WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Patent Examination and Quality Improvement Act of 2022, legislation to evaluate and improve the patent examination process and the overall quality of patents issued by the USPTO.
This legislation would evaluate prior and current initiatives and pilot programs relating to the quality of patents. It would evaluate the need for greater clarity in terms of what constitutes patent quality, the setting of patent quality metrics, and how the quality of work product performed by patent examiners is measured within the office. The bill would evaluate the need for recording examiner interviews via audio files or automated transcriptions, how the assignment of patent applications to examiners is undertaken, and the creation of a group that looks at real-world circumstances and uses that information to perform targeted review of certain patent applications. Furthermore, the bill would also study any evidence of fraud in the patent application process and suggest avenues to address such fraud.
“If the United States is going to continue to be the world’s leading innovation economy, then we have to first make sure our patent system is strong and instills confidence,” said Senator Tillis. “We only have strong patents when those patents are of the highest quality and meet all the requirements of patentability. I’m proud to introduce this measure with my good friend Senator Leahy to improve the quality of patent examinations and ensure that the USPTO issues strong patents. This legislation is a step further in continuing our work to strengthen our intellectual property rights.”
“I am proud to cosponsor this commonsense legislation with Ranking Member Tillis,” said Senator Leahy. “This bill follows up on our hearing last year on patent quality, which put a spotlight on the fact that many U.S. patents represent brilliant inventions and drive our economy. Unfortunately though, some are issued by mistake and can cause great expense for unsuspecting Americans and small businesses. I look forward to advancing legislative solutions that will help make sure that the patents that are issued are valid and to continuing my work supporting American creators and innovators.”
For decades there has not been a major change to the time afforded to patent examiners for the examination of patent application, yet the nature of the technology from which these patent applications are derived and the complexity of this technology have only increased. In addition, the proliferation of prior art, which patent examiners must search for and review in order to make patentability determinations, has only increased and it has done so at a rapid pace. This complexity can and does lead to the necessity for patent examiners to raise more complex prior art rejections. And because of this patent examiners must be afforded the necessary amount of time so as to generate quality work products.
This bill would require that not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act the Comptroller General of the U.S. submit to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and House the Committee on the Judiciary a report detailing this evaluation on patent examination improvement. Not later than 1 year after the date on which the Comptroller General of the U.S. submits their report the USPTO Director shall develop guidance for patent examiners focused on patent examination improvement. Finally, not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act the USPTO Director, after soliciting public comment, shall submit to Congress a report that includes how the Office will improve the technical training of patent examiners with respect to emerging areas of technology, the status of office IT systems, a 5-year IT modernization plan, an accounting of the use by the office of advanced data science analytics and a 5-year modernization plan regarding advanced data science analytics, and finally how the result of the application of advanced data science analytics can be regularly shared with the public.