The Washington, D.C. Chapter held an engaging event on March 15, 2018 with Andrew Hirshfeld, Commissioner of Patents.
After introductory comments from the LES DC Chapter Chair, Raymond Van Dyke, Commissioner Hirshfeld spoke on a number of initiatives of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, and mentioned that he leads about 10,000 employees, i.e., 8,165 examiners, 183 design examiners, and staff.
The first initiative discussed was pendency, where the first action pendency for 2017 was 16.3 months (with the target being 15.5 months). The target for 2018 is 15.4 months, and a total pendency of 25 months. Commissioner Hirshfeld expressed a goal to bring first action pendency down to 14 months to better align with the statutory limit of 14 months under the Patent Term Adjustment timeframe.
Commissioner Hirshfeld then discussed the Office’s tacking of the over 600,000 applications filed last year, where 450,000 were new applications, i.e., not continuations or divisionals. He then spoke about the decrease in the growth rate of the application filings from 3-4% several years ago to 1% or so more recently. Last year, however, the filings increased 3.1% and in 2018 the filing rate has increased to roughly 4.2% as of this date. The only art unit down was business methods. Examiner attrition is roughly 4%, and 350 new examiners have been hired.
He then spoke of the Office’s installation of new technologies to better capture the variety of information inherent in the operations of the Examiner corps, and the Office’s ongoing efforts to better mine this data to increase efficiency and productivity. For example, the various examiner reviews are being combined into a Master Review format for better analysis, and over 12,000 new reviews are planned for 2018. All of these individual and group reviews will allow better granularity for assessments on quality and possibilities for improvement. Further efforts include Examiner Training, as well as free training for new practitioners and the inventor community.
Regarding patent practice, Commissioner Hirshfeld encouraged more use of the Interview Request procedures, which would also help the Office better measure the interview process and the success of the new procedures to facilitate interviews and allowances. Last year there were 22,000 such requests, representing roughly 8% of all pending applications. He said about 90% of these interviews were over the phone, but encouraged the use of video to better facilitate communication.
Also, he discussed the Office’s efforts to better provide relevant art to examiners. Through ongoing IT endeavors, the references in related cases are being promulgated to the examiners, with future efforts to widen the production of relevant materials to the examiners for their review. Although the Global Dossier is useful for many, the Office is having issues integrating this into the examiner review process.
Finally, through various partnership meetings, 12 or so over the past year, the Office is continuing to work with the public on current issues.
Commissioner Hirshfeld then addressed a variety of questions from the attendees, including the Office’s excitement over the appointment and confirmation of the new Director, Andrei Iancu.
Raymond Van Dyke, Andrew Hirshfeld, Lori Morrison, Thomas Wiseman