This is part one of a three part a series of guest postings by Robert J. Spar, former Director of the Office of Patent Legal Administration. Bob will be one of featured faculty at PLI’s “Reissue and Reexamination Strategies and Tactics with Concurrent Litigation 2010” conference to be held in San Francisco, CA on January 11-12, 2010; New York, NY, on February 11-12, 2010 and Chicago, IL on March 11-12, 2010. Summary: In the USPTO (“the Office”), the Office of Patent Legal Administration (OPLA) works very closely with the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) on legal, procedural and policy issues related to reexaminations; their roles being different but complementary. The CRU has a separate technical support staff which performs all the processing functions for reexamination proceedings, and the CRU primary examiners and managers perform the determinations and examinations of the reexamination proceedings. The OPLA legal advisors, on the other hand, decide most of the complex reexamination petitions, regularly assist CRU managers and examiners, Office management, and the public on reexamination related issues, involving legal, procedural, practice and policy matters and, with CRU input, usually handle reexamination practice changes and policy initiatives. The division of responsibilities between the CRU and OPLA, and the close working relationship between the two organizations, works very well, and the arrangement is a significant improvement over the way reexamination cases were handled by the Office since 1981, when ex parte reexamination proceedings were established. Background: The Central Examination Unit (CRU) was established in the summer of 2005 to essentially handle the examination of all new Ex Parte (XP) and Inter Partes (IP) reexamination proceedings. Prior to the establishment of the CRU, examiners in the Technology Centers (TCs) handled both XP and IP reexamination proceedings. Different examiners, i.e., not the original examiners who handled the prosecution of the application that matured into the patent – were assigned to handle the reexamination proceedings. While these “different” examiners were knowledgeable in the classified technology area involved in the reexamination, they had to make determinations on the reexamination requests and, if reexamination was ordered, handle the reexamination proceedings along with all of the other regular non-provisional and reissue applications in their dockets. The examiners did not get any production credits for reexamination actions, or for learning the specialized reexamination procedures and practices; rather they got “other” or “non-examining” time for handling the reexamination proceedings, although such “other” or “non-examining” time was subject to approval by their SPE, which sometimes was limited. While the “other” or “non-examining” time arrangement should have been attractive enough for the examiner to spend whatever time was needed to properly and timely handle the reexamination proceeding, in reality, it was not! The conflicts of priorities on managing cases in their dockets, including meeting their individual examiner production and timeliness goals, and the “other” time limits imposed by some SPEs, often led to some reexamination proceedings being delayed. Many reexamination proceedings were not handled with “special dispatch,” nor with the thoroughness and proficiency that their special status deserved. OPLA had the responsibility for monitoring reexamination proceedings throughout the Patent Examining Corps so that the initial determination would always be timely handled, and for providing advice and assistance as may be needed. The examiners handling the reexamination proceedings, however, did not report to OPLA, so OPLA’s urging of timely, high quality work was often ineffectual. The results of such a system was that many reexamination proceedings were not timely treated, nor was the level of examination of all reexamination proceedings consistently reliable, leading to justifiable complaints about the lack of “special dispatch,” and reliability. Prior to the establishment of the CRU, and very much like they do today, the OPLA legal advisors decided most reexamination petitions, regularly provided advice and assistance to the Patent Examining Corps’ managers and examiners, upper Office management, and the public on reexamination processing, legal, policy and practice issues, and handled reexamination practice changes and policy initiatives. OPLA had a limited technical support processing unit, also known as the CRU, which performed most of the administrative processing and handling of reexamination proceedings in a centralized manner, although each Technology Center (a “TC’) also performed some processing for their own reexamination proceedings.