|Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2009
Management's Discussion and Analysis
Strategic Goal 2: Optimize Trademark Quality and Timeliness
Trademarks have served an important purpose throughout recorded history, as owners of goods and services put their names on their products. In the 21st century, trademarks represent valuable business properties, serving as the symbol of a company’s good will and the products and services it offers. By registering trademarks, the USPTO has a significant role in protecting consumers from confusion as well as providing important benefits to American business.
For the fourth year in a row, the Trademark organization has met and exceeded all of its performance targets.
Examination quality continued to demonstrate high levels and sustained improvement. 96.4 percent of first actions and more than 97 percent of final decisions (approvals and rejections) met statutory and compliance rates for quality of decision making and writing, a continuation of the highest levels ever achieved. In the past year, the measure for final compliance was expanded to evaluate examination quality at the stage applications are approved for publication and ultimately registration – increasing the number as well as the decisions that were subject to review – 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, improved training, and increased the use of electronic filing, which contributed to better quality of application data and consistency in processing. The Trademark organization’s quality results are a reflection of the cumulative effects of seven years of emphasis on the same criteria for assessing examination quality.
In addition, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) issued more than 50 precedential decisions on a wide variety of substantive and procedural issues that arise in the ex parte examination of applications for registration of marks. These decisions provide guidance not only to the Agency’s trademark examining attorneys, but also to trademark owners and those attorneys that represent them before the Office. Further, following deployment of revised rules of procedure for the TTAB’s inter partes cases, the TTAB has issued numerous precedential decisions highlighting and explaining the revised rules. These include subjects such as the amended service requirement, and the new obligations of parties in inter partes cases to conference, make disclosures, and consider stipulating to procedural efficiencies. TTAB decisions covering these points have been particularly helpful to trademark owners and the attorneys representing them before the Office during the transition to full deployment of these new rules of procedure.
IMPROVING TIMELINESS AND EFFICIENCY
First action pendency — the length of time between the receipt of a trademark application and when the USPTO makes a preliminary decision — was consistently maintained under three months every month throughout the fiscal year. This is an unprecedented achievement, and the fourth year in a row that pendency has been maintained at three months or less. Average total pendency also showed significant sustained improvement with disposal or registration occurring within 11.2 months from filing.
Pendency has improved as electronic processing and filing have become the primary means of conducting business within the Trademark organization. The production process has improved and has become more consistent on a monthly basis due to improvements in the management of resources. Increased use of electronic forms, particularly Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) Plus filings, which represent 28.0 percent of new application filings, and 31.0 percent of first action approvals have improved the efficiency of examination, as well as contributed to an increase in number of applications approved for publication. Electronically filed TEAS Plus applications are disposed and registered on average within 9.2 months, whereas those filed on paper average 17.3 months, or 89.0 percent, longer.
The Trademark organization has continued to make process changes to streamline the examination and post examination process, reduce costs, and lower disposal pendency. Inventories of new applications have been carefully managed in order to ensure sufficient flow of work and consistent first action pendency given the decline in application filings. Production incentive awards were curtailed due to lower filings, reducing operation costs. Processing times have continued to decrease between the time for approval for publication by the examining attorney, publication in the Official Gazette, and registration. Process changes for preparing registration certificates that were implemented in the last quarter of FY 2009 will further reduce processing costs and time frames. Incremental process improvements have had a direct and positive impact on improving efficiency and reducing and maintaining average total pendency to a historical low.
The USPTO hosted the Trademark Expo that was attended by more than 7,000 over a two-day period. The event was designed to spotlight the vital role trademarks play in the national and global economy. Three seminars were conducted covering “Anti-counterfeiting;” “Trademarks 101,” that is, basic information about trademark law and Intellectual Property; and “What Every Small Business Must Know About Intellectual Property.” The Expo was supported by 14 businesses that helped sponsor this year’s successful event.
The Trademark organization continues to improve upon its successful telework program through the continued expansion of telework opportunities and by expanding the use of remote access and collaboration tools:
In the past year, three new pilot programs were established to provide work-at-home opportunities for employees in the Examination Support Unit (ESU), the Intent-To-Use/Divisional Unit (ITU), and Pre Examination. As a result, programs exist throughout the organization to expand the number of employees and functions supported by telework.
The Trademark organization continued programs for a second year in support of the Trademark Human Capital Strategic Plan. The Trademark Plan, which was developed to further the objectives of the Office of Personnel Management Federal Human Capital Strategic Plan, has shown results. Seven teams have continued work on programs 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 that include:
PROVIDING E-MANAGEMENT AND E-TOOLS
A new performance measure was created to address the major USPTO strategic challenge to complete full electronic workflow and file management for receiving and processing trademark applications and related documents. This new measure, “Applications Processed Electronically,” reports the percentage of trademark applications that were filed, processed, and disposed of relying completely on electronic systems and communications. The target was set at 62.0 percent for electronically processing applications that were disposed. The result by the end of the first year was 62.0 percent. This measure demonstrates the extent the Trademark organization has electronic systems in place and its ability to encourage applicants to conduct correspondence electronically. This measure replaced the electronic application filing performance measure which has been achieved with 97.8 percent of Trademark applications filed electronically.
The Trademark organization continues to make progress in its long-term goal to replace manual, paper-based processes with a fully electronic operation. Progress has continued with the implementation in Post Registration of the electronic docketing system known as the First Action System for Trademarks (FAST). Additional features were added to support evaluation of examining attorney actions and use of standard form paragraphs for preparing office actions. The implementation of FAST for processing post registration requirements extends electronic docketing and file management tools, which include the routing and assignment of new work, and 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 further improve the functionality of electronic filing, the USPTO has redesigned the TEAS page in an effort to present clearer categories for different filings and better explanations, and releasing additional forms and enhancements for existing TEAS forms. A new concept was introduced for filing of any trademark document for which a TEAS form is not currently available. The new “global” form provides options to identify the type of document being filed by selecting from a drop-down list and then uploading a document in either the JPG or PDF format containing the matter being filed. This approach provides the same following benefits of a TEAS filing:
Use of the “global” form will not result in an automated upload of data into the USPTO databases, which is one of the primary benefits of true electronic filing. The USPTO views the “global” form approach as an interim step until specific TEAS forms are developed.
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