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Wednesday Dec 23, 2009

SPE Performance Appraisal Plan-Award Taskforce

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

Our first-line managers play a critical role in the achievement of USPTO goals.  In fact, my management experience has taught me that first-line managers have *far* more impact on the employees they manage than anyone else in the enterprise – more ability to develop employee skills and careers, more ability to produce outcomes that are successful for both employee and the enterprise. Their day-to-day work as coaches, guides, trainers, and mentors for employees is essential to creating a supportive, effective workplace. I personally want to express my appreciation to our first-line managers -- the ranks of the Supervisory Patent Examiners (SPEs) -- for their exceptional work in furthering the aims of the USPTO and for the support I know they will provide as we confront our many challenges in the future.

To reflect the importance of the SPE role, I established a taskforce with representatives from each of the Technology Centers to totally revamp the performance appraisal plan (PAP) and award program for SPEs.  The SPE PAP-Award Taskforce has crafted a performance appraisal plan that reflects key priorities of the Patents organization: enhanced examination quality, reduced application pendency and improved stakeholder responsiveness.  In addition, the new SPE PAP provides increased recognition of key SPE activities in developing their employees while also recognizing the importance of contributions to Tech Center and corps-wide initiatives. 

 The new FY10 SPE PAP reflects the varying roles and responsibilities of SPEs, and gives rating officials the opportunity to provide a fair, accurate assessment of SPE activities and efforts. A SPE Award program, consonant with the new PAP, is also being created by the Taskforce to reward the achievement of challenging goals and objectives.

The new SPE PAP includes the following elements:

•           A revamped Quality (25%) element reflecting the Patent Corps focus on addressing the individual developmental needs of examiners, for example by reviewing work at all stages of prosecution.

•           A new Pendency Reduction (25%) element aligning with Patent priorities and focusing on pendency reduction by combining activities related to both workflow and productivity.

•           A new Stakeholder Responsiveness (20%) element recognizing the importance of SPE accountability to both external and internal constituencies, including responsiveness to external calls/inquiries and availability/accessibility to Art Unit examiners.

•           A new Coaching/Mentoring (15%) element recognizing efforts of SPEs in performing core management of their Art Unit in meeting Office goals and providing for acknowledgement of the unique training and mentoring contributions of SPEs in Art Units with varying examiner experience levels.

•           A revised Leadership (15%) element providing recognition for SPE creativity and innovation in actions taken in the Art Unit as well as Tech Center and Corps wide projects/initiatives.

A similar review of performance appraisal plans and awards will be conducted for other Patent managers, including Training Quality Assurance Specialists (TQAS), Special Program Examiners (SPREs), and Trainer positions.

The work of the SPE PAP Award Taskforce marks an important positive step in ensuring our SPEs receive clear direction that are clearly in line with the goals of the USPTO.  

But, as always, I am interested in feedback, and the task force is interested in feedback from both our internal and external stakeholders.  Please take advantage of this opportunity and send your input to the SPE PAP-Award Task force mailbox (, or to me directly here on the Director’s Forum blog.




Please consider that inventors may face loss of rights in certain states. Some inventors may invent to invent and not to prohibit others from producing. Your participation with IBM shows that inventions involve controversy such as national socialist use of inventions associated with IBM (alleged use of device to keep track of people in camps). Some inventors may want to use patents like art to design or do art not to prohibit others. Invention as art should probably be considered or thought about. Inventors who face loss of all rights in certain states for being different should probaby be considered. thanks for your work and effort. what if an inventor just wants to show they can be like edison and produce art and NOT prohibit others from making or producing. They want to show a concept or idea to others?

Posted by James T. Struck on December 30, 2009 at 11:29 AM EST #

As an independent inventor and strong believer in IP technology my mindset has changed in the recent years on the quality of support from the USPTO. Aquiring several patents, and having an opportunity to go through patent litigation I am aware now of how complex the patent system really is and how subjective the rules and regulations are to one's opinion as opposed to underlying facts of what may or may not be patentable. I have been awared a patent in one instance and later after filing a divisional patent was objected to claims that were in my primary patent. The patent itself was unique and no direct reference was made to show obviousness nor did the examiner site any relevant prior art that showed every element of the claim itself. The supervisory examaniner who had reviewed the prior application and approved the issuance of that patent, now in view of the new examination is willing to sign off on a final rejection with no merit to the (new) examiner's arguments. Arguments are made based on hindsightin view of other references, even when other references do not teach the contruction or every element of the claimed language. I know the Patent and Trade office has to step up their examination and scrutiny on patent applications, but I feel the quota systems does not allow in some cases a fair assessment of patent applications.

Posted by CJ on January 06, 2010 at 04:52 AM EST #

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