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USPTO Establishes Special Examination Unit for Pro Se Applicants
Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is committed to assisting inventors by offering education and tools to those who file U.S. patent applications without the help of a patent attorney or agent. This is known as pro se filing. Our Office of Innovation Development (OID) has a long history of helping pro se filers and independent inventors understand and navigate the patenting process as well as offering a variety of resources and outreach programs to the public. The agency is now expanding these services by piloting a special unit focused on examining applications filed by pro se applicants. The new Pro Se Pilot Examination Unit is the product of an executive action issued by the White House earlier this year.
The Pro Se Pilot Examination Unit began in October 2014 and will operate for at least one year. Comprised of experienced examiners from all scientific disciplines, these examiners receive training surrounding issues often encountered by pro se applicants, such as how to respond to a Notice of Missing Parts or how to revive an unintentionally abandoned application. In addition, the examiners provide customer support and answer general patent related questions via a toll-free number, email, or a walk-in service. Lastly, they spearhead development of specialized training materials on the intricacies of filing a patent application.
Applications filed by pro se applicants are randomly assigned to the Pro Se Pilot Examination Unit. By comparing data for applications examined by the unit against a control group of pro se applications filed during the same time period, the office can evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Likewise, the office can further improve the training and resources available to not only pro se and independent inventors but also other examiners.
The Pro Se Pilot Examination Unit is one more way the USPTO fulfils its duties to promote the advancement of technology, and to ensure creators benefit from their intellectual property and that society benefits from their inventions as well. Learn more about the Pro Se Assistance Program on our website.