"Management is a continuing process of improvement and constructive criticism is always appreciated," said Q. Todd Dickinson, acting commissioner of patents and trademarks, in response to the performance rating given to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) by the Government Performance Project, a partnership of Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and , a publication of National Journal, Inc.
Dickinson went on to say, "Since the reporting was done for this project, I am pleased to announce that progress has been made in a number of areas. The agency has entered into a legal and technical training agreement with its union representing patent examiners. Among the provisions of the agreement is one that provides for the PTO to pay for up to 24 credits per year and a generous book stipend for examiners attending an ABA-accredited law school.
The PTO showed marked improvement in customer satisfaction in a number of key areas according to the latest survey. Timeliness, however, continues to be an issue of concern to customers. The agency experienced an unprecedented 40 precent growth in workload during the past six years. However, a hiring freeze prevented the agency from staying apace of this customer demand. We are now beginning to see a positive impact on pendency as a result of the 1,000 employees we were able to hire in 1998, including more than 700 patent examiners and 100 trademark examining attorneys. We plan on hiring an additional 1,000 employees this year, and 500 next year. This workforce will help us achieve an average cycle time of 10.2 months for all patent applications and allow examining attorneys to turn around trademark applications in 13.8 months by 2000. Since October 1, 1998, trademark customers have had the opportunity to file applications electronically. Today, PTO's website (www.uspto.gov), offers free Internet access to fully-searchable text and images of over 2 million U.S. patents and over one million pending and registered trademarks, one of the largest, if not the largest federal government databases on line. The agency continues to work toward the long term goal of leveraging automation to the benefit of its customers."