If you’ve ever tried to figure out how to file a patent, then you know how difficult the process can be. Even though the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has plenty of instructions online and the ability to file a patent application electronically, trying to decipher what invention qualifications are needed to apply for a patent can be overwhelming.
Thanks to a new initiative announced by USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee, things are about to get much better. In her Director’s Forum blog, Lee launched the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative on November 6.
The proposal was actually announced earlier this year when Lee solicited comments and obtained feedback during the first-ever Patent Quality Summit. According to Lee, the USPTO received more than 1,200 comments, which helped shape the direction of the initiative.
The purpose of the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative is to focus on issuing patents that are correct and clear, so they are less open to patent disputes and patent infringement.
As Lee stated in her blog announcement, “Through correctness and clarity, such patents better enable potential users of patented technologies to make informed decisions on how to avoid infringement, whether to seek a license and/or when to settle or litigate a patent dispute.”
The initiative is also designed to assist patent applicants when determining how to file a patent. They will have a clearer understanding of what is and is not patentable. “Patent owners also benefit from having clear notice on the boundaries of their patent rights,” Lee explains.
The Enhanced Patent Quality website was created specifically for the initiative and outlines the three patent quality pillars of the plan: excellence in work products, excellence in measuring patent quality, and excellence in customer service.
The three initial components of the Enhanced Patent Quality program are:
- Clarity of the Record Pilot – Patent examiners will develop key terms, detailed reasons and claim constructions that explain why a patent claim is allowed or rejected. From the pilot, the USPTO will develop best practices for applicants and examiners to ensure qualifying patent filings.
- Clarity of the Record Training – Training that provides best practices and information on how to submit clearer claims on a patent application.
- Changes to the Review Data Capture Process – This will ensure that all patent examiners follow the same process and access the same components when examining a patent application.
In her blog announcement, Lee emphasized that the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative will be an on-going program that continuously evolves around its three main goals of:
- Building more confidence in the patent system by enhancing patent quality;
- Making the system understandable and usable by all inventors;
- Ensuring inventors are treated fairly and professionally throughout the patent application process.
A number of resources are available to inventors under the program, including Patent Quality Chat, a monthly webinar that discusses different aspects of patent quality.
By staying true to the initiative’s goals, Lee points out that the USPTO will be issuing patents to inventors that are of the highest quality and can “help to stimulate and promote efficient licensing, research and development, and future innovation without resorting to needless high-cost court proceedings.”