Posts Tagged: "patent examiners"

Administrative Purgatory: Waiting 14 months and counting for action after Board reverses examiner

Delay, frustrate, harass and ignore patent applicants. Issue frivolous rejections if necessary, but reject at all costs. If the Board issues a complete reversal just reopen prosecution. Eventually the patent applicant will get the idea and abandon the application. TC 3600 seems to be fighting a very successful and coordinated war of attrition against applicants.

Are patent examiners instructed to issue frivolous rejections?

So an applicant waits years on appeal to get relief from frivolous rejections, achieves a complete and total victory, and their reward is another bogus rejection from the same examiner who has been harassing them for years. It is no wonder many applicants just give up. If this were happening anywhere else in the world we would ridicule the system as fixed or rigged… How ironic, and sad, is it that the PTAB has the authority to invalidate issued patents in post grant proceedings but has no implementing authority with respect to its decisions completely reversing even frivolous examiner rejections. This is yet another reason the PTAB is appropriately characterized a death squad. The only power the PTAB seems to have is to take rights away from property owners (i.e., patent owners).

E-Commerce Art Units: Where Patent Applications Go to Die

Upon closer review things are much, much worse than I previously reported. The problem is also far more widespread. Using LexisNexis Patent Advisor®, I looked at the E-commerce Art Units, this time focusing on what has happened over the past 18 months. Focusing on this segment of post-Alice prosecution the allowance picture is utterly atrocious… Only 12 patents were issued by Art Unit 3689 in 2015, while 365 applications went abandoned, which corresponds to an allowance rate of 3.2%. So far in 2016 there have been only 3 patents issued by Art Unit 3689, while 232 patent applications have gone abandoned, which corresponds to an allowance rate of 1.3%.

What the Patent Office Refuses to Understand

This new post-prosecution pilot program feels a lot like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Unless and until the Patent Office does something about recalcitrant patent examiners this effort may wind up being much ado about nothing… If you look at Art Unit 3622, which handles applications dealing with incentive programs and coupons, and compare it with Art Unit 3688 and Art Unit 3682, both of which also handle patent applications relating to incentive programs and coupons, you see the same alarming trend. These three Art Units that handle the same type of patent application yet have allowance rates of 9.5%, 29.2% and 63.2%. Something seems seriously wrong and is screaming for investigation.

Avoiding Alice Rejections with Predictive Analytics

The disparity between the art units is confused even more so when we consider the total number of Alice rejections in each art unit, rather than just counting the total number of applications receiving an Alice rejection. Doing that, we can see that, while 3622 and 3623 have almost equal numbers of applications with Alice rejections, 3623 actually has more in total. This means that applications in that art unit are more likely to receive multiple Alice rejections and take longer to prosecute.

More Applicants Should Use the First Action Interview Program

The First Action interview (FAI) program affords applicants a no-fee opportunity to speak with examiners early during prosecution, before the examiner has invested the time to prepare a complete Office Action. Yet, a free FAI request is filed in a mere 1 of 625 applications. Our analysis shows that the prosecution benefits of this program continue to be realized and that the program improves both the efficacy (allowance rate) and efficiency (office-action counts and time to issuance) of prosecution. We have seen, both in our professional experiences and through these statistics, such great benefit of this program that we have encouraged the USPTO to take this program one step further and establish a Pre-Search Interview Program that would allow the applicant to explain and potentially demonstrate an invention even prior to the examiner conducting a search.

The Blame Game: Why hasn’t the Patent Office done anything about low quality patents?

The PTAB is instituting 80% of inter partes review (IPR) petitions, which can only be interpreted as clear evidence of the extraordinarily low quality of patent examination at the USPTO. It is unclear why patent examiners are not being taken to task when only 20% of their work product is viewed as satisfactory on its face upon subsequent review by the PTAB. What business could ever exist with an error rate that high? It seems plainly clear on its face – the USPTO must have a serious problem with very low quality performance by patent examiners. So why isn’t the Patent Office doing something to correct the problem? Why aren’t they placing blame on the shoulders of the ultimate decision makers that allow garbage, illegitimate patents?

Ex Parte Appeal as a Potential Means to Quick Allowances

We set out to study the life cycle of appeals by conducting a stage-by-stage analysis to identify what fraction of applications were exiting the appeal cycle and how. Specifically, we obtained data (using LexisNexis® PatentAdvisorSM) corresponding to each appeal brief filed between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2011. The data identified the stage at which the appeal exited the appeal process and the next significant event after exiting the appeal process. This assessment thus provides information pertinent to assessing what delays, costs and decision outcomes are truly associated with appeals… Examiners frequently terminate an appeal cycle expediently with an office action (often leading to an allowance) or an allowance, in which case the delay and a portion of the expense is avoided.

Defeating Alice with Data

Several questions every patent attorney should be asking before responding to an Alice rejection are: (1) How many Alice rejections has the examiner issued? (2) What does he or she consider to be the sticking points of the decision? (3) How many applications that received an Alice rejection were eventually allowed? Once an attorney has the answers to these questions in hand, the path to success in responding to an Alice rejection is considerably clearer.

Using contrasting examples to rein in capricious application of Alice by the patent examining corps

Although categorizing abstract ideas could be helpful, the use of categories expands the risk of overbreadth, especially when the categories have little definition, include sub-categories, and lack negative examples. The PTO should refine the categories of “judicial descriptors,” and do so both negatively and positively, to avoid overbroad application of Alice by examiners. The use of “judicial descriptors” not supported adequately by court decisions has the potential to do great mischief in the area in which I practice frequently, i.e., software and Internet-related patent applications.

The USPTO harms the economy with over-aggressive, haphazard Alice-based 101 rejections

It is poor patent policy to have broad areas of technology deemed patent-ineligible entirely, or ineligible without the high cost of attorney time to argue, and likely appeal, amorphous Alice-type rejections. This is particularly so as to technology that is central to the United States economy. Invention is central to U.S. economic might, and as our economy moves away from the “old line” manufacturing strength of the past, the U.S. has become especially strong in fields dependent on software technology and business methods. Strengths of the current U.S. economy include social media, the Internet, and the service economy, especially financial services. We are also strong in biotech. Yet those are precisely the fields most heavily damaged by Section 101 Alice-type rejections.

The patent system will survive, but not thrive over the short term

Bruce Kisliuk: ”Those with more resources have some advantages in any litigation. That’s one reason a patent right is important, it can level that playing field a bit. Which is why I think the system will survive, maybe not thrive as some may wish but will survive, because you will still be able to protect. Technological progress marches forward and people aren’t going to sit and wait. So if you need patent protection you’re going to get what you can and you’re going to make sure you have a solid disclosure and work through the system as it stands when you’re working through it. To the extent you can try to put yourself in a position to be able to move left or right should the sea change. That’s the best, I think, anyone can do.”

Patent quality is much ado about nothing without better patent examiner controls

The end goal of any patent application is to obtain a patent, which is true whether an applicant find themselves assigned to a patent examiner in an Art Unit that issues over 95% of applications received, or whether they find themselves assigned to a patent examiner in an Art Unit that issues less than 5% of applications received. Unless and until the Patent Office can address obstinate patent examiners and patent examiners who continually fail to meet quality expectations how can the Office truly address the problem? Frankly, talking about improving patent quality seems to be much ado about nothing, or perhaps akin to rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship.

Statement by USPTO on Alleged Patent Examiner Time and Attendance Abuse

In a statement released late afternoon on Thursday, USPTO Chief Communications Office Todd Elmer explained that the USPTO “takes very seriously even one incidence of time and attendance abuse, such as by this particular employee, who is no longer with the agency.” Elmer went on to explain the initiatives put in place over the last year since this abuse occurred, which include a new agency wide policy for full-time teleworkers and supervisors.

USPTO pays patent examiner for 730 hours fraudulently not worked

According to the IG report, “Examiner A committed at least 730 hours of time and attendance abuse, resulting in the payment of approximately $25,500 for hours not worked in FY 2014 alone. The examiner in question also received extraordinarily low performance evaluations, receiving a reprimand for poor quality on nine (9) separate occasions. Rather than cooperate with the IG’s investigation Examiner A resigned and declined the opportunity to review and comment on the investigation findings. But this begs the essential question: Why was Examiner A still working for the Patent Office after nine (9) reprimands for unacceptably poor quality? It seems the USPTO is not equipped to identify abuse unless a whistleblower identifies a particular problem.

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