By Michael D. Stein & Samuel L. Gompers
The PTO has released a draft of its 5-year plan to modernize, streamline, and improve its oversight of, and interactions with, all phases of intellectual property practice. The foundational theme promulgated by the USPTO in its Strategic Plan for 2007-2012 follows the mantra “better, faster, cheaper.” The Plan lays out primary goals focusing on interactions among the USPTO and its customers, domestic and international applications of IP policy, and internal managerial policies at the USPTO. The Plan seeks to implement and attain these goals under the over-arching guiding principles of 1) quality; 2) certainty; 3) cost-effectiveness; and 4) accessibility. Initiatives encompass an end-to-end approach to accomplishing the goals, beginning with the inventive/research/business steps, to interaction with the PTO (patent prosecution, appeals, policy making, etc.), culminating with final dispositions by the PTO (grants, denials, policies, etc.) and the associated effects and consequences of intellectual property, both on the PTO and overseas entities, viz. a viz. their interactions with the PTO. The broad spectrum of challenges facing the PTO over the next several years includes: adapting its workforce to handle the increased number of applications; optimizing communication and interactions with IP offices around the world; promoting better awareness of IP matters in the general public, both domestically and abroad. Four goals highlight and deal with these challenges:
Goal #1—Optimize patent quality and timeliness. This will be achieved by hiring up to 7200 examiners; enabling work from home or regional PTO centers; providing examiners with improved software tools to optimize examination; implementing full and improved electronic patent processing, including a switch to a new Patent File Wrapper (PFW) system which would allow real-time changes to patent applications with reduced PTO processing times and centralized on-line docketing systems; and improving appeals processes within the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI).
Goal #2—Optimize trademark quality and timeliness. This features the same basic approach laid out for optimizing patent quality. In addition, first action and final disposal pendency times will be reduced (3 months for first action times); electronic file management for post registration and petition processes will be expanded; the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) will be redesigned and ultimately switched to full on-line docket management by 2010.
Goal #3—Improve IP protection and enforcement domestically and abroad. The PTO will promote global uniformity in IP practice, which includes standardizing electronic processing, and Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) reform; intellectual property rights will be expanded via Free Trade Agreements; greater outreach and awareness of IP policies and practice will be initiated by the PTO through increased involvement with academia and business.
Management goal—Achieve organizational excellence within the PTO. This features top to bottom administrative improvement in all aspects of internal function at the PTO. A more efficient and happier (via improved human resources) workforce will be employed; communications with other IP offices will be strengthened; fiscal procedures will be tightened to reduce costs and customer processing errors; on-line access to certain PTO documents will be made easier; and overall customer service will be improved.
In conclusion, the PTO hopes to achieve its goal of quality of examination and streamlined performance by reforming current examination procedures and hiring a superior workforce. Certainty in such performance can be assured through improved work tools, which in turn fosters greatly improved communication internally and externally. Quality and certainty are ultimately manifest through the cost-effectiveness of project management and concomitant work product measurement. Finally, customers and the public will be able to gain accessibility to the PTO (and the practical aspects as well as concepts of intellectual property) through standardized Internet based methods of interaction.