Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Michelle K. Lee recently announced on her blog that the patent office is increasing its focus on patent quality.

Lee wrote:

Patents of the highest quality can help to stimulate and promote efficient licensing, research and development, and future innovation without resorting to needless high-cost court proceedings. Through correctness and clarity, such patents better enable potential users of patented technologies to make informed decisions on how to avoid infringement, whether to seek a license, and/or when to settle or litigate a patent dispute. Patent owners also benefit from having clear notice on the boundaries of their patent rights.

Pilot Programs

The USPTO is conducting training and pilot programs in pursuit of its quality goals. These programs include:

  • Clarity of the Record Pilot – Patent examiners will include in the record important claim constructions and give more detailed reasons for why specific claims are allowed or rejected.
  • Clarity of the Record Training: The USPTO will increase training for patent examiners on the importance and benefit of a clear record and on how to achieve greater clarity.
  • Transforming the Review Data Capture Process: The USPTO will use the same “master review form” to review patent examiners’ work at every level and will deploy “big data analytic techniques” to identify trends.

More information on the new programs is on the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative page.


Enhancing patent quality is clearly an admirable goal, but opinions may vary as to what a “quality” patent looks like. While standards are evolving, more patents may initially be rejected by examiners for lack of clarity. Hopefully, the USPTO will soon issue detailed guidelines on its quality standards.

Leech Tishman’s Intellectual Property Group is based in Pasadena, California with a team of highly-regarded legal professionals with prosecution and litigation expertise in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.

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Photo Attribution: “Crystal Glass” is Public Domain.

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