Patent examiner

Patent examiner

A patent examiner or patent clerk [ The title "patent clerk" is used for instance in Gary Stix, [http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=0007DCB9-91CE-111A-BAF583414B7F4945 "The Patent Clerk's Legacy"] , Scientific American Magazine, September 2004 (an article about Albert Einstein). ] is an employee, usually a civil servant, working within a patent office. Major employers of patent examiners are the European Patent Office (EPO), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japan Patent Office.

Work and duties

Patent examiners review patent applications to determine whether they should become a patent. The work of patent examiner usually includes searching patent and scientific literature databases for prior art, and substantively examining patent applications, that is examining whether the claimed invention meets the patentability requirements such as novelty, "inventive step" or "non-obviousness", "industrial application" (or "utility") and sufficiency of disclosure.

On April 13, 2007, a "Coalition of Patent Examiner Representatives" expressed its concern that :"in many patent offices, the pressures on examiners to produce and methods of allocating work have reduced the capacity of examiners to provide the quality of examination the peoples of the world deserve [and that] the combined pressures of higher productivity demands, increasingly complex patent applications and an ever-expanding body of relevant patent and non-patent literature have reached such a level that, unless serious measures are taken, meaningful protection of intellectual property throughout the world may, itself, become history." [ [http://www.popa.org/pdf/misc/epocipo2007.pdf "Open Letter From a Coalition of Patent Examiner Representatives"] (To: Mr. Jon Dudas, Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Prof. Alain Pompidou, President, European Patent Office, Dr. Jürgen Schade, President, Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt, Mr. David Tobin, Commissioner of Patents, Registrar of Trademarks and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Intellectual Property Office, Dr. Friedrich Rödler, President, Österreichisches Patentamt) - Re: The Future of the Patent System, April 13, 2007. ]

Patent examiners by legislation

European Patent Organisation

European Patent Organisation (EPO) examiners are exempted from work- and residence-permit procedures (but since most of EPC Contracting States are members of the European Union, this is usually not a problem anyway).

The examiners examine patent applications in three official languages (English language, French language, and German language). Examiners are hired for searching databases, document analysis, patent communications, and judging patent validity. Examiners can be represented by trade unions, [http://www.ffpe-epo.org FFPE-EPO] and [http://www.suepo.org SUEPO] .Fact|date=March 2008

A qualified examiner possesses the formal following minimums:
* EPO member state nationality,
* Degree in engineering or in science;
* knowledge and ability of the official languages

Some examiners have work experience in industry, but this is not an essential background as there is training in patent examination. " [http://www.european-patent-office.org/epo/patexam.htm Patent examiner posts] ". European Patent Office (EPO), retrieved on June 12, 2006.] Examiners can specialize in fields of technology in which inventions are patentable under the European Patent Convention (EPC), such as computer science, electricity and semiconductor technology, industrial chemistry, organic chemistry, electronics, horology, mechanical engineering, measuring, optics, telecommunications, polymer chemistry or civil engineering.

United States

American patent examiners prosecute applications for patents. Examiners are considered to be quasi-judicial, Who|date=August 2008 because they make legal determinations based on federal codes, rules, and judicial precedents. These legal determinations are appealable through the U.S. Courts. An appeal of these legal determinations is three steps away from the U.S. Supreme Court. American examiner responsibilities include:
* Reviewing patent applications to determine if they comply with basic format, rules and legal requirements;
* Determining the scope of the invention claimed by the inventor;
* Searching for relevant technologies to compare similar prior inventions with the invention claimed in the patent application; and
* Communicating findings as to the patentability of an applicant's invention via a written action to inventors/patent practitioners.

Examiners are hired at the GS-5, GS-7, GS-9 or GS-11 grade levels [ GS-5, GS-7, or GS-9 grade levels are part of the General Schedule employee classification scheme within the US government. ] [ See the examiner [http://apps.opm.gov/SSR/tables/StaticFiles/SrText/0576_20070101.txt salary table as of January 1, 2007] ] and are currently eligible for two accelerated promotions after six and twelve months of service when they meet the performance of a new examiner. As of July 2007, new examiners are granted a recruitment bonus of $20,000 to $39,600 spread out over four consecutive years of fully successful service. [ [http://usptocareers.gov/Pages/PEPositions/Benefits.aspx#incentive USPTO Recruitment Incentive] ] Subsequent promotions are yearly and noncompetitive up to the GS-12 level, provided satisfactory performance is maintained.

According the USPTO, an examiner's performance is measured entirely by their own achievement and does not depend on the performance of others. [" [http://www.uspto.gov/go/ac/ahrpa/ohr/jobs/exam.htm What makes the USPTO a great place to work?] ", USPTO Patent Examiner Recruitment, United States Patent and Trademark Office, retrieved on June 12, 2006.] Legal, technical and automation training is provided to examiners at the USPTO. Considered white collar employees, only a minority of the examiners choose to be members of the representative trade union, Patent Office Professional Association (POPA). Experienced examiners have the option to work primarily from home through a hoteling program implemented in 2006 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). [ [http://www.uspto.gov/go/com/advisory/reports/ppac_2007annualrpt.pdf#page=10 USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee 2007 Annual Report] ]

A qualified examiner with the USPTO is a United States citizen and holds at a minimum a Bachelor degree in one of the physical sciences, life sciences, engineering disciplines, or in computer science, and develops a level of expertise in patent law. Advanced academic degrees and relevant work experience in the technical area are not uncommon either. Specific fields [ [http://www.uspto.gov/go/ac/ahrpa/ohr/jobs/qualifications.htm "Patent examiner, GS-1224 (Qualifications)"] , United States Patent and Trademark Office.] include computer science (with calculus, differential equations and statistics), electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, civil engineering,agriculture engineering, biomedical engineering, ceramic engineering, textile engineering, computer hardware and software engineering, transportation and construction engineering, metallurgy, materials engineering, physics, chemical engineering, organic chemistry, chemistry, biology, and pharmacology.

Notable patent examiners and clerks

* Genrich Altshuller, (1926-1998) [ "TRIZ was invented and structured by Genrich Altshuller, a patent examiner for the Russian navy." in Praveen Gupta, "The Six Sigma Performance Handbook: A Statistical Guide to Optimizing Results", McGraw-Hill Professional, 2004, page 278, ISBN 0071437649 ] [ "In 1946, a 20-year-old Soviet patent clerk in Russia named Genrich Altshuller..." in Peter Middleton, James Sutton, "Lean Software Strategies: proven techniques for managers and developers", Productivity Press, 2005, page 159, ISBN 1563273055]
* Clara Barton, (1821–1912), worked at the United States Patent Office (Currently the USPTO) [ "Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, held a regular civil service appointmentas a patent clerk as early as 1854." in B. Zorina Khan, "The Democratization of Invention: patents and copyrights in American economic development, 1790-1920", Cambridge University Press, 2005, page 136, note 25. ISBN 052181135X ] [ "Called the “Angel of the Battlefield,” Clara Barton was a former teacher andpatent clerk..." in Alan Axelrod, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Civil War", Alpha Books, 2003, page 147,ISBN 1592571328 ] [ "Clara Barton, a former teacher and patent clerk, ..." in Fred D. Cavinder, "More Amazing Tales from Indiana", Indiana University Press, 2003, page 79, ISBN 0253216532 ]
* Albert Einstein, (1879–1955), worked at the Swiss Patent Office [ Thomas P. Hugues, "Einstein, Inventors, and Invention" in R. S. (Robert Sonne) Cohen, Mara Beller, Jürgen Renn, "Einstein in Context: A Special Issue of Science in Context", Cambridge University Press, 1993, page 25, ISBN 0521448344 ]
* Thomas Jefferson, first patent examiner of the U.S. Patent Office [ Thomas T. Gordon, Arthur S. Cookfair, "Patent Fundamentals for Scientists and Engineers", CRC Press, 2000, page 13, ISBN 1566705177 ]
* Thomas P. Jones, (1774-1848), engineer and publisher, worked at the US Patent OfficeFact|date=March 2007
* Arthur Paul Pedrick, UK Patent Office examiner and, subsequently, prolific inventor [ [http://www.patent.freeserve.co.uk/pedrick.html Patenty absurd] ]
* Richard Bissell Prosser, (1838-1918), worked at the United Kingdom Patent OfficeFact|date=March 2007
* Johan Vaaler, (1866–1910)Fact|date=March 2007
* George WashingtonFact|date=March 2007

References and notes

See also

* Law clerk
* List of professions
* Patent attorney
* Patent engineer
* Patent Office Professional Association, the United States patent examiners trade union
* Trademark examiner
* United States Patent Classification

External links

* John W. Schoen, " [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4788834/ U.S. patent office swamped by backlog; Without more funding, wait time could top 5 years] ". MSNBC, April 27, 2004. (ed., comments on problems and that 2900 new examiners are being sought by the USPTO.)
* Report to Congressional Committees 2005 "USPTO Has Made Progress in Hiring Examiners, but Challenges to Retention Remain" " [http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05720.pdf] "


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