Clarity of the Record Pilot Shows Promise - An interview with Director Robin Evans


On February 2016, USPTO launched the Clarity of Record Pilot, which is one of the new programs of the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative.  Its goal is to improve recordation of patent prosecution history by utilizing best practices regarding claim interpretation, interview summaries, and reasons for allowance. The pilot consists of volunteer utility patent examiners invited to participate to achieve a distribution of participants throughout the Corps.  Volunteers had to meet preset requirements for participation. The participants of the pilot continue to produce and post their Office Actions (OA) as usual with the exception of recordation in specific areas to provide enhance clarityin their office actions based on the pilot training and guidelines. The participants are compensated for enhanced recordation.

To determine if the participants have any concerns with the pilot, POPA has conducted focus sessions with the participants throughout May and June.  Participants were asked to answer a number of questions about the pilot.

When the participants were asked during the focus session, are you having regular meetings with pilot-SPEs and attending QEMs (quality enhancement meetings)? About 70 percent of the participants in May, 2016 indicated that they were attending QEMs and meeting with their pilot SPEs, and a majority stated that the QEMs and meeting with their pilot SPEs were constructive.

When participants were asked, if they were able to claim enough non-production time to enhance their office actions? About 90 percent of the participants stated that they were permitted to claim enough non-production time for enhancing their office actions. Although some initially had concerns about how to determine the amount of non-production time, they were quickly able to adjust and measure the time they were spending on the additional enhancement to their office actions.

When the participants were asked, if they received a response on their enhance office action from an applicant? A small group of participants indicated that they received responses from applicants and the responses included about 15-20 percent more content for the participants to consider.

POPA shared its findings from the focus sessionswith management’steam.Management in turn went back to participating SPEs to reinforce that there were to be meetings with all participants as well as QEMs in all areas. POPA received feedback from participants at the June focus sessions that indicated a significant improvement in the regularity of meetings with SPEs and the holding of QEMs from a majority of participants compared to the May focus sessions.Of the small group that received responses from applicants with increase content,most stated the responses were clearer and helpful.POPA will continue to collect data from focus sessions and monitor the progress of the program to its conclusion in August 2016.    

Prior to hosting the focus sessions in May and June of 2016, Patent Office Professional Association (POPA) representative Razu (Raj) Miah had the opportunity to speak with Technology Center 2800 Director Robin Evans, lead Director for the Clarity of the Record Pilot on Wednesday April 13, 2016.  During the discussion, Raj asked Director Evans some questions regarding the Pilot.   Although,Director Evans, calendar was full that day, she made the time to meet with Raj to provide her views on the Pilot.


Raj:  Please describe the Clarity of Record Pilot and what the Office is trying to accomplish.

Dir. Evans: The goal of the pilot is to study and refine Best Practices and to reach the right balance of recordation to make the record clear and complete.We will evaluate the impact on the prosecution of the patent applications, and determine the resources needed and also when in the examination process resources should be allocated.

A subset of the MRF (master review form) will be used to collect data that will be used to develop and support the pilot progress.


Raj:  Now that I know more about the Pilot, can you tell me who will benefit from the Clarity of Record Pilot?

Dir. Evans: Everyone will benefit, the applicant will have a better understanding of why the examiner reached his/her decision.

The examiners will benefit.  This will help the examiner with compact prosecution and will provide information that may support why an examiner made a certain decision/rejection.

The Office will benefit during prosecution, and the intellectual property community will benefit from the clear language.  


Raj:  It is great to know that examiners and applicants will benefit from this Pilot.How many examiners are participating in the Pilot?

Dir. Evans: Currently there are about 130 examiners participating on the Pilot.


Raj:  Are the 130 participants from particular technology Centers?

Dir. Evans: The pilot includes all Technology Centers with an average of 16 examiners per TC, with the exception of Design,TC-2900, which is not participating.


Raj:  Are the volunteer participants required to use or learn any new application or tools for completing their work?

Dir. Evans: Examiners are not required to use any special tools, however they are expected to follow the training guidelines, including best practices.


Raj:            Receiving additional training and guidance is always helpful, are the participants compensated for their efforts?

Dir. Evans: The participants of the pilot will receive non-production time for training, QEMs that are specific to the pilot, meeting with pilot SPEs and for enhanced recordation to record the office action in their technology area.


Raj:            How much Training or Support is provided for the participants?

Dir. Evans: Examiners were provided three hours of training before the pilot start date, and they will receive continuing training through Pilot specific QEMs, and from pilot SPEs. Additional training will be provided when deemed necessary.


Raj:            Are the participants allowed to contact the trainers/PoCs with any questions or concerns?

Dir. Evans: Absolutely, the pilot participants are encouraged to contact the POCs, trainers, Pilot SPE or QAS for any support or assistance.


Raj:            Knowing that participants are receiving additional training on the Pilot, are you planning to create any new training materials in light of the Pilot?

Dir. Evans: When the pilot ends the data collected will help in determining any future training decision.


Raj:            When the pilot ends, some if not most of the participants will receiveamendments/response that may include extensive write up from the applicants:

                    Is there a process in place to give additional time for the participants after the pilot ends, for those applications that were part of the pilot?

Dir. Evans: Yes, a process is in place for any office actions acted on by the examiner under the pilot, the examiner may request up to an hour of non-production time.


Raj:            The Pilot is projected to end in August 2016, how do you plan to evaluate the Clarity of Record Pilot program success?

Dir. Evans: The success will be based on examiners feedback, survey results, Pilot SPE’s surveys, and information gathered by OPQA to determine if clarity has increased in office actions.

Application that end up in post grant,will determine if the enhancement to the office action provided any improvements to the board’s decision.

And, we will gather information related to best practices that are used by the participants along with the time required for the enhancement of the record.


Raj:            Since, the Pilot’s success will depend on the enhancement to the office actions, who is reviewing the quality of applications examined in the Clarity of Record Pilot?

Dir. Evans: OPQA, will review the cases for clarity, and will provide feedback that will be shared with the group in a QEM setting. The pilot participants’ information will not be disclosed during the QEM training sessions, and the participants’ Home SPE will not have access to the cases that were reviewed under the Pilot.


Raj:            Based on the review process, who will collect and analyze the Pilot data?

Dir. Evans: The Clarity of Record Pilot team will collect the data and will analyze for the team. The Clarity of Records Pilot team will review the data to determine what steps to be taken moving forward.


Raj:            After you have collected and analyzed the Pilot data, do you plan on sharing the Pilot’s statistical analysis and other results? And will this information be shared with the internal and external stakeholders?

Dir. Evans: The data will be available around September 2016, the results will be provided to internal stakeholders, and however the Deputy Commissioner for Patents Quality will make the decision for external stakeholders. 


Raj:            After reviewing the results from the data, in the event the data from the pilot shows improvement, are there any plans to extend the pilot?

Dir. Evans: We will decide when the data is evaluated and reviewed by the Team, the Pilot Team and POPA may determine from the data set that we need to continue the pilot to reach a right balance of enhanced recordation to allocation of resources, and we may speak to POPA about extending the Pilot to determine the right balance of enhance recordation and consider rerunning the Pilot with additional component.


Article by:   Razu Miah (Raj)

POPA | Representative


Source:       Robin Evans

Director Technology Center 2800



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