[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 206 (Tuesday, October 25, 2016)]
[Pages 73383-73384]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-25758]



 Patent and Trademark Office

[Docket No. PTO-P-2016-0040]

Request for Comments on Examination Time Goals

AGENCY: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce.

ACTION: Request for comments.


SUMMARY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office or 
USPTO) is soliciting public feedback as part of an effort to reevaluate 
its examination time goals. Examination time goals vary by technology 
and represent the average amount of time that a patent examiner is 
expected to spend examining a patent application in a particular 
technology. The Office plans to use the public feedback as an input to 
help ensure that the Office's examination time goals accurately reflect 
the amount of time needed by examiners to conduct quality examination 
in a manner that responds to stakeholders' interests. In addition to 
accepting public feedback through the submission of written comments, 
the Office will provide the following avenues for increased interactive 
participation: IdeaScale[supreg], a Web-based collaboration tool that 
allows users to post comments and interact with the posted comments of 
others; and five roundtables that the Office will be conducting in: 
Alexandria, Virginia; Detroit, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Dallas, 
Texas; and San Jose, California.

DATES: Written Comments Deadline: To be ensured of consideration, 
written comments must be received on or before December 27, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be sent by electronic mail addressed 
to [email protected]. Comments also may be 
submitted by postal mail addressed to: Mail Stop Comments--Patents, 
Commissioner for Patents, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450, 
marked to the attention of Raul Tamayo, 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 Office 
prefers to receive comments by electronic mail in order to facilitate 
posting on the USPTO's Internet Web site (http://www.uspto.gov). 
Electronic comments may be submitted in plain text, ADOBE[supreg] 
portable document format, or MICROSOFT WORD[supreg] format. Comments 
not submitted electronically should be submitted on paper in a format 
that facilitates digital scanning into ADOBE[supreg] portable document 
    The comments will be available for viewing via the USPTO's Internet 
Web site (http://www.uspto.gov). The comments also 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 22314. Because the comments will be made publicly 
available, information that the submitter does not desire to make 
public, such as an address or phone number, should not be included in 
the comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Roundtable information, including 
roundtable registration information: Elizabeth Magargel, Strategic 
Planning Project Manager, Office of the Assistant Deputy Commissioner 
for Patent Operations, by telephone at (571) 270-7248.
    Written comments: Raul Tamayo, Senior Legal Advisor, Office of 
Patent Legal Administration, Office of the Deputy Commissioner for 
Patent Examination Policy, by telephone at (571) 272-7728.
    Examination time goals: Daniel Sullivan, Director Technology Center 
1600, by telephone at (571) 272-0900.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Office has a staff of approximately 
8,400 patent examiners who examine patent applications in hundreds of 
technology areas. Each technology area is assigned an examination time 
goal. The goals are used by the Office for a variety of purposes, 
including forecasting pendency and staffing needs and evaluating 
individual examiner performance. The goals originally were assigned 
over 40 years ago and have been adjusted twice.
    Since the examination time goals were originally assigned, 
significant changes to the examination process have occurred, including 
increased use of electronic tools, changes in law due to court 
decisions, a growing volume of prior art, and progress in technology, 
which results in increasingly complex subject matter in applications. 
In addition, the Office recently transitioned from the United States 
Patent Classification (USPC) system to the Cooperative Patent 
Classification (CPC) system. Because the current examination time goals 
were assigned based on the USPC system, implementation of the CPC 
system has caused the Office to reconsider and reassess the assignments 
of examination time goals. Furthermore, the Office is (i) implementing 
the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiatives in order to provide a higher 
quality examination to our stakeholders and (ii) assessing the 
relationship between examination time and value-added examination 
activities, such as best practices for enhancing the clarity of the 
record with respect to claim interpretation, interview summaries, and 
reasons for allowance. All of these factors warrant a reevaluation of 
the Office's examination time goals.
    To help inform public comments responsive to this request for 
comments (RFC), the Office has prepared background material 
illustrating the use of examination time goals in the context

[[Page 73384]]

of individual examiner evaluation, and as an input into the model used 
to forecast pendency and hiring needs. These materials can be found at 
    The Office has generated the following list of questions concerning 
examination time goals to further inform comments responsive to this 
RFC. Responders to this RFC can choose to address as many of these 
questions as desired. Responders are not limited to submitting 
information addressing the questions below. The Office welcomes any 
other comments on the topic of this RFC that may be informative, for 
example those that facilitate an understanding of the interests of 
stakeholders with respect to quality, pendency, and cost for services. 
A further area of inquiry seeks to shed light on other characteristics 
of patent applications, besides technological complexity, which lead to 
a more time-consuming examination.
    (1) Do you perceive a difference in the quality of examination 
performed in complex technologies compared to less complex 
technologies? If yes, which do you perceive as higher quality and why? 
In what aspect(s) is the quality of examination higher?
    (2) What factors do you consider when estimating the amount of time 
needed to take various steps in prosecution, such as preparing 
responses to Office actions or preparing for interviews? In particular, 
if you prosecute applications in a variety of technology areas, how do 
those factors vary among the technologies?
    (3) Are the applications you prosecute more or less complex than in 
the past, e.g., 10 years ago? What factors contribute to the increase 
or decrease in complexity? Do you believe the increase or decrease in 
complexity has affected the amount of time it takes to prosecute the 
applications? If so, by how much? Do you believe the increase or 
decrease in complexity has affected the quality of examination? If so, 
    (4) In order to increase the quality of examination, do you believe 
that an increase in the time allotted for examination should be 
designated for specific activities, such as interviews, or left to the 
discretion of the examiner? What activities would you prioritize and 
allocate more time to?
    (5) Are there any portions of Office actions which you feel do not 
add value or quality to the examination? If yes, what are they?
    (6) What other activities beyond examining, such as research or 
training, could examiners spend time on that would add value? Why do 
you believe these activities could add value?
    (7) While the focus of this request for comments and the 
roundtables is to find the appropriate amount of time for examination, 
cost and pendency are also contributing factors. Do these factors raise 
a concern that should be considered?
    In addition to accepting public feedback through the submission of 
written comments, the Office will provide an avenue for interactive 
participation using IdeaScale[supreg]. IdeaScale[supreg] allows users 
to post comments on a topic, and view and respond to others' comments. 
Users also may vote to indicate agreement or disagreement with a 
particular comment. Information on how to use IdeaScale[supreg] to 
comment on examination time goals is available at http://www.uspto.gov/patent/initiatives/eta-external-outreach.
    The Office also will provide an avenue for interactive 
participation by conducting five public roundtables. Information on the 
first two roundtables to be conducted, in Alexandria, Virginia, and 
Dallas, Texas, including locations, dates, and how to participate, is 
set forth below.
    Alexandria and Dallas Roundtable Registration Information: 
Roundtables will be conducted in Alexandria, Virginia, and Dallas, 
Texas, as detailed below. Registration is required, and early 
registration is recommended because seating is limited. There is no fee 
to register for either roundtable, and registration will be on a first-
come, first-served basis. Registration on the day of either roundtable 
will be permitted on a space-available basis beginning 30 minutes 
before the roundtable.
    To register, please send an email message to 
[email protected] and provide the following 
information: (1) Your name, title, and if applicable, company or 
organization, address, phone number, and email address; and (2) which 
roundtable you wish to attend. Each attendee, even if from the same 
organization, must register separately. If you need special 
accommodations, e.g., due to a disability, please inform a contact 
person identified below.
    For more information on the Alexandria and Dallas roundtables, 
including the agenda for each roundtable and webcast access 
instructions for the Alexandria roundtable, please visit http://www.uspto.gov/patent/initiatives/eta-external-outreach.

Alexandria Roundtable

    Alexandria Dates: Roundtable Date: The Alexandria roundtable will 
be held on Monday, November 14, 2016, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern 
Standard Time (EST) and ending at 11:00 a.m. EST.
    Registration Deadline: Registration to attend the Alexandria 
roundtable in person or via webcast is requested by November 7, 2016. 
See the ``Roundtable Registration Information'' section of this notice 
for additional details on how to register.
    Address of Alexandria Roundtable: The Alexandria roundtable will be 
held at USPTO Headquarters in the Madison Building, Madison Auditorium, 
Concourse Level, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Dallas Roundtable

    Dallas Dates: Roundtable Date: The Dallas roundtable will be held 
on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Central Standard 
Time (CST) and ending at 12:00 p.m. CST.
    Registration Deadline: Registration to attend the Dallas roundtable 
is requested by November 22, 2016. See the ``Roundtable Registration 
Information'' section of this notice for additional details on how to 
    Address of Dallas Roundtable: The Dallas roundtable will be held at 
the USPTO's Texas Regional Office in the Terminal Annex Federal 
Building, 207 S. Houston Street, Suite 159, Dallas, TX 75202.

Detroit, Denver, and San Jose Roundtables

    Information on the roundtables to be conducted in Detroit, 
Michigan, Denver, Colorado, and San Jose, California will be provided 
at http://www.uspto.gov/patent/initiatives/eta-external-outreach as 
soon as it becomes available.

    Dated: October 19, 2016.
Russell Slifer,
Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy 
Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
[FR Doc. 2016-25758 Filed 10-24-16; 8:45 am]