The USPTO is hiring patent examiners. [Link] The first priority in hiring is to locate individuals who can do a quality job of examining in the areas of technology where expertise is needed. The Office is also looking to hire individuals likely to happily stay on the job and that can be quickly trained for the job (high morale, low turnover, low training time). One problem with these criteria is that very few hopeful patent examiners are able to provide evidence that they fit these criteria.
Over the past week, I spoke with several individuals from the USPTO who agreed that a hopeful examiner's participation as a volunteer reviewer with Peer-to-Patent could help persuade the Office that its criteria are satisfied. (To be clear, there is no official USPTO policy on considering Peer-to-Patent experience in the hiring process.)
The Peer-to-Patent project offers a mechanism for third-party volunteers to provide input into the patent system by identifying and discussing prior art associated with pending patent applications. According to the USPTO press release, "volunteer scientific and technical experts [will] discuss the applications and submit prior art they think might be relevant to determining if an invention is new and non-obvious, as the law requires. After the review period, the prior art is sent to the USPTO patent examiners for their consideration during examination." Although the written comments & discussions are not sent to the patent examiner, examiners are free to read those comments as part of the examination process.
Although certainly not a complete examination, the work of volunteer reviewers incorporates many skills of examination such as searching for applicable prior art and (potentially) explaining how the identified art relates to the presented claims. This process gives volunteer reviewers an opportunity to show their skills at searching and applying the search. The job of examining patent applications is not for everyone. Time as a volunteer reviewer also gives job applicants an opportunity to figure out if the job is a good fit.
The Peer-to-Patent project begins next week. In the meantime, potential volunteers who are not experienced with the patent law system may want to review the Peer-to-Patent tutorial material. [Link]