June's featured article

The Ombudsman Program is Here For You

By Mindy Bickel : United States Patent and Trademark Office Inventors Assistance Program

Have you ever needed help from a large organization and not known where to turn for assistance? Have you ever wished there was an easy and dedicated place to seek assistance in dealing with the USPTO? Well, for patent application files with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, we have a program designed to help you. The Ombudsman Pilot Program, launched on April 6, 2010, provides patent applicants with assistance in handling application processing problems when the normal channels are not providing satisfactory results.

Ombudsmen are in place throughout the USPTO's Technology Centers. Pro se applicants, attorneys or agents can now access and use the Ombudsman Pilot Program via the USPTO Web site, www.uspto.gov. The Technology Center ombudsman will contact you by telephone within one business day to obtain specifics regarding the problem you are having processing your application. The ombudsman will work with the appropriate office staff to address your concerns and get the application back on track. Each Technology Center has an ombudsman and a back up, who were selected on the basis of their experience. They work in close cooperation with supervisory patent examiners, training quality assurance specialists, and subject matter experts.

To use the program, visit www.uspto.gov and click on the Ombudsman Pilot Program link at the bottom of the Patents list, on the left side of the page. This page contains a list of the many existing resources already available to patent applicants, attorneys or agents. Applicants are encouraged to continue to use these other resources. The Ombudsman Program is not meant to replace them. An applicant should contact the ombudsman if their examination has stalled and all other efforts to use normal channels by contacting the examiner or supervisory patent examiner have not been effective. The issues you raise with the ombudsman will be handled in a confidential manner.

During the first month of the program, the ombudsmen have handled almost 100 queries from applicants, attorneys and agents. The issues addressed ranged from status inquiries, to questions about how much time an applicant has to file a non-provisional after filing a provisional, to feeling "stone-walled" by the examiner. In most cases, the issues were addressed within 10 business days and many were handled within five business days.

If you feel you need this service, give your USPTO Ombudsman a try!