Strategic Plan > Index to Action Papers > Certification of Knowledge, Skills and Ability in Trademark Process

Certification of Knowledge, Skills and Ability
in Trademark Process


The Trademark Operation should revise its procedures to require routine certification and re-certification of employees who are employed in the Trademark Operation (e.g., pre-examination, examination, and post examination), to assure a level knowledge, skills and ability that are consistent with quality goals.

Background Information:

Currently, the Office certifies the formal training of individuals prior to employment with the Office.  No pre-employment testing is performed.  Once an individual is hired, in the case of a trademark examiner, the individual receives initial training and thereafter is assigned a mentor for on-the-job-training.  Examining attorneys are “certified” regarding their competence to examine as part of the “signatory program” prior to promotion to

GS-13 and again prior to promotion to GS-14.  Once an individual becomes a GS-13, or GS-14 examiner, there is no further periodic testing/training to ensure that the individual maintains an expected level of competency in law, regulations and practice and procedures.  Subsequent training is only given as a result of changes to the trademark law and/or regulatory changes.  The technical support staff receives similar training but no formal “certification” programs are in place to measure on-the-job competencies.

The trademark examining processes have changed significantly in recent years both because of changes in the Lanham Act and because of ongoing developments in case law.  Accordingly, some employees may not have the knowledge, skills or ability necessary to perform at the levels expected by applicants and registrants.

Options Considered:

In order to maintain the core competency and the proficiency of the trademark professionals, the Office should create a series of tests that enable individuals to demonstrate their competencies related to the examination process and their ability to work independently throughout their career at the USPTO.  Upon passing a test, the individual will be promoted.  The test content and difficulty will be based on the individual’s grade and the job that the individual is performing.  For trademark examiners, at the GS-11 and GS-12 level, we would test for legal competencies.  After the examiner has achieved full signatory authority, periodic testing would be required to maintain the level of authority and grade.  Re-certification should be a requirement for all GS-13 and GS-14 examiners, including GS-14/15 Senior Attorneys and GS-15 Managing Attorneys.  By requiring a re-certification on a regular basis, we ensure that the Office has a well-trained and highly skilled staff.  Appropriate re-certification processes would also apply to the technical support staff and their supervisors with respect to their ability to process trademark applications.

USPTO Recommended Course of Action:

Implement a re-certification program in Trademarks.

Details and Timing:

1.     Determine current knowledge, skills and ability required for each position in the trademark process (two months).

2.     Establish criteria for periodic testing to re-certify individuals (e.g., three years).

3.     The certification program will be administered using a web-based training and testing system.


1.     Ensuring that required level of knowledge, skills and ability is consistent with quality requirements.

2.     Ensuring that the level of testing is not so low that the quality of our work products is not acceptable to applicants and our stakeholders.

Return on Investment:

1.     Improved quality.

2.     Reduced rework.

3.     Higher level of applicant satisfaction with examination and registration process.

Actions Taken:

Actions are under way to implement this recommendation during calendar year 2003.  Trademarks is currently testing training modules that are being prepared to test the use of a web-based training tool. 

Implementation Schedule
Work Breakdown StructureTask NameStartFinishProject Lead
30Transformation 6: T-13 - Create a certification program to ensure employees have sufficient knowledge, skills and ability (KSAs) to support quality goals06/03/0210/01/07S. Marsh
30.1.1Create a working group of managers and senior attorneys to define KSAs (T-13)06/03/0210/01/07 
30.1.2Determine method of testing to measure core competencies or KSAs related to Examiner functions/positions at the GS-11/12; GS-13/14 and GS-14/15 (T-13)06/21/0212/13/02 
30.1.3Pilot e-learning web-based system (T-13)07/01/0208/20/02 
30.1.4Evaluate pilot results (T-13)08/20/0208/30/02 
30.1.5Procure web-based e-learning/training system (T-13)09/03/0211/29/02 
30.1.6Identify KSA criteria for designing test modules for GS-13/14 and GS-14/15 (T-13)03/25/0303/25/03 
30.1.7Develop web-based KSA training and testing module for examiners/managers (T-13)06/03/0203/25/03 
30.1.8Share proposal with TPAC and user community (T-13)01/02/0304/30/03 
30.1.9Conduct a pilot to test the proposal/evaluate the results (T-13)02/03/0309/01/03 
30.1.10Determine how the program will be administered/supported (T-13)04/01/0307/01/03 
30.1.11Address labor relations implications (T-13)07/01/0308/01/03 
30.1.12Assess changes to employee PAPs (T-13)07/01/0308/01/03 
30.1.13Conduct impact and implementation bargaining, if required, for examiner certification (T-13)08/01/0309/01/03 
30.1.14Share results of the pilot with the user community (T-13)09/01/0310/01/03 
30.1.15Communicate the purpose and requirements of the certification program (T-13)09/01/0310/01/03 
30.1.16Implement the examiner and manager certification program pending successful results of the pilot program (T-13)06/03/0210/01/03 
30.1.17Monitor examiner and manager test results; quality review findings; revise materials as appropriate (T-13)10/01/0310/01/07 
30.2.1Determine the core competencies or KSAs related to Paralegal/support staff functions/positions; identify criteria for designing test modules (T-13)10/01/0309/30/07 
30.2.2Develop web-based KSA training and testing module for paralegal/support staff (T-13)01/15/0403/31/04 
30.2.3Determine how the program will be administered/supported (T-13)02/02/0403/30/04 
30.2.4Address labor relations implications (T-13)02/02/0403/01/04 
30.2.5Assess changes to employee PAPs (T-13)03/01/0404/01/04 
30.2.8Implement paralegal/support staff certification program (T-13)10/01/0304/01/04 
30.2.9Monitor test results; quality review findings; revise materials as appropriate (T-13)04/01/0409/30/07 
KEY: e Biz=online business system fees=fees forms=formshelp=help laws and regs=laws/regulations definition=definition (glossary)

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