Commerce Department Inspector General Releases Report Critical of Patent Office Examiner Goal and Appraisal System

The Inspector General’s Report highlighted several problems with the current system of Examiner Goals and Evaluation:

  • Patent Examiner Goals Have Not Changed Since 1976
  • Patent Examiner Performance Appraisal Plans Are Not Linked to Supervisor and PTO Goals
  • Patent Examiner Award System Is Not Well Structured
  • No “gain-sharing” award is offered between 110-120 percent of the production goal to encourage production at that level
  • Special achievement award does not require higher performance than the gain-sharing award
  • Criteria for pendency reduction award are not tied to pendency reduction

The Office of the Inspector General of the Commerce Department recently released its report on the Patent Office titled:

USPTO should reassess how examiner goals, performance appraisal plans, and the award system stimulate and reward examiner production. [Download PDF]

In addition, the Report made three fairly mild recommendations:

  • Reevaluate current patent examiner goals and assess the merits of revising them to reflect efficiencies in and changes to work processes resulting from automation and other enhancements.
  • Examine the benefits of revising patent examiner performance plans to (a) better reflect agency production, first action and overall pendency goals, and (b) better measure examiner success at processing applications within specified time periods.
  • Evaluate the current patent examiner award system to determine if there is a more effective and efficient way to stimulate higher examiner production.

Who is the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce?

In 1999, Johnnie Frazier is the was sworn in as the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and thus assumed responsibility for monitoring the operations of one of the most diverse federal agencies. As Inspector General, Mr. Frazier is charged with (1) promoting economy and efficiency, and (2) detecting and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse in Departmental programs and operations. The Office of Inspector General is created to provide an independent and objective evaluation of Departmental programs and operations.