08 April 2010

USPTO's Ombudsman Pilot Program

It has been reported that the USPTO has established a one-year Ombudsman Pilot Project to assist applicants in getting the procecution process back on track when there is a serious obstacle in the normal prosecution process that might prevent a deservered grant, e.g. due to a technical misunderstanding which cannot be resolved with the examiner or his supervisor (see also the FAQ). 

An Ombudsman generally is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing the broad scope of constituent interests. The word 'Ombudsman' is based on a Swedish word meaning 'Agent'.

The Ombudsman Program is intended to enhance assistance to applicants or their representatives with issues that arise during patent application prosecution. However, the Ombudsman is not intended to circumvent normal communication between applicants and examiners but should only be contacted if none of the established USPTO customer service offices is appropriate to assist. In order to streamline the process the Ombudsman can be contacted via an e-mail interface to arrange an initial telephone interview, while any written communication received by the Ombudsman regarding the merits of an application will be placed in the application file.

That is, the Pilot Program is not designed to deal directly with the merits of an application but rather to respond to inquiries with respect to progression of the prosecution relating to the examination of a patent application and, where necessary, to refer the issue to the appropriate Official to resolve and handle the matter. Thus, if you think that your application is improperly handled during prosecution, the Ombudsman may provide a direct-line of communication to quickly resolve the matter.

and USPTO Director David Kappos' achievenments:
As anyone who has dealt with the PTO (or other governmental agencies) over the years knows, it can at times be quite frustrating. It is often difficult to know who at the PTO to contact regarding specific problems.  In fact, often the person you contact at the PTO doesn’t even know to whom to refer the problem.  In such cases, the problem can often be unresolved resulting in frustration for applicants. This program sounds like a great idea if it is well implemented.  Having a PTO director who has dealt with the agency from the other side is great.  I look forward to other initiatives to improve the agency’s ability to interact with applicants and resolve problems quickly and efficiently.