USPTO management has worked with representatives of the patent examiners union (POPA) to establish a proposal to "better align the performance standards for patent examiners with the USPTO’s goals for increasing quality in patent examination and reducing the backlog of pending patent applications." If adopted, the changes would be the first major revision to the patent examiners’ performance appraisal plan (PAP) since 1986.
Some of the proposed changes to the Performance Appraisal Plan (PAP) include:
• Establishing a “Stakeholder Interaction” element that emphasizes routine use of interviews to facilitate compact prosecution and timely responsiveness to requests for personal interviews;
• Revising the performance standards to include a single quality element for all examiners—increasing the focus on examination quality and improve the transparency of how quality is measured; and
• Revamping the workflow element to provide examiners more opportunities to use their professional discretion to manage their own workflow.
POPA President Robert Budens is upbeat about the proposal, remarking
"Where other efforts to revise the examiner PAP over the past quarter century have failed, this effort has been successful because management was willing to include POPA in the process . . .this spirit of cooperation has helped to create a new PAP that we feel is beneficial to the examiner while also setting the agency on a more direct path to shorten pendency while maintaining high quality examination."POPA’s leadership is now sending the revised performance standards to its members for a vote, which is expected to be held in July. If approved, the new performance standards could be implemented as soon as the 2011 fiscal year.
Of course, the devil will be in the details, which the PTO assures will be provided in the coming weeks . . .
See the USPTO press release here.