Berkeley, Calif. - Efficient and effective patent examination is critical to American competitiveness and innovation, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Jon Dudas today told an audience of California patent attorneys, patent agents, independent inventors and members of the small business community. The Under Secretary stressed that the USPTO is seeking the public's input on ways in which it can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the patent examination process.
"The USPTO clearly has a responsibility to do everything it can to improve America's patent system. That is why we are undertaking this collaborative approach-putting forth quality and efficiency proposals for the patent community to give us feedback," said Dudas. "Applicants and the public deserve certainty. This focus on quality of applications and closure of the examination process will provide more certainty. Everyone agrees that better quality input will result in a better quality end product."
The USPTO has published for comment proposed initiatives to prioritize the claims reviewed during the examination process and to better focus the agency's examination of patent applications, by requiring applicants to identify the most important claims to the invention.
The recognized value of patents to innovation has led to enormous increases in the number of patent applications filed each year. Significant delay in granting a patent can slow new products coming to market. Under Secretary Dudas noted that simply hiring more patent examiners will not slow the growth in the time it takes to review a patent or improve the quality of examination. Expediting the process will occur only with the participation of applicants.
In FY 2004, almost one-third of the 355,000 new patent applications had already been reviewed and rejected by the USPTO, but applicants resubmitted them mostly with only minor changes. Also, over 40 percent of new applications in FY 2004 had more than 20 claims.
In the past two years, the USPTO has instituted a number of measures to improve patent quality and also has implemented new metrics to measure the results. Results indicate that quality is improving. The percentage of patent examiners certified for promotion to full performance level increased from 59 percent in FY 2004 to 70 percent in FY 2005. The number of office actions complying with applicable laws and rules during examination improved to 86.2 percent from 82 percent the previous year. The compliance rate for final allowances improved from 94.8 percent to 96 percent from FY 2004 to FY 2005.
The proposed new rules can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/71fr48.pdf and http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/71fr61.pdf.
Additional town hall meetings are being planned for Texas and Washington, D.C.