For years, the PTO's trademark side has had the technology to permit electronic filing and to generate electronic notices -- except for notices of publication. All sorts of notices emanate electronically from the trademark side, yet every notice of publication is mailed on a postcard bearing a postage stamp. At INTA in Chicago three years ago, I raised this issue with the attendant at the PTO's booth as I was being handed a cool PTO note pad. I was told that the PTO would look into forwarding notices of publication electronically.
I did not view this matter as being too technically difficult since the PTO places an electronic entry of the notice of publication on its electronic database, and since a copy of the electronic notice can be downloaded from the database. Three years later, the PTO has now developed a mechanism allowing electronic distribution in the first instance of notice of publication. But not just yet. These e-notices won't begin until October 6th. Further, they will be sent only to users who agree to receive e-mail notification from the PTO. Yes, progress!
The PTO's announcement explains that using the new e-notification system for notices of publication will save the PTO on postage. The postage for each postcard costs 28¢. If the production cost of a postcard is, say, 5¢, then the PTO saves 33¢ for each eliminated postcard notice of publication. If the PTO mails out, say, 500,000 postcards per year, it may save about $165,000 annually with e-notice. Over the three years since INTA was last held in Chicago, the lost savings on notices of publication amounts to almost $500,000.
Here's hoping that the PTO will find an appropriate use for this cost savings.