Patent office to roll out electronic application format

The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) announced on Tuesday that it will begin converting new patent applications into an electronic format.

Over the next 15 months, the agency also will start scanning more than a half-million pending applications into the electronic system known as the Image File, which relies on software from the European Patent Office. Once converted to digital format, the applications will be processed electronically, allowing multiple patent examiners to review a single application.

"The creation of an end-to-end, electronic patent-application process by October 1, 2004, is a key component of the agency's 21st Century Strategic Plan," PTO Director James Rogan said in a statement. "By providing a patent-application process that is simpler, faster and more efficient, the [PTO] will better serve its customers and be more responsive to the demands of the national and global marketplaces."