USPTO Releases 2018-2022 Strategic Plan

by McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP
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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has released its 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, the first under new Director Andrew Iancu.

Director Iancu provides an introductory Message in which he cites the grant of U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 on June 19th of this year that "authenticates the brilliance of our Founding Fathers and serves as a testament to those who continue to bring forward their creative genius, imagination, and talent for the betterment of all."  While lauding the vitality of the Office's work in enabling inventors to contribute to the U.S. economy and the need for "predictable, reliable, and high-quality intellectual property (IP) rights," he notes that the USPTO needs to "continually challenge itself" to provide such patent rights.  He previews the Plan (which he calls "the roadmap for the future") by stating those goals: "(1) optimizing patent quality and timeliness, (2) optimizing trademark quality and timeliness, and (3) providing domestic and global leadership to improve IP policy, enforcement, and protection worldwide."

The Plan begins with the Office's Mission and Vision, a statement of Strategic Goals, and Guiding Principles.  The Mission:

Fostering innovation, competitiveness and job growth in the United States by conducting high quality and timely patent and trademark examination and review proceedings in order to produce reliable and predictable intellectual property rights; guiding intellectual property policy, and improving intellectual property rights protection; and delivering intellectual property information and education worldwide.

and the Vision:

Leading the nation and the world in intellectual property

The Plan has three specific Goals and a Mission Support Goal:

Goal I:    Optimize Patent Quality and Timeliness
Goal II:    Optimize Trademark Quality and Timeliness
Goal III:    Provide Domestic and Global Leadership to Improve Intellectual Property Policy, Enforcement, and Protection Worldwide

Mission Support Goal: Deliver Organizational Excellence

And finally in this Introductory Section, the Plan sets forth Guiding Principles:

• Through a culture of quality, we promote excellence throughout the organization by valuing accurate and consistent results, primarily in the examination processes.

• Through timeliness, we recognize the needs of our customers and stakeholders to have our products and services delivered at a time that meets their individual needs.

• Through efficiency, we are sound financial stewards of the user fees paid by our customers, and we use the lowest number of inputs to create the greatest number of outputs, maximizing results.

• Through effectiveness, we listen to our customers and stakeholders, and incorporate their feedback.

• Through accountability, we measure our activities, accept responsibility for them, and disclose the results in a transparent manner.

The Plan then sets forth the Office's intention in detail.  For Goal I, Optimize Patent Quality and Timeliness, the Plan sets forth the following Objectives, comprising Initiatives and Key Performance Indicators:

Objective 1: Optimize Patent Application Pendency

OBJECTIVE 1: OPTIMIZE PATENT APPLICATION PENDENCY

Initiatives

1. Optimize pendency and examination timeframes
2. Align production capacity with incoming workload
3. Leverage value obtained from international work products
4. Identify and offer additional prosecution options

Key Performance Indicators

1. Balance pendency targets within patent term adjustment examination timeframes
2. Define and implement a process for routing utility patent applications in light of the transition from U.S. classification to Cooperative Patent Classification
3. Provide examiners with information from an applicant's other applications filed in the United States and internationally
4. Achieve process efficiencies and quality improvements via available prosecution options


Objective 2: Issue Highly Reliable Patents

Initiatives

1. Increase examiners' ability to obtain the best prior art during examination
2. Improve content, delivery, and timeliness of technical and legal training to achieve more predictable outcomes
3. Use patent quality data to identify areas for improvement to achieve more consistent outcomes
4. Refine production standards to achieve patent quality expectations and goals
5. Enhance transparency and communication of quality metrics

Key Performance Indicators

1. Ensure that examiners consistently apply current policies and follow established procedures
2. Comprehensively study and adjust examination time goals to ensure optimal USPTO performance in patent pendency and quality
3. Increase the effectiveness, evaluation, and reporting of quality


Objective 3: Foster Innovation through Business Effectiveness

Initiatives

1. Enhance patent customer experience
2. Optimize development and delivery of information technology tools, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, for internal users of patent systems to ensure that they have the tools they need for a thorough search and examination
3. Enhance information technology interfaces available to external users of patent systems
4. Improve searchable access to domestic and international patent application files, including the prior art and Office actions contained therein
5. Retain and leverage nationwide talent
6. Document and standardize best practices to facilitate succession planning
7. Coordinate patent outreach efforts across the Patent organization and evaluate the impact of these efforts on the patent ecosystem

Key Performance Indicators

1. Complete initial implementation of Patents End-to-End
2. Enhance assistance to independent inventors and small businesses during the prosecution of their applications
3. Strengthen leadership values and behavior throughout


Objective 4: Enhance Operations of the Trial and Appeal Board

Initiatives

1. Resolve appeals and inter partes matters in a timely manner
2. Streamline procedures and standards where feasible and appropriate to ensure balance and predictability
3. Emphasize overall written quality, well-supported reasoning of orders and opinions, and decisional consistency
4. Increase internal and external engagement on Patent Trial and Appeal Board operations to promote understanding
5. Develop and enhance tools to promote transparency and enable increased use of operational data
6. Retain and leverage nationwide talent

Key Performance Indicators

1. Resolve all inter partes matters within statutory deadlines and improve appeal pendency
2. Ensure quality of Patent Trial and Appeal Board decisions
3. Pursue formal or informal collaborations and education opportunities with examiners and external stakeholders
4. Improve Patent Trial and Appeal Board processes and procedures through enhanced automation tools and data use

Goal II, Optimize Trademark Quality and Timeliness, also has four Objectives:

Objective 1: Optimize Trademark Application Pendency

Initiatives

1. Align production capacity with incoming workload and inventory
2. Work with customers to develop pendency goals that increase examination efficiency, maintain an optimal pendency level, and meet the expectations of the intellectual property community
3. Optimize pendencies for all types of actions throughout the trademark process

Key Performance Indicators

1. Maintain first action pendency between 2.5 and 3.5 months with 12 months or less for disposal pendency
2. Continue to evaluate timeliness
3. Use forecasting and analytics to align staffing to pendency goals


Objective 2: Issue High-Quality Trademarks

Initiatives

1. Continually improve quality measurements
2. Provide targeted training (including legal training and education) to address quality issues
3. Leverage analytics to drive training, process improvements, and consistency
4. Leverage state-of-the-art technologies that support high-quality examination and registration

Key Performance Indicators

1. Maintain high-quality targets of 95.5 percent for first actions, with 97.0 percent for final compliance and 45.0 percent for exceptional office action
2. Adopt data-driven analytics to enhance quality


Objective 3: Foster Business Effectiveness

Initiatives

1. Develop innovative recruitment strategies for staffing trademark positions
2. Develop leadership programs for succession planning, knowledge management, and employee engagement
3. Develop a workforce equipped to leverage information technology modernization
4. Focus information technology efforts on improving efficiencies in core business operations
5. Enhance the customer experience
6. Explore artificial and business intelligence to assist trademark customers
7. Partner with customers to define and address needs

Key Performance Indicators

1. Create a customer-focused organization
2. Strengthen workforce competencies (e.g., include education in diversity, talent, skills, empathy)
3. Align process and service to improve the customer experience and efficiency


Objective 4: Enhance Operations of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board

Initiatives

1. Resolve appeals and inter partes matters in a timely manner
2. Streamline processes and procedures where feasible and appropriate and ensure procedural predictability
3. Emphasize overall written quality, well-supported reasoning of orders and opinions, and decisional consistency
4. Maintain increased internal and external engagement on Trademark Trial and Appeal Board operations to promote customer understanding of process and procedure
5. Document clear and comprehensive business requirements to facilitate enhancement of legacy information technology systems and prepare for next generation information technology systems
6. Retain and leverage nationwide talent

Key Performance Indicators

1. Maintain a customer-focused organization
2. Strengthen workforce competencies (e.g., include education in diversity, talent, skills, empathy)
3. Align process and service to improve customer experience and efficiency

Goal III, Provide Domestic and Global Leadership to Improve Intellectual Property Policy, Enforcement, and Protection Worldwide, has but two Objectives (being a more difficult goal insofar as it involves not only domestic issues but also interactions with foreign patent systems):

Objective 1: Provide Leadership and Education on Domestic Intellectual Property Policy and Awareness

Initiatives

1. Provide domestic policy formulation and guidance on key issues in all fields of intellectual property enforcement and protection
2. Engage other U.S. government agencies, stakeholders, and Congress on legislation that improves the intellectual property system
3. Provide domestic education on intellectual property at all levels, including to U.S. government agencies, stakeholders, the public, and state and local communities
4. Provide input to ongoing court considerations on key intellectual property issues
5. Advocate for the value of intellectual property as a critical driver of innovation and creativity

Key Performance Indicators

1. Provide intellectual property education to U.S. businesses, educators, and audiences at all levels, including through increased participation in USPTO domestic education and outreach partnerships with other U.S. government agencies
2. Facilitate U.S. government interagency efforts, lead stakeholder engagement on key intellectual property issues, and actively participate in U.S. government interagency efforts
3. Provide expert legal and technical advice on key intellectual property issues to internal and external decision-makers


Objective 2: Provide Leadership and Education on International  Intellectual Property Policy and Awareness

Initiatives

1. Provide international policy formulation and guidance on key issues in all fields of intellectual property enforcement and protection
2. Provide leadership, support, and advice to the administration in negotiating and monitoring compliance with intellectual property agreements and intellectual property provisions in trade agreements
3. Lead administration efforts at the World Intellectual Property Organization and other international organizations to improve intellectual property enforcement, protection, and cooperation worldwide
4. Engage other governments to improve their intellectual property enforcement and protection, including by providing education and capacity building
5. Work with Congress on matters pertaining to international agreements and their implementation
6. Work with the administration to improve intellectual property enforcement and protection in countries of interest, including through the intellectual property attaché program
7. Advocate for the value of intellectual property as a critical driver of innovation and creativity

Key Performance Indicators

1. Develop country-specific action plans to monitor priority economies' progress along the following dimensions:
    (a) institutional improvements of intellectual property office administration for advancing intellectual property rights,
    (b) improvements in intellectual property laws and regulations, (c) institutional improvements of intellectual property enforcement entities, (d) establishment of government-to-government cooperative mechanisms
2. Provide training and information on best practices to protect and enforce intellectual property
3. Further international work-sharing opportunities and cooperation with other intellectual property offices and relevant authorities, including through memoranda of understanding agreements
4. Provide substantive input and expert legal and technical advice on key IP issues and in agreement and treaty negotiations
5. Provide technical assistance and advice to members of Congress and key staff on key international intellectual property issues

These Goals are supported by a Mission Support Goal, to Deliver Organizational Excellence, itself comprising four Objectives:

Objective 1: Enhance Human Capital Management and Foster Employee Engagement

Initiatives

1. Optimize the performance culture
2. Leverage best practices to attract, recruit, and retain an engaged, diverse, mission-focused, and talented workforce
3. Optimize workspace to meet workforce needs
4. Continue to strengthen our telework environment
5. Enhance leadership capabilities to better develop, sustain, lead, and foster engagement and advocacy in the agency's diverse workforce
6. Identify and deploy an engagement strategy that ensures all employees understand how their work relates to the USPTO mission

Key Performance Indicators

1. Increase USPTO employee engagement, cultural, and environmental metrics
2. Develop and continue improvement in human capital management metrics and analytics
3. Improve space efficiency and quality metrics
4. Enhance quality and quantity of leadership programs and activities
5. Improve telework management and participation methods, controls, and practices


Objective 2: Optimize Speed, Quality, and Cost-effectiveness of Information Technology Delivery to Achieve Business Value

Initiatives

1. Involve the business unit experts in the information technology acquisition source selection process
2. Refine the agency-wide information technology prioritization process
3. Foster information technology innovation from our highly skilled workforce
4. Maintain effective legacy systems during transition to their retirement
5. Establish agency-wide data governance
6. Strengthen the information technology development and implementation lifecycle

Key Performance Indicators

1. Strengthen key stakeholder relationships
2. Develop and implement the USPTO Data Roadmap, including guidelines for data architecture and data management
3. Develop an information technology portfolio status dashboard


Objective 3: Enforce Financial Sustainability to Facilitate Effective USPTO Operations

Initiatives

1. Maintain the authority for fee-setting
2. Obtain authority to spend all fees collected
3. Ensure that the USPTO fee structure continuously meets the needs of the intellectual property environment of the future
4. Optimize the management of financial resources
5. Achieve optimal value from resources deployed to support USPTO operations

Key Performance Indicators

1. Demonstrate progress toward legislative solutions
2. Complete comprehensive assessment of USPTO fee structure
3. Ensure resources are continuously available to sustain operations


Objective 4: Enhance the USPTO's Interactions with Internal or External Stakeholders and the Public at Large

Initiatives

1. Strengthen relationships with the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget, other federal agencies, and Congress
2. Foster a culture across the USPTO for providing an outstanding customer experience
3. Foster relationships with internal and external stakeholders
4. Meet customer needs by timely delivery of intellectual property information and education to support and encourage growth of an innovation-based economy
5. Strengthen the public's understanding of intellectual property, including increasing the public's knowledge of how intellectual property, and the product and services that the USPTO offers, support our innovation-based economy

Key Performance Indicators

1. Improve quantity and quality of, and return on, internal and external stakeholder relationships
2. Enhance customer experience programs and metrics and improvement of the customer experience for internal and external USPTO customers

The Plan also contains Accompanying Information that explicates the Strategic Planning Process, supported by relevant External Factors (Appendix A) and Background of the Strategic Framework (Appendix B).

While the language of the Strategic Plan is replete with precatory and aspirational language of how the Office intends to achieve its Goals, it also advantageously contains sufficient specificity for the patent community and the public to be able to assess how well the Office satisfies the expectations raised in the Plan, and supplies the metrics to do so.  Director Iancu has raised expectations by his patent-supportive rhetoric since he assumed the position.  This Plan reflects those expectations and provides not only hope but also the basis for evaluating how well those hopes are realized.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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