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Monday Feb 24, 2014

Progress Continues in our Transition to an Improved Patent Classification System

Blog by Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino

We remain hard at work implementing the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system launched in January 2013. CPC, let me remind you, is a joint patent classification system between the USPTO and the European Patent Office that enables patent examiners and patent system users worldwide to conduct more efficient prior-art searches. Compared with the current U.S. Patent Classification System, CPC offers more targeted searches with more focused results. We expect the CPC to lead to enhanced efficiency by reducing unnecessary duplication of work. One can now search patent documents using CPC classifications. 
In our last update we noted that implementing the CPC would require extensive patent examiner training leading up to full implementation in January 2015. The patent examining transition began in November 2013 and will run through the end of this year. Training focuses on enabling patent examiners to effectively search in CPC and place CPC symbols on published patent applications and granted patents. 

The transition to CPC is an investment in the future of IP. Through the implementation of CPC, applicants and the IP community will derive many benefits, including:

o Enhanced examination efficiency;
o Improved access to more documents from patent offices around the world;
o Improved navigation and understanding of a single classification system;
o Facilitated work sharing on patent applications filed in multiple IP offices;
o Improved consistency of classified search results across IP Offices; and,
o Adaptive and actively maintained classification schemes.

Patent Examiner CPC training includes approximately 20 hours of training that focuses on how to search and classify in CPC as well as technical subject training related to the nuances of a particular CPC field. In addition to this, on average examiners receive approximately 120 hours of CPC on-the-job training. This on-the-job training is used to complete parallel searches in CPC and the prior United States Patent Classification (USPC) system in 40 to 50 applications. Doing these parallel searches enables examiners to learn the best places to search in CPC for a particular technology and to master the details of their assigned portion of the CPC schedule.

As I am sure you can appreciate, transitioning about 8,000 patent examiners to a new classification system is no small feat. This investment of examiner training time is an important investment in quality, and it is having a temporary impact in our examination output. This impact, combined with continued increases in filings, is resulting in a temporary increase in our new application backlog. We expect the backlog to rise as high as 650,000 by May 2014 before resuming its decline again falling below 600,000 by the end of this fiscal year, which ends September 30th. During the next fiscal year we will continue to reduce our backlog, which remains a core mission as stated in our proposed 2014-2018 Strategic Plan.

We are excited to report continued progress on the build-out of a dynamic classification system coupled with the highest standards in patent examination.


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