USPTO Plans to Release PDF-Based Electronic Filing System in Spring 2006

EFS-WEBAs patent attorneys have been suggesting for some time, the PTO is planning to completely revamp its electronic filing system (EFS) in favor of a system that operates using PDFs and is accessible through Internet Explorer. Limited beta testing will begin in December 2005, and the EFS-WEB is scheduled for a Spring 2006 release.

Because most patent applications are currently filed via express mail, PTO is reportedly the "largest recipient of overnight mail in the world."


What does this mean for you:

  • Sometime before March 2006, purchase a full version of Adobe Acrobat and figure out how it works.  It is likely that every attorney is going to need this on his or her computer.  
  • C.E. Petit, who writes the excellent blog Scrivener’s Error, takes some issue with my rush to buy expensive software. Of course, the full version of Acrobat may be overkill for the needs of most patent attorneys.  Here is the functionality what I want in PDF software: 
    • Ability to create a PDF from any type of document (Word, Excel, Notepad, FireFox, etc.);
    • Ability to modify the PDF (a) deleting certain pages or (b) adding new pages from another document;
    • Ability to run an optical character recognition program on scanned PDFs (such as Patents, documents from PAIR, etc.); and
    • Of course, it should be very easy to operate and absolutely compatible with MS Office.
  • Anyone have any recommendations?

19 thoughts on “USPTO Plans to Release PDF-Based Electronic Filing System in Spring 2006

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  5. 11

    USPTO Plans to Release PDF-Based Electronic Filing System in Spring 2006

    EFS (Electronic Filing Systems) using PDF are long overdue in all sorts of spaces, not just in the legal environments. There are already numerous free and inexpensive solutions that generate PDF documents from ANY format, frankly Acrobat seems a little…

  6. 10

    NitroPDF is shaping up to be the best competitor to Adobe Acrobat. It’s only $99 for a fully-functional version, and there is a 30-day free trial on its website.

    I’ve downloaded it and am trying it out. It should be more than sufficient for patent prosecution needs.

  7. 9

    I use PDF Creator. It is free and GPL and work very well under Windows.
    link to
    It sits on top of Ghostscript which you also need to install (either the Aladdin AFPL or GPL version).
    link to
    As an added bonus you will also be able to view postscript files.

  8. 8

    I despise PDF. That said, when they go to a PDF filing system, I’m on board.

    What I plan to do is buy a high end scanner (and maybe other functions). Xerox had one for about a grand that would scan directly into PDF. Scans at something like 30 pages a minute.

    Then I figure what I would do is set up the filing as always, but scan the filing in instead of mailing.

    As for PDF forms, I despise them. Fillible, not fillable, whatever – they all stink. Every time I need a form, since I began solo practice, I’ve set up a Word document to match the form. Sure it takes 10 or 20 minutes the first time, but after that, no more PDF headaches.

  9. 7

    A follow-up to Colin Wright’s comment, Adobe used to sell a program called “Acrobat Approval” that saved fillable forms. In 2004 they discontinued it in favor of something called Adobe “extensions” but you have to contact them for price info. As I recall, we bought Acrobat Approval about four years ago for $40 per user.

    link to

  10. 6

    I’m fond of Fine Print’s “PDF Factory” program — it works like the program Gregg Hopper describes (shows up as a printer). Good things about Fine Print’s program are that it lets you set the dpi resolution and delete selected pages before saving. I use it to convert patent images from the PTO’s site to a single pdf file and to save Web pages/sites as a single file. The free version of the program sticks an ad tagline at the bottom, otherwise I think it has full functionality.

  11. 5

    The only issue with using something other than Adobe Acrobat may deal with fillable forms. To my knowledge, no other product allows you to SAVE a fillable PDF form. The PTO issues fillable versions of most of their frequently used forms.

    If the new electronic system requires that you submit their PDF forms in a filled out fashion, then you may HAVE to have an expensive license for Acrobat just to use the system. It’s a consideration, anyway.

  12. 4

    With Mac OS X, you can turn almost any document into a PDF without needing to buy a full version of Adobe Acrobat.

  13. 3

    There are several programs that convert documents to PDF files and install like a printer. While not endorsing any one program, I am familiar with PDF995 ( and have used it with no problems at all. There is a freeware version and a commercial version. To create a pdf, you select “File–>Print”, then select the PDF995 “printer” from the list. You then choose a file name and folder in which to store the PDF, and hit “Print”. The PDF file is created from any Windows application.

  14. 2

    Take a look at the products from ScanSoft. I have been using their PDF Converter Pro 3.0. I have also recently received their ads for OmniPage Professional 15, an OCR application. However, until now I have been using ABBYY Finereader 6.0 Professional as my OCR tool, which is also compatible with PDF. That said, I also keep handy a copy of the full version of Adobe Acrobat 5.0.

  15. 1

    Perhaps think about getting a full version of Acrobat 5.0 (rather than 6, 7, etc.). From 6.0 up, you loose the ability to create fillable forms unless you go with the Professional version, rather than the Standard version. Adobe 5.0 Standard will allow you to create PDFs from about any application AND create fillable forms (and should be cheaper than the new versions). The only catch will be if for some reason the DRM capability offered starting in version 6.0 is necessary.

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