Ombudsman Program - General
- Why am I unable to include the details of my problem in the initial message?
The limited interface of the Ombudsman Pilot Program is designed to streamline internal processing and to ensure that merits-based communications are handled within the written record and by the USPTO personnel that are responsible for the prosecution of the application.
The information that the USPTO will accept through this interface has been limited to prevent non-public information from being submitted to ensure compliance with the confidentiality requirement of applicable statutes and regulations. Furthermore, the follow-up contact by the USPTO is by telephone because the Internet Communication Policy as set out in MPEP 502.03 requires prior written authorization from applicant in order to allow the USPTO to respond to a communication via e-mail. This authorization cannot be done by e-mail or Internet. For purposes of efficiency and uniform application and processing the USPTO will not use e-mail to respond to any of these communications.
Additionally, all communication received that address the merits of an application must be made part of the record for the application. Thus, if the information supplied by an applicant addresses specifics of the application, the USPTO is required to print a copy and scan it into the Image File Wrapper of the patent application. MPEP 713 states that electronic mail between an examiner and an applicant, attorney, or agent "presenting matters for the examiner's consideration is considered an interview". This provision requires that an Interview summary be made part of the record for the application by the USPTO official handling the correspondence and for the applicant to submit a summary of the interview as well.
However, the Pilot Program is not designed to deal directly with the merits of an application. The Pilot Program is designed to respond to inquiries with respect to progression of the prosecution relating to the examination of a patent application (or group of applications) and, where necessary, to refer the issue to the appropriate Official to resolve and handle the matter.
The Pilot Program is designed to facilitate resolutions and advance prosecution and is not intended to circumvent the requirement that all business be transacted in writing, nor is it meant to substitute for filing a required petition (e.g., Office action not received) or to avoid filing a reply to an outstanding Office requirement.
- I prefer to submit my inquiry to the Ombudsman in writing; may I do that?
The Pilot Program is designed so that the Ombudsman obtains information from you regarding your inquiry by phone and then refers your inquiry to the person most appropriate to helping you with the inquiry, particularly when the inquiry goes to the merits of the case. While you can submit your inquiry in writing, please be aware that any written communication received by the Ombudsman regarding the merits of an application will be placed in the application file.
- When should I use the Ombudsman Pilot Program?
When you have a question about a specific application in prosecution and have been unable to find the correct person to assist you or have been unable to obtain assistance from the examiner or SPE to whom the application is assigned, then the Ombudsman Pilot Program is the venue to use. If your question is a general question and not associated with a particular pending patent application, then the Ombudsman Pilot Program is not the appropriate program to use. The Ombudsman Pilot Program is not meant to be a universal assistance center but rather a place to get prosecution assistance when you have exhausted normal channels in the Technology Center (TC).
- Should I contact the Ombudsman Pilot Program if my case is in Pubs (or OPAP, petitions, PCT, etc.)?
For quickest service, it is recommended that you first contact the organization where your application currently is. If you are unable to get the assistance you require through that channel, then the Ombudsman Pilot Program is available to assist you.
The Ombudsman Webpage contains a list of Customer Service Numbers and the type of help each area provides.
- How is this Pilot Program different from other customer service sites (e.g., Pubs, PCT, petitions, etc.)?
The Ombudsman Pilot Program is designed to provide application-specific prosecution assistance when the normal channels have not provided the assistance you need. The table shows our other Customer Services avenues and the assistance each can provide.
- I submitted an accelerated examination petition; why has it not been worked on yet?
Generally, a decision on the accelerated examination petition will be issued approximately 2 months from the filing date. An applicant is encouraged to call the USPTO to check on the status if the applicant has not received a communication regarding the accelerated examination petition within 3 months from filing.
- Why am I getting a phone call from someone and then being forwarded to someone else? Why do I not just get a call from the person who can help me?
We are committed to calling you within one business day from the day we receive your initial contact with the Ombudsman Pilot Program. In many cases, the person who calls you will be able to resolve your issue or let you know that your issue will be forwarded for resolution without an additional phone call to you. However, if the application is not in the TC that corresponds to the TC Ombudsman that you selected when you sent in your contact information, you will be called to let you know where your contact information will be sent. Once your information is sent to the correct TC, that TC Ombudsman will contact you to ensure they have a clear understanding of your issue.
- What time frame does accelerated examination typically take to process?
Once a petition for accelerated examination has been granted to an application, the goal of the accelerated examination program is to complete the examination of an application within twelve months from the filing date of the application, resulting in a final disposition. In any event, this twelve-month timeframe is simply a goal. Any failure to meet the twelve-month goal, or any other issues relating to this twelve-month goal, are neither petitionable nor appealable matters. The final disposition of an application, however, may occur later than the twelve-month timeframe in certain situations. See MPEP §708.02(a) (providing information on events that may cause examination to extend beyond this twelve-month time frame).
To access the Accelerated Examination Web page, please click on the link below.
Ombudsman Program - Basics
- Is the Ombudsman simply a liaison between the examiner and attorney? Is this Pilot Program to be used, for example, when an examiner and attorney can not agree on moving a case forward or there is a communication barrier?
Our normal channels of assistance are usually the most efficient channels for you to get the assistance you require with your applications; however, when those channels have not provided you assistance or you do not know which channel to use, the Ombudsman Pilot Program is here to help. The Ombudsman can help facilitate when there is a breakdown in the normal process, (e.g., when a communication barrier between the applicant/attorney/agency and the examiner or when there is prolonged prosecution).
The Ombudsman is not meant to be a universal assistance center but rather a place to get assistance when our most efficient, normal processes have not provided what is needed.
- Why should I contact the examiner and the SPE first?
The Ombudsman Pilot Program is not intended to replace the already existing pathways for you to be assisted with your application (i.e., by contacting the examiner and SPE with your patent application questions first). This Pilot Program is for those who have already used those pathways and been unable to get the assistance they need.
- Is the Ombudsman Pilot Program free of charge?
- Will the Ombudsman keep my complaints confidential?
During the initial phone call from the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman will ask if you prefer to speak confidentially with him/her. If you do request confidentiality, the Ombudsman will log your complaint into the database and will take no further action on that particular complaint at that time. The database has limited access so your confidentiality will be safeguarded. The Ombudsman Program Director will periodically review reports of the confidential complaints looking for trends or groups of complaints regarding the same or similar issues and will take action based on the trend or group of complaints without revealing the particulars of any individual complaints.
If you do want your specific issue resolved, it will be necessary to reveal information to the supervisory chain handling your application. Be assured, however, that only as much information as needed to understand the issue will be recorded in the database or revealed to the supervisory chain.
- Where did the name "Ombudsman" come from?
An Ombudsman is typically someone who helps identify and remove organizational roadblocks and can act as an intermediary between an external constituent and an organization. In the context of this Pilot Program, the Ombudsman is meant to ensure that an applicant, attorney, or agent gets the assistance they need when the normal channels have not yielded that assistance.
- May applicants and attorneys use the Ombudsman Pilot Program?
Yes; however, if an applicant is represented by an attorney then the applicant cannot separately contact the Ombudsman as this Pilot Program is not meant to override current practice. Dual correspondence with an applicant and applicant's attorney or agent will not be undertaken. See 37 CFR 1.33.