Removal of Certain Rules of Patent Practice, 35226-35229 [2021-14036]

Download as PDF 35226 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 125 / Friday, July 2, 2021 / Rules and Regulations procedures, they were published, at that time, in the Federal Register to aid public accessibility. The solicitation of public comment for this removal is unnecessary as the removed sections in this part are out-ofdate, duplicative of existing regulations, and otherwise cover internal agency operations that have no public compliance component or adverse public impact. Sections 210.1, 210.2, and 210.3 are duplicative with and/or have been updated by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) subparts 5, 11, 14, and 15 which provide procedures for advance notice, notice of award, commencement, and completion of work. Sections 210.4 and 210.5 no longer apply. In addition, the Engineer Board was absorbed by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals in July 2000. This removal is being conducted to provide clarity and reduce confusion for the public as well as for the Corps regarding the current policy which governs the Corps’ internal procurement activities. The removal of the regulation will ensure the Corps’ policy complies with the existing FAR which can be found at the source provided in this SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section. The regulation does not place a burden on the public; therefore, its removal does not provide a reduction in public burden or costs. This rule is not significant under Executive Order 12866, ‘‘Regulatory Planning and Review.’’ List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 210 Administrative practice and procedure, Government procurement. PART 210—[REMOVED] Accordingly, for the reasons stated in the preamble and under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 301, the Corps removes 33 CFR part 210. ■ Dated: June 29, 2021. Jaime A. Pinkham, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). [FR Doc. 2021–14244 Filed 7–1–21; 8:45 am] lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with RULES1 BILLING CODE 3720–58–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Jul 01, 2021 Jkt 253001 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers 33 CFR Part 214 RIN 0710–AB38 Emergency Supplies of Drinking Water U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule removes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ part titled, ‘‘Emergency Supplies of Drinking Water.’’ This part is mostly duplicative of an equivalent part in the agency’s regulations. Where it is not duplicative this part could be misleading, as its provisions have been superseded by those in the equivalent part related to emergency water supplies due to contaminated water sources. Therefore, this part can be removed from the Code of Federal regulations (CFR). DATES: This rule is effective on July 2, 2021. ADDRESSES: Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ATTN: CECW–HS (Mr. Mark Roupas), 441 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20314– 1000. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Willem Helms at (202) 761–5909 or by email at willem.h.helms@ usace.army.mil. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This final rule removes from the CFR part 214 of title 33, ‘‘Emergency Supplies of Drinking Water.’’ The regulation was initially promulgated on February 19, 1976 (41 FR 7506), solely in order to implement the 1974 amendment to Public Law 84–99 in Section 82(2) of Public Law 93–251, authorizing the Chief of Engineers to provide emergency supplies of clean drinking water to any locality with contaminated drinking water causing or likely to cause a substantial threat to the public health and welfare. The removed part is mostly duplicative of the equivalent section of 33 CFR part 203 at § 203.61, Emergency water supplies due to contaminated water source. The Corps’ current emergency management regulation in 33 CFR part 203 includes coverage of the contaminated water authority among the other aspects of the Corps’ emergency management program. Where it is not duplicative part 214 could be misleading, as its provisions have been superseded by those in 33 CFR part 203 related to emergency water supplies due to contaminated water sources. While the rule applies only to Corps internal SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 agency guidance regarding responses to provide emergency supplies of drinking water, it was published, at that time, in the Federal Register to aid public accessibility. The solicitation of public comment is unnecessary as this part is redundant or otherwise out-of-date. This removal is being conducted to provide clarity and reduce confusion for the public as well as for the Corps regarding the current policy which governs the Corps’ provision of emergency supplies of clean drinking water. Because the regulation does not place a burden on the public, its removal does not provide a reduction in public burden or costs. This rule is not significant under Executive Order 12866, ‘‘Regulatory Planning and Review.’’ List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 214 Disaster assistance, Intergovernmental relations, Water supply. PART 214—[REMOVED] Accordingly, for the reasons stated in the preamble and under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 301, the Corps removes 33 CFR part 214. ■ Dated: June 29, 2021. Jaime A. Pinkham, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). [FR Doc. 2021–14247 Filed 7–1–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3720–58–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Patent and Trademark Office 37 CFR Part 1 [Docket No.: PTO–C–2017–0033] RIN 0651–AD24 Removal of Certain Rules of Patent Practice United States Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO or Office) revises the rules of practice in patent cases to eliminate the requirement for original handwritten signatures on certain correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) and certain payments made to the USPTO by credit card. DATES: This rule is effective July 2, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions on this rule, please contact SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 125 / Friday, July 2, 2021 / Rules and Regulations Howie Reitz, Staff Attorney, Office of Enrollment and Discipline, USPTO, at 571–272–4097. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with RULES1 I. Background To support regulatory reform efforts, the USPTO assembled a Working Group on Regulatory Reform (Working Group)—consisting of subject-matter experts from each of the business units that implement the USPTO’s regulations—to consider, review, and recommend ways that the regulations could be improved, revised, and streamlined. The Working Group reviewed existing regulations, both discretionary and required by statute or judicial order. The USPTO also solicited comments from stakeholders through a web page established to provide information on the USPTO’s regulatory reform efforts, and through the Department of Commerce’s Federal Register Notice titled ‘‘Impact of Federal Regulations on Domestic Manufacturing’’ (82 FR 12786, Mar. 7, 2017), which addressed the impact of regulatory burdens on domestic manufacturing. These efforts led to the selection of certain regulations related to the requirement for an original handwritten signature for certain correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) for removal based on the USPTO’s assessment that they were not needed and/or that elimination could improve the USPTO’s body of regulations. In addition, as part of the USPTO’s COVID–19 relief efforts, the USPTO waived the requirement for an original handwritten signature for certain correspondence with OED and certain payments by credit card in an announcement made on March 19, 2020, and in a notice published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2020 (85 FR 17502). In that announcement, the USPTO determined that the effects of COVID–19 were an ‘‘extraordinary situation’’ within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.183 and 2.146(a)(5) for affected persons doing business before the Office that warranted a waiver of the original handwritten signature requirements of § 1.4(e). II. Regulations for Removal In this final rule, the USPTO finalizes those provisions in its proposed rule published on November 25, 2019 (84 FR 64800) related to the removal of the requirement for original handwritten signatures in dark ink on correspondence relating to registration to practice before the Office and other matters within the purview of the OED, which achieves the objective of making VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Jul 01, 2021 Jkt 253001 the USPTO’s regulations more effective, while enabling the USPTO to fulfill its mission-related goals. Although the Office proposed to remove only the original handwritten signature requirement found in 37 CFR 1.4(e)(1), relating to correspondence with the OED, in this final rule, the Office also eliminates the original handwritten signature requirement found in § 1.4(e)(2), related to payments by credit card when the payment is not being made via the Office’s electronic filing systems. The removal of § 1.4(e)(2) makes permanent the USPTO’s waiver of the original handwritten signature requirement in payments by credit card announced on March 19, 2020, and published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2020 (85 FR 17502). Elimination of the entirety of § 1.4(e) allows, for example, the use of facsimile transmissions and S-signatures in enrollment and disciplinary matters before the OED, in addition to the use of facsimile transmissions and Ssignatures in payments by credit card. Elimination of this section also facilitates the implementation of an electronic filing system within the OED. As a conforming change, this final rule also removes § 1.6(d)(1) to eliminate an obsolete cross reference to § 1.4(e). The USPTO intends to address its proposed revisions to its regulations governing requests for Presidential Proclamations under the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act (SCPA), as published in its proposed rule on November 25, 2019 (84 FR 64800), in a separate notice. III. Proposed Rule: Comments and Responses The USPTO published a proposed rule on November 25, 2019 (84 FR 64800), soliciting comments on the proposed amendments. The USPTO received no comments in response to the proposed rule. IV. Discussion of Rule Changes This final rule removes and reserves 37 CFR 1.4(e), which sets forth certain correspondence and signature requirements. As a corresponding change, this final rule removes and reserves § 1.6(d)(1) to eliminate an obsolete cross reference to § 1.4(e). Rulemaking Considerations: A. Administrative Procedure Act: The changes in this rulemaking involve rules of agency practice and procedure, and/ or interpretive rules. See Perez v. Mortg. Bankers Ass’n, 135 S. Ct. 1199, 1204 (2015) (Interpretive rules ‘‘advise the public of the agency’s construction of the statutes and rules which it administers.’’ (citation and internal PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 35227 quotation marks omitted)); Nat’l Org. of Veterans’ Advocates v. Sec’y of Veterans Affairs, 260 F.3d 1365, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (rule that clarifies that the interpretation of a statute is interpretive); Bachow Commc’ns Inc. v. FCC, 237 F.3d 683, 690 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (Rules governing an application process are procedural under the Administrative Procedure Act.); Inova Alexandria Hosp. v. Shalala, 244 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2001) (Rules for handling appeals were procedural where they did not change the substantive standard for reviewing claims.). Accordingly, prior notice and opportunity for public comment for the changes in this rulemaking were not required pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b) or (c), or any other law. See Perez, 135 S. Ct. at 1206 (Notice-and-comment procedures are required neither when an agency ‘‘issue[s] an initial interpretive rule’’ nor ‘‘when it amends or repeals that interpretive rule.’’); Cooper Techs. Co. v. Dudas, 536 F.3d 1330, 1336–37 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (stating that 5 U.S.C. 553, and thus 35 U.S.C. 2(b)(2)(B), do not require notice-andcomment rulemaking for ‘‘interpretative rules, general statements of policy, or rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice’’ (quoting 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(A))). However, to benefit from the public’s input, the Office chose to seek public comment on the removal of its regulations governing requests for Presidential Proclamations under the SCPA and on the elimination of the requirement for original handwritten signatures on certain correspondence with the OED before implementing the rule. In addition, the Office, pursuant to the authority at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), finds good cause to remove regulations requiring that certain payments be made to the USPTO by credit card, found in 37 CFR 1.4(e)(2) and § 1.6(d)(1), without prior notice and an opportunity for public comment, as such procedures would be contrary to the public interest. The public does not require additional time to conform its conduct, as the changes in this final rule do not add any new requirements, and the elimination of the provisions in this final rule provides a modest benefit to impacted parties by making permanent the use of alternative signature methods in certain payments by credit card. Furthermore, the Office finds good cause to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness period for this final rule, as provided by 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), because such delay would be contrary to the public interest, as this final rule provides a modest benefit to impacted parties by making permanent the use of E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with RULES1 35228 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 125 / Friday, July 2, 2021 / Rules and Regulations alternative signature methods in certain payments by credit card. B. Regulatory Flexibility Act: For the reasons set forth herein, the Senior Counsel for Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Office of General Law, of the USPTO has certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that changes in this final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. See 5 U.S.C. 605(b). This final rule removes 37 CFR 1.4(e), which required original handwritten signatures in dark ink on correspondence relating to registration to practice before the Office and other matters in the purview of the OED, and in payments by credit card where the payment is not being made via the Office’s electronic filing systems. Elimination of this section allows for the use of facsimile transmissions and S-signatures in enrollment and disciplinary matters before the OED and in the payment of fees by credit card, thereby providing a modest benefit to impacted parties. As a conforming change, this final rule also removes § 1.6(d)(1) to eliminate an obsolete cross reference to § 1.4(e). For these reasons, this rulemaking will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. C. Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review): This rulemaking has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. D. Executive Order 13563 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review): The Office has complied with Executive Order 13563. Specifically, the Office has, to the extent feasible and applicable: (1) Made a reasoned determination that the benefits justify the costs of the rule; (2) tailored the rule to impose the least burden on society consistent with obtaining the regulatory objectives; (3) selected a regulatory approach that maximizes net benefits; (4) specified performance objectives; (5) identified and assessed available alternatives; (6) involved the public in an open exchange of information and perspectives among experts in relevant disciplines, affected stakeholders in the private sector, and the public as a whole, and provided online access to the rulemaking docket; (7) attempted to promote coordination, simplification, and harmonization across government agencies and identified goals designed to promote innovation; (8) considered approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public; and (9) ensured the objectivity of scientific and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Jul 01, 2021 Jkt 253001 technological information and processes. E. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism): This rulemaking does not contain policies with federalism implications sufficient to warrant preparation of a Federalism Assessment under Executive Order 13132 (Aug. 4, 1999). F. Executive Order 13175 (Tribal Consultation): This rulemaking will not: (1) Have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian tribes, (2) impose substantial direct compliance costs on Indian tribal governments, or (3) preempt tribal law. Therefore, a tribal summary impact statement is not required under Executive Order 13175 (Nov. 6, 2000). G. Executive Order 13211 (Energy Effects): This rulemaking is not a significant energy action under Executive Order 13211 because this rulemaking is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, distribution, or use of energy. Therefore, a Statement of Energy Effects is not required under Executive Order 13211 (May 18, 2001). H. Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform): This rulemaking meets applicable standards to minimize litigation, eliminate ambiguity, and reduce burden, as set forth in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988 (Feb. 5, 1996). I. Executive Order 13045 (Protection of Children): This rulemaking does not concern an environmental risk to health or safety that may disproportionately affect children under Executive Order 13045 (Apr. 21, 1997). J. Executive Order 12630 (Taking of Private Property): This rulemaking will not effect a taking of private property or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630 (Mar. 15, 1988). K. Congressional Review Act: Under the Congressional Review Act provisions of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), prior to issuing any final rule, the USPTO will submit a report containing the final rule and other required information to the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office. The changes in this rulemaking are not expected to result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices; or significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 in domestic and export markets. Therefore, this rulemaking is not expected to result in a ‘‘major rule,’’ as defined in 5 U.S.C. 804(2). L. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995: The changes set forth in this rulemaking do not involve a Federal intergovernmental mandate that will result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, of $100 million (as adjusted) or more in any one year, or a Federal private sector mandate that will result in the expenditure by the private sector of $100 million (as adjusted) or more in any one year, and will not significantly or uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no actions are necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995. See 2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq. M. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969: This rulemaking will not have any effect on the quality of the environment and is thus categorically excluded from review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. See 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. N. National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995: The requirements of section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (15 U.S.C. 272 note) are not applicable because this rulemaking does not contain provisions that involve the use of technical standards. O. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995: The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) requires that the Office consider the impact of paperwork and other information collection burdens imposed on the public. This rulemaking involves information collections that are subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501–3549). Removal of the requirement for original handwritten signatures in dark ink does not impact the current OMB approval of OMB control numbers 0651–0012, 0651–0017, and 0651–0043. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall a person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act unless that collection of information has a currently valid OMB control number. P. E-Government Act Compliance: The USPTO is committed to compliance with the E-Government Act to promote the use of the internet and other information technologies, to provide increased opportunities for citizen E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 125 / Friday, July 2, 2021 / Rules and Regulations access to Government information and services, and for other purposes. List of Subjects in 37 CFR Part 1 Administrative practice and procedure, Biologics, Courts, Freedom of information, Inventions and patents, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Small businesses. For the reasons stated in the preamble, the USPTO amends chapter 1 of title 37 as follows: PART 1—RULES OF PRACTICE IN PATENT CASES 1. The authority citation for part 1 continues to read as follows: Authority: 35 U.S.C. 2(b)(2), unless otherwise noted. [Amended] 2. Section 1.4 is amended by removing and reserving paragraph (e). ■ § 1.6 [Amended] 3. Section 1.6 is amended by removing and reserving paragraph (d)(1). ■ Andrew Hirshfeld, Commissioner for Patents, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. [FR Doc. 2021–14036 Filed 7–1–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–16–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Patent and Trademark Office 37 CFR Parts 1 and 2 [Docket No. PTO–P–2020–0063] RIN 0651–AD52 Mailing Address Changes Related to USPTO Deposit Accounts and Patent Maintenance Fees United States Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO or Office) is revising the Rules of Practice to update the addresses for payments of patent maintenance fees that are not submitted electronically, correspondence related to maintenance fees, and the replenishment of a USPTO deposit account by mail. From December 15, 2020, through December 14, 2021, maintenance fee payments, maintenance fee-related correspondence, and USPTO lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with RULES1 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Jul 01, 2021 Jkt 253001 To improve operational efficiencies and consolidate space, the USPTO’s Office of Finance, which includes the Maintenance Fee and Deposit Account Branches, was relocated as of December 15, 2020, from 2051 Jamieson Avenue, Suite 300, in Alexandria, Virginia, to the main USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia. Accordingly, this final rule updates the Rules of Practice in Patent Cases and the Rules of Practice in Trademark Cases with both the new mailing address for patent maintenance fees and maintenance fee-related correspondence and the new mailing address for USPTO deposit account replenishments. As of December 15, 2020, correspondence sent by U.S. Postal Service (USPS) first-class mail to pay a USPTO patent maintenance fee, as well as other maintenance fee-related correspondence, should be mailed to: Mail Stop Maintenance Fee, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, Virginia 22313–1450. Also as of December 15, 2020, checks and money orders that are sent by USPS first-class mail to replenish a USPTO deposit account should be mailed to: Mail Stop Deposit Accounts, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, Virginia 22313–1450. From December 15, 2020, through December 14, 2021, maintenance fee payments, maintenance fee-related correspondence, and USPTO deposit account replenishments sent to the Jamieson Avenue addresses will be forwarded to the new addresses. After December 14, 2021, such mailings may be returned to the sender by the USPS. The appropriate sections of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure and the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure will be revised in due course to reflect these mailing address changes. Maintenance fee payments and USPTO deposit account replenishments submitted electronically on the USPTO website at www.uspto.gov are not SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ■ § 1.4 deposit account replenishments sent to the old addresses will be forwarded to the new addresses. DATES: This final rule is effective on July 2, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Inquiries related to maintenance fees and USPTO deposit accounts may be made by calling 571–272–6500. Inquiries related to this final rule should be directed to Matthew Lee, Office of Finance, USPTO, at matthew.lee@ uspto.gov. PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 35229 affected by these mailing address changes. Discussion of Specific Rules The following is a discussion of the amendments to 37 CFR part 1. Section 1.1: Section 1.1(a) is amended to remove the reference to paragraph (d)(1) of this section from the listed exceptions. Section 1.1(d) is amended to add the paragraph heading ‘‘Payments of patent maintenance fees’’ and to change the address for payments of patent maintenance fees that are not submitted electronically and correspondence related to maintenance fees to ‘‘Mail Stop Maintenance Fee, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, Virginia 22313–1450.’’ Section 1.25: Section 1.25(c) is amended to remove the reference to paragraph (c)(4) of this section, as the paragraph was previously removed. Section 1.25(c)(3) is amended to change the address for payments to replenish a USPTO deposit account to ‘‘Mail Stop Deposit Accounts, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, Virginia 22313–1450.’’ The following is a discussion of the amendment to 37 CFR part 2. Section 2.208: Section 2.208(c)(3) is amended to change the address for payments to replenish a USPTO deposit account to ‘‘Mail Stop Deposit Accounts, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, Virginia 22313– 1450.’’ Rulemaking Considerations A. Administrative Procedure Act: Since this final rule is directed to changing an Office address, this final rule merely involves rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(A) and is a non-substantive change to the regulations. Accordingly, this final rule may be adopted without prior notice and opportunity for public comment under 5 U.S.C. 553(b) and (c). Furthermore, the Office finds good cause to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness period, as provided by 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), because such delay would be contrary to the public interest in providing accurate contact information for the Office. B. Regulatory Flexibility Act: As prior notice and an opportunity for public comment are not required pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553 (or any other law), neither a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis nor a certification under the Regulatory E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 125 (Friday, July 2, 2021)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 35226-35229]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-14036]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

Patent and Trademark Office

37 CFR Part 1

[Docket No.: PTO-C-2017-0033]
RIN 0651-AD24


Removal of Certain Rules of Patent Practice

AGENCY: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Department of 
Commerce.

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO or 
Office) revises the rules of practice in patent cases to eliminate the 
requirement for original handwritten signatures on certain 
correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) and 
certain payments made to the USPTO by credit card.

DATES: This rule is effective July 2, 2021.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions on this rule, please 
contact

[[Page 35227]]

Howie Reitz, Staff Attorney, Office of Enrollment and Discipline, 
USPTO, at 571-272-4097.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    To support regulatory reform efforts, the USPTO assembled a Working 
Group on Regulatory Reform (Working Group)--consisting of subject-
matter experts from each of the business units that implement the 
USPTO's regulations--to consider, review, and recommend ways that the 
regulations could be improved, revised, and streamlined. The Working 
Group reviewed existing regulations, both discretionary and required by 
statute or judicial order. The USPTO also solicited comments from 
stakeholders through a web page established to provide information on 
the USPTO's regulatory reform efforts, and through the Department of 
Commerce's Federal Register Notice titled ``Impact of Federal 
Regulations on Domestic Manufacturing'' (82 FR 12786, Mar. 7, 2017), 
which addressed the impact of regulatory burdens on domestic 
manufacturing. These efforts led to the selection of certain 
regulations related to the requirement for an original handwritten 
signature for certain correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and 
Discipline (OED) for removal based on the USPTO's assessment that they 
were not needed and/or that elimination could improve the USPTO's body 
of regulations.
    In addition, as part of the USPTO's COVID-19 relief efforts, the 
USPTO waived the requirement for an original handwritten signature for 
certain correspondence with OED and certain payments by credit card in 
an announcement made on March 19, 2020, and in a notice published in 
the Federal Register on March 30, 2020 (85 FR 17502). In that 
announcement, the USPTO determined that the effects of COVID-19 were an 
``extraordinary situation'' within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.183 and 
2.146(a)(5) for affected persons doing business before the Office that 
warranted a waiver of the original handwritten signature requirements 
of Sec.  1.4(e).

II. Regulations for Removal

    In this final rule, the USPTO finalizes those provisions in its 
proposed rule published on November 25, 2019 (84 FR 64800) related to 
the removal of the requirement for original handwritten signatures in 
dark ink on correspondence relating to registration to practice before 
the Office and other matters within the purview of the OED, which 
achieves the objective of making the USPTO's regulations more 
effective, while enabling the USPTO to fulfill its mission-related 
goals.
    Although the Office proposed to remove only the original 
handwritten signature requirement found in 37 CFR 1.4(e)(1), relating 
to correspondence with the OED, in this final rule, the Office also 
eliminates the original handwritten signature requirement found in 
Sec.  1.4(e)(2), related to payments by credit card when the payment is 
not being made via the Office's electronic filing systems. The removal 
of Sec.  1.4(e)(2) makes permanent the USPTO's waiver of the original 
handwritten signature requirement in payments by credit card announced 
on March 19, 2020, and published in the Federal Register on March 30, 
2020 (85 FR 17502). Elimination of the entirety of Sec.  1.4(e) allows, 
for example, the use of facsimile transmissions and S-signatures in 
enrollment and disciplinary matters before the OED, in addition to the 
use of facsimile transmissions and S-signatures in payments by credit 
card. Elimination of this section also facilitates the implementation 
of an electronic filing system within the OED. As a conforming change, 
this final rule also removes Sec.  1.6(d)(1) to eliminate an obsolete 
cross reference to Sec.  1.4(e).
    The USPTO intends to address its proposed revisions to its 
regulations governing requests for Presidential Proclamations under the 
Semiconductor Chip Protection Act (SCPA), as published in its proposed 
rule on November 25, 2019 (84 FR 64800), in a separate notice.

III. Proposed Rule: Comments and Responses

    The USPTO published a proposed rule on November 25, 2019 (84 FR 
64800), soliciting comments on the proposed amendments. The USPTO 
received no comments in response to the proposed rule.

IV. Discussion of Rule Changes

    This final rule removes and reserves 37 CFR 1.4(e), which sets 
forth certain correspondence and signature requirements. As a 
corresponding change, this final rule removes and reserves Sec.  
1.6(d)(1) to eliminate an obsolete cross reference to Sec.  1.4(e).
    Rulemaking Considerations:
    A. Administrative Procedure Act: The changes in this rulemaking 
involve rules of agency practice and procedure, and/or interpretive 
rules. See Perez v. Mortg. Bankers Ass'n, 135 S. Ct. 1199, 1204 (2015) 
(Interpretive rules ``advise the public of the agency's construction of 
the statutes and rules which it administers.'' (citation and internal 
quotation marks omitted)); Nat'l Org. of Veterans' Advocates v. Sec'y 
of Veterans Affairs, 260 F.3d 1365, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (rule that 
clarifies that the interpretation of a statute is interpretive); Bachow 
Commc'ns Inc. v. FCC, 237 F.3d 683, 690 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (Rules 
governing an application process are procedural under the 
Administrative Procedure Act.); Inova Alexandria Hosp. v. Shalala, 244 
F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2001) (Rules for handling appeals were 
procedural where they did not change the substantive standard for 
reviewing claims.).
    Accordingly, prior notice and opportunity for public comment for 
the changes in this rulemaking were not required pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
553(b) or (c), or any other law. See Perez, 135 S. Ct. at 1206 (Notice-
and-comment procedures are required neither when an agency ``issue[s] 
an initial interpretive rule'' nor ``when it amends or repeals that 
interpretive rule.''); Cooper Techs. Co. v. Dudas, 536 F.3d 1330, 1336-
37 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (stating that 5 U.S.C. 553, and thus 35 U.S.C. 
2(b)(2)(B), do not require notice-and-comment rulemaking for 
``interpretative rules, general statements of policy, or rules of 
agency organization, procedure, or practice'' (quoting 5 U.S.C. 
553(b)(A))). However, to benefit from the public's input, the Office 
chose to seek public comment on the removal of its regulations 
governing requests for Presidential Proclamations under the SCPA and on 
the elimination of the requirement for original handwritten signatures 
on certain correspondence with the OED before implementing the rule.
    In addition, the Office, pursuant to the authority at 5 U.S.C. 
553(b)(B), finds good cause to remove regulations requiring that 
certain payments be made to the USPTO by credit card, found in 37 CFR 
1.4(e)(2) and Sec.  1.6(d)(1), without prior notice and an opportunity 
for public comment, as such procedures would be contrary to the public 
interest. The public does not require additional time to conform its 
conduct, as the changes in this final rule do not add any new 
requirements, and the elimination of the provisions in this final rule 
provides a modest benefit to impacted parties by making permanent the 
use of alternative signature methods in certain payments by credit 
card.
    Furthermore, the Office finds good cause to waive the 30-day 
delayed effectiveness period for this final rule, as provided by 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(3), because such delay would be contrary to the public 
interest, as this final rule provides a modest benefit to impacted 
parties by making permanent the use of

[[Page 35228]]

alternative signature methods in certain payments by credit card.
    B. Regulatory Flexibility Act: For the reasons set forth herein, 
the Senior Counsel for Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Office of 
General Law, of the USPTO has certified to the Chief Counsel for 
Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that changes in this 
final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. See 5 U.S.C. 605(b).
    This final rule removes 37 CFR 1.4(e), which required original 
handwritten signatures in dark ink on correspondence relating to 
registration to practice before the Office and other matters in the 
purview of the OED, and in payments by credit card where the payment is 
not being made via the Office's electronic filing systems. Elimination 
of this section allows for the use of facsimile transmissions and S-
signatures in enrollment and disciplinary matters before the OED and in 
the payment of fees by credit card, thereby providing a modest benefit 
to impacted parties. As a conforming change, this final rule also 
removes Sec.  1.6(d)(1) to eliminate an obsolete cross reference to 
Sec.  1.4(e). For these reasons, this rulemaking will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    C. Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review): This 
rulemaking has been determined to be not significant for purposes of 
Executive Order 12866.
    D. Executive Order 13563 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory 
Review): The Office has complied with Executive Order 13563. 
Specifically, the Office has, to the extent feasible and applicable: 
(1) Made a reasoned determination that the benefits justify the costs 
of the rule; (2) tailored the rule to impose the least burden on 
society consistent with obtaining the regulatory objectives; (3) 
selected a regulatory approach that maximizes net benefits; (4) 
specified performance objectives; (5) identified and assessed available 
alternatives; (6) involved the public in an open exchange of 
information and perspectives among experts in relevant disciplines, 
affected stakeholders in the private sector, and the public as a whole, 
and provided online access to the rulemaking docket; (7) attempted to 
promote coordination, simplification, and harmonization across 
government agencies and identified goals designed to promote 
innovation; (8) considered approaches that reduce burdens and maintain 
flexibility and freedom of choice for the public; and (9) ensured the 
objectivity of scientific and technological information and processes.
    E. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism): This rulemaking does not 
contain policies with federalism implications sufficient to warrant 
preparation of a Federalism Assessment under Executive Order 13132 
(Aug. 4, 1999).
    F. Executive Order 13175 (Tribal Consultation): This rulemaking 
will not: (1) Have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian 
tribes, (2) impose substantial direct compliance costs on Indian tribal 
governments, or (3) preempt tribal law. Therefore, a tribal summary 
impact statement is not required under Executive Order 13175 (Nov. 6, 
2000).
    G. Executive Order 13211 (Energy Effects): This rulemaking is not a 
significant energy action under Executive Order 13211 because this 
rulemaking is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the 
supply, distribution, or use of energy. Therefore, a Statement of 
Energy Effects is not required under Executive Order 13211 (May 18, 
2001).
    H. Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform): This rulemaking 
meets applicable standards to minimize litigation, eliminate ambiguity, 
and reduce burden, as set forth in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of 
Executive Order 12988 (Feb. 5, 1996).
    I. Executive Order 13045 (Protection of Children): This rulemaking 
does not concern an environmental risk to health or safety that may 
disproportionately affect children under Executive Order 13045 (Apr. 
21, 1997).
    J. Executive Order 12630 (Taking of Private Property): This 
rulemaking will not effect a taking of private property or otherwise 
have taking implications under Executive Order 12630 (Mar. 15, 1988).
    K. Congressional Review Act: Under the Congressional Review Act 
provisions of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 
1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), prior to issuing any final rule, the USPTO 
will submit a report containing the final rule and other required 
information to the United States Senate, the United States House of 
Representatives, and the Comptroller General of the Government 
Accountability Office. The changes in this rulemaking are not expected 
to result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a 
major increase in costs or prices; or significant adverse effects on 
competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the 
ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-
based enterprises in domestic and export markets. Therefore, this 
rulemaking is not expected to result in a ``major rule,'' as defined in 
5 U.S.C. 804(2).
    L. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995: The changes set forth in 
this rulemaking do not involve a Federal intergovernmental mandate that 
will result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, 
in the aggregate, of $100 million (as adjusted) or more in any one 
year, or a Federal private sector mandate that will result in the 
expenditure by the private sector of $100 million (as adjusted) or more 
in any one year, and will not significantly or uniquely affect small 
governments. Therefore, no actions are necessary under the provisions 
of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995. See 2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.
    M. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969: This rulemaking will 
not have any effect on the quality of the environment and is thus 
categorically excluded from review under the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969. See 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.
    N. National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995: The 
requirements of section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and 
Advancement Act of 1995 (15 U.S.C. 272 note) are not applicable because 
this rulemaking does not contain provisions that involve the use of 
technical standards.
    O. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995: The Paperwork Reduction Act of 
1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) requires that the Office consider the 
impact of paperwork and other information collection burdens imposed on 
the public. This rulemaking involves information collections that are 
subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under 
the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3549). Removal of 
the requirement for original handwritten signatures in dark ink does 
not impact the current OMB approval of OMB control numbers 0651-0012, 
0651-0017, and 0651-0043.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required 
to respond to, nor shall a person be subject to a penalty for failure 
to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements 
of the Paperwork Reduction Act unless that collection of information 
has a currently valid OMB control number.
    P. E-Government Act Compliance: The USPTO is committed to 
compliance with the E-Government Act to promote the use of the internet 
and other information technologies, to provide increased opportunities 
for citizen

[[Page 35229]]

access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.

List of Subjects in 37 CFR Part 1

    Administrative practice and procedure, Biologics, Courts, Freedom 
of information, Inventions and patents, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Small businesses.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, the USPTO amends chapter 1 
of title 37 as follows:

PART 1--RULES OF PRACTICE IN PATENT CASES

0
1. The authority citation for part 1 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 35 U.S.C. 2(b)(2), unless otherwise noted.


Sec.  1.4   [Amended]

0
2. Section 1.4 is amended by removing and reserving paragraph (e).


Sec.  1.6   [Amended]

0
3. Section 1.6 is amended by removing and reserving paragraph (d)(1).

Andrew Hirshfeld,
Commissioner for Patents, Performing the Functions and Duties of the 
Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of 
the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
[FR Doc. 2021-14036 Filed 7-1-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-16-P