Electronic Signatures

These days it seems like no one has a working printer, a scanner, or a fax machine.  This is a problem when your client must sign a document to be submitted to the US Patent Office.  The rules of the Patent Office allow for electronic signature, but the format and the way it can be used differ markedly from “e-signatures” for other legal documents.

Examples of proper s-signatures (what the Patent Office calls an e-signature) are here.

Of interest to us is that script fonts may be used in an s-signature (shown in Example 4 here).  Correspondence submitted via EFS (the USPTOs electronic filing system) may signed by a graphic representation of an S-signature (37 CFR § 1.4(d)(3)).

Of note is that script fonts are not permitted for any portion of a document except the S-signature. See 37 CFR 1.52(b)(2)(ii). Presentation of a typed name in a script font without the typed name being placed between the required slashes. however, does not present the proper indicia manifesting an intent to sign and will be treated as an unsigned document.  MPEP 502.02(II), paragraph 4.  The Rules require that the signer’s name be presented in printed or typed form preferably immediately below or adjacent the S-signature, and reasonably specific enough so that the identity of the signer can be readily recognized. 37 CFR § 1.4(d)(2)(iii).

What this all means is that the following would be proper s-signatures for client John Doe:

(a)/John Doe/ John Doe

(b)/John Doe/ 

John Doe

In other words, while the slashes and the part between can be in script font, the adjacent confirmatory portion must be in a non-script font. Of particular importance for practioners, however, the MPEP provides that the "printed or typed name may be inserted before or after the S-signature is applied, and it does not have to be inserted by the S-signer.”  Also, as explained here, the slashes may be inserted by the practitioner into the document BEFORE (not after) the document is signed.  This enables the practioner to create a workflow using a document signing service.

Signing Services

Currently, there are a multiplicity of signing services, and the overall landscape of the field is described at the Wikipedia entry here.  All seem to offer a similar service, differing in cost and interface.  They all, however, require a user to first adopt a signature, in script or a type font, which the user types in.  A graphic representation of that entry is then saved and by simple confirmatory click (on a smartphone, tablet, or computer) it is inserted into the document at pre-designated places.

These services can be integrated into an s-signature workflow as follows.  The practioner can prepare the document with a space left for insertion of the s-signature surrounded by slashes, with pre-placement of the electronic signature to be between the slashes.

Practioner Beware

While the MPEP permits the practioner to prepare the form by typing in the confirmation name, the practrioner must NEVER try to fix a client’s S-signature by insertion of slashes after the fact. 


The file that a signing service creates can be used as an s-signature for an EFS submission.  The file is a graphic representation of a signature that is permitted to be used with EFS by Rule 1.4(d)(3).  The S-signature must be surrounded by slashes, which may be inserted into the form by the practitioner before signing.

Also, there must be a confirmation typed form of the name adjacent to or beneath the S-signature.  The practitioner may insert that.

`© Robert Rose 2015