The USPTO has been establishing procedures for measuring the quality of patent examination and to improve overall patent quality (together with the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC)). The Office is now seeking help from the public. From a recent Federal Register Notice:
As part of this effort to improve the quality of the overall patent examination and prosecution process, to reduce patent application pendency, and to ensure that granted patents are valid and provide clear notice, the USPTO would like to focus, inter alia, on improving the process for obtaining the best prior art, preparation of the initial application, and examination and prosecution of the application. The USPTO is seeking public comment directed to this focus with respect to methods that may be employed by applicants and the USPTO to enhance the quality of issued patents, to identify appropriate indicia of quality, and to establish metrics for the measurement of the indicia. This notice is not directed to patent law statutory change or substantive new rules. It is directed to the shared responsibility of the USPTO and the public for improving quality and reducing pendency within the existing statutory and regulatory framework.For purposes of this notice, a "quality patent" is defined as a patent:
(a) For which the record is clear that the application has received a thorough and complete examination, addressing all issues on the record, all examination having been done in a manner lending confidence to the public and patent owner that the resulting patent is most likely valid;
(b) for which the protection granted is of proper scope; and
(c) which provides sufficiently clear notice to the public as to what is protected by the claims.
Notably, the term ‘‘quality patent’’ does not include the economic value of the resulting patent.
For ease of organization and analysis, the areas for which the USPTO is requesting comment are divided into specific categories:
Category 1—Quality measures used: metrics that would supplement or improve current metrics (i.e., Allowance Compliance Rate and In-Process Revbiew Compliance)
Category 2—Stages of Monitoring: stages of examination where quality metrics should be measured
Category 3—Pendency: 'nuff said
Category 4—Pilot Programs: feedback regarding the effect on patent quality and examination quality resulting from various pilot programs (e.g., Peer-to-Patent, Pre-Appeal Brief Conference Pilot, First Action Interview Pilot, Continuing Education for Practitioners (CEP) Pilot)
Category 5—Customer Surveys Regarding Quality: feedback on past USPTO surveys of the patent community and proposed modifications for future surveys.
Category 6—Tools for Achieving Objectives: requesting identification of existing tools which are, or can be made, available to users and the USPTO to enhance the quality of the USPTO’s processes. This would include, for example, software tools that will provide meaningful monitoring, search tools, claim analysis tools, and case law identification tools.
Category 7—Incentives: requesting comments on means to incentivize applicants and USPTO personnel to adopt procedures and practices that support the achievement of patent quality. Notes the PTO: "It is recognized that any additional effort to increase the quality of the product has an associated cost."
Written comments must be received on or before February 8, 2010. No public hearing will be held. Written comments should be sent by email addressed to email@example.com.
Download a copy of the Notice here (link)