Sunday, May 23, 2010

PTO has new Ombudsman program

Do you have an application in which you can't get an answer from the Examiner or his SPE? Consider trying out the new PTO Ombudsman pilot program. You can find the announcement about the Ombudsman program here.

Here's how a summary of how the process works. You submit your issue via an electronic form on the Ombudsman page. You get a call back from the ombudsman within one business day. The ombudsman forwards the issue to "an official in the appropriate organization that is best suited to resolve the issue (e.g., Technical Support Staff, Supervisory Patent Examiner, or TC Director)." The ombudsman follows up on the issue regularly. The target is to have a resolution within 10 business days.

The PTO stresses that before using the program, you should try normal channels first – Examiner, then SPE. Also, it's for purely procedural issues – substantive issues should be handled by an appeal or a petition.

The info provided by the PTO doesn't say exactly what matters are appropriate for this program. Here's some sheer speculation on my part. Trouble in scheduling an interview? You filed a Reply Brief six months ago and the Examiner hasn't forwarded the case to the BPAI? The Issue branch calls six months after you paid the issue fee to say you need to file an RCE to fix a problem with improper claim dependency, yet the Examiner says he can't fix it because the issue fee has already been paid? [This last one happened to me, and luckily it resolved itself.]

This program is one of Director Kappos' many new directives aimed at improving the process for patent applicants. He's mentioned several others on his blog, such as re-engineering the MPEP and streamlining the non-compliant appeal brief process. I'm anxious to see how the Ombudsman program will work out.

1 comment:

  1. 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. It may be that only thoughtful and well-drafted patent reform legislation will accomplish that. Nonetheless, I appreciate the new USPTO Director's assiduous efforts.