USPTO Adopts New Patent Examination Quality Measurement Procedures

Press Release

CONTACT: Peter Pappas or Jennifer Rankin Byrne

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Additional Measures Offer a More Comprehensive View of Patent Quality

Washington - The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today that it is adopting new, more comprehensive procedures for measuring the quality of patent examination. These new measurement procedures were crafted by a joint USPTO-Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) Task Force after extensive consultation with the intellectual property community and the public.

"We are pleased to introduce these new quality measurement procedures, which will yield a more comprehensive view of quality than previous quality reporting methodologies," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. "Achieving high-quality examination is always our top priority, and these new procedures will help us both address quality issues and identify and encourage best practices."

Previously, the USPTO measured quality through two measurements--the final rejection and allowance compliance rate (the correctness of the examiners' overall determination of the patentability of the claims) and the in-process compliance rate (the quality of the actions taken during the course of examination). Because these measurements relate to only some elements of quality, they have long been regarded as useful but insufficient measurements of patent examination quality.

The new procedures measure seven diverse aspects of the examination process to form a more comprehensive composite quality metric. These seven aspects include the two previous measurements of quality, plus five new measures. The measurements include:

(1) The quality of the action setting forth allowance or final rejection of the application,

(2) The quality of the actions taken during the course of examination,

(3) The use of best search practices in the examiner's initial search for prior art,

(4) The use of best examination practices in the first action on the merits,

(5) Trends in compact and efficient examination as reflected in aggregate USPTO data,

(6) The perceptions of applicants and practitioners as measured by surveys, and

(7) The perceptions of examiners as measured by surveys.

The USPTO will disseminate the results of each measure, along with the aggregate data used in their calculation to the extent practicable, on the USPTO website periodically. These measures will be reported at the middle and end of each fiscal year. The Office anticipates that some measures may be reportable on a more frequent basis, e.g. quarterly. A detailed description of these procedures is published on the USPTO website at The procedures will be implemented for fiscal year 2011.

To present a balanced approach to measurement of examination quality, these new procedures address errors and positive action taken in both allowance and rejection, as well as matters such as search and restriction. This approach does not attempt to alter any of the standards for patentability, but to better educate and enable participants in the patent process to comply with existing standards. The new quality procedures are distinct from, yet complementary to, the USPTO's pendency initiatives. Together, the USPTO's quality and pendency initiatives--including the Patent Examiner Technical Training Program; the proposed Three-Track Examination initiative; and examiner training on topics like interviews, compact prosecution, obviousness and subject matter eligibility--represent a more comprehensive approach to improving the overall patent examination process and encouraging public participation.

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