Patent Quality Assurance
Patent Quality Assurance is the assessment and measurement of patent examination quality at the USPTO. This is accomplished through work product reviews, perception-based surveys, and in developing and implementing data-driven quality improvement initiatives and training for the patent examining Corps. Timely, reliable, and meaningful indicators of patent examination quality are governed by an ISO 9001:2008-certified quality management system.
The Office of Patent Quality Assurance, within the Office of Patent Examination Policy, administers this program.
To learn more about the organization and operation of the Office of Patent Quality Assurance, please see the OPQA page.
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND UPCOMING EVENTS
There are currently no announcements or upcoming events regarding quality assurance.
RESOURCE INFORMATION AND REFERENCE MATERIALS
- Current Patent Examination Quality Metrics
- Adoption of Metrics for the Enhancement of Patent Quality - Fiscal Year 2011
Review Forms and Surveys
- OPQA Review Forms - Table Format
- External Quality Survey – Sample Questionnaire
- Internal Quality Survey – Sample Questionnaire
- Official Gazette (Patents)
- Federal Register Notices (Patents)
- Fee Schedules
- Patent Laws [PDF]
- Patent Rules [PDF]
- Manual of Patent Examination Procedure (MPEP)
- Electronic Business Center
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
What does the ISO 9001:2008 quality management system (QMS) cover?
All Office of Patent Quality Assurance (OPQA) processes associated with providing timely, reliable, and meaningful indicators of patent examination quality as related to the Patent Quality Composite are governed by an ISO 9001:2008-certified QMS. The system is maintained and continually improved through the use of a defined quality policy, quality objectives, audits, analysis of data, corrective and preventive actions, and management reviews.
How do I interpret the Patent Quality Composite?
The Patent Quality Composite is designed to represent percent progress towards stretch goals. A score of 100 (or 100%) indicates that all stretch goal targets have been met. The composite coincides with a specific strategic plan period and the stretch goals are the levels the office plans to achieve by the end of the strategic plan period. The beginning of the strategic plan period is referred to as the baseline and the score at that time is 0. The Patent Quality Composite score at any reported period is simply the office’s current progress in meeting the desired stretch goals. Increases in scores represent quality improvements while declines represent setbacks.
How are applications selected for work product reviews?
The Office of Patent Quality Assurance (OPQA) is an office within the USPTO that is responsible for performing work product reviews and overseeing the development of the patent examination quality metrics that constitute the Patent Quality Composite. Work product reviews include the Final Disposition Compliance reviews, In-Process Compliance reviews, Complete First Action on the Merits (FAOM) reviews and FAOM Search reviews.
The Final Disposition Compliance and In-Process Compliance metrics are designed to provide Corps-wide indications of patent examination quality and to identify opportunities for improvement that would serve a significant portion of patent examiners. The metrics provide a snapshot of examination quality for the Patent organization as a whole, which it does with a high level of confidence and precision.
The applications that OPQA reviews each year (review samples) for fiscal year Corps-wide estimates of patent examination quality are designed to provide indications of quality that have a confidence level of 95% and a sampling error margin of 0.75%.
Since the scope of the OPQA program is to provide Corps-wide estimates of patent examination quality, the total review samples for the Final Disposition and Non-Final In-Process Compliance metrics are allocated according to the work product volume of each Technology Center (TC). Thus, the sample and associated compliance rate estimates of patent examination quality are representative of allowances and actions produced by the USPTO as a whole. Corps-wide sampling rates are roughly 0.5% of the total allowances, final actions and non-final actions issued by the Corps overall.
Once Corps-wide sample sizes are determined for the fiscal year (FY), and allocated across TCs, random selection of the desired volume of cases is performed within OPQA’s centralized review database system (QRS). The system contains an import feature that is run on a daily basis by program administrators. The import function of the database interfaces with the Patent Application Location and Monitoring System (PALM ) to randomly select eligible applications for review. The number of cases selected during each import is monitored to ensure that total cases selected to date is consistent with the elapsed review period and percent of total expected fiscal year applications realized. The distributions and desired selection volumes are calculated at the TC level to maintain a representative sample throughout the fiscal year.
As with the Compliance Rate reviews, the FAOM Search and Complete FAOM Reviews provide corps-level estimates of examination quality. The randomly selected sample is allocated according to the work product volume of each TC and provides indications of quality that have a confidence level of 95% and a sampling error margin of 3%.
All OPQA procedures associated with the generation of quality metrics are governed by an ISO 9001:2008-certified quality management system (QMS).
How and why was I selected for the External Quality Survey?
The Customer Panel Quality Survey (CPQS) is designed to capture feedback from USPTO’s frequent customers regarding their perceptions of the quality of work performed by USPTO patent examiners. The CPQS uses a rotating panel design in order to measure changes in the quality of USPTO’s work over time. Customers participate in two consecutive data collection periods (waves) before rotating out of the panel. The panels are staggered to refresh 50% of the respondent pool each wave. The target population for the survey is those customers that have had the most contact with USPTO over the prior year, currently defined as filing 6 or more patent applications in a 12-month period. This population (approx. 18,000 customers) has historically represented 80-85% of all filed patent applications. Sample size for each wave is around 2,900 customers. Roughly 50% of the sampled customers respond to the survey which is administered via internet and mail.
Who performs the work product reviews that form the basis for the quality metrics?
Review Quality Assurance Specialists (RQAS) in the Office of Patent Quality Assurance perform the review of examiner work products that form the basis for the compliance rate reviews, Complete First Action on the Merits (FAOM) Reviews and FAOM Search Reviews. RQAS are experienced Primary Patent Examiners and former Supervisory Patent Examiners, whose examining experience is in the general area of the Technology Center whose applications they are assigned to review. RQAS are responsible for performing timely, substantively and procedurally sound reviews. RQAS are required to be thoroughly familiar with all patent examination tools, and to keep abreast of the latest patent rules and regulations. RQAS must record their error findings and provide supporting documentation so that the TC can assess the validity of any proposed error finding. Each team of RQAS is supervised by a Supervisory Quality Assurance Specialisst (SQAS). SQAS are experienced former Supervisory Patent Examiners who ensure that reviews performed by the RQAS are substantively and procedurally accurate. Review findings are used to identify quality issues and OPQA resources and data are used to support quality improvement programs within the Patent Corps.
Other than work product reviews, what else does OPQA do?
The primary goals of OPQA are to assess the quality of patent examination at the USPTO through the performance of work product reviews and oversight of quality surveys, and to provide support to the patent examining Corps in developing and implementing quality improvement initiatives and training in order to improve patent examination quality. OPQA objectives include:
- Providing timely, reliable, and meaningful indicators of examination quality;
- Identifying trends in examination quality;
- Identifying opportunities for improvement;
- Developing data-driven improvement strategies; and
- Assisting the Patent Operations business unit in the training of examiners and implementation of quality initiatives.
For general information, please contact 1-800-786-9199 or 571-272-1000 or 800-877-8339 (TTY)
For information pertaining to a specific patent application, please contact the Ombudsman Program.