Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Tuesday Dec 06, 2016

Providing Clear and Transparent Patent Quality Metrics

Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Russ Slifer

It is critically important that the USPTO issue patents that are of the highest quality possible, and to accomplish this, we are taking measures to achieve greater accuracy, clarity, and consistency in examination and prosecution. One important component of this effort is providing metrics that are more clear and understandable to all our stakeholders. Based on public feedback, we established the Quality Metrics program, part of the USPTO’s ongoing Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, designed to enhance the assessment of our work products and to more clearly communicate our quality measurements.

Early in the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, we received feedback that the Quality Composite Score we use to assess our examiners’ work was not sufficiently precise because it combined indicators of both work product quality as well as process quality into a single score. Therefore, we discontinued the Quality Composite Score and proposed a new approach to quality metrics in a Federal Register Notice in March 2016. Our new process, which is further explained on the Quality Metrics page of the USPTO website, will allow us to accurately measure quality by differentiating between work product metrics and efficiency of the examination process.

When assessing work products, the USPTO considers a quality patent to be one that is correctly issued in compliance with all the requirements of Title 35 as well as the relevant case law at the time of issuance. By analyzing work product indicators and by conducting reviews, we have developed new statutory compliance metrics, which we have published on the Correctness Indicator page of the USPTO website, along with information on how we developed these metrics. The webpage contains breakdowns, such as by office action type, allowing the general public to explore the data at varying levels of granularity. We also recently enhanced how clarity is evaluated during office action reviews, which you can read about in a recent blog by Director Lee.

To accurately assess the efficiency of the examination process, we are analyzing reopenings of prosecution and rework of office actions, as well as focusing on improving consistency of decision making. Using data from our Patent Application Location and Monitoring (PALM) system, we are able to identify trends in examiner behavior to determine where the process is working well and where there may be potential quality concerns. We can then determine which areas of the process can be streamlined, and what areas may require additional training, as well as identify best practices.

Our stakeholder feedback is of utmost importance to us, and we will continue to administer internal and external surveys on quality. We will continue to publish the results of the surveys, and will incorporate what we find into our training and continuing quality improvement efforts. As always, we are open to your suggestions on ways to improve our patent quality metrics, as we push to find new and innovative ways to improve patent quality at the USPTO.


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