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Friday Apr 10, 2015

First Patent Quality Summit – a Productive Discussion with the Public

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

At the end of March, the USPTO engaged in a productive exchange of ideas with the public on patent quality. We held an unprecedented event, a Patent Quality Summit at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, on March 25-26, with more than 300 in person attendees and over 1,200 online participants over the two days. The summit was the kickoff event for our comprehensive Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, which focuses on improving patent operations and procedures to provide the best possible work products, to enhance the customer experience, and to improve existing quality metrics.

The Patent Quality Summit provided a forum for a robust discussion and exchange of ideas where the public, experts from the USPTO, industry, and academia examined ways to enhance patent quality, and also considered six specific proposals. In particular, we discussed whether applicants would use in-person interviews with examiners, and if so, what logistical arrangements would need to be made to enable those interviews given the agency’s telework program. We also considered what steps examiners and applicants could take to clarify the prosecution history record and how the agency might better achieve compact prosecution. Further, we explored whether the agency should conduct an automated pre-examination search for all applications and what tools might be available to do so. And we addressed how to best measure patent quality and whether applicants should be able to request a quality review of selected actions during prosecution.

If you read my opening remarks, you’ll learn that I’ve seen firsthand from the business side the importance that patents can play for certain businesses, especially as they look to enter markets that may be filled with established competitors. So our ability to issue patents promptly and accurately can be critically important for encouraging people to invest in these markets. I’ve also seen what happens because of a patent that should not have been issued or that was issued with a scope that is too broad or vague. Litigation based on these patents imposes a cost on business and society. That’s why the USPTO recognizes the extreme importance of issuing the best quality patents possible in a timely manner.

Thanks to all who participated in the summit, both in person and online. Your input is critical to us and we will carefully consider all the feedback we received. We want to continue hearing from you as well; whether you are a longtime patent owner, a Main Street retailer who has only recently begun to focus on patents; a patent prosecutor, patent litigator, patent applicant or patent licensee. With your help we are working to build a world-class patent quality system together.

If you were unable to participate in the summit, you can still provide your feedback on our patent quality initiative via email to on or before May 6, 2015. Our detailed summit agenda is available on the Patent Quality Summit page as well as notes from the sessions. The USPTO is planning additional events throughout the country in the upcoming year to gather more public feedback on our patent quality efforts, including a roadshow to several cities this summer. I hope we hear from you.


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