Taking Steps to Improve Patent Quality
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos
Last month, I asked both USPTO staff and our external stakeholders to provide input on what USPTO management could do to help examiners conduct high quality examinations. The response was phenomenal and I thank you for your suggestions which covered the gamut from providing examiners with more technical training to enhancing the quality feedback loop by hiring more Quality Assurance Specialists (QAS). We will be exploring many of your suggestions, and where feasible, we will attempt to incorporate them in our business processes.
In the meantime, I wanted to give you an update on a few of our current initiatives that we will continue or launch in FY11. Over the last several months, we have offered refresher training at the Patent Training Academy and covered nearly 20 topics such as prior art, claim interpretation, and search strategy. Based on attendee feedback, we will continue to ensure examiners get the legal and procedural training they need throughout their careers.
As for technical training, I was pleased to have announced our Patent Examiner Technical Training Program on September 15th. This program is designed to provide patent examiners with access to scientists and experts who will share their technical knowledge of the state of the art, prior art and industry standards.
On a parallel path, we have recently announced significant changes to our patent quality measurement methodology. We will begin using these new measures this fiscal year. The new measures include seven aspects of the examination process:
(1) The quality of the action allowing or finally rejecting the application,
(2) The quality of the actions taken during the course of examination,
(3) The use of best search practices in the examiner's initial search for prior art,
(4) The use of best examination practices in the first action on the merits,
(5) Trends in compact and efficient examination as reflected in aggregate USPTO data,
(6) The perceptions of applicants and practitioners as measured by surveys, and
(7) The perceptions of examiners as measured by surveys.
The resultant quality composite metric provides a more comprehensive measurement of quality and will reveal the presence of quality issues arising during the various stages of examination. This will allow us to address problems by providing appropriate training, as well as to identify and encourage best practices.
Development of this new metric would not have been possible without the extensive and thoughtful participation of the IP community and the USPTO team. I’d like to thank all of those who participated in this project, both inside and outside the USPTO, for their efforts in taking a fresh look at measuring examination quality. And I think this new methodology will take us a long way towards better measurement of examination quality.
Summarizing a comment received from an examiner: quality patent examination comes from 1) understanding the invention and claims; 2) formulating a search that finds the most relevant art; and 3) clearly communicating your position on all aspects of patentability. As we move forward, I am confident we will continue to stress these fundamentals of examination in all of our quality initiatives.