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Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership

Thursday Jun 12, 2014

USPTO to Launch a Glossary Pilot Program that Will Support a Better Patent System

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

When President Obama last year announced a handful of executive actions to build a better patent system, one of those actions focused on improving clarity in patent claims. The president recognized that patents with clearly defined boundaries help others avoid costly and needless litigation down the road. I’m excited to share with you some details on our Glossary Pilot Program. I hope many will take advantage of this opportunity to work with the office and assess the impact of glossaries on patent clarity.

First, the basics. On March 27, we published a Federal Register Notice announcing the Glossary Pilot Program. It started on June 2, 2014, and will run for six months or until 200 petitions are granted. The pilot program is designed to be flexible and accommodating to all application drafting styles, with a goal of determining if including a glossary aids in patent prosecution, and results in greater claim clarity.

To participate in the pilot program, a patent applicant must include a glossary in a designated portion of the patent disclosure that provides clear definitions for some terms used in the claims. The glossary should assist a reader in understanding the invention disclosed. Our team examining the use of glossaries found that some applicants already use them in patent applications. Therefore, the pilot program was created to promote the use of glossaries in software related technology applications to evaluate the impact definitions in the glossary section have on enhancing patent quality and improving the clarity of patent claims.

After a review of internal and external stakeholder input, the glossary pilot was designed to be flexible with regards to the types of definitions provided, so that we can see what applicants submit, and evaluate the different styles of glossaries submitted for the pilot program.

So who needs to pay attention to this? Clearly for patent applicants, owners, and practitioners, the submission of a glossary may help to provide clarity as to the claimed invention, improve prosecution, and provide a clearer issued patent. For inventors, having a better idea of what is already patented will help them to innovate, and for users of technology, clearer patents can help avoid needless litigation. Finally, for our patent examiners, providing definitions of key terminology should assist them in the examination process.

I’m looking forward to your participation in this pilot program to help evaluate the impact that a glossary has on the overall quality of patents.

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