Sunday, December 20, 2009

Change in PTO procedure affects RCE processing

Back in October, the Patent Office announced a number of changes to the Examiner count system and docketing system, to go into effect November 15. You can find summaries of these changes at PatentlyO (here) and at Just a Patent Examiner (here).

Like most practitioners, I understand the basics of the count system, but not in enough detail to even begin to understand how these changes will affect my practice. So I'll admit I haven't spent much time thinking about these changes.

The change to docketing of RCEs at the PTO seems easier to understand: in the old days, PTO procedures gave Examiners only 2 months to process an RCE; now, the Examiner has no fixed deadline to process RCEs. Therefore, from what I've read, everyone expects RCEs to start backing up in the queue. In fact, this post at IP Today says the RCE delay could be several months to possibly a year.

I've read some discussion from examiners and practitioners about what all this will mean. (To read for yourself, check out comment threads for the PatentlyO and Just a Patent Examiner hyperlinks above). I was actually surprised that there wasn't coverage about this topic. Guess I was thinking of the continuation rules package back in October 2007, and all the hoopla then.

This change seems to have slipped in under the radar. Then again, it's just a change to internal PTO procedures, whereas the continuation rules package was widely viewed as the biggest change to patent practice in 25 years.

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