New Pilot Project: Pre-First Action Interview as of Right

USPTOThe USPTO announced that it is launching a program to allow an Examiner interview before first action. Here’s the process. First the applicant requests a first-action interview. The examiner conducts a prior art search and provides the applicant a pre-interview communication. This is a condensed preview of objections or rejections proposed against the claims. Then, within 30 days, the applicant must either elect (1) not to have a first action interview with the Examiner, or (2) to schedule the interview and file a proposed amendment and/or remarks.

The pilot only applies to applications classified in Class 709 (electrical computers and digital processing systems: multi-computer data transferring) and applications in Class 707 (data processing: database and file management or data structures.

In all other cases, MPEP 713.02 applies to allow pre-examination interviews at the descretion of the Examiner.

AIPLA Suggests Improvements at the USPTO

I previously reported on the patent prosecution costs disclosed by Alan Kasper’s testimony [PDF] to Congress as the First Vice-President of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). In that testimony, Alan suggested the following improvements at the USPTO:

  • Develop a culture within the USPTO to encourage Examiners to propose claim amendments that would, at least in the examiner’s view, distinguish the claimed invention over the prior art. This would eliminate applicant guessing as to what a Examiner considers allowable and permit the applicant to forgo the cost of filing further amendments, RCEs, continuations, or appeals, by accepting the Examiner’s proposal.
  • Encourage the Examiners to resolve the applicant’s technical formality errors (e.g. an incorrectly designated a claim in an Amendment as, for example, “currently amended”) by informal communication and Examiner’s amendment rather than, for example, issuing a “Notice of Non-Compliant Amendment.”
  • Modify “Pre-Appeal Submission” process to avoid having both the Examiner and the Examiner’s Supervisor—both of whom are presumably against finding any error in the Examiner’s action—on the three member panel that evaluates the reasonableness of the Examiner’s position. At least two senior examiners not involved in prosecution of the application should be on the panel. Having both the Examiner and the Examiner’s Supervisor sets up a 2 to 1 panel position against the applicant at the start.
  • Improve Examiner retention through improvements in the diversity and quality of opportunities for professional development.
  • Increase monitoring of Examiner’s work to ensure quality, by for example, triggering an investigation when an application has more than three Office Actions on the merits.