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37 CFR 1.4: Nature of correspondence and signature requirements

Taken from the Ninth Edition of the MPEP, published in March 2014

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CFR Part Index
Part 1: Rules of Practice in Patent Cases
Subpart A - General Provisions
General Information And Correspondence

1.4    Nature of correspondence and signature requirements.

  • (a) Correspondence with the Patent and Trademark Office comprises:
    • (1) Correspondence relating to services and facilities of the Office, such as general inquiries, requests for publications supplied by the Office, orders for printed copies of patents, orders for copies of records, transmission of assignments for recording, and the like, and
    • (2) Correspondence in and relating to a particular application or other proceeding in the Office. See particularly the rules relating to the filing, processing, or other proceedings of national applications in subpart B, §§ 1.31 to 1.378; of international applications in subpart C, §§ 1.401 to 1.499; of ex parte reexaminations of patents in subpart D, §§ 1.501 to 1.570; of extension of patent term in subpart F, §§ 1.710 to 1.785; of inter partes reexaminations of patents in subpart H, §§ 1.902 to 1.997; and of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in parts 41 and 42 of this title.
  • (b) Since each file must be complete in itself, a separate copy of every paper to be filed in a patent, patent file, or other proceeding must be furnished for each file to which the paper pertains, even though the contents of the papers filed in two or more files may be identical. The filing of duplicate copies of correspondence in the file of an application, patent, or other proceeding should be avoided, except in situations in which the Office requires the filing of duplicate copies. The Office may dispose of duplicate copies of correspondence in the file of an application, patent, or other proceeding.
  • (c) Since different matters may be considered by different branches or sections of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, each distinct subject, inquiry or order must be contained in a separate paper to avoid confusion and delay in answering papers dealing with different subjects.
  • (d)
    • (1) Handwritten signature. Each piece of correspondence, except as provided in paragraphs (d)(2), (d)(3), (e) and (f) of this section, filed in an application, patent file, or other proceeding in the Office which requires a person’s signature, must:
      • (i) Be an original, that is, have an original handwritten signature personally signed, in permanent dark ink or its equivalent, by that person; or
      • (ii) Be a direct or indirect copy, such as a photocopy or facsimile transmission (§ 1.6(d)), of an original. In the event that a copy of the original is filed, the original should be retained as evidence of authenticity. If a question of authenticity arises, the Office may require submission of the original.
    • (2) S-signature. An S-signature is a signature inserted between forward slash marks, but not a handwritten signature as defined by § 1.4(d)(1). An S-signature includes any signature made by electronic or mechanical means, and any other mode of making or applying a signature not covered by a handwritten signature of § 1.4(d)(1). Correspondence being filed in the Office in paper, by facsimile transmission as provided in § 1.6(d), or via the Office electronic filing system as an attachment as provided in § 1.6(a)(4), for a patent application, patent, or a reexamination proceeding may be S-signature signed instead of being personally signed (i.e., with a handwritten signature) as provided for in paragraph (d)(1) of this section. The requirements for an S-signature under this paragraph (d)(2) of this section are as follows.
      • (i) The S-signature must consist only of letters, or Arabic numerals, or both, with appropriate spaces and commas, periods, apostrophes, or hyphens for punctuation, and the person signing the correspondence must insert his or her own S-signature with a first single forward slash mark before, and a second single forward slash mark after, the S-signature (e.g., /Dr. James T. Jones, Jr./); and
      • (ii) A patent practitioner (§ 1.32(a)(1)), signing pursuant to §§ 1.33(b)(1) or 1.33(b)(2), must supply his/her registration number either as part of the S-signature, or immediately below or adjacent to the S-signature. The number (#) character may be used only as part of the S-signature when appearing before a practitioner’s registration number; otherwise the number character may not be used in an S-signature.
      • (iii) The signer’s name must be:
        • (A) Presented in printed or typed form preferably immediately below or adjacent the S-signature, and
        • (B) Reasonably specific enough so that the identity of the signer can be readily recognized.
    • (3) Forms. The Office provides forms to the public to use in certain situations to assist in the filing of correspondence for a certain purpose and to meet certain requirements for patent applications and proceedings. Use of the forms for purposes for which they were not designed is prohibited. No changes to certification statements on the Office forms (e.g., oath or declaration forms, terminal disclaimer forms, petition forms, and nonpublication request forms) may be made. The existing text of a form, other than a certification statement, may be modified, deleted, or added to, if all text identifying the form as an Office form is removed. The presentation to the Office (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) of any Office form with text identifying the form as an Office form by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, constitutes a certification under § 11.18(b) of this chapter that the existing text and any certification statements on the form have not been altered other than permitted by EFS-Web customization.
    • (4) Certifications.
      • (i) Section 11.18 certifications: The presentation to the Office (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) of any paper by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, constitutes a certification under § 11.18(b) of this subchapter. Violations of § 11.18(b)(2) of this subchapter by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, may result in the imposition of sanctions under § 11.18(c) of this subchapter. Any practitioner violating § 11.18(b) of this subchapter may also be subject to disciplinary action. See § 11.18(d) of this subchapter.
      • (ii) Certifications as to the signature :
        • (A) Of another: A person submitting a document signed by another under paragraph (d)(2) of this section is obligated to have a reasonable basis to believe that the person whose signature is present on the document was actually inserted by that person, and should retain evidence of authenticity of the signature.
        • (B) Self certification : The person inserting a signature under paragraph (d)(2) of this section in a document submitted to the Office certifies that the inserted signature appearing in the document is his or her own signature.
        • (C) Sanctions: Violations of the certifications as to the signature of another or a person’s own signature, set forth in paragraphs (d)(4)(ii)(A) and (B) of this section, may result in the imposition of sanctions under § 11.18(c) and (d) of this chapter.
  • (e) The following correspondence must be submitted with an original handwritten signature personally signed in permanent dark ink or its equivalent:
    • (1) Correspondence requiring a person's signature and relating to registration to practice before the Patent and Trademark Office in patent cases, enrollment and disciplinary investigations, or disciplinary proceedings; and
    • (2) Payments by credit cards where the payment is not being made via the Office's electronic filing systems.
  • (f) When a document that is required by statute to be certified must be filed, a copy, including a photocopy or facsimile transmission, of the certification is not acceptable.
  • (g) An applicant who has not made of record a registered attorney or agent may be required to state whether assistance was received in the preparation or prosecution of the patent application, for which any compensation or consideration was given or charged, and if so, to disclose the name or names of the person or persons providing such assistance. Assistance includes the preparation for the applicant of the specification and amendments or other papers to be filed in the Patent and Trademark Office, as well as other assistance in such matters, but does not include merely making drawings by draftsmen or stenographic services in typing papers.
  • (h) Ratification/confirmation/evidence of authenticity: The Office may require ratification, confirmation (which includes submission of a duplicate document but with a proper signature), or evidence of authenticity of a signature, such as when the Office has reasonable doubt as to the authenticity (veracity) of the signature, e.g., where there are variations of a signature, or where the signature and the typed or printed name, do not clearly identify the person signing.

[24 FR 10332, Dec. 22, 1959; 43 FR 20461, May 11, 1978; para. (a), 48 FR 2707, Jan. 20, 1983, effective Feb. 27, 1983; para. (a), 49 FR 48416, Dec. 12, 1984, effective Feb. 11, 1985; para. (a)(2), 53 FR 47807, Nov. 28, 1988, effective Jan. 1, 1989; paras. (d)-(f) added, 58 FR 54494, Oct. 22, 1993, effective Nov. 22, 1993; para. (d) revised & para. (g) added, 62 FR 53131, Oct. 10, 1997, effective Dec. 1, 1997; paras. (a)(2) and (d)(1) revised, 64 FR 48900, Sept. 8, 1999, effective Oct. 30, 1999; paras. (b) and (c) revised, 65 FR 54604, Sept. 8, 2000, effective Nov. 7, 2000; para. (a)(2) revised, 65 FR 76756, Dec. 7, 2000, effective Feb. 5, 2001; para. (d)(1)(iii)(A) amended, 67 FR 79520, Dec. 30, 2002, effective Dec. 30, 2002; para. (d)(1)(iii)(B) revised, 68 FR 14332, Mar. 25, 2003, effective May 1, 2003; para. (d)(1)(iii) removed and reserved, paras. (a)(1), (a)(2), (b), (d)(1), introductory text, and (d)(1)(ii) revised, 68 FR 48286, Aug. 13, 2003, effective Sept. 12, 2003; para. (a)(2) revised, 69 FR 49959, Aug. 12, 2004, effective Sept. 13, 2004; paras. (d) and (e) revised and para. (h) added, 69 FR 56481, Sept. 21, 2004, effective Sept. 21, 2004; para. (d)(2) introductory text and paragraph (d)(2)(ii) revised, 70 FR 56119, Sept. 26, 2005, effective Nov. 25, 2005; paras. (d)(2) introductory text, (d)(3), and (d)(4)(ii) revised, 72 FR 2770, Jan. 23, 2007, effective Jan. 23, 2007; paras. (d)(3) and (d)(4)(i) revised, para. (d)(4)(ii)(C) added, 73 FR 47650, Aug. 14, 2008, effective Sept. 15, 2008; para. (a)(2) revised, 77 FR 46615, Aug. 6, 2012, effective Sept. 16, 2012; para. (e) revised, 77 FR 48776, Aug. 14, 2012, effective Sept. 16, 2012; para. (d)(4)(i) revised, 78 FR 20180, Apr. 3, 2013, effective May 3, 2013]