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Improvements in Measuring Patent Quality Metrics
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee
Through the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI) which we announced in February 2015, the USPTO has committed itself to patent quality improvements, in order to issue patents of the highest quality and clarity. I highlighted some of the progress we’ve already made in my blog this past November. I want to update you on our newest efforts to improve the measurement and reporting of patent quality metrics, as well as provide new information on our upcoming Patent Community Symposium, which is an opportunity for us to gather additional public feedback.
I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has just published a notice in the Federal Register outlining its new process to capture and measure data about patent quality, and we are eager for your input. In fiscal year 2016, we are terminating the use of the Composite Quality Score that we used to report quality during fiscal years 2011-2015. Through the EPQI, we received feedback that this composite, which includes several factors such as measures of the quality of examiners’ final work product, measures of prosecution transactional indicators, and internal and external survey results, did not adequately reflect quality. In response, we are disbanding our use of a single quality composite score. In its place, we propose a new way to measure quality, and we seek your input to our proposed approach.
Under our proposed approach, the USPTO is standardizing reviews of finished work products, such as USPTO office actions, through the use of a single review form, called the “Master Review Form.” This review form is to be used by all USPTO reviewers when assessing finished work products, including reviewers in the Office of Patent Quality Assurance and supervisors in our Technology Centers.
Compared to past review forms used by the USPTO, the Master Review Form places a much greater emphasis on assessing the clarity of an examiner’s reasoning, while maintaining focus on addressing the correctness of an examiner’s action. In addition, the results of all of these reviews will be electronically entered into a single database, thereby capturing three to five times more data than was previously captured. With this larger data set, we will be able to identify trends at an art unit or even at an individual examiner level. In doing so, we will be poised to provide resources and targeted training when needed to achieve greater accuracy, consistency, and efficiency, as well as increased transparency internally and externally of the standards for review.
Through the Quality Metric Federal Register Notice, we are seeking feedback on the contents of the Master Review Form, including whether we are collecting the right information about quality and what correctness and clarity aspects of the Master Review Form should be integrated into our quality metrics. We will use this input to finalize the form that will be deployed throughout the USPTO in fiscal year 2017.
I am also pleased to share that the USPTO is hosting a Patent Community Symposium on Wednesday, April 27, 2016, to update the public on various efforts that the USPTO is undertaking to enhance patent quality. In particular, the agency is pursuing eleven programs to improve clarity of the prosecution record, enhance examiner training, improve applicant-examiner interactions, and as explained earlier, re-define ways to capture and measure data about quality. The symposium will feature lectures on these topics, an interactive workshop demonstration on how the Master Review Form will be applied, and a panel discussion with experienced patent practitioners about ways applicants can contribute to our efforts.
I encourage you to share your feedback with us on our Quality Metric Federal Register Notice by May 24, 2016 and attend our Patent Community Symposium in April. How the USPTO measures patent quality is an important piece of the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, and my team and I are excited to work together with all of you to improve the quality of the patents issued by the USPTO.