The Patent Office and Examiner’s Union Propose Changes to the Examiner Count System Which May Dramatically Affect How Patent Applications Are Processed

The US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), via a press release on its web site, has announced that the USPTO Joint Labor-Management Task Force has issued a joint proposal for amending the Examiner Count System.  The task force comprised senior managers from the USPTO and leadership of the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA), which is the union that represents Patent Examiners.  These proposed changes to the count system are the most significant in the last 30 years.  This proposal, however, still needs to be ratified by POPA’s membership.

The Examiner Count System is one means the USPTO uses to evaluate examiner efficiency.  The count system was originally created around the mid 1960s and has not been dramatically revised since 1976.

The current nature of the present count system has a tendency to encourage Examiners to extend the length of prosecution for patent applications.  For example, under the current systems Examiners are incentivized to have applicants submit multiple Requests for Continued Examination (RCEs), which can be quite costly for applicants.  To see how the proposed count system will change the incentives for examiners, tables from the report comparing the current count system to the proposed count system have been reproduced below.  At first glance, it appears that the proposed changes will reduce the incentive for examiners to extend prosecution by requiring multiple RCEs.


A more detailed analysis of the proposed changes will follow shortly.