USPTO Adjusts Examiner Count System to Address Growing RCE Backlog

Some notable pre-grant news this week. A Request for Continued Examination (RCE) is largely a procedural creature of pre-grant, patent application prosecution (patent reissue being the lone exception on the post grant side). Recently, the backlog of RCE filings has increased significantly. This is largely the result of the Office switching the priority of such filings on examiner dockets while reducing examiner credit for processing RCEs. This priority switch was designed to reduce the backlog of unexamined patent applications. Not surprisingly, as the unexamined application inventory went down, RCE inventory went up as illustrated in the above chart.

Starting on October 1st, the USPTO will recalibrate the Count System Initiative (CSI) to incentivize work on the RCE backlog. (Under the previous version of CSI, 1.75 credits were available for the first RCE, and 1.5 for the second and subsequent)

On October 1, 2013 examiners will receive a total of 2.0 counts for the 4th and all subsequent RCEs in which a first office action is done in the first quarter of the fiscal year, and 2.o counts for the 5th and all subsequent RCEs in which a first office action is done in each of the second, third, and fourth quarters of the fiscal year.  

Also, examiners with higher RCE inventories will have more limited inventories of regular new applications available for action until their RCE inventories are reduced below predetermined thresholds.