Volume 49, Issue 2
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USPTO’s Customer Partnership Meetings
Alexander Beck, USPTOPaul Fucito, USPTORobin Hylton, USPTO
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has established Patents Customer Partnership Meetings (CPM) in an effort to create an open and collaborative dialog with its external stakeholders. CPMs allows the USPTO to share plans and operational efforts to better educate and inform our stakeholders. These meetings also enable the patent community to share ideas, experiences, and insights as well as discuss examination policies and procedures, mutual concerns and solutions to common problems with examination staff. The goal of these meetings is to increase understanding, improve the work we do for you, and ultimately to improve examination and ensure the reliability and certainty of the patents we issue.
The first USPTO Customer Partnership Meeting occurred in the Biotechnology, Chemical and Pharmaceutical area in the 1990’s when the USPTO was still located in Crystal City, Virginia. Since that time, many other art areas and Technology Centers (TC) have held their own partnership meetings in an effort to engage stakeholders and provide for a collaborative dialog which moves the patent examining process forward. These additional CPMs, have included a Cybersecurity Partnership, an Additive Manufacturing Partnership, a TC 3600 Business Methods Partnership, a combined TC 3600 and 3700 Customer Partnership which is focused on mechanical disciplines in these two TC’s, a TC 2800 Semiconductor Partnership, a TC 2600 Customer Partnership, Design Day (an annual Design TC CPM), and a TC 1700 Customer Partnership Meeting. During these meetings, participants interact with Office personnel in person or via a meeting webcast. Past presentations by both USPTO personnel and non-USPTO personnel (e.g., practitioners) have included a discussion of trends and initiates in the technology area of the partnership meeting, prosecution tips and traps for patent applications, new developments in various technologies and intellectual property, a discussion of new USPTO guidelines and examination procedures, stakeholders’ perspectives on various subjects and many varied discussion panels.
The USPTO also hosts the annual “Partnering in Patents” partnership meeting, which is held in cooperation with the Electronic and Computer Law subcommittee of AIPLA, to enhance the quality of software related patents. This partnership is an opportunity to bring stakeholders together with USPTO employees through a series of roundtable discussions to share ideas, feedback, experiences, and insights on software-related patents. Some topics covered during the most recent “Partnering in Patents” meeting included: Trends in examiner rejections and applicant remarks, Alice 101 analysis and the electrical arts, significant court decisions leading to trends in patent prosecution and proposed legislative fixes to patent subject matter holdings by the courts, and patenting inventions in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Over 400 people participated in person last October and an additional 100 attendees attended via Livestream. The attendees included both members of AIPLA and USPTO participants.
One of our most recent Customer Partnership Meetings was held on January 17, 2018. TC 2600 hosted its second CPM for about 50 in-person practitioners at the main campus and about another 50 practitioners via WebEx. The San Jose, Denver, Detroit, and Dallas Ratellite offices also hosted a WebEx for in-person attendees and provided facilitation for a workshop portion of the meeting. Opening remarks were provided by the TC 2600 Group Directors who framed the day as one about bettering lines of communication with the USPTO’s stakeholders. The Directors introduced the TC’s Quality Assurance Specialists and various TC points of contacts for unique issues, such as the TC Interview Specialists. TC Supervisory Patent Examiners provided three presentations on how examiners are trained on determining obviousness and 103 clarity improvements, the review of examiner’s work product, and on examiner interview training and practices to help practitioners gain a better understanding of the processes examiners follow. Participants also participated in a workshop focused on determining obviousness and 103 clarity and on a review of examiner’s work product. During the workshop, participants were given an example of a claim and potential references to determine the applicable 103 analysis followed by a set of three office actions for their review. WebEx and Ratellite office attendees were also able to participate in the workshop. Feedback was shared as a group after the workshop for reactions and comments. The day ended with a Director Q&A panel discussion. The meeting ended with a resolution to hold another TC 2600 CPM in July 2018, and topic suggestions from attendees were sought for the future meeting.
The next upcoming partnership meeting at the USPTO will be a combined Technology Center 3600 and 3700 Partnership Meeting on May 2, 2018, in Alexandria, Virginia. While a formal agenda is forthcoming, focus for the Customer Partnership meeting will include Prosecuting Patents to Withstand Validity Challenges. More specifically, Current Climate Driving Patent Prosecution Practices, How are patents invalidated, Strategies in Identifying Prior Art with both USPTO and EPO Perspectives, Claim Interpretation, Anticipation/Obviousness, and AIA Problems and Improvements.
I encourage you to consider attending and participating in an upcoming USPTO partnership meeting, either in person of via the corresponding webcast. To register for and attend an upcoming partnership meeting, please visit the Patents Customer Partnership Meetings event page on the USPTO’s website.
I also encouraged you to participate as a guest speaker at an upcoming Customer Partnership Meeting. To participate as a guest speaker for a Customer Partnership Meeting, please fill out the Partnership Meetings Speaker Interest Form found on the USPTO’s website Customer Partnership website.
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