Clearing the Oldest Patent Applications

Patrick Anderson (PatentCalls and GametimeIP) pointed me to an interesting discussion on the just_n_examiner website regarding a USPTO initiative called COPA – Clearing the Oldest Patent Applications.

In a recent memorandum to examiners, USPTO Patent Commissioner Robert Stoll re-emphasized the medium-term goal of issuing an Office Action within 10 months of patent application filing. Stoll then introduced an interim goal: that by September 30, 2011 (end of FY2011), every application filed on or before June 7, 2009 should at least have received an initial Office Action.

Toward this end, we are officially starting a major initiative called “Clearing the Oldest Patent Applications” (COPA) beginning in the second half of Fiscal Year 2011 to reduce pendency by eliminating the backlog of our oldest unexamined new applications —those with filing dates on or before June 7, 2009. As of the end of February, there are still 233,780 applications in this category.

If successful, the result of COPA will be that all applications more than 28 months old will have been (at least initially) examined. One approach that the Office is taking to reach this goal is to share resources between technology centers.

Through the COPA initiative, we will carefully look at our old case backlogs, and rebalance workloads by sharing resources both within and across Technology Centers (TC). Workloads will be rebalanced by identifying technological overlaps between art units and TCs thereby matching backlog applications to available resources. Only by rebalancing the current workload can we significantly eliminate our oldest cases and move toward an average 10-month first Office action pendency.

Reshuffling the Deck Chairs: Commissioner Stoll has also directed examiners to focus attention on applications with an “actual filing date of June 7, 2009 or earlier.” Of course, the Office has a limited throughput, and simply refocusing attention on un-examined cases will take attention away from in-process applications. Thus, in the short-run, the PTO may be slower in responding to an RCE or other applicant submission.

In the longer-term, the USPTO is focusing on hiring additional examiners and information technology efficiencies – both of which are intended to increase throughput across the board. Those initiatives, however are dependent upon Congress allowing the PTO to increase its fees and corresponding budgetary expenditures.

The full memorandum follows:

MEMORANDUM

UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
COMMISSIONER FOR PATENTS

TO: All Patent Employees
FROM: Robert L. Stoll, Commissioner for Patents
SUBJECT: “Clearing the Oldest Patent Applications” (COPA)
MAR 10, 2011

One of our goals set forth in the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan is to reduce pendency to 10 months for a first Office action by 2014. Toward this end, we are officially starting a major initiative called “Clearing the Oldest Patent Applications” (COPA) beginning in the second half of Fiscal Year 2011 to reduce pendency by eliminating the backlog of our oldest unexamined new applications —those with filing dates on or before June 7, 2009. As of the end of February, there are still 233,780 applications in this category.

As we looked for strategies to meet this goal, we analyzed our application distribution in relation to available resources. We found a high variability in backlog volume as compared to resources in some technology areas. Through the COPA initiative, we will carefully look at our old case backlogs, and rebalance workloads by sharing resources both within and across Technology Centers (TC). Workloads will be rebalanced by identifying technological overlaps between art units and TCs thereby matching backlog applications to available resources. Only by rebalancing the current workload can we significantly eliminate our oldest cases and move toward an average 10-month first Office action pendency.

You can help with this initiative by starting now to focus your efforts on applications within your dockets that have an actual filing date of June 7, 2009 or earlier. In the near future you will receive a questionnaire, developed in collaboration with POPA, designed to let us know if you have expertise or work experience in an area not currently in your docket, but where you can lend your expertise to areas where there may be a shortage of examiner resources. You can express your no obligation level of interest in taking on new cases in those areas where you have experience and ability. More generally, you can help us identify areas of technology that are closely related so that we can target areas for potential case transfer which will aid us in maintaining the level of quality of examination. Your assistance in completing this questionnaire will be very helpful in making the COPA initiative a success.

I want to assure you that any workload rebalancing will include appropriate goal adjustments which will be clearly communicated with you before the cases are acted on. We are also exploring the possibility of establishing a Patents-wide award if we achieve the COPA goals as an organization this year. Together we can reduce our patent backlog and achieve our Strategic Goal of 10-month First Action Pendency by 2014. Our efforts to reduce the patent backlog can have a major positive impact on our nation’s economy and technological leadership.

We are currently planning a COPA Kick-off event which will be held in the next few weeks, you will be receiving more information on this very soon. Thank you for your hard work and your dedication to the USPTO,

36 thoughts on “Clearing the Oldest Patent Applications

  1. Even if the public at large does not come bullying in the comment section of PatentlyO.

    LOl LOL LOL LOL.

    Um, no.

    You attempt to make a distinction that is without a difference.

    Do I seek a service? Do I pay for a service?

    (hint: both of these are “yes”)

    Does it matter if you are independent of 6 being right or wrong? Does “the public” pay for your service?

    (hint: both of these are “no”)

    Just observations for you to realign your thinking.

    Also – see Lord Kappos comments upon taking Office – I be too lazy to find for you, but you will see the re-emphasis on service.

  2. One refresher course for you ping:
    you are not a client, you are an user, no less and no more than the public at large.
    Even if the public at large does not come bullying in the comment section of PatentlyO.

    Sick of this mentality of keeping the government at bay, unless he is working for your private convenience allowing you to screw your fellow governed.

    Independently of 6 being right or wrong.

  3. AJE,

    No doubt – hence what wtvlfdt says is on point (and let’s not even discuss the PTA factor).

    There is no good reason anyone should be going the RCE route anymore.

  4. See Ron Katznelson’s numbers. By the PTO’s own admission, about 50% of the pre-appeals result in re-opening. And that doesn’t even count the bullsh!t panel decisions that instruct applicant to proceed to the BPAI and then get re-opened after the brief is filed.

  5. “There’s about an 80% chance that prosecution will be re-opened”

    Not sure what area you’re practicing in but that’s about 60% higher than the highest rate I’ve seen from anyone.

  6. Actually the one pile of unfinished work (RCE) doesn’t look as good as the other pile of unfinished work (new) because RCEs are now worth less counts thanks to the majority of examiners that decided the short term gain from the extra 2 hours was worth more than the .25/.50 counts lost for each RCE.

    When the RCEs start piling up and you haven’t looked at the case for over a year the new case will likely take as long as the RCE but the new case is worth more counts.

    Translation…RCE backlog on my docket is piling up unless the case is allowable after the RCE.

  7. Because some applicant’s are…

    Classic 6 – blame the applicant.

    One refresher course on client service needed.

  8. Clearing the backlog only helps in some cases other cases the inventor needs business partners or he cant startup it becomes another method of stealing patents through financial poverty. The big fish dont want the little fish growing up so they refuse to deal or steal and try to get past examiners. They need delay application status for indegent applicants free not for thousands of dollers as proposed.

  9. Once again, Stoll is on the mark.

    Before the USPTO can achieve a medium-term goal of issuing an Office Action within 10 months of patent application filing, they need to get control over the tail end of the pipeline to keep outlier from mucking up the stats. Devote the effort to addressing the 233,780 application backlog in the unexamined new applications with filing dates on or before June 7, 2009 and, once that is done, the USPTO will have more meaningful statistics from which to best decide how to reach the medium-term goal of issuing an Office Action within 10 months of patent application filing.

    You go Stoll! I’m glad to see we all are moving past the 2007-2008 dark years at the USPTO.

  10. Here is a similar story

    This weekend, The Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., will award C. Yardley Chittick, the nation’s oldest patent attorney, with an honorary degree.

    Chittick, who is 104, lived across the hall from Humphrey Bogart in 1917 at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. He turned down a job with Thomas Edison after graduating from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering. He later earned his law degree from George Washington University.

  11. Oh but btw ping I was saying meh to the copa nonsense, which is a non-story to me. I was not addressing people stacking RCE’s as a result of the new count system.

  12. I have watched this video at least too many times today.

    link to youtube.com

    Just a reminder to not let em read your poker face.

    And omfg who wants one of those little cheek masks for their girl? Me.

    Now if you guys will excuse me I’m going to finish up my production fo da quarter.

    Doing all those stacks of work that all look the same to me.

  13. Except it seems so… meh.

    One pile of unfinished work (RCE) looks just like another pile of unfinished work (new apps) looks just like another pile of unfinished work (appeal backlog).

    meh

    A simple word says so much about the 6-ster.

  14. “Thus, in the short-run, the PTO may be slower in responding to an RCE or other applicant submission.”

    I think that’s the idea. Some people are really building up stockpiles of RCE’s. Like huge stockpiles. We’re talking more than 30 cases.

    And I figured you guys would have known about this already or I would have told you.

    Except it seems so… meh. It’s practically just the date goal project done in a slightly less re tarded way.

  15. The Examiners in the cases in which my RCEs were filed did nothing wrong

    Of course not – you did.

    Well, there is one other avenue – ya can join the anti-patent forces and BLAME YOUR CLIENTS.

    Well Sunshine, what’s your choice – you or your clients?

  16. That’s too funny. I had to read it again.

    I think Stoll is just doing his job, but this “initiative” does seem quite mediocre. If he really wants to go above and beyond, he might tackle the issue of *why* there are so many *old* applications being bypassed and awaiting a first action, while other *newer* applications are being worked on.

  17. RD asked whether we have any information on how many pre-1995 applications are still pending.

    DDC’s Answer based on my conversations with USPTO officials is that there are about 600 pre change-over applications still pending before the USPTO that would be eligible for the 17 year term not counting those that are still being held-back by a secrecy order.

  18. Paul (and “me”); any idea how many of these are still “out there?”

    Is this info available at the PTO website?

    Could such “tech-old” inventions actually be dangerous to others?

  19. He’d get more and quicker responses if he followed the PTO’s standard operating procedure and sent out party invitations instead.

  20. How about a focus on the real submarines out there – those few patents left with a pre-June 8, 1995 filing dates that are still in prosecution/interference/appeal. Let’s clean THOSE ultra-subs up.

  21. I’m delighted to see any efforts to get older applications the priority date handling that they should be getting. However, far more publicly serious than the mere pre-6/7/09 applications targeted here are the few but very dangerous applications that have been pending so very long that they will still run 17 more years after they issue under the old term statute! If some of them are hung up in long-delayed District Court appeals from the Board (including some interferences), perhaps the PTO Solicitor could send a polite status inquiry letter to the attorneys and the Chief Judge of the respective District explaining this danger to the public of further delay?

  22. So we sees yet another tricky side of the Lord Kappos.

    The recent change to RCE processing which allows RCE’s ta be put on the back burner. Quite the savvy political move.

    And yet, Iza remind all that all these mountains of work come courtesy of the poor examination quality. As I done tell ya, If ya aint got the time to do it right the first time, when wills ya get the time?

  23. Another good reason to not file RCE’s. Appeal. There’s about an 80% chance that prosecution will be re-opened and the application will then be put on the examiner’s amended docket which requires the examiner to act on it within 2 months.

  24. The USPTO issues a pathetic bureaucratic directive and has the temerity to label it an “initiative”.

    They then “launch” their “initiative” with all the fanfare of the commissioning of a new luxury ocean-liner, complete with a “Kick-off event” and, no doubt, champagne. I’m sure invitees will all be resplendent in their finery, delicately scented and parading their regalia among the inevitable glad-handing and cordial beltway introductions.

    If they focused half as much on substance as on the stylisms recommended to them by their management and leadership consultants, aimed at both carefully managing fragile “employee” psychologies and celebrating the abundant egos in management, we’d all be better off.

  25. Thus, in the short-run, the PTO may be slower in responding to an RCE or other applicant submission

    This has been happening for some time, although there appears to be a great deal of Examiner discretion.

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