Update: it seems my email to the USPTO's webmaster already had the erroneous newlines removed from (some?) of the pages I tested earlier! That kind of obsoletes this answer -- let's see if it's indeed true, or just a coincidence.
The TIFF images are included in the web pages using something like†:
&ImgFormat=tif" width="570" height="840" type=image/tiff></embed>
This often/sometimes has a newline within the URL (and the
type attribute is badly quoted as well). For Safari on a Mac, it is sufficient to get rid of that erroneous newline. Here's a bookmarklet to do just that (easily bookmark it from here):
† Note that the URLs are not valid forever; when expired you might get another TIFF image telling you something like "Search Time Limit Has Expired. Please click on the Full Text button to return to the full text page." I've also seen images for which the server did not return a value for
Content-Length, but I fail to find such images now. Maybe one out of multiple servers is behaving odd?
As an aside, at "Patent Full-Page Images" USPTO explains why TIFF is used:
PTO's full-page images [..] are stored and delivered at full 300 dots per inch (d.p.i.) resolution in an image file format called "TIFF," using CCITT Group 4 compression. This is the format which is required by the international standards to which all patent offices must conform. [..] Unfortunately, due to the volume of the image data, available funding, and other technical considerations, PTO cannot convert these images to a format more popular on the Web either permanently or by converting on-the-fly as they are delivered.
As a result, you must install and use a browser plug-in [..] in order to view these files directly. An alternative method is to use third-party software or services to view these images either directly or after conversion to another format, such as Adobe® PDF.
The plug-in you use cannot be just any TIFF image plug-in. It must be able to specifically display TIFF files using ITU T.6 or CCITT Group 4 (G4) compression.
So, one must use a plug-in. Or must one?
While USPTO may not be able to convert on the fly, why shouldn't you do that? If one manages to find an online TIFF converter then the bookmarklet is easily changed to use that...