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Patent Performance for the year 2004

 

T he principal function of the Patent organization is the examination of an inventor's application for a patent. Patent examiners make a determination, as defined in the Patent statutes, of the patentability of the claimed subject matter in a patent application by comparing the claimed subject matter to a large body of technological information to determine whether the claimed invention is new, useful, and non-obvious to someone knowledgeable in that subject matter. In addition to the examination and the preparation of correspondence during the examination of the application, examiners are also responsible for preparing examiner's answers on applications appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI), preparing interference proceedings to determine priority of invention, and preparing Search Reports and International Preliminary Examination Reports in PCT applications.

At the front end of the examination process, in fiscal year 2004, the Patent organization received 353,342  1 Utility, Plant, and Reissue (UPR) patent applications, 23,468  1 Design applications, as well as 45,396  1 PCT applications. This represents a 6 percent increase over fiscal year 2003 UPR filings; a 6.8 percent increase over fiscal year 2003 design applications; and a 5.6 percent increase over fiscal year 2003 PCT applications. The Office of Initial Patent Examination performs an initial administrative review of the newly filed applications. Additionally, 102,278  1 provisional applications were received.  1  

At the back end of the process, 170,637 UPR and 16,533 PCT patents were granted in fiscal year 2004, and 248,561 pending applications were published, as provided for in the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999. The Office of Patent Publications performs post-examination processing of allowed applications and disseminates published applications and issued patents to the public.  1  

Additional offices within the Patent organization perform various activities to support the patent process. The Office of Patent Quality Assurance performs a quality review function, comprising reviews of a random sample of both in-process and allowed applications. The Office of Patent Training coordinates the development of curriculums and deployment of training throughout the Patent organization. PCT Operations and the PCT Legal Administration Office administer the processing of international patent applications. The Search and Information Resources Administration supports examination processes by managing all Patent IT activities, implementing and maintaining classification schemes for organizing and retrieving information contained in patents and other documents in the search files, and acquiring, maintaining, and providing access to scientific and technical literature.

In fiscal year 2004, the Patent organization achieved its e-Government 21st Century Strategic Plan objectives and made significant strides in addressing its quality initiatives. All patent examiners, technical support staff, and others throughout the Patent organization are working from an image-based system.

Quality is the most important component of the 21st Century Strategic Plan and the Patent organization has implemented several quality initiatives, including an enhanced Quality Assurance Program that includes end product reviews, in-process reviews, and enhanced “second pair of eyes” reviews. The feedback from these reviews is used to identify and develop training and other quality enhancements. Additionally, to ensure that our primary patent examiners maintain the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) necessary to perform a high quality examination, the USPTO implemented a recertification program requiring that primary examiners be recertified once every three years. A certification testing program was also implemented for junior examiners to ensure that they have the required KSAs prior to promotion to the level where they are given legal and negotiation authority. First-line supervisors were trained to increase the effectiveness of work product reviews and coaching skills. Additionally, the Patent organization established a quality review process for review of the work of the technical support staff.

Photo showing Under Secretary Dudas demonstrateing the Public PAIR system at a ceremony celebrating IFW, and access to IFW through public PAIR.

Under Secretary Dudas demonstrates the Public PAIR system at a ceremony celebrating IFW, and access to IFW through public PAIR.

The USPTO successfully completed deployment of the patent IFW system in August, 2004, whereby 88 percent of patent applications are electronically processed, exceeding the fiscal year 2004 goal to electronically manage 70 percent of patent applications undergoing examination. All incoming and outgoing paper documents are captured electronically in the system and the last remaining pending paper applications will be scanned into the system by the end of the first quarter of fiscal year 2005, with the electronic version of an application now considered the official file. In addition to IFW, the Patent organization no longer mails paper U.S. references to applicants, instead making the information available to applicants via the Internet. Additionally, for the first time, anyone with Internet access anywhere in the world can now use USPTO's website ( www.uspto.gov ) to track the status of a public patent application as it moves from pre-grant publication to final disposition and to review documents in the official application file, including all decisions made by patent examiners and their reasons for making them. The system, known as PAIR, offers the public an advanced electronic portal for PDF viewing, downloading and printing an array of information and documents for patent applications not covered by confidentiality laws. Public PAIR also offers a quick-click feature for ordering certified copies of patent applications and application files.

In furtherance of our goal to increase the number of applications filed electronically, in fiscal year 2004 the Patent organization conducted the first e-Filing forum. This event established a user's group of customers who will provide input on how our e-Filing system can better meet their needs.

With the implementation of the 21st Century Strategic Plan , the USPTO will reduce patent pendency and substantially cut the size of our work backlog. Ultimately, this will be accomplished through a radical redesign of the entire patent search and examination system based upon multi-examination tracks, competitively sourcing the search function, hiring sufficient numbers of new patent examiners, and variable, incentive-driven fees. In fiscal year 2004, we hired 443 new UPR examiners and 15 design patent examiners for a net increase of 118 in the size of the examining corps.

Specific performance results related to the Patent organization goals and measures are as follows:

PERFORMANCE GOAL: Improve the quality of patent products and services and optimize patent processing time

Under the 21st Century Strategic Plan , the Patent organization will improve the quality of our products and services using in-depth reviews of work in progress and enhanced end-process reviews to provide feedback to examiners on areas for improvement, targeted training, and safeguards to ensure competencies. The following performance measure has been established to reflect the USPTO's success and progress in meeting the Strategic Plan goal supporting the quality theme.

MEASURE: Patent Allowance Error Rate

QUALITY OF PATENTS
  Graph summarizing the Patent Error Rates for the last four fiscal years.D

DATA VALIDATION AND VERIFICATION

Data source: Office of Patent Quality Review Report.

Frequency: Daily input, monthly reporting.

Data storage: Automated systems, reports.

Verification: Manual reports and analysis.

Data Limitations: None.

Target and Actual Error Rates for Patents Issued
for the Last 4 Fiscal Years
  FY 2001 FY 2002 FY 2003 FY 2004
Target 5.5% 5.0% 4.0% 4.0%
Actual 5.4% 4.2% 4.4% 5.3% not met

  Discussion: Target not met. While the USPTO fell short of its FY 2004 quality target, much of this is due to the intense focus on quality and the significant implementation of all the quality initiatives. The implemented quality initiatives are expected to produce long-term quality improvements as the knowledge, skills, and abilities of our employees are upgraded, helping us to achieve our quality goal.

In support of the 21st Century Strategic Plan , the USPTO will reduce patent pendency and substantially cut the size of the work backlog. The two primary measures of Patent organization processing time are: (1) first action pendency, which measures the average time in months from filing until an examiner's initial determination is made of the patentability of an invention; and (2) total pendency, which measures the average time in months from filing until the application issues as a patent or the application is abandoned by the applicant.

Photo showing USPTO experts reviewing and responding to questions during an Inventors Online discussion.

USPTO experts review and respond to questions during an Inventors Online discussion.

 

MEASURE: Reduce average first action pendency (months)

FIRST ACTION PENDENCY
 Graph summarizing the first action pendency for patents issued for the last four fiscal years. D

DATA VALIDATION AND VERIFICATION

Data source: PALM system.

Frequency: Daily input, monthly reporting.

Data storage: PALM, automated systems, reports.

Verification: Accuracy of supporting data is controlled through internal program edits in the PALM system. Final test for reasonableness is performed internally by patent examiners, supervisors, and program management analysts.

Data Limitations: None.

Target and Actual Patent First Action Pendency
for the Last 4 Fiscal Years
  FY 2001 FY 2002 FY 2003 FY 2004
Target 13.9 14.7 18.4 20.2
Actual 14.4 16.7 18.3 20.2 met

  Discussion: Target met. The initiatives identified in the USPTO 21st Century Strategic Plan will continue to reduce patent pendency, substantially cut the size of the work backlog, and recover our investments in people, processes, and technology.

 

MEASURE: Reduce average total pendency (months)

TOTAL PATENT PENDENCY
  Graph summarizing the total pendency for patents issued for the last four fiscal years.D

DATA VALIDATION AND VERIFICATION

Data source: PALM system.

Frequency: Daily input, monthly reporting.

Data storage: PALM, automated systems, reports.

Verification: Accuracy of supporting data is controlled through internal program edits in the PALM system. Final test for reasonableness is performed internally by patent examiners, supervisors, and program management analysts.

Data Limitations: None.

Target and Actual Total Patent Pendency
for the Last 4 Fiscal Years
  FY 2001 FY 2002 FY 2003 FY 2004
Target 26.2 26.5 27.7 29.8
Actual 24.7 24.0 26.7 27.6 met

  Discussion: Target met. The initiatives identified in the USPTO 21st Century Strategic Plan will, over several years, reduce total patent pendency.

 

MEASURE: Efficiency

EFFICIENCY
 Graph summarizing the efficiency rates for patents issued for the last four fiscal years. D

DATA VALIDATION AND VERIFICATION

Data Source: PALM system.

Frequency: Daily input, quarterly reporting.

Data storage: PALM, Data Warehouse, Metify Activity Based Management (ABM).

Verification: Accuracy of supporting data is controlled through internal program edits in PALM, Momentum, Metify ABM. Quality control review of data by Activity Based Cost Accounting (ABC) team and program business teams.

Data Limitations: None.

Target and Actual Efficiency Rates for Patents Issued
for the Last 4 Fiscal Years
  FY 2001 FY 2002 FY 2003 FY 2004
Target - - $3,444 $3,502
Actual $3,210 $3,376 $3,329 $3,556 see discussion

  Discussion: This measure is a relative indicator of the efficiency of the patent process, which indicates the degree to which the program can operate within plan costs relative to examiner outputs. Actual costs on a unit basis were more than plan because, although production unit output was 3.5% greater than plan, the high production was offset by even higher costs. The measure is calculated by dividing total annual USPTO expenses associated with the examination and processing of patents, including associated overhead and support expenses, by annual production units. The target is calculated by dividing the enacted budget by the planned number of production units. Total annual USPTO expenses display full program costs that include the cost to the Federal government of providing pension and post-retirement health and life insurance benefits to eligible USPTO employees. These costs are not included in the enacted budget that was used to develop the efficiency measure target. If actual expenses were reduced by these benefit costs, the actual patent efficiency measure would be $3,440, clearly within target.

 


Footnotes:

 1. All data reported in these paragraphs are preliminary.  (back to text) 

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Last Modified: 10/4/2009 6:56:19 PM