2023 USPTO Recap: Digital Filings, Regulatory Measures, AI Unleashed

In 2023, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made significant advancements towards modernization and administrative efficiency while also focusing on reducing environmental impact.

  • The USPTO introduced new rules for electronic patent applications, replacing physical patent grants with an Electronic Patent Grant Information sheet (EPGI) in a bid to increase administrative efficiency and foster a green economy.
  • The Office also implemented two rules requiring electronic filings for patent term extensions and patent term adjustment statements, a move that should cut paper waste and improve efficiency.
  • Lastly, the USPTO increased the availability of Intellectual Property (IP) protection by revising the fee structures for small and micro-entities following the Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2022. This rule led to 50-60% reduction in fees for certain small entities, with huge fee discounts of 75-80% for micro entities.

The USPTO published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on changes to discretionary institution practices, petition word-count limits and settlement practices for America Invents Act trials before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The ANPRM received 3,436 comments, mainly opposing the discretionary institution practices, specifically issues concerning administrative patent judges refusing to begin a petition based on the status of the petitioner or patent holder.

In the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Office conducted numerous listening sessions and meetings to gain public input on AI inventorship and patentability. Additionally, the USPTO started testing AI platforms in 2021, and 2023 saw the full adoption of AI technology for patent examinations. The plan to make AI search tools publicly available is presently being assessed. It seems President Biden’s executive order issued on October 30, 2023, will nudge the Office out of its “holding pattern,” with official guidance expected around February 2024.

Looking forward to 2024, the USPTO’s focus on increasing efficiency, reducing waste, and increasing access to IP protection for smaller entities should have a significant impact. This is along with potentially major changes to PTAB proceedings, fee adjustments, and official guidance on AI-related topics.