buzzGoings on and Rumored Changes at the USPTO Spring 2011

With so much attention focused on the current patent reform debate, continued efforts within the USPTO to improve post grant performance may be going unnoticed. Below are just a few office initiatives and rumored developments. 

USPTO to Close Monday?

Assuming Congress does not arrive at a solution to the current budget impasse, the USPTO has been informed by the Secretary of Commerce that it is not exempt from a government shutdown.

Central Reexamination Unit (CRU)

Recently, the Office has begun reviewing examiner applications to join the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) for a temporary detail (3 months, extendable for a year) (opening listed here). Selected examiners will be assigned to work with an experienced member of the CRU in order to work through some of the growing caseload. It is expected that these hires will begin working through cases in early summer. 

The CRU is still relying on Irem Yucell (TC Director 1600) as an interim director.

New Inter Partes Patent Reexamination Procedures

The rumored patent reexamination rules package is said to relate to inter partes patent reexamination, and will include improved appeal processing. These rules are expected to be released once the new Chief Administrative Patent Judge joins the Board. It is expected that the new procedures will serve as a transitional practice should the proposed reform legislation pass into law. Abusive petition practices may be targeted by providing an APJ to serve as case manager of sorts.

With regard to the Chief APJ, several sources indicate the new hire is coming to the USPTO from private industry and will begin work in May.