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Collage showing images with one-word descriptors from the U S P T O Fiscal Year 2008 Performance and Accountability Report cover that reinforces the reportís tagline of Transforming for the Future Today.
Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2008
Management's Discussion and Analysis

Table of Contents | Management | Financial | Auditor | IG | Other

Strategic Goal 2: Optimize Trademark Quality and Timeliness

The Trademark organization continues to demonstrate excellence and the qualities that allow the USPTO to make progress toward its vision to “lead the world in IP protection and policy.” For the third year in a row, the Trademark organization has met and exceeded all of its Agency performance targets, advancing all of the objectives outlined in the USPTO’s 2007-2012 Strategic Plan. FY 2008 accomplishments and future priorities are:

Improving Efficiency

Photo showing USPTO Director Jon Dudas playing ball with T. Marky, the new USPTO character created for the Trademark Expo.

Fun in the Sun — USPTO Director Jon Dudas plays ball with T. Marky, the new USPTO character created for the Trademark Expo.

First action pendency — the length of time between receipt of a trademark application and when the USPTO makes a preliminary decision — was consistently maintained at 3.1 months or less each month throughout the fiscal year – ending the year at 3.0 months an unprecedented achievement, and the second year in a row that pendency has been maintained within the 2.5-3.5 month goal. Average total pendency also showed significant sustained improvement with registration occurring within 11.8 to 13.9 months from filing.

Pendency has improved as electronic filing and processing represent the primary means of conducting business with and within the office. Increased use of electronic forms, particularly Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) Plus filings (which represent 26 percent of new application filings with 31 percent of first action approvals) has improved the efficiency of examination as well as contributing to an increase in the number of applications approved for publication. Electronically filed TEAS Plus applications are disposed and registered on average within 9.8 to 10.4 months, whereas those filed on paper average 15.8 to 28.1 months or 38 to 63 percent longer.

The Trademark organization continued to make process changes to streamline the post-examination process, reduce costs, and lower disposal pendency. The Trademark organization has eliminated backlogs in work thereby decreasing the time between approval for publication by the examining attorney, publication in the Official Gazette, and registration. Process changes were made to address both quality and workload management by realigning the technical support staff. The realignment of the technical support staff has had a direct and positive impact on reducing and maintaining disposal pendency to the lowest level in 20 years.

Trademark Pendency Performance — The two primary measures of Trademark organization processing are average first action pendency (the time from filing to first action) and total average pendency (the time from filing until disposal).

Graph summarizing the average first action pendency for trademarks issued for the last four fiscal years.
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Graph summarizing the average total pendency for trademarks issued for the last four fiscal years.
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Improving Quality

Searching and examination quality continued to demonstrate high levels and sustained improvement. 95.8 percent of first actions and more than 97.2 percent of final actions met statutory and compliance rates for quality of decision making and writing, the highest levels ever achieved. An additional review was added to evaluate examination quality at the stage applications are approved for publication and ultimately registration. The compliance rate was 98.4 percent, demonstrating the high degree of quality that applies to the majority of the determinations made by the office. Advances have also been made to enable more complete and accurate filings. Specifically, the Trademark organization has made greater use of on-line tools and has improved the workflow process to better manage and track performance, improve training, and increase the use of electronic filing, which contribute to better quality of application data and consistency in processing and examination. All newly hired examiners now complete a twelve-week training course on substantive and procedural examination, with an emphasis on the Trademark organization’s examination curriculum. The Trademark organization’s quality results are a reflection of the cumulative effect of six years of emphasis on the same criteria for assessing examination quality.

The USPTO hosted the Trademark Expo from April 10 – 12. The event was designed to spotlight the vital role trademarks play in the national and global economy. The Expo was supported by 23 businesses that helped sponsor the successful event that was attended by more than 7,000 people over three days.

The Trademark Assistance Center (TAC) received the 2008 Telework Exchange Award for Best New Telework Initiative. The recognition was sponsored by the Telework Exchange®, Service Mark (SM), a public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the tangible value of telework. TAC is the first government call center to take advantage of telework and was recognized for its contribution to the quality of life for its participants, customer initiatives and Agency goals.

The Trademark organization continues to improve on its successful telework program through the continued expansion of telework opportunities and by expanding the use of remote access and collaboration tools. Eighty-six percent of eligible examining attorneys work from home nearly full time, with 83 percent of all eligible Trademark employees working from home at least one day per week. Fifty-eight percent of all Trademark employees telework. Two pilot programs for employees in TAC and Post Registration became permanent in the past year expanding the number of employees and functions supported by telework programs. Geographic expansion of telework is currently under evaluation with a pilot program that has 18 examiners working in 13 states.

The Trademark organization developed a Trademark Human Capital Strategic Plan in support of the Agency’s Human Capital Strategic Plan. Seven teams were organized to develop initiatives, programs, project schedules and training in support of the three “human capital” objectives of talent management, results-oriented performance culture, and leadership and knowledge management. Progress has been made on specific programs and actions that support the objectives such as hiring to retain a highly qualified diverse workforce; improving training opportunities; expanding and improving the Telework Program; ensuring performance appraisal plans have measurable performance standards that align with Agency goals; maximizing awareness and use of incentive awards and recognition programs; and improving internal and external communications. Results from the Department of Commerce employee survey indicate that the Trademark organization leads the USPTO in 33 of 40 survey responses with strengths in the talent management and personal work experience categories

 

Photo showing Trademarks managers (SEATED) Deputy Commissioner for Trademarks, Debbie Cohn, Vernon Towler, (STANDING) Commissioner for Trademarks Lynne Beresford, Tommie Clifton, and Susan White marking the expansion of the Tradmarks Work-at-Home program.

Expanding Telework — Trademarks managers (SEATED) Deputy Commissioner for Trademarks, Debbie Cohn, Vernon Towler, (STANDING) Commissioner for Trademarks Lynne Beresford, Tommie Clifton, and Susan White mark the expansion of the Tradmarks Work-at-Home program. The Trademark organization started its work-at-home program more than 10 years ago with a focus exclusively on the job of examining attorney. As the organization gained experience with work-at-home, it expanded its work-at-home program by developing pilot programs in two more units within the Trademark organization.

Trademark Quality Performance — The Trademark organization continues to improve the quality of its products and services using in-depth reviews of work in progress and enhanced end-process reviews.

Graph summarizing the trademark first action compliance rate for the last four fiscal years.
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Graph summarizing the trademark final action compliance rate for the last four fiscal years.
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Photo showing the 2008 Trademark Expo, at the USPTO Alexandria campus, which attracted a wide audience of more than 7,000 people.

 

Educating the Community — The 2008 Trademark Expo, at the USPTO Alexandria campus, attracted a wide audience of more than 7,000 people. The event focuses on educating the public about the value and important role trademarks play in society and the global marketplace. It features themed displays, company booths, costumed characters, interactive exhibits, and trademark-related seminars for attendees.

Providing E-Management and E-Tools

E-Filing Applications — The percent of trademark applications filed electronically has steadily increased over the past four years to the current level of 96.9 percent.

Graph summarizing the trademark applications filed electronically for the last four fiscal years.
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Trademark Efficiency — This following metric measures the relative cost-effectiveness of the entire trademark examination process over time, or the efficiency with which the organization applies its resources to production.

Graph summarizing trademark efficiency for the last four fiscal years.
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The Trademark organization continues to make progress in its long-term project to replace manual, paper-based processes with a fully electronic operation. In the past year, the electronic docketing system known as the First Action System for Trademarks (FAST) was improved and expanded. Additional features were added to support examining attorney search functionality, preparation of office actions, and attaching evidence to office actions. FAST was expanded to include processing of requests following notice of allowance, which will further extend electronic workflow and processing throughout the operation and provide for more timely and consistent processing of statements of use. This was the first implementation to extend electronic workload management tools to include the routing and assignment of new work and the monitoring of cases in process beyond the core examination operation. This system significantly improves the processing and management of applications, as well as providing access to on-line production reports to monitor the status of individual performance.

To ensure that the transition to electronic processing results in more productive, efficient, and cost-effective business processes and practices, the Trademark organization recently completed a multi-year project to assess the effect of incremental changes on its process and workforce. The assessment included documenting or mapping the entire workflow to identify opportunities for further improvement, examining how best to organize and use staff, developing consistent procedures manuals, and revising performance standards based on changes in how the work is performed. Several process and organizational changes have been made in performance plans, production measures, and workflows, which now mostly rely on electronic processing and file records to support core examination activities.

Documentation from the process mapping continues to be used to complete the design requirements and complete implementation of the electronic workflow and file management system.

The Trademark organization continued to improve functionality of electronic filing by releasing additional enhancements for existing TEAS forms in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). Changes were made to expand the number and acceptance of Portable Document Format (PDF) attachments to the initial application form, provide a consistent look and feel, and provide additional options such as download portable data, multiple signatures for multiple business owners, e-signature and handwritten signature features.

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