USPTO Patent Quality Assurance Practices – Quality Not Quantity

In a report issued on April 10, 2015, the United States Department of Congress, Office of Inspector General, provided its final report on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) patent quality assurance practices. The audit was conducted to (1) determine the sufficiency of the USPTO’s quality assurance program’s processes to prevent the issuance of low-quality patents and (2) assess the additional quality reviews performed to measure examiner performance and ensure that examiners are fully qualified to issue patent determinations without supervisory review.

It identified four areas of concern:

1. USPTO’s performance appraisal plan and related policies are ineffective at measuring whether examiners are issuing high-quality patents.

2. USPTO’s official quality metrics may underrepresent the true error rate.

3. USPTO is not collecting data that could improve patent quality.

4. USPTO’s response to patent mortgaging may not discourage abuse.

These findings are discussed in Inspector General: USPTO Needs to Strengthen Patent Quality Assurance Practices and an article that appeared this week in the Washington Post, Patent and Trademark Office Doesn’t Know if Examiners are Doing Their Jobs, Watchdog Says. The USPTO has an outstanding request for comments on its patent quality initiatives and many participants in the patent system will be submitting comments and proposals for improving patent quality. The request for comments is discussed in the blog post-USPTO Patent Quality Call for Papers.

For more information on this topic, contact your Intellectual Property counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell.

By Joyce B. Klemmer

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