Conflicting Objectives: The Patent Office’s Quality Review Initiative and the Examiner Count System

June 16, 2012

During fiscal years 2004 and 2005, the United States Patent and Trademark Office implemented an enhanced quality review initiative as an additional level of oversight over the patent examination process. As a result of this initiative, in fiscal year 2006, the patent allowance rate was reduced to 54%, down from a patent allowance rate of 72% in fiscal year 2000. However, this enhanced quality review initiative conflicts with the current examiner production goals or examination quotas. Likely unintended consequences of this conflict include an increasing backlog of unexamined patent applications, concerns over examiner attrition, and an increasing number of continuing applications and patent appeals. This article proposes reforming the examiner production goals to align them with the enhanced quality review initiative.