Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Jon Dudas testified on Wednesday (Feb. 27) in an oversight hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. Here's what he (and the press release) had to say:
“Both fiscal years 2006 and 2007 were record-breaking years for the USPTO. We have met or broken records for production, quality, hiring, teleworking, electronic processing and more,” said Under Secretary Dudas. “We intend to build on these successes in 2008 with the dedication of our high-achieving, performance-focused employees, and the support of the Administration and Congress who have provided USPTO full access to the fees we collect.”
Among the topics addressed in the testimony were patent and trademark quality and timeliness; hiring, retention and work-life offerings such as the USPTO’s award-winning telework program; global policy and enforcement initiatives; and the pending patent modernization legislation. The testimony addressed significant developments and successes since the last USPTO House oversight hearing in 2005. Since that hearing, the USPTO has:
• Achieved the highest quality trademark performance in history and the highest quality patent performance in the last quarter century.
• Increased patent production by more than 21 percent, and increased trademark production by more than 41 percent.
• Hired more than 2,400 highly qualified patent examiners, and added 1,000 patent employees to the USPTO’s award-winning telework program. Increased trademark participation in telework to 85 percent of all eligible employees.
• Increased the level of electronic filing of patent applications from 2 percent to the current level of 70 percent, and achieved a 95 percent electronic filing level of trademark applications.
• Reduced attrition levels among first-year patent examiners by 25 percent, and by 50 percent in areas targeted to receive recruitment bonuses.
• Completed the Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA) facility to deliver expanded programs and training to foreign intellectual property (IP) and enforcement officials. More than 700 officials have been trained through GIPA programs in the last year.
• Held the first-ever meeting of the heads of the five largest IP offices in May 2007 to discuss cooperative efforts to improve patent quality and efficiency.
While the USPTO has had many achievements, the agency also faces considerable challenges. Foremost is the challenge of ensuring patent quality in light of the record-breaking number of patent applications filed each year, and the increasing complexity of those applications. The USPTO has put several measures in place to improve the quality of the examination process, such as enhanced examiner training and certification programs and additional quality reviews during patent examination.
But improvements in patent quality are also dependent, to a significant degree, on providing examiners access to more and better-focused information relevant to their decision-making. The USPTO is pleased that proposed patent modernization legislation includes quality-related provisions that will help ensure that patent examination is focused on the most relevant information available. In particular, including provisions pertaining to applicant quality submissions (AQS) in this legislation will lead to the applicant sharing the most relevant information early in the process, thus ensuring that patent examinations are of the highest quality and completed as efficiently as possible.