There are still a few months to fix this, but for now the US Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Acting Commissioner for Patents, Andrew Faile, and Chief Information Officer, Jamie Holcombe, have announced that starting January 1st, 2022, the USPTO will institute a surcharge for applicants that are not locked into Microsoft products [uspto.gov] via the propritary DOCX format. From that date onwards, the USPTO will move away from PDF and require all filers to use that proprietary format or face an arbitrary surcharge when filing.
First, we delayed the effective date for the non-DOCX surcharge fee to January 1, 2022, to provide more time for applicants to transition to this new process, and for the USPTO to continue our outreach efforts and address customer concerns. We’ve also made office actions available in DOCX and XML formats and further enhanced DOCX features, including accepting DOCX for drawings in addition to the specification, claims, and abstract for certain applications.
One out of several major problems with the plans is that DOCX is a proprietary format. There are several variants of DOCX [joelonsoftware.com] and each of them are really only supported by a single company's products. Some other products have had progress in beginning to reverse engineering it, but are hindered by the lack of documentation. DOCX is a competitor to the fully-documented, open standard OpenDocument Format [dwheeler.com], also known as ISO/IEC 26300 [consortiuminfo.org].
DOCX is not to be confused with OOXML [groklaw.net], though it often is. While OOXML [groklaw.net], also known as ISO/IEC 29500 [groklaw.net], is technically standardized it is incompletely documented and only vaguely related to DOCX. The DOCX format itself is neither fully documented nor standard. So the USPTO [techrights.org] is also engaged in spreading disinformation by asserting that it is.
(2015) Microsoft Threatened the UK Over Open Standards [soylentnews.org]