February 18, 2010
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Press Release, 10-08
Recently Announced Changes to USPTO’s Examiner Count System Go Into Effect
Agency Launches Dedicated Online “Feedback Channel” to Receive Stakeholder Comments on Count System Changes and other Major Agency Initiatives
Washington -- The significant changes to the examiner “count system” that were announced by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on September 30, 2009, took effect this week. The count system is the methodology for determining the amount of time in which a patent examiner is expected to complete a patent examination and the credit that is given for each stage of an examination. These changes, announced in conjunction with the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA), the union that represents patent examiners, place emphasis on complete and thorough initial examination, and are expected to decrease redundancy and encourage quicker resolution of issues in the patent application process. The new count system should result in earlier identification of patentable subject matter, which will benefit applicants while enabling the USPTO to function more efficiently. (See count system press release at http://www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2009/09-19.jsp.)
In order to gauge the impact and effectiveness of these changes, the USPTO has launched an online “Feedback Channel” (www.uspto.gov/blog/feedback) which will give the public an opportunity to provide input on the new count system directly to agency officials.
“We are confident the new count system will encourage quicker resolution of issues and lead to more efficient examination of patent applications,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “As we implement new programs and processes that should improve the quality of service we provide to our users, we think it’s essential that we receive feedback from our users and the public in order to assess the impacts of these changes,” Kappos added. “The Feedback Channel will offer a direct avenue for our stakeholders and the public to provide real-time input on each major initiative and how it is working.”
The Feedback Channel also enables the public to comment on two other recently launched initiatives. There is a dedicated channel for comments on the “Project Exchange” pilot program for small entity inventors. This pilot allows small entity inventors to accelerate one application in exchange for abandoning another application (http://www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2009/09_26.jsp). The third feedback channel is for comments on the “Green Tech” pilot program which allows applicants to accelerate applications in certain green technologies (http://www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2009/09-33.jsp). Information on additional USPTO programs will be posted for feedback on a regular basis.
The revised count system that is now in effect is designed to:
- Set the foundation for long-term pendency improvements.
- Increase customer satisfaction by incentivizing quality work at the beginning of the examination process.
- Encourage examiners to identify allowable subject matter earlier in the examination process.
- Rebalance incentives both internally and externally to decrease rework.
- Increase examiner morale and reduce attrition.
It addresses the following areas of change:
- Improved working conditions: The revised count system provides incentives to encourage examiners to do a high-quality first action, and shifts resources from a focus on examiner recertification to front-end quality improvements. This change in incentives will ultimately encourage examiners to dispose of applications more quickly.
- More time for examiners: The changes will give examiners more time overall, more time for a first action on the merits, and time for examiner-initiated interviews, while decreasing credits on requests for continued examination (RCEs) and providing consistent credits for transferred or inherited amendments.
- Process changes: These changes will increase work credit certainty for examiners, increase fairness to applicants, and balance the load on IT systems.
In addition to the Feedback Channel, the public may provide comments on agency initiatives via the USPTO Director’s Forum blog (www.uspto.gov/blog).