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September 22, 2005

Examiners in the (National) News!

USA Today Article. Read if you want to know about my job!

My Tech Center is 2800 Semiconductors, Electrical and Optical Systems and Components and my Art Unit is 2854, photocopying.

The average time alotted for a case in my art unit is 24 (work) hours, and depending on your level, you have a position factor that changes that expectancy. My position factor is .7, which means I'm expected to do 70 percent of the work of an experienced examiner, which means I get roughly 34 hours per case, half of which is solely for initial examination of the patent. So I get a little over 2 days to pick up a patent, read it, understand it, search prior art for possible issues, and then write up a report (office action) to the applicant (or their lawyers) explaining why their application suxors and asking "why, oh God, why, did you waste 770 dollars applying for this stupid invention." Of course, there's a bunch of (relatively painless) hoops I need to go through to get this done (i.e., signatures, proper forms, etc), but that's all boring government work.

I then have 17 hours remaining to finish prosecution of an application (case). After I send out an office action, the applicant then has 3 months to respond to the action. If they don't do that in three months (usually because I told them that their invention suxors), the case is abandoned, and I get the second part of my production done, giving me a free 17 hours to boost my production. We loooove abandonments.

Usually, they argue "but Examiner Zimmerman, my invention doesn't 'suxor.' Give me a patent!!!!" In the case where they do argue, I have to waste my time responding to their stupid arguments, again telling them that, yes, indeed, their invention does suxor. I make this action 'final,' and I get credit for finishing a case. In the case where they change what I told them to change, or they argue effectively, the case will be allowed to pass to issuance, and I get credit for finishing a case.

In rare cases, the application comes to us in pristine form, no errors, and the claims are all patentable. In which case we tell them "congratulations!! You are a 1337 h4x0r! Please pay us 1400 dollars!" I've examined 13 cases so far, and only 1 has been a first action allowance, and even then, I had to call the lawyer up to get him to authorize me to make some minor amendments (spelling errors, etc.).

We are in the 11 million range of patent applications. The newest one I have on my docket is early 11 million, <100,000. We are currently nearing the 7 millionth patent. There's a big party being planned. Currently about 40-50 percent of all applications get some sort of patent by the end of their prosecution.

Referring back to the article, the backlog in my art unit isn't nearly as severe. Our current 'date deadline' is set for May 2004. That means that we should try to finish all the cases on our docket that were filed before May 2004. I finished the last one last week, but then had a new on on my docket from December 2003. It had been passed around from examiner to examiner because no one wanted to do it. I'm the only chemistry guy in my art unit, so I've been getting those cases that no on has wanted to do. :) but I don't mind, since I'd prefer to get all the ones with chemistry, rather than the mechanical ones. Though, the mechanical ones are generally easier to search, because then all I have to do is speed read the front of every patent and look at the figures. Usually, I'm in a sort of hypnotic state, methodically and rhythmically pressing keys on the keyboard to cycle through patents and their figures, reviewing a patent about every 3-4 seconds. The chemical ones are easy in their own right; with good text search skills (really, it should be skillz... it is very 1337), you could find a good patent in less than an hour of searching. With mechanical cases, you generally have to search a couple hundred patents, and while the search itself is easy, it just takes a lot of time.

I'm a bit ahead of schedule as far as learning my art is concerned. I review a case I should get a promotion in 3 months, and my factor will move up to a .8. Woot. I shouldn't take as long to 'cook' as most other examiners. ;)

Posted by josh at 08:59 AM | Comments (1)