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The Nature of the Training Provided to USPTO Examiners

Examiner training is a key driver for achieving organizational excellence. Examiner training is focused on delivering high quality work products and providing customer service excellence. Patent examiners and Trademark examining attorneys received extensive legal, technical, and automation training in FY 2010. The USPTO has comprehensive training programs for new patent examiners and trademark examining attorneys, embedding a well-established curriculum including initial legal training, automation training, and training in examination practice and procedure. Automation training is provided to all examiners as new systems are deployed and existing systems are enhanced. New technology-specific legal and technical training was conducted throughout the examining operations. This specific training either focuses on practices particular to a technology or was developed to address training needs identified through patent and trademark examination reviews or staff requests.

The USPTO training staff works with the Patent and Trademark organizations to address specific training concerns and serve as consultants to design specific internal programs to fit the education needs of each business unit. Training is reviewed and evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure it is up-to-date and that coursework reflects developments and changes that have taken place in the industry.

In FY 2010, the Office of Patent Training (OPT) was awarded the DOC Silver Medal for the ISO 9001:2008 Certification of the new examiner training program in 2009. The OPT implemented two new examiner training programs: 20 day training program for new examiners with prior IP experience and a redesigned eight-month new examiner program into a two-phased 12-month program. OPT also developed a Refresher Training Program and delivered legal and procedural refresher training to experienced patent examiners.

The IP Experienced Examiner Training program is a 20-day program for new examiners with at least one year of IP experience. Training consists of high level legal training, with emphasis on procedural and automation training. Each class can accommodate up to 128 examiners that are placed in labs of 16 for small group discussions and tailored training in their specific fields of study.

A two-phased 12 month New Examiner Training Program is for new examiners with no prior IP experience. The first phase includes four months of training at the Patent Training Academy (PTA) before transitioned to the TCs. Phase 2 includes months five-12 when they return to the PTA each month to complete the first year training. Each Academy class can accommodate up to 144 examiners that are placed in labs of 16 for large group lectures and small group workshops. Examiners have access to tutors, library and search assistance, and automation guidance. In addition to extensive lecture and lab training, attendees spend considerable time learning their jobs through the examination of real patent applications in a setting that provides immediate assistance when needed. The training is structured to provide new examiners with advanced entry-level competencies, as well as providing instruction in a variety of skills that will produce well-rounded, motivated employees.

PATENT EXAMINER TRAINING
U.S. Patent Training AcademyMandatory training for first year examiners

Training in the Academy

Two training programs: Intellectual Property (IP) Experienced Examiner Training and a two-phase 12-month program.

  • Intellectual Property (IP) Experienced Examiner Training Curriculum
    This training includes enhanced instruction in automation, including classes in more than a dozen specialized applications used in patent examination, multiple search systems, databases, and commonly used office applications, areas such as: Classification Systems, Searching (classification, text), Claim Interpretation, Advanced Text Searching, training on TC Specific tools such as STN and Dialog, Writing an Effective Examiner’s Answer, Appeal Procedure and Practice (Appeal Conference & Pre-Conference; Prevent Administrative Remand).
  • Two-Phased 12 Month New Examiner Training Curriculum
    The legal and procedural training includes enhanced instruction in areas such as: Classification Systems, Searching (classification, text), Claim Interpretation, and Advanced Text Searching, Writing an Effective Examiner’s Answer, Appeal Procedure and Practice (Appeal Conference & Pre-Conference; Prevent Administrative Remand).

    Technical training includes: Introduction to examining applications in specific areas of technology, the current state of specific technologies, ongoing technology topics, etc.

    Automation training includes classes in more than a dozen specialized applications used in patent examination, multiple search systems, databases, and commonly used office applications.

    Life skills training includes: time management, physical security, ethics, stress management, balancing quality and production, professionalism, balancing work and personal life, diversity training, dealing with conflict and difficult situations, and benefits and financial planning basics.

Individual Development Plan

Examiners in both the IP Experienced and two-phased 12-month training programs have an Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP is composed of formal training courses, development assignments, and on-the-job training. The IDP is designed to assist the examiner from day one, through the first 24 months of employment. When the examiner transitions to the Technology Center from the program and graduates from the Academy the IDP will continue to enable the examiner to acquire the competencies essential to perform assigned duties and to prepare for further development.

Programs for all Examiners

Legal, Practice & Procedure Training

  • Examiner Refresher Training
    Courses developed to enhance examiners’ knowledge and skills in procedural and legal topics pertaining to patent examination. Participants may enroll in one or more courses in consultation with their supervisor.
  • Legal Lecture Series
    Training offered periodically to Examiners based on major court decisions and office policies
  • In-House Patent Law and Evidence Course
    Training for Examiners on authoritative court decisions on statutory issues under 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103 and 112 and the handling of evidence during the examination of applications.

Continuing Education Series

Training for Patent examiners to enhance their technical and legal knowledge in the examination of patent applications.

Courses Offered:

  • Non-Duty Hours Legal Studies Program (Budget Dependent)1
  • Non-Duty Hours Technical Training Program (Budget Dependent)1
  • Examiner Education Program (Budget Dependent)1
  • Technology Center Specific Technology Training (Budget Dependent)1
  • Updated Automation Tools Training (in coordination with SIRA)
1: These programs were suspended in FY 2010 due to budget constraints. (back to text)
TRADEMARK EXAMINING ATTORNEY TRAINING

In FY 2010 in the Trademark organization, using data gathered from the results of quality reviews that were analyzed, were used to prepare the content of on-line e-learning training materials for trademark examining attorneys. Live and Web cast Training Sessions and Modules were developed and released covering the following list of topics.

  • Examining Claims of Acquired Distinctiveness Under Section 2(f)
  • Examination Procedures for Section 2(a) Deceptiveness Refusals for Non-Geographic Marks
  • Examination of Trade Dress Issues
  • Unauthorized Practice in Trademark Cases
  • Discussion of Revisions in the TMEP
  • Industry training on trademark issues in the Ag-Chem industry sponsored by the International Trademark Association (INTA)
  • Industry training on trademark issues regarding Famous Marks sponsored by the INTA
  • Examiner-Led Mutilation of Mark Workshop

Law Office Presentations and Computer-Based Training Modules were developed and released covering the following list of topics.

  • Evidence for Refusals/Requirements - When Needed, Types Available, and Strategies for Gathering
  • Top Amendment Entry Issues in Trademark Examination
  • X-SEARCH - Truncation, Pattern Matching and Limiting by Class
  • Genericness issues
  • Resources Index/Annotated TMEP
  • Color Marks

Two Exam Guides and One Exam Note was published:

  • Examination Guide 1-10 – Marks with Designs Replacing Letters
  • Examination Guide 2-10 – Examination Procedures for Section 2(f) Claims in Part
  • Examination Note 4-10 – EA-PA Examiner’s Amendments and Priority Actions

Other Guidance covering the following topics was also published and released.

  • TMEP Sixth Edition, Revision 2
  • TMEP Sixth Edition – Answers to Follow-up Questions
  • Highlights for TMEP Sixth Edition
  • Rules of Practice & Federal Statutes
  • Summary of Requirements For Signature, Recognition Of Representatives And Changing The Correspondence Address In Trademark Cases
  • Series of Five Guides on Examination of Trade Dress Issues
United States Patent and Trademark Office
Last Modified: 01/14/2011 10:59:26