Office of Patent Examination Policy
Office of Petitions
The Office of Petitions, under the authority of the Associate Commissioner of Patent Examination Policy (ACPEP), reviews and decides petitions, requests, and related inquiries, regarding the filing of patent applications, revival of abandoned applications, reinstatement of expired patents, withdrawal of patent applications from issue, small entity entitlement, review of previous decisions of the Technology Centers, suspension of regulations, and questions not specifically provided for by regulations.
Office of Patent Legal Administration
The mission of the Office of Patent Legal Administration (OPLA) is to assist in the development and administration of U.S. patent law, advise the USPTO on patent examination policy and formulate new regulations, policies, and procedures regarding patents.
The OPLA has the following responsibilities:
- Provides legal and policy guidance to the Commissioner for Patents, the Deputy Commissioner for Patents, the Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, and the Associated Commissioner for Resources and Planning.
- Assists in the development and implementation of patent law, provides means for its implementation, and formulates the accompanying regulations and practices.
- Monitors specialized programs such as reexamination, reissue and patent term extension; and assists in the efforts to negotiate the harmonization of patent laws and other international matters.
- Provides MPEP staff with suggested changes to the MPEP as a result of changes to the patent rules.
- Is also responsible for updating a majority of forms used by the patent examining corps and USPTO customers to reflect changes made to the patent rules and through policy initiatives.
- Legal advisors and special projects examiner provide staff assistance on special projects or studies as may be assigned by the Director of the OPLA, the Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy or the Commissioner for Patents. They also prepare reports or other documents as may be appropriate including studies and papers comparing US patent law and practices with the patent laws of other countries.
- Staff research case law, appropriate rules, facts-in-evidence, and other pertinent information; discuss policy implications with top USPTO management officials; compose USPTO decisions and either sign the decisions or have the final USPTO decision signed by the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy or other top US Patent and Trademark Office management officials.
- Staff represent the USPTO and explain US patent law and Office policies and procedures in letters, phone calls, lectures and other contacts with members of the public and the patent bar.
- Staff decide various petitions and assist the Office of Petitions in deciding petitions, which have been delegated to that office for consideration.
Office of Patent Cooperation Treaty Legal Administration
The Office of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Legal Administration provides legal and policy guidance on issues under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), including PCT rulemaking, international search and examination guidelines, petitions and training; provides education programs for users of PCT; and provides administrative oversight and coordinates the activities of the following functions: Patent Cooperation Treaty Legal Affairs, (PCTLA) which reviews and decides petitions relating to the PCT, assists with PCT Rules modifications, the legal standards for application format and electronic filing of international applications; Patent Cooperation Treaty Special Programs (PCTSP), which provides on all aspects of the PCT process; prepares training materials for PCT training classes for Patent Examining Corps professional and technical support staff, patent attorneys and agents, legal administrators, legal secretaries, and other members of the patent community; and provides current up-to-date PCT forms through the PCT Help Desk and through the PCT Home Page found on the United States Patent and Trademark Internet site; and the Inventors Assistance Center (IAC), which provides information and services to the public concerning any general questions regarding patenting examining policies and procedures, as well as other services provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and directs callers to the appropriate contact source; and mails or faxes information to customers as needed.
The Office of PCT Legal Administration is comprised of two branches:
PCT Special Programs
The function of the PCT Special Programs Branch is to educate and assist the patent community with respect to the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
This branch is responsible for:
- Providing training courses to help patent applicants and practitioners file PCT applications
- Providing instruction to patent examiners at the USPTO concerning the search and examination of PCT applications.
- Providing direct assistance regarding PCT applications via the PCT Help Desk
PCT Legal Affairs
The PCT Legal Affairs Branch resolves legal issues relating to the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Such issues most often arise through petitions to the Commissioner in PCT international applications and in U.S. national stage applications submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371. This branch interprets and/or suggests changes to patent laws and rules and studies their effect on the Patent Cooperation Treaty and deals with other aspects of international patent law such as harmonization, the Patent Law Treaty, and electronic filing.
Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) Staff
The MPEP staff organization works directly for the Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy and provides staff assistance in developing and formulating new guidelines, examining practices and procedures as well as revising existing guidelines, practices and procedures. The MPEP staff is responsible for updating the MPEP and the form paragraphs used by the examining corps. The MPEP staff is also responsible for ensuring that revised policies and procedures are appropriately disseminated to Office personnel through revisions to the MPEP, Federal Register or Official Gazette notices, or other official announcements. The MPEP staff also handles inquiries from Office personnel and the public requesting assistance in properly interpreting existing practices and procedures.
Office of Patent Quality Assurance
The Office of Patent Quality Assurance (OPQA), under the authority of the Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, reviews a random sample of patent examiners' work product to provide timely, reliable and meaningful indicators of examination quality. In addition, OPQA develops data-driven improvement strategies and assists the Patents business unit in the training of examiners and the implementation of quality initiatives.