In an effort to establish better examination time goals, the Patent and Trademark Office has created an initiative called the Examination Time Analysis study or ETA. The ETA study focuses on crowdsourcing information from patent attorneys and other stakeholders to develop new examination time standards.
Since the original standards were established, there have been significant changes in patent prosecution. The Office cites new technologies with increasing complexity and exponential growth of the prior art as major contributors to these changes. Conversely, there has not been a serious overhaul of examination expectancies since before these changes began taking place.
In order to keep up with the evolving patent landscape and to conduct operations efficiently and effectively, the Office is seeking the input of patent practitioners and stakeholders to help develop new goals that accurately reflect the amount of time examiners need to conduct a quality, thorough examination.
The PTO has crowd-sourced stakeholder opinions by holding several roundtable discussions over the past two years along with providing practitioners with surveys containing questions like:
- Do you perceive a difference of the quality of examination in complex technologies compared to less complex technologies?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
The Office predicts the net effect of studying examination time and improving examination time goals will be a decrease in application backlog and application pendency as hiring goals are adjusted to compensate for the increasing complexity in examination.
Since the PTO closed its request for written comments on January 30th, it can now begin the process of analyzing all of the submitted crowd-sourced information on this matter in order to create better, more accurate examination time goals.
While you wait for the results of the USPTO’s ETA study, you can also keep track of and analyze your own examination times using patent analytics. Through analytics, patent attorneys and IP practitioners can track pendency times for all phases of examination, including the time between office actions, the number of office actions, the time between final rejection and appeal and more. These statistics can be compared against USTPO averages to determine if your applications are on track to mirror or exceed average application times.