Monday, October 13, 2008

Judge Michel on state of the USPTO

Intellectual Property Watch discussed a talk by Judge Michel on 6 Oct. 08.

The pliability of grant rate numbers was noted-->

“It’s very suspicious to me” that the allowance rate - or applications accepted - was 78 percent a few years ago and is now around 40 percent, Michel said at a BNA/ABA intellectual property patent law conference in Washington. “That seems like a wild gyration to me.”

Of course, Quillen and Webster, and some out of touch academics, were talking about a 97% rate!

Of examiner retention at the USPTO-->

Michel also said it’s “very worrisome” that the USPTO is hiring 1,000 new patent examiners per year, but there are still almost as many leaving. There are a “substantial” number of examiners who have been at the USPTO for less than three years, the judge said, and many are working from home because of a lack of workspace at USPTO.

The USPTO says that as of 30 September, approximately 2,900 examiners of the 6,000 total have been with the agency less than three years. About 1,200 examiners are being hired each year. As to the space issue, telework is an option available to many patent examiners once they reach a certain level of experience and competency.

Of questionable employee practices at the USPTO, see PatentHawk's post of material from the Oct. 08 POPA newsletter which begins:

When USPTO Director Jon Dudas let the word out that too many employees receive outstanding ratings at end-of-year performance appraisals, one supervisor baselessly lowered a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) special programs examiner's rating on one critical element, causing the employee to lose a significant portion of her Gainsharing Award. POPA filed a grievance on the employee's behalf that ultimately resulted in the invocation of binding arbitration on the issue.

The employee won the grievance.

One commenter to the blog noted:

Hehh, that "it's not possible that the agency has that many outstanding employees" attitude seems to directly contradict Jon W. Dudas' response to Congress, where he discounted the studies that called into question the USPTO's 30-year old production goals by saying, "More important, neither study recognized that with nearly 6,000 talented scientists and engineers, there is no 'average patent examiner.' The key to establishing the optimal production goals is to be sure that the system allows for maximum flexibility and maximum opportunity for each
and every examiner. Examiners are intelligent and hard working."

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