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USPTO adopts eSign for patent and trademark correspondence

On March 22, 2024, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) adopted a new rule allowing for electronic signatures on all patent-related correspondence with the USPTO.
Dale Hardy
April 3, 2024

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that serves as the national patent office and trademark registration authority. The USPTO has many forms that must be signed before they are submitted. 

On March 22, 2024, the USPTO adopted a new rule allowing for electronic signatures on all patent-related correspondence. This means that now, for both trademark and patent correspondence, the USPTO will accept electronically signed documents and forms.

What needs to be signed for the USPTO? 

The USPTO has large form libraries for both patent and trademark forms, many of which require a signature. This includes forms ranging from applications, to filing an appeal, to a simple change of address form. 

Before now, these documents had to be signed by hand, with a graphic representation of a handwritten signature if the document was being submitted in the USPTO's electronic system, or with an S-signature, which you may have seen represented by an /s/. 

As of March 22, however, these forms can be signed on an electronic signature platform like Proof, even if the document is going to be mailed, faxed, or hand delivered.

What are the requirements of the new rule?

For the electronic signature to be accepted, the software used has to comply with a few rules:

  1. The software must be designed to generate an electronic signature, and preserve that signature data for later inspection with a digital certificate, token, or audit trail.
  2. The software must indicate on the signature page or electronic submission form that document was electronically signed using document-signing software.
  3. If a trademark form is being used, the signature must be accompanied by the date. This is suggested, not required, for patent forms. 
  4. The signer's name should appear printed in a signature block below the actual signature.
  5. The patent practitioner's registration number must appear near the signature, as must the word 'design' if the practitioner is a design patent practitioner. 

How can Proof help with your USPTO forms?

Now that the USPTO allows electronic signatures on patent and trademark forms and correspondence, Proof is exactly the type of document-signing software the rule seeks to allow. With Proof:

  1. You get access to software designed to create electronic signatures, that tamper-seals documents with digital certificates, and produces audit trails of every transaction;
  2. You can tag your document with text to indicate that the signature is electronic, completed with document-signing software; 
  3. Adding the date is done with the click of a button, as is adding the signer's name, space for entering the practitioner's registration number, and the required 'design' designation; and
  4. You can store your documents, including the audit trail, should the USPTO ever decide to inspect the form and require additional information down the road.

Proof would like to congratulate and thank the USPTO for making this long-needed update. Handwritten and S-signatures lack even the most basic safeguards that electronic signatures provide. We applaud this effort and look forward to more government agencies making the move toward electronic signatures and digital transactions! 

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