By Donald Zuhn --
Impact of Hurricane Sandy on USPTO Operations
On November 2, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a notice that in view of the official closing of Federal Government offices in the Washington, D.C. area on October 29 and 30, 2012 as a result of Hurricane Sandy, the Office would consider both days to be "Federal holiday[s] within the District of Columbia" under 35 U.S.C. § 21 and 37 C.F.R. §§ 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 2.2(d), 2.195 and 2.196. As a result, any action or fee due on October 29 or 30, 2012 will be considered as timely for the purposes of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1051(b), 1058, 1059, 1062(b), 1063, 1064, and 1126(d), or 35 U.S.C. §§ 119, 120, 133 and 151, if the action was taken, or the fee was paid, on October 31, 2012.
The Office also issued a notice on November 2, designating the interruption in service of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in the areas affected by the hurricane including in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the Appalachian region beginning on Monday, October 29, 2012, as a postal service interruption and emergency within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 21(a) and 37 CFR 1.10(i) and 2.195(e). The notice indicates that once the USPS has notified the public that the interruption in service has ended, the designation of this interruption and emergency within the meaning will terminate without further notice from the USPTO. The Office notes that applicants can determine whether a post office has been closed or reopened, or postal services have been suspended or resumed in a particular area due to the storms, by visiting the USPS's website. A national mail service disruption report can be obtained here.
With respect to patent-related correspondence, the notice indicates that 37 CFR 1.10(i) provides that any person attempting to file correspondence by "Express Mail Post Office to Addressee" service that was unable to be deposited with the USPS due to an interruption or emergency in "Express Mail" service which has been so designated by the Director may petition the Director to consider such correspondence as filed on a particular date in the Office. Additional information can be found in the Office's notice.
USPTO Seeks Comments on Sequence Listings
On October 29, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a notice in the Federal Register (77 Fed. Reg. 65537) inviting the public to comment on the Sequence Listing requirements. The Office estimates that the average Sequence Listing takes about five hours of paraprofessional time at an estimated rate of $122 per hour and one hour of attorney time at $371 per hour, for a weighted average rate of $163.50 per hour. As a result, the Office estimates that the total cost burden for this collection is approximately $22,590,450 per year. The Office is inviting comments on the following topics:
(a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, e.g., the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
Comments, which must be submitted by December 28, 2012, can be sent to e-mail to InformationCollection@uspto.gov (and should include "0651–0024 comment" in the subject line), by regular mail to Susan K. Fawcett, Records Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313–1450, or via the Federal Rulemaking Portal.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced in September that it was making the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) more accessible to the public through a new search tool. According to the Office, the new search tool, which can be found here, works like an Internet search engine. The Office noted that the primary benefit of the new system will be that the MPEP can be updated within hours, rather than months. The MPEP search tool has also been added to the Patent Docs "Patent Resources" sidebar (under the Google Search box on the right-hand side of the site).