The USPTO has unveiled a series of proposals that would bring significant change to the examiner “count system” – the methodology for determining the time a patent examiner has to complete a patent examination and how much credit is given for each stage of an examination. The proposals were developed by a task force comprised of senior USPTO patent managers and representatives of the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA), the union that represents patent examiners.
The proposed changes would be the most significant in more than 30 years. The last revision to the count system was in 1976.
According to the USPTO, the proposals provide the following:
- Improved working conditions: While the proposal increases the time examiners have overall, it provides incentives to encourage examiners to do a high-quality first action, and shifts resources from a focus on examiner recertification to front-end quality improvements. This change in incentives will ultimately encourage examiners to dispose of applications more quickly.
- More time for examiners: The proposed changes will give examiners more time overall, more time for a first action on the merits, and time for examiner-initiated interviews, while decreasing credits on requests for continued examination (RCEs)* and providing consistent credits for transferred or inherited amendments.
- Process changes: These changes will increase work credit certainty for examiners, increase fairness to applicants, and balance the load on IT systems.
The USPTO’s press release on the proposed changes can be found here.
The USPTO’s full proposal can be found here.
© 2009, Michael E. Kondoudis
The Law Office of Michael E. Kondoudis
DC Patent Attorney