On April 29, Howard Berman, Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property sent a letter to USPTO Director Jon Dudas, asking very direct questions on USPTO management and practice (see earlier 271 coverage here).
Dudas has now responded, and his response and supporting documentation have been posted on Greg Aharonian's website (link - .zip format).
For anyone looking for a "gotacha!" moment, this does not appear to be it. On its face, the response is unremarkable, although there is some interesting information:
USPTO Meetings With RIM During NTP Reexam - according to the letter, RIM approached the PTO to support them as amicus curiae in a petition for rehearing that RIM was seeking with the CAFC:
The subject of discussion was RIM's request that the United States support its position in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that patent infringement not be found when alleged infringement includes acts outside the United States. Citing the USPTO's policy of not discussing any aspect of a pending USPTO reexamination, Ms. Dana and all other government representatives in attendance refused to discuss or listen to statements, questions, or arguments regarding any matter pending in reexamination. The govemment did not make the amicus filing that RIM requested.Examiner Attrition - According to Dudas, the attrition rate for Patent Examiners in FY 2007 is 8.5 percent which is lower than the attrition rate for Federal workers as determined by OPM(8.9%) and BLS(9.2%) in the same time period.
As stated, the USPTO's policy prohibits ex parte communications that directly relate to matters pending on reexaminations. This policy does not prohibit contacts with anyone with respect to matters that are not at issue in proceedings before the USPTO. Thus, for example, the USPTO officials regularly meet with patentees and members of the patent bar, even though those parties may be pursuing matters before the Office. In such conversations, consistent with the policy followed during the meeting with RIM representatives, its officials do not discuss particular matters
pending before the Office.
Also, the letter stated that attrition hits examiners hardest when they have only 0-3 years experience with the Office - the average attrition rate for examiners with 0-3 years experience is 15.5%, while average attrition for examiners with 3-30 years experience is 3.95%.