Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog

USPTO Launches Ombudsman Pilot Program.

Posted in Practice Commentary by Jake Ward on April 7, 2010

Per this press release at the USPTO today.

One-Year Pilot Program to Assist Applicants with
Patent Prosecution Issues

Washington – The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today launched a new “Ombudsman Program” designed to provide patent applicants with more assistance in handling application-processing problems if the normal channels have not been successful.  This one-year pilot program is intended to provide applicants with additional resources to ensure application-processing problems are handled in a more efficient way, thereby saving applicants and the Agency both time and resources and improving patent quality. 

Under this new program, applicants, attorneys or agents who have application-processing concerns, and haven’t been able to get the assistance they need through normal channels in the Technology Center (TC), can contact the ombudsman representative for the TC through the USPTO Web site (www.uspto.gov).  The applicant will receive a phone call within one business day for a discussion of the specifics of the issue.  From there, the ombudsman representative will work with TC staff to address the concerns expressed by the applicant and try to get the application back on track.

“This program is a direct response to feedback we’ve received from members of the patent community who have told us that they need a dedicated resource they can turn to when they have concerns about the prosecution of their application,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “We are always striving for ways to improve the quality and efficiency of patent examinations, and we believe this initiative is an important step forward on both these fronts.”

Each TC will have one ombudsman representative and a back-up, both of whom were selected based on their experience.  The program is supported by senior supervisors and TC staff, including supervisory patent examiners, training quality assurance specialists, and subject matter experts.

The program will use a specially designed tracking database, containing only general information about the problems or concerns and whether the issue is open or closed.  Appropriate safeguards are built into the system so that all applicants will be treated with a high degree of fairness.  The ombudsman representatives will regularly review the database to ensure that the issues are addressed within 10 business days and to look for trends within the examination process that may indicate additional training needs.  Information from the database also will be used to build a Web site page that provides commonly seen problems and the resolutions to help attorneys and applicants resolve issues without the need for ombudsman assistance, and will also be used for bi-monthly USPTO-hosted conference calls with the intellectual property community on various topics.

The Ombudsman Pilot Program does not replace other existing resources available to patent applicants, attorneys or agents.  The ombudsman should only be contacted if an applicant, attorney or agent feels that examination has stalled and that their efforts to move their application forward through the normal channels (e.g., contacting the examiner or supervisory patent examiner) have not been effective.  

Additional details on the program are available at www.uspto.gov.

Questions from applicants should be directed to 571-272-4020.

One Response

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  1. Gena777 said, on April 26, 2010 at 2:34 am

    This is the latest in Kappos’s series of smart PR moves. There is little question that his decisions have gone a long way toward improving the public image of the USPTO. Whether or not they will significantly, and positively, affect the practice of U.S. patent law remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I appreciate the new USPTO Director’s assiduous efforts.


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