On February 28, 2023, the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) issued a final rule announcing it would begin issuing electronic patent grants (eGrants) starting April 18, 2023. These eGrants are the official copies of patent grants in an electronic format. During a limited transition period, the PTO will also provide a bound paper version as a ceremonial copy. Once the transition period is over, a bound paper version will be available for a nominal fee. The PTO did not specify when the transition period would end. The Federal Register notice can be found here.
To implement the eGrant, the PTO is removing and reserving 37 CFR 1.315, which states that “[t]he patent will be delivered or mailed upon issuance to the correspondence address of record.” Because patents will be issued electronically, the PTO will no longer physically deliver the patent grant by mailing it to the correspondence address. Instead, the eGrant will issue electronically via the Patent Center.
In addition to the ceremonial paper copy, for a fee, the PTO will still offer certified copies (in accordance with 37 CFR 1.13) and presentation copies. The PTO will no longer accept orders for advance copies of issued patents.
By moving to eGrants, the interval between issue fee payment and patent issuance will be shorter. Thus, applicants will need to be more diligent in filing continuations, divisionals and Quick Path Information Disclosure Statements. For example, Issue Notifications will be available electronically via the Patent Center after the issue fee is paid, usually on the Wednesday or Thursday before the patent issues. The PTO envisions that for those who do not participate in the e-Office action program, a patent may issue electronically before the applicant even receives the mailed Issue Notification.