Monday, February 10, 2014

USPTO - How to Reduce the Backlog of Applications and Increase the Quality of US Patents - PTO Interviews

People frequently question the backlog of applications in the USPTO. Somehow hiring more examiners has not significantly reduced it. File an application and wait for at least a year or two for examination. It is particularly bad in the tech and software fields. Another question is how to improve patent quality or ensure only good patents issue? The last question is for smarter people to resolve, but if we want to reduce backlog and improve patent quality, I think we must focus on the quality of initial examination.

One way to increase the quality of initial examination is within each applicant's control. Instead of filing a written reply to an Office action, consider sending an email to the examiner with a detailed written proposal along with a request for an interview. You may find this sets the stage for a mutual understanding on how to claim an invention with respect to the prior art. Don't file a formal amendment until you understand the examiner.

I also think interviews should be the default and examiners should initiate more interviews. Call any of us and say, "I think I see how to place this application in condition for allowance." Most of us would welcome that call. On the other hand, examiners should not refuse a request to interview after a final Office action. One reason some appeal is they are frustrated with a revolving door of prior art rejections that appear to be fueled by some examiner's desire to get another RCE on the docket.

Until we address how we conduct initial examination, the backlog may not go away. It applicants' responsibility to efficiently prosecute cases and part of this is doing a good job at interviews. The USPTO web page Interview Practice has additional guidance on how to conduct PTO interviews.

Copyright © 2014 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.