[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 24 (Thursday, February 5, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 6475-6481]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-02398]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

United States Patent and Trademark Office

37 CFR Part 1

[Docket No.: PTO-P-2014-0043]


Request for Comments on Enhancing Patent Quality

AGENCY: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce.

ACTION: Request for comments; notice of meeting.

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SUMMARY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is 
seeking public input and guidance to direct its continued efforts 
towards enhancing patent quality. These efforts focus on improving 
patent operations and procedures to provide the best possible work 
products, to enhance the customer experience, and to improve existing 
quality metrics. In pursuit of these goals, the USPTO is launching a 
comprehensive and enhanced quality initiative. This initiative begins 
with a request for public comments on the set of proposals outlined in 
this document and will continue with a two-day ``Quality Summit'' with 
the public to discuss the outlined proposals. The conversation with the 
public held at this Quality Summit, complemented by written comments to 
these proposals, is the first of many steps toward developing a new 
paradigm of patent quality at the USPTO. Through an active and long-
term partnership with the public, the USPTO seeks to ensure the 
issuance of the best quality patents and provide the best customer 
service possible.

DATES: Comment Deadline Date: To be ensured of consideration, written 
comments must be received on or before May 6, 2015.
    The USPTO will hold a Quality Summit on March 25 and 26, 2015 at 
the Madison Building, USPTO Headquarters, in Alexandria, Virginia. This 
Summit will be broadcast via webinar and recorded for later viewing. 
For webinar participants, participation in all Summit sessions, 
including the group brainstorming sessions, will be possible. See the 
Supplementary Information section for the proposed agenda. In order to 
best prepare for the Quality Summit, the USPTO requests that those 
interested in attending the Quality Summit send an email to 
WorldClassPatentQuality@uspto.gov indicating their planned attendance 
by March 18, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be sent by electronic mail message 
over the Internet addressed to: WorldClassPatentQuality@uspto.gov. 
Comments may also be submitted by postal mail addressed to: Mail Stop 
Comments--Patents, Commissioner for Patents, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, 
Virginia 22313-1450, marked to the attention of Michael Cygan, Senior 
Legal Advisor, Office of Patent Legal Administration, Office of the 
Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy.
    Although comments may be submitted by postal mail, the USPTO 
prefers to receive comments by electronic mail message over the 
Internet because sharing comments with the public is more easily 
accomplished. Electronic comments are preferred to be submitted in 
plain text, but also may be submitted in ADOBE[supreg] portable 
document format or MICROSOFT WORD[supreg] format. Comments not 
submitted electronically should be submitted on paper in a format that 
facilitates convenient digital scanning into ADOBE[supreg] portable 
document format.
    The comments will be available for public inspection at the Office 
of the Commissioner for Patents, currently located in Madison East, 
Tenth Floor, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Comments also 
will be available for viewing via the USPTO's Internet Web site (http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/Patent-Quality-Initiative.jsp). 
Because comments will be made available for public inspection, 
information that the submitter does not desire to make public, such as 
an address or phone number, should not be included in the comments. It 
would be helpful to the USPTO if written comments included information 
about: (1) the name and affiliation of the individual responding; and 
(2) an indication of whether comments offered represent views of the 
respondent's organization or are the respondent's personal views.

[[Page 6476]]


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael T. Cygan, Senior Legal 
Advisor, at (571) 272-7700; Maria Nuzzolillo, Legal Advisor, at (571) 
272-8150; or Jeffrey R. West, Legal Advisor, at (571) 272-2226.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The innovation that is fostered by a strong patent system is a key 
driver of economic growth and job creation. Effectively promoting such 
innovation requires that issued patents fully comply with all statutory 
requirements and, of equal importance, that the patent examination 
process advance quickly, transparently, and accurately. The USPTO has 
taken steps to provide clear and consistent enforcement of its 
statutory examination mandates. For instance, the USPTO has released 
new training for examiners in the area of functional claiming, guidance 
on subject matter eligibility of claims, and an improved classification 
system for searching prior art. Additionally, the USPTO has begun to 
implement long-range plans to improve its operational capabilities, 
such as upgrading IT tools for its patent examiners through the Patents 
End-to-End program and expanding international work-sharing 
capabilities, all of which will help improve the quality of issued 
patents.
    Presently, the USPTO is launching a new, wide-ranging initiative to 
enhance the quality of patents issued by the USPTO. High quality 
patents permit certainty and clarity of rights, which in turn fuels 
innovation and reduces needless litigation. Moreover and importantly, 
for the first time in recent history, the USPTO has the financial 
resources to consider longer-term and more expensive improvements to 
patent quality by leveraging the sustainable funding model provided by 
the fee setting provisions in the America Invents Act. The USPTO also 
has made steady progress in reducing both the backlog of unexamined 
patent application and patent pendency. The current backlog of 
unexamined patent applications has dropped from a high of more than 
764,000 in January 2009 to presently less than 605,000. Similarly, the 
pendency from filing to a disposition has dropped from a high of 34.5 
months in August 2010 to currently 27.0 months. While the agency still 
has progress to make in further reducing both the backlog and pendency, 
the confluence of these events make it the optimal time for the USPTO 
to pursue this enhanced quality initiative.
    Herein, the USPTO presents its approach to partnering with the 
public in enhancing patent quality. Specifically, the USPTO is setting 
forth its ongoing efforts to address quality and is announcing a 
variety of proposals designed to further enhance patent quality. 
Additionally, the USPTO is announcing a Quality Summit to dialogue with 
the public about its new enhanced quality initiative and is seeking 
written comments about the same.
    The USPTO intends for this request for comments and the Quality 
Summit to be the first of many conversations and collaborations with 
the public as the USPTO continues to enhance patent quality. Through 
this document, the USPTO presents various questions about its new 
enhanced quality initiative and proposals. The purpose of these 
questions is to stimulate the public's thinking on the larger topic of 
patent quality, as well as focus discussion at the Quality Summit on a 
limited number of concrete proposals. The public's response to these 
questions will guide the agency in formulating, prioritizing, and 
implementing changes to enhancing patent quality. Accordingly, the 
USPTO welcomes the public's views on both the specific questions 
included in the Notice and any other issues that the public's believes 
to be important to patent quality. To communicate about events and 
actions related to the enhanced patent quality initiative, the USPTO is 
introducing a Web site: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/Patent-Quality-Initiative.jsp.
    Lastly, the USPTO has held internal focus sessions with USPTO 
employees, including patent examiners, to engage in discussions on how 
to enhance quality at every step of prosecution. These internal 
discussions will continue in parallel with the discussions being held 
with the public through written comments to this document and in-person 
at the Quality Summit. Engaging in a dialogue with examiners to receive 
input from those who are responsible for the crucial day-to-day work of 
examining applications and issuing high quality patents is essential to 
initiating and sustaining the success of our quality enhancing efforts.

Patent Quality Pillars

    As the USPTO commences its enhanced patent quality initiative, the 
USPTO is targeting three aspects of patent quality, termed the ``patent 
quality pillars.'' These pillars are:
    (1) Excellence in work products, in the form of issued patents and 
Office actions;
    (2) excellence in measuring patent quality, including appropriate 
quality metrics; and
    (3) excellence in customer service.
    As the first pillar, the USPTO is focusing on the quality of the 
work products provided at every stage of the patent process. This 
pillar includes both the quality of issued patents and the quality of 
all work products during the filing, examination, and issuance process. 
The USPTO is committed to issuing patents that clearly define the scope 
of the rights therein, that are within the bounds of the patent 
statutes as interpreted by the judiciary, and that provide certainty as 
to their validity to encourage investment in research, development, and 
commercialization.
    The USPTO is committed to issuing patents that clearly define the 
scope of the rights therein, that are within the bounds of the patent 
statues as interpreted by the judiciary, and that provide certainty as 
to their validity to encourage investment in research, development, and 
commercialization. The USPTO recognizes that examiners are the 
fundamental resource essential to building and strengthening the first 
pillar. Examiners are the key building block to the infrastructure and 
foundation needed to enhance and sustain quality. The USPTO is 
committed to taking the steps necessary to evaluate the needs of 
examiners to ensure that they have the tools, resources, and training 
required to perform their jobs optimally and to provide a superior work 
product.
    Regarding the second pillar, the USPTO is focusing on its 
measurement of quality to evaluate work products and customer 
interactions. The USPTO welcomes the public's input on its measurement 
of patent quality and how it may be improved.
    Turning to the third pillar, the USPTO is focusing on the quality 
of the customer experience. The USPTO seeks feedback to ensure that 
customers are treated promptly, fairly, consistently, and 
professionally at all stages of the examination process. The USPTO also 
is focused on maximizing the effectiveness and professionalism of all 
customer interactions, be it through examiner interviews, official 
USPTO communications, or call center exchanges.
    In moving forward with the enhanced quality initiative framed by 
these three pillars, the USPTO seeks to deepen and refine its thinking 
about general aspects of quality. To that end, the USPTO welcomes 
feedback about the following questions that the public may wish to 
address via written comments or at the Quality Summit. Moreover, the 
USPTO solicits any other input outside of these questions that the 
public believes can

[[Page 6477]]

lead to the issuance of higher quality patents.
     Are there aspects of enhanced quality other than the three 
``pillars'' previously described that should guide the USPTO's enhanced 
quality initiative?
     Are there any new or necessary changes to existing 
procedures that the USPTO should consider to improve the efficiency and 
effectiveness of the examination process?
     What should be included at the time of application filing 
in order to enhance patent quality?
     While specific questions have been provided to initiate 
the discussion on patent quality, the USPTO solicits any other input 
outside of these questions that the public believes can lead to the 
issuance of higher quality patents.

Existing Quality Efforts

    The USPTO has several ongoing efforts to improve the quality of 
issued patents under the three patent quality pillars. The following 
non-exhaustive list describes some of the recent initiatives that the 
USPTO has undertaken to improve overall quality.
    First, the USPTO has taken steps to provide more robust training to 
examiners. In furtherance of a White House Executive Action designed to 
keep examiners' technical knowledge current with the rapid advancements 
in the state of the art, the USPTO initiated the Patent Examiner 
Technical Training Program. Through this program, scientists, 
engineers, professors, and industrial designers may volunteer to 
participate as guest lecturers to examiners in their field of art. More 
information on this program can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/pettp.jsp. Additionally, the USPTO has adopted, and trained all 
examiners on, the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system. The 
CPC is a multi-office classification system developed by the USPTO and 
the European Patent Office to not only enhance the examiner's ability 
to locate the most relevant art as efficiently as possible, but also to 
enable work sharing with other patent offices around the globe.
    Second, as part of its ongoing commitment to legal training, the 
USPTO has developed training modules on claim clarity and functional 
claiming and is in the midst of training all examiners on those 
modules. These modules, which have been developed in furtherance of a 
White House Executive Action on clarity in patent claims, focus on 
evaluating functional claiming and improving the clarity of the 
examination record. More information, including four training modules 
provided to examiners on functional claiming, may be found at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/executive_actions.jsp#heading-2. 
Additionally, the USPTO routinely provides legal training as the law 
changes due to new legislation and case law developments. For example, 
the USPTO has offered extensive training on the new provisions of the 
America Invents Acts, as well as on subject matter eligibility in view 
of recent judicial rulings. More information about these trainings may 
be found respectively at http://www.uspto.gov/aia_implementation/index.jsp and http://www.uspto.gov/patents/law/exam/interim_guidance_subject_matter_eligibility.jsp.
    Third, as a further initiative to enhance clarity in patent claims, 
the USPTO has launched a voluntary glossary pilot program. This pilot 
program provides a framework for applicants in certain fields of art to 
include definitions of key claim terms within the patent specification 
in exchange for expedited examination through a first Office action. 
More information about this pilot may be found at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/glossary_initiative.jsp.
    Fourth, the USPTO is engaged in pilot programs such as the Quick 
Path IDS Program (QPIDS) and the After Final Consideration Pilot 
(AFCP). Each of these programs serve to reduce pendency and improve 
quality by more expeditiously identifying and resolving those issues 
preventing the grant of a high-quality patent. Specifically, the QPIDS 
pilot permits an examiner to consider an Information Disclosure 
Statement after payment of the issue fee without the need to reopen 
prosecution, effectively obviating the need to pursue a Request for 
Continued Examination. The AFCP program allows applicants to submit an 
amendment after final action for consideration by the examiner without 
reopening prosecution. For more information on these pilot programs, 
see respectively http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/qpids.jsp and 
http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/afcp.jsp.
    Fifth, the USPTO has implemented programs to take advantage of the 
search and examination work done in corresponding applications filed in 
other intellectual property offices through a variety of international 
cooperation efforts, for example, the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) 
program and the Common Citation Document program (CCD). The PPH enables 
the USPTO to leverage fast-track examination procedures already in 
place among participating foreign patent offices to allow applicants to 
reach final disposition of a patent application more quickly and 
efficiently than standard examination processing. The CCD program 
consolidates the prior art cited by the five largest intellectual 
property offices of the world (i.e., USPTO, EPO, JPO, KIPO, and SIPO) 
for the family members of a patent application, thus enabling the 
search results for the same invention produced by several offices to be 
visualized on a single page. The CCD therefore enables USPTO examiners 
to have a single point of access to up-to-date prior art information. 
For more information, see respectively http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/pph/index.jsp and http://www.uspto.gov/patents/process/search/index.jsp?tag=infraredheatersconsumerreports-20#heading-8.
    Sixth, the USPTO has actively promoted interviews between 
applicants and examiners throughout prosecution, including through 
specific initiatives such as the First Action Interview Pilot Program. 
Under this particular pilot, applicants are permitted to conduct an 
interview with the examiner after reviewing a ``Pre-Interview 
Communication'' from the examiner containing the results of a prior art 
search conducted by the examiner. Through this interaction, the 
examiner and the applicant are in a position to rapidly advance 
prosecution of the application by resolving certain patentability 
issues at the beginning of the prosecution process with the goal of 
early allowance, when appropriate. For further details about the pilot, 
see http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/faipp_landing.jsp.
    Seventh, the USPTO continues to expand its assistance to 
independent inventors through educational programs hosted by the Office 
of the Innovation Development, as well as through the Pro Se Pilot 
Examination Unit. The Pro Se Pilot Examination Unit is comprised of 
experienced examiners from all scientific disciplines, who have 
received training specific to issues most often encountered by pro se 
applicants. The examiners communicate with the USPTO's pro se 
applicants by providing customer support, answering general patent-
related questions via a toll-free number, email, or a walk-in service, 
and spearheading the development of training materials on the 
intricacies of filing a patent application. For further details on this 
pilot, see http://www.uspto.gov/blog/director/entry/uspto_establishes_special_examination_unit.
    Eighth, the USPTO has provided, in addition to its numerous call 
centers, such as the Inventors Assistance Center and Application 
Assistance Unit, a

[[Page 6478]]

dedicated customer service America Invents Act (AIA) Contact Center and 
HELP-AIA hotline, to assist in navigating the America Invents Act, 
including the new legal provisions and rules regarding inventor's oath 
or declarations, supplemental examination, preissuance submissions, 
citation of patent owner claim scope statements, post grant reviews, 
inter partes reviews, and the transitional program for covered business 
methods. This hotline implements the concept of guided assistance in 
which the initial USPTO operator stays with the caller throughout the 
call until the question is resolved rather than employ the often 
typical paradigm where the operator routes the call to a call center 
staffer. By using guided assistance for the AIA Contact Center, the 
USPTO aims to give callers a ``one-stop-shopping'' experience and 
eliminate the frustration that often occurs with call centers where a 
call may be routed several times before the caller reaches a staffer 
knowledgeable on the subject of the question.
    Ninth, the USPTO is exploring the use of crowdsourcing under a 
White House Executive Action to leverage the knowledge of those in the 
technical and scientific community to uncover hard-to-find prior art. 
The USPTO is currently investigating, through partnership with the 
public, the most effective means of employing crowdsourcing to obtain 
such art. At the same time, the USPTO is working to improve the 
preissuance submissions process through which third parties submit 
patents, published patent applications, or other printed publications 
of potential relevance to the examination of a particular published 
application. In particular, the agency has improved the electronic user 
interface for making a submission to increase the volume of these 
submissions and make it easier for an examiner to ascertain the 
relevance of the art contained in the submission. More information on 
crowdsourcing and preissuance submissions may be found at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/executive_actions.jsp#heading-6.
    Tenth, as mentioned earlier, the USPTO measures and reports a 
Quality Composite Metric composed of seven factors: (1) the final 
disposition review; (2) the in-process review; (3) the first action on 
the merits (FAOM) search review; (4) the complete FAOM review; (5) the 
external quality survey; (6) the internal quality survey; and (7) the 
quality index report. To facilitate an understanding of these metrics, 
the USPTO has developed two brief videos and two documents explaining 
the Quality Composite Metric, along with the Metric scores. These 
videos and explanatory documents are available at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/Patent-Quality-Initiative.jsp.
    Lastly, the Patents End-to-End Program (PE2E) sets forth a new way 
of processing patent applications by providing a single online 
environment to manage examination activities and the work done across 
multiple systems. Among other things, PE2E aims to reduce the number of 
manual tasks required by examiners to access and coordinate their 
systems so that their focus can remain on the essential task of 
performing high-quality examination. Further, as part of PE2E, the 
USPTO is investigating the design and implementation of an improved 
notification system that would provide additional prosecution-related 
alerts to patent applicants in real-time.

New Quality Proposals

    Beyond the existing quality improvements, the USPTO seeks to make 
additional enhancements and, to start, has developed six proposals for 
the public's consideration and feedback. We recognize that enhancing 
patent quality will require long-term and sustained efforts. These six 
proposals are meant to renew the conversation about this very important 
USPTO priority. We also intend that our conversation with the public 
will not end after this document or upcoming Quality Summit, but 
instead continue well into the future through a variety of fora.
    At this time, the USPTO seeks to have a discussion with the public 
about targeting the most desirable proposals and modifying and/or fine-
tuning those proposals to maximize the benefit to the patent system. 
The USPTO also welcomes the public's input on other programs or 
initiatives not reflected in the proposals that the public believes may 
enhance patent quality. Recognizing that USPTO time and resources are 
limited and must be balanced to support many efforts simultaneously, 
the USPTO welcomes input on the prioritization of these proposals.
    The USPTO invites the public to discuss these proposals and the 
information above by sending written comments in response to this 
document and/or by attending the USPTO Quality Summit. Following the 
Quality Summit and the receipt of comments to this document, the USPTO 
plans to continue its engagement about these proposals through a series 
of additional events after making refinements, as needed, to the 
proposals based upon the initial public feedback. The USPTO anticipates 
hosting future events in locations across the country to solicit input 
about the proposals and their operation before implementation. Through 
such continued engagement with the public, the USPTO can take the 
correct next steps towards improving the quality of patents issued.
    The USPTO's six proposals for enhanced patent quality are 
summarized in the table below, followed by a discussion of each 
proposal for the public's consideration and comment.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Pillar                          Title of proposal
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1: Excellence in work products....  1. Applicant Requests for
                                     Prosecution Review of Selected
                                     Applications
                                    2. Automated Pre-Examination Search
                                    3. Clarity of the Record
2: Excellence in measuring patent   4. Review of and Improvements to
 quality.                            Quality Metrics
3: Excellence in customer service.  5. Review of Current Compact
                                     Prosecution Model and the Effect on
                                     Quality
                                    6. In-Person Interview Capability
                                     with All Examiners
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Proposal 1 Under Pillar 1: Applicant Requests for Prosecution Review of 
Selected Applications

    The Office of Patent Quality Assurance (OPQA) conducts reviews of 
randomly selected Office actions from examiners. The USPTO proposes a 
mechanism for an applicant to request OPQA prosecution review of a 
particular application where the applicant believes that the 
application contains an issue that would benefit from further review. 
An applicant would identify the application by serial number, which 
would then be placed into a pool of applications for selection by OPQA 
for review. Through this process, the applicant would be able to

[[Page 6479]]

bring issues to the attention of OPQA so that the Office can analyze 
the data from the reviews to identify trends and challenges to better 
inform future training and improvements to examination process.

Proposal 2 Under Pillar 1: Automated Pre-Examination Search

    The USPTO is continuously looking into better ways to get the best 
prior art in front of an examiner as soon as possible in the 
examination process. One way this might be done is by an automated pre-
examination search. Currently, before an examiner begins substantive 
examination, the examiner may request, at his/her discretion, that the 
USPTO's Scientific and Technical Information Center (STIC) perform an 
automated pre-examination search. To do so, STIC uses a computerized 
linguistic tool, called the Patent Linguistic Utility Service (PLUS), 
which includes an algorithm to analyze an application for the presence 
of frequently-used terms. STIC then searches a database of prior art 
limited to U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications for 
references containing those terms to generate a list of possible 
references for the examiner's consideration with the frequently-used 
terms highlighted. With these references in hand as a starting point, 
the examiner is positioned to begin substantive examination, which 
includes their own search of the prior art done based upon a review of 
the specification and actual claim language (as opposed to mere 
frequently-used terms).
    Given that computerized searching algorithms and database 
technologies have advanced significantly in recent years, the USPTO is 
seeking input on new tools that might be useful to conduct a pre-
examination search. For instance, the new tool might utilize a custom 
extraction routine that enables keyword, stemming, concept-semantic, 
and relational word searching capabilities. The USPTO's current pre-
examination search tool PLUS does not possess these functionalities. 
Likewise, the new tool might employ more modern natural language search 
queries, which PLUS also cannot do.

Proposal 3 Under Pillar 1: Clarity of the Record

    The USPTO recognizes that, in order for the patent system to 
fulfill its critical role in promoting innovation, issued patents must 
not only fully comply with all statutory requirements, but also contain 
an Official record that is unambiguous and accurate. Such a complete 
record provides patent boundaries that are clearly defined to the 
benefit of the patent owner, the courts, third-parties, and the public 
at large, giving inventors and investors the confidence to take the 
necessary risks to launch products and start businesses, and the public 
the benefit of knowing the precise boundaries of an exclusionary right. 
The USPTO is actively pursuing further measures and initiatives for 
enhancing the clarity and completeness of all aspects of the Official 
record during prosecution of an application. The USPTO is seeking to 
initiate a discussion to identify procedures that could be made part of 
standard examination practices to improve the clarity of the 
prosecution record.
    As an example of the USPTO's current efforts to improve the clarity 
of the Official record, examiners have completed five training modules 
on functional claiming under 35 U.S.C. 112(f). This training covers 
identifying 112(f) limitations, interpreting those limitations under 
the broadest reasonable interpretation standard, making the record 
clear as to the presence and treatment of 112(f) type claims, and 
evaluating 112(f) limitations in software-related claims for 
definiteness, plain and customary meaning of terms, and treating claims 
as a whole. Furthermore, the USPTO is providing training modules 
covering other statutory requirements under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) and 112(b) 
and providing additional training to examiners on identifying 
compliance to 35 U.S.C. 112 in continuation applications. A list of 
upcoming training modules can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/executive_actions.jsp.
    The USPTO seeks the assistance of the public in identifying 
procedures to enhance the clarity and completeness of the Official 
record during prosecution of an application. Any and all ideas for such 
procedures are invited for discussion. Exemplary procedures under 
consideration include:
     Making claim construction explicit in the record, 
including the scope of claim terms, claim preambles, and functionally 
defined clauses (e.g., wherein clauses).
     Further detail in the recordation of interviews, pre-
appeal conference decisions, and appeal conferences, including 
identifying which arguments presented in the interview overcome 
individual rejections of record.
     Where a statement of the reasons for allowance is 
necessary, providing a more detailed summary of the reasons for 
allowing a claim; for example, identifying the amendment, argument, or 
evidence that overcomes a rejection of record, so as to clearly 
communicate to the public the examiner's reasons why the claimed 
invention is patentable.

Proposal 4 Under Pillar 2: Review of and Improvements to Quality 
Metrics

    The USPTO proposes to re-assess the effectiveness of the Quality 
Composite Metric and welcomes stakeholder guidance on the effectiveness 
of the current Metric, as well as ways to improve it. As noted earlier, 
details about the Quality Composite Metric are available at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/Patent-Quality-Initiative.jsp. By 
reevaluating the Quality Composite Metric, the USPTO aims to increase 
the effectiveness, transparency, clarity, and simplicity of USPTO 
review, employ a system that measures both errors by commission and 
errors by omission, and obtain examination metrics that are 
specifically tied to procedures for improving performance based on 
identified trends. Additionally, the USPTO proposes to re-evaluate its 
current ways of measuring the impact of training provided to examiners 
to enhance the effectiveness of examiner training.

Proposal 5 Under Pillar 3: Review of the Current Compact Prosecution 
Model and the Effect on Quality

    In an effort to resolve outstanding issues in an application before 
prosecution on the merits closes, the USPTO seeks assistance from the 
public on determining whether the current compact prosecution model 
should be modified. Such revisions to the compact model seek to enhance 
both the overall pendency and the quality of the prosecution. Under 
normal compact prosecution practice, an applicant typically receives 
only a single non-final Office action. The USPTO seeks ideas for 
proactive alternatives to Request for Continued Examination filings or 
appeals to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The goal of such an 
alternative is to increase the quality of the communication between 
applicant and examiner during prosecution, thereby focusing the 
prosecution on resolution of patentability issues rather than on 
concluding the prosecution. Such an increased emphasis on the 
resolution of any and all patentability issues during prosecution may 
enhance the quality of the patents that issue.
    For example, the USPTO seeks feedback on the desirability of a 
procedure by which an applicant might pay for entry of an additional 
response that may or may not require an examiner interview to further 
prosecution in an application before a final rejection is issued, 
thereby

[[Page 6480]]

providing for at least two non-final Office actions in an application. 
An additional response, either with or without an interview, may give 
an applicant the opportunity to present arguments or amendments to 
overcome outstanding rejections, which may result in a more efficient 
and expeditious disposal of the application.

Proposal 6 Under Pillar 3: In-Person Interview Capability With All 
Examiners

    Effective interviews between the examiner and the applicant lead to 
the issue of better quality patents and to greater customer 
satisfaction with the prosecution. Currently, in-person interviews are 
conducted at the USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, VA. Interviews may 
also be conducted at the fully operational USPTO Satellite Offices 
(currently, Detroit and Denver) for those examiners stationed at those 
Offices and for those examiners hoteling within the local commuting 
areas of those Offices (e.g., within 50 miles). Although recent 
improvements USPTO collaboration tools permit applicant interviews via 
video, some applicants nevertheless prefer in-person interviews. The 
USPTO thus proposes that in-person interviews could be conducted at 
additional locations, such as at regional libraries across the country 
that have partnered with the USPTO to serve as repositories for patent 
materials, for example, the Boston Public Library, Chicago Public 
Library, and Los Angeles Public Library. Upon a request for an in-
person interview with a specific examiner, the USPTO would designate an 
acceptable remote interview location nearest to that examiner's 
official duty station and provide arrangements for that examiner to 
travel to the interview location and conduct the interview. This 
proposal would ensure the availability of in-person interviews for all 
applications as the USPTO refines its telework program and leverages 
other USPTO affiliated locations. This proposal would have cost 
implications on the USPTO, and the USPTO welcomes a discussion on the 
public's desire and willingness to pay for such additional service.

Quality Summit

    In addition to seeking written comments from the public and further 
input from our employees, the USPTO is planning to hold a two-day 
Quality Summit on March 25 and 26, 2015 in the Madison Building, USPTO 
Headquarters, in Alexandria, Virginia. The Quality Summit is an 
important opportunity for the public to voice their feedback and ideas 
about quality to ensure the most efficient prosecution processes and 
the issuance of the highest quality patents. Likewise, the USPTO 
intends to utilize significant portions of the Summit to work with the 
public to brainstorm additional options to enhance patent quality.
    The agenda for the morning session of the first day of the Quality 
Summit includes stakeholder presentations and a panel discussion on 
``Perspectives on the Importance of Quality,'' as well as a discussion 
about ``Key Aspects of Quality.'' The afternoon session of the first 
day will be dedicated to the first pillar of quality, ``Providing the 
Best Possible Work Products,'' by focusing on prosecution and 
examination improvements. The agenda for the second day of the Quality 
Summit will be dedicated to the second and third pillars of quality, 
with the morning session covering ``Establishing Appropriate Quality 
Metrics'' and the afternoon session directed to ``Improving the 
Customer Experience and Providing Excellent Customer Service.'' When 
discussing the three pillars of the Patent Quality Initiative and the 
proposals, the USPTO intends to interact and listen to the public 
through both large group discussions and small group brainstorming 
sessions. During these discussions, the USPTO welcomes an in-depth, 
specific, and expansive conversation about its proposals, as well as 
any and all aspects of enhanced quality that the public would like to 
raise. A more detailed agenda follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Time                                Topic
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 DAY 1: MORNING SESSION INTRODUCTION TO THE ENHANCED QUALITY INITIATIVE
               AND DISCUSSION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY
------------------------------------------------------------------------
8:30 to 8:40 am..............  Welcome.
8:40 to 9:00 am..............  Opening Remarks.
9:00 to 10:30 am.............  Perspectives on the Importance of Quality
                               Speakers to include corporate counsel,
                                private practitioners, academics,
                                economists, and jurists.
10:30 to 10:45 am............  Break.
10:45 to 12:00 pm............  All Audience Discussion of Key Aspects of
                                Quality
12:00 to 1:00 pm.............  Break for lunch.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
   DAY 1: AFTERNOON SESSION PROVIDING THE BEST POSSIBLE WORK PRODUCTS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1:00 to 1:30 pm..............  Pillar 1: Overview of Currently Available
                                Improvements.
1:30 to 1:45 pm..............  Introduction of Proposals 1 and 2.
1:45 to 2:30 pm..............  All Audience Discussion of Proposals 1
                                and 2.
2:30 to 2:45 pm..............  Break.
2:45 to 4:45 pm..............  Brainstorming for Pillar 1 in General and
                                Proposals 1 and 2
                               Small group break-out session to be
                                followed by sharing of ideas with all
                                audience.
4:45 to 5 pm.................  Concluding Remarks.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
     DAY 2: MORNING SESSION ESTABLISHING APPROPRIATE QUALITY METRICS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
8:30 to 8:45 am..............  Welcome.
8:45 to 9:15 am..............  Pillars 1 and 2: Overview of Currently
                                Available Improvements and the Quality
                                Composite.
9:15 to 9:30 am..............  Introduction of Proposals 3 and 4.
9:30 to 10:15 am.............  All Audience Discussion of Proposals 3
                                and 4.
10:15 to 10:30 am............  Break.
10:30 to 12:30 pm............  Brainstorming for Pillars 1 and 2 in
                                General and Proposals 3 and 4
                               Small group break-out session to be
                                followed by sharing of ideas with all
                                audience.
12:30 to 1:30 pm.............  Break for lunch.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 6481]]

 
DAY 2: AFTERNOON SESSION IMPROVING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND PROVIDING
                       EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1:30 to 2:00 pm..............  Pillar 3: Overview of Currently Available
                                Improvements.
2:00 to 2:15 pm..............  Introduction of Proposals 5 and 6.
2:15 to 3:00 pm..............  All Audience Discussion of Proposals 5
                                and 6.
3:00 to 3:15 pm..............  Break.
3:15 to 5:15 pm..............  Brainstorming for Pillar 3 in General and
                                Proposals 5 and 6
                               Small group break-out session to be
                                followed by sharing of ideas with all
                                audience.
5:15 to 5:30 pm..............  Concluding Remarks and Next Steps.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Date: February 3, 2015.
Michelle K. Lee,
Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy 
Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
[FR Doc. 2015-02398 Filed 2-4-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-16-P