Examination Time and Production System: Your Opinion is Requested

Author: Adriana L. Burgy
Editor: Aaron J. Capron

At the end of October of 2016, the USPTO solicited public feedback as the Office embarked on reevaluating its examination time goals.  The Federal Register announcement can be found here.  At the Office, each technology area is assigned an examination time goal; examination time goals vary by technology and are considered the average amount of time that should be spent by an examiner when examining a patent application in a particular technology area.  With technology, examination and art changes over the years, the Office now seeks to reevaluate those examination time goals.

As part of that reevaluation process, the Office provided a list of questions to solicit stakeholder comments; those questions can be found here.  Information sought by the Office, however, is not limited to the proffered questions; the Office welcomes other comments.  The Office has also held interactive roundtables at their various sites (Alexandria, VA; Dallas, TX; and Denver, CO) to again collect feedback.  The final roundtable discussion is scheduled for January 11, 2017, in San Jose, CA from 1 PM to 3 PM.

Additionally, the Office prepared and provided background material regarding examination time and the production system; the background materials can be found here.  From those materials, reproduced below are the criteria that examiner performance is rated.

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Production and quality compose 70% of the examiner’s performance rating.  The remaining 20% comes from the examiners docket management and 10% from stakeholder interaction.  Further, the Patent Office outlined the production goal calculation and detailed the factors making up the production goal calculation.  Reproduced below is the production goal calculation.

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The materials also exemplify the “counts” associated with various actions from the examiners; reproduced below is an example of the counts attributed to different actions.

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Here, one sees firsthand how the count credit is awarded and how the Office incentivizes a first Office Action on the merits, i.e., by awarding more credit early in prosecution (1.25 counts) in comparison to a final rejection (0.25 counts).

The Office extended the time period to submit comments until Monday, January 30, 2017.

 

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