by Dennis Crouch
In a report sharply critical of the US Patent Office, the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s Office has concluded that patent quality is not up-to-snuff. Read the report titled “USPTO Needs to Strengthen Patent Quality Assurance Practices.”
The report makes four basic conclusions:
- USPTO policies are “ineffective” at measuring whether examiners are issuing high quality patents.
- USPTO “quality metrics” may underrepresent the examination error rate.
- USPTO is not collecting data that could improve patent quality.
- USPTO’s response to “patent mortgaging” is likely insufficient (here, patent mortgaging refers to examiners intentionally submitting low-quality work in order to meet a quota that is later re-worked).
The OIG has asked the USPTO to respond to the report within 60-days with an action plan responding to the criticisms and recommendations of the report.
Regarding quality, it is clear that the USPTO is good at measuring production and docket management, but the PTO tends to lack either the skill or will to ensure that each office action is of a high quality. Thus, for instance, from FY11-FY13, only seven examiners received warnings for low quality applications while 500 warnings were issued for production or docket management failures. The concern is that we’re pushing examiners to keep-up rather than conduct the highest quality examination.
Although it was clearly written by outsiders who do not fully understand the system, the report does offer important insight that Director Lee should use when pushing toward higher quality patents.