Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Tuesday Nov 22, 2016

Results of the Post Grant Outcomes Pilot

Guest blog by Chief Judge for the Patent and Trial Appeal Board David Ruschke and Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld

As part of the USPTO’s ongoing Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, in April 2016 we launched the Post Grant Outcomes Pilot, focused on pending patent applications that are related to issued patents undergoing an America Invents Act (AIA) trial proceeding  before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). We’d like to report that the Post Grant Outcomes Pilot has succeeded in making examiners aware of patents related to applications they are examining that are involved in PTAB trials, and in turn has facilitated the timely and effective examination of applications.

AIA trial proceedings contain prior art and arguments that might be highly relevant to the patentability determination of related applications currently under examination. This pilot was intended to help examiners harness the art presented during AIA trials to enhance examination of a related application, so they could reach more expeditious decisions on patentability.

During the pilot, we notified examiners via email when they had an application related to an AIA trial, and we streamlined access to the contents of the trial by pinpointing for examiners the most relevant documents. We then surveyed the examiners to gain detailed feedback.

The survey results showed that our examiners found the PTAB information—especially the initial petition (including the prior art citations), the PTAB’s institution decision, and any expert declarations—to be highly useful.  We also found that 46% of the examiners referred to at least one reference cited in the AIA trial petition during the examination of their own case, either by citing it in a rejection or as pertinent prior art.  If an examiner did not use or cite the prior art from the trial, it was most likely because the claims were different between the “parent” and the “child” case, the examiner disagreed with the AIA petitioner’s analysis of the prior art and/or claims, or the examiner was able to find better art. 

To further facilitate the process, in August 2016 we deployed an upgrade to examiners’ desktop application viewers which allows automated access to the contents of related AIA trials, including access to the entire file, and any cited prior art.  

Our next objective with regards to the post grant outcomes process is to identify examination best practices or deficiencies that we can address through additional examiner training.  To accomplish this, we are currently analyzing data gathered about the AIA trials with respect to prior art searching and claim interpretation, and are also working to thoroughly analyze how PTAB trials impact related applications.

Our final objective is to provide examiners with a periodic review of post-grant outcomes focused on Supreme Court, Federal Circuit, district court, and PTAB decisions that relate to their specific technological area.  It is our hope that by providing this information, examiners will gain a better understanding of the current state of the law and what happens to a patent after it leaves the USPTO. 

We are dedicated to ensuring examiners have all pertinent information, especially post grant outcomes information, easily and readily available, in order to issue the highest quality patents possible and enhance patent quality overall. Based on the program’s initial results, we can already see that our examiners are benefitting, and we will continue to identify additional ways to improve our processes.

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