The USPTO has adopted PDF as the default format for displaying patent documents from its databases, making it one of the last (if not last) of the major patent offices to switch to the world's most popular document image format. Since 1998, viewing US patent documents obtained from the USPTO website required the use of a TIFF plugin such as alternaTIFF or interneTIFF.
The USPTO reached another milestone on August 6, issuing patent no. 8,500,000 B2 to Elmer Berendas of Germany for a "Device for locking and unlocking the jalousie (rolling shutter) of a container."According to the patent, this type of container is commonly used in ATMs.
So far this year the USPTO has issued 173,546 utility patents, putting on track to issue more than 260,000 this year. At that rate the next milestone, patent no. 9,000,000, could be reached by early 2015.
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.