PTO Director Lee: Patent Application Record to Be Enhanced

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By Tony Dutra

Nov. 6 — The clarity of the record on the discussion between a patent applicant and the examiner is key to the Patent and Trademark Office's quality initiative, according to a Nov. 6 blog post by PTO Director Michelle K. Lee.

“Historically, our primary focus has been on correctness,” Lee said, “but the evolving patent landscape has challenged us to increase our focus on clarity.”

The office is preparing to launch a pilot program where examiners will place in the record their definitions of key terms and “more detailed reasons for the allowance and rejection of claims.”

A PTO spokesperson said the office has not yet firmed up a date for the pilot program start, “but we hope to launch it very soon.”

The blog post also details a “big data” component of the agency's quality review.

Today, the office is “able to identify statistically significant trends only on a corps-wide basis,” Lee said. Transforming the review data capture process should help the PTO acquire more meaningful data at a greater level of detail, she said.

Data on examiners' work product and supervisory reviews will be more structured, allowing the PTO to identify quality issues at the technology center and art unit level and, ultimately, assess an individual examiner's performance, according to the post.

A “master review form” will become part of the record, which the office intends to share with the public.

These topics will be on the agenda at the agency's next Patent Quality Chat webinar, scheduled for Nov. 10.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at

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