By Donald Zuhn --
Last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that it was adopting new, more comprehensive procedures for measuring the quality of patent examination. The new procedures were developed by a joint USPTO-Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) Task Force following consultation with the patent community and public.
Under the new system, seven aspects of the examination process will be assessed to yield a composite quality metric. The seven aspects include two patent examination quality measures that the Office says were used previously -- the final rejection and allowance compliance rate (the correctness of the examiners' overall determination of the patentability of the claims) and the in-process compliance rate (the quality of the actions taken during the course of examination) -- along with five additional new measures:
• The use of best search practices in the examiner's initial search for prior art,
• The use of best examination practices in the first action on the merits,
• Trends in compact and efficient examination as reflected in aggregate USPTO data,
• The perceptions of applicants and practitioners as measured by surveys, and
• The perceptions of examiners as measured by surveys.
In a press release announcing the change, the Office said it will periodically disseminate the results of each measure (at least twice a year), along with the aggregate data used in their calculation to the extent practicable, on the USPTO website. A detailed description of the new procedures, which will be implemented for fiscal year 2011, can be found here.