|Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2008
Management's Discussion and Analysis
The USPTO will continue to lead the world in IP policy by optimizing patent and trademark quality and timeliness, and improving IP protection and enforcement domestically by addressing the following challenges identified by the USPTO management:
MAKE EFFICIENCY GAINS FOR THE FUTURE, WHILE KEEPING QUALITY HIGH
The Patent organization’s biggest challenge is to address the growth of pendency and the backlog of patent applications waiting to be examined while maintaining high quality. The Patent organization must address the dual challenges of rising workloads and a shift of applications from traditional arts to more complex technologies. To address rising workloads, the Patent organization will continue to hire, train, and retain additional examiners, and explore and implement process improvements. Quality, which is a critical component of the USPTO’s 2007-2012 Strategic Plan, will be ensured throughout the patent examination process.
The Trademark organization’s biggest challenge is to maintain the gains it has made in quality and pendency while controlling costs. Maintaining trademark first action pendency between 2.5 and 3.5 months on a consistent monthly basis, fluctuations in filings, and an uncertain economy, which could lead to lower fee revenue, are challenges that must be carefully managed. If the Trademark organization can maintain high quality and low first action pendency, it can also ensure low disposal pendency, which translates to certainty for business owners in making investments in new products and services.
CONTINUE TO MOVE TO AN ELECTRONIC WORKPLACE
The Patent and Trademark organizations are moving rapidly to eliminate paper documents from their processes. Electronic communications are improving, encouraging more applicants to do business electronically in using Web-based systems. Both Patent and Trademark organizations have made significant progress in support of the long-term goal to create an e-government operation. The Trademark organization now relies exclusively on data submitted or captured electronically to support examination, publish documents, and issue registrations. Because of the high degree of reliance on electronic operations, the Trademark organization is dependent on the management and support of internal information technology systems and services to manage its operations and provide services to the public.
The Trademark organization along with the support of the OCIO is working to address the challenge of completing an electronic docket and file management system to link all operations and processing that support core examination and post-registration to link all operations and processing. A fully electronic workflow will allow the Trademark organization to better manage the fluctuations in filings and be more efficient, as well as timely, in processing and responding.
This increased reliance on electronic systems presents other challenges to the USPTO in the event of an unplanned outage or disruption in processing. To address this need, the USPTO has embarked on an aggressive, phased business continuity/disaster recovery program. The current phase involves establishing a remote data bunker, which stores backups of mission critical data. Subsequent phases of the project will establish Automated Information System (AIS) failover capability, a high availability environment for production systems, an alternate processing site, and deployment of AISs to the alternate site.
STRENGTHEN GLOBAL INTELLECTUAL POPERTY RIGHTS (IPR) SYSTEMS
An effective IPR system is important to trade because it provides confidence to businesses that rights will be respected and that profits will be returned to IPR holders. The tremendous ingenuity of American inventors, coupled with a strong IP system, encourages and rewards innovation and helps propel the economic and technological growth of our nation.
The challenges to maintaining an effective IPR system include deepening the dialogue on global IP policy, facilitating technical cooperation with foreign countries, surveying and exchanging information on the current status of IPR protection and administrative systems, and arriving at agreement on standards of enhanced IP enforcement. These standards of enhanced IP enforcement include increased criminal and civil protection, as well as tighter controls on circumventing technological protection. Reaching bilateral and multilateral agreements will require all sides to openly communicate and strive toward a more global convergence of patent and trademark standards.
ENSURING PROPER FEE RATES
The USPTO seeks specific authority to eliminate, set, or otherwise adjust patent and trademark filing and processing fees subject to appropriate oversight and comment by the Patent Public Advisory Committee, Trademark Public Advisory Committee, stakeholders, and Congress. In the United States, demands for products and services have created substantial workload challenges in the processing of patents and trademarks. Long-term funding stability is essential to the creation of a predictable environment for planning purposes.
ATTRACT AND RETAIN THE RIGHT SKILLS AND TALENT
Work at the USPTO is highly technical in nature and requires a well educated, well credentialed, and diverse workforce. Consequently, the Agency is faced with employment, management, training, and leadership challenges. Customer demands continue to increase while recruiting challenges escalate in a highly competitive environment, particularly for patent examiners, IT specialists, and Human Resource (HR) Specialists.
The USPTO will focus on ways to manage the new generation of employees in an increasing virtual workplace. While the agency has strong performance management processes in place, there are still management challenges: retaining younger employees, maintaining engagement, encouraging motivation, and loyalty to the Agency. The USPTO continues to provide more enhanced training in supervision, management, and leadership, to keep the workforce current with current technology trends.
The Agency has addressed its succession planning by developing a comprehensive, competency-based leadership development program. This program is designed to create the next generation of leaders by preparing and motivating employees at every level. The USPTO will continue to encourage mid-level supervisors to welcome the leadership challenge. In addition, the Agency has made significant progress ensuring all performance plans have measurable performance standards that are directly aligned with agency goals. The significance of our mission, excellent benefits, recruitment incentives and wide use of telework and other employment flexibilities continues to make a good business case for marketing the USPTO as an employer of choice.
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