As I reviewed our 2017 Patent Program Benchmarking Survey, I was excited to see that an increasing number of companies are embracing key performance indicators (KPIs) to help them not only increase the operational efficiency of their patent portfolio programs, but to also increase the quality of their output. This increased corporate focus on patent quality resonates with me. For years, many of you have likely heard me express my belief that quality over quantity is a critical path for all of us. It ensures that we can develop strategic intellectual property programs for our companies. It also helps further improve our Nation’s confidence in our intellectual property system, which has taken a hit over the last decade due to the unfortunate use of dubious-quality patents for litigation settlement purposes.
I believe that the United States Patent and Trademark (USPTO) leadership and its emphasis on quality over the last eight years has helped refocus corporations around quality. Admittedly there are controversial aspects of the USPTO’s efforts and I am not here today to debate those issues. Rather merely to commend USPTO leadership for helping shift the discussion away from arbitrary allowance rate statistics as a proxy for quality to something much more substantial.
As you may already know, over the last few years, the USPTO has been increasing its focus on programs to increase the ability to locate relevant prior art and better document the patent prosecution history. Prosecution enhancement programs have helped patent applicants and examiners to better engage with one another and improve the efficiency of communication and quality of the patent record. Post-examination programs have helped provide a feedback loop back to examiners with regard to patent applications that are still undergoing patent prosecution. And evaluation programs have helped improve the USPTO’s own KPIs.
Given the USPTO’s focus on quality, it is no wonder that KPIs are now being more universally used by companies to help measure patent quality. In fact, usage of KPIs for quality has increased over 10% in the last year alone. Exciting times are surely ahead for all of us as we continue to embrace using KPIs and other data to help improve patent quality and drive towards to using IP as a business tool to support corporate objectives.