petitions do not "recover the Office's costs of treating many of these types of petitions."  Thus, fees have been increased.

Small-Entity Status: The Code has been amended to clarify that the fact that a large entity holds a security interest in a patent application does not bar the assignee to small entity status (unless the security interest is defaulted upon).  The notice also points out that a foreign owned and operated business can still qualify for small entity fee reductions.

69 FR 56482

NOTE: LINK to PDF Rule Change.

Update: Be Spacific and PHOSITA have more information on the /s/ signatures.