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record an explanation of the goals that are set for patent examiners and patent examining groups with regard to the quantity of applications examined.

The Patent Office evaluates the performance of individual patent examiners according to both the quantity and the quality of their output, and the two are regarded as equally important. It shonld be kept in mind in considering the discusion of statistics and formulas below, that these are not the only criteria used to judge an examiner's performance.

The basic measure of an examiner's quantity of production is called a "disposal". One disposal credit is given to an examiner for each application which is allowed by him or abandoned by the applicant. When an examiner writes an answer to an appeal brief he is given credit for a disposal at that time rather than waiting for the subsequent allowance or abandonment. (Examiners' answers are not counted in determining the pendency time figure or the number of disposals at the Office-wide level.)

Another productivity measure often used is the term "hours per disposal". This item is calculated by taking the number of hours that an examiner devotes to examining in a given period and dividing it by the number of disposals with which he is credited during that period. Individual examiner production expectancies are set on an "hours per disposal" basis and not on a fixed numerical basis of so many disposals per year. Therefore, the number of disposals expected is related directly to the number of hours available for examining. Time spent on sick or annual leave, training, details to other positions, etc., is not counted as examining time. Attachment A shows the number of examining hours (column 5), the average number of applications disposed of per examiner (column 11), and the average number of hours per disposal (column 12) for recent fiscal years.

An individual examiner's production expectancy is calculated from a starting point of 18 hours per disposal for an examiner in grade GS-12. The 18 hours figure is the historical average production for a GS-12 as determined by a review of the average productivity of examiners in various GS grades over the period from April 1967 to March 1969.

The expectancy for an individual examiner may be higher or lower than 18 hours per disposal depending upon: (1) his GS grade and (2) art complexity factors. In the case of GS-13's, 14's and 15's, additional factors are taken into consideration. These are whether the examiner has been granted “partial sig. natory authority" or "full signatory authority", and whether he has attained official recognition as an "expert", "senior examiner", or "generalist”. The expectancy for an individual examiner is not changed unless there is a change in one of the aforementioned factors, except in unusual cases (see Attachment B). This policy has been expressly communicated to all professional patent examining employees. Supervisors in the examining operations have been instructed to consult with their examiners on production expectancies, and an opportunity is provided for correction of erroneous assignments. (see Attachment B, page 1.)

The table on page 2 of Attachment B shows the factors used in calculating production expectancies for all GS grades. For example, a GS-5 is expected to produce 55 percent of the amount of a GS-12, and a GS-15 is expected to produce 140 to 150 percent of the amount of a GS-12.

The expectancy for a GS-12 examiner above and below 18 hours per disposal for the various groups depends on the complexity of the art examined, as shown in Attachment C. More complex arts require higher hours per disposal. The variations in the hours per disposal numbers in Attachment C reflect variations in art complexity between and within the examining groups. Expectancies range from 12.1 hours per disposal for the least complex arts to 30.0 hours for the most complex.

Examiner productivity is also measured in terms of "balanced disposals". This term, which takes into account both the number of first actions by the examiner and the number of disposals, is calculated by using the formula :

First Actions + Disposals
Balanced Disposals =

2 The use of balanced disposals as a measure of productivity is intended to provide a fairer evaluation of output than measurement of disposals alone. A typical patent application requires at least two actions by the examiner, sev

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eral months apart, before it is in condition to be disposed of by allowing it is a patent or by the applicant abandoning it. In other words, applications must be given first actions and “put into the pipeline" in order for disposals to be realized some months hence. A new examiner is unlikely to dispose of very many cases for the first few months of his tenure because he will be taking only first actions. On the other hand, an examiner taking over a docket previously worked on by another examiner may have an opportunity to take an uusually large number of second actions, many of which will result in immediate disposals, and therefore his disposal rate will be unrealistically high. Therefore, to give examiners credit for work they have done on first actions that have not yet been disposed of, balanced disposals represent an average of actual disposals and first actions.

We do not believe that the balanced disposal formula can be regarded as giving the examiner "double credit” for disposing of cases on the first action. To the contrary, by giving an examiner some credit for the work he has done on first actions, the balanced disposal formula avoids placing undue pressure on the examiner to dispose of new applications immediately by allowing them on the first action.

Any system for evaluating examiners according to the number of disposals may tend to influence some individuals toward lower lity work if their work is not also evaluated for quality. (As mentioned above, examiners are evaluated on quality as well as quantity). The balanced disposal formula does not create any added incentive to dispose of cases on the first action, however, since with a divisor of 2, a disposal on the first action gives only one balanced disposal, the same amount of credit that would be given for a first action disposal if actual disposals were the yardstick.

It should be noted that disposals and balanced disposals are not the only data available in the Patent Office to judge the examiner's performance. Information is also available for example, on the percentage of total disposals which are allowances, and on the percentage of appeals from examiners' actions which are affirmed by the Board of Appeals.

In addition to the expectancy goals that are established for individual examiners, the Patent Office establishes goals and estimates for disposals for the Office as a whole, and for each examining group. These goals and estimates are for the purposes of determining what appropriations requests will be made to the Congress by the Executive Branch, and for determining staffing needs after appropriations are obtained. The Office-wide and group goals and estimates do not affect the expectancies for individual examiners. (see Attachment B). In the event that the Congress decides not to appropriate all of the funds requested by the Patent Office for a given year, the Office's estimate for disposals during that year is revised downward accordingly.

I hope this information answers your question concerning Patent Office goals. We would be glad to provide any additional information that you desire. Sincerely,


Acting Commissioner of Patents. Attachments.
















Total average pendency (months)

Number of



Number of
Number of examiner

overtime man-years
examining available

hours thru overtime

Number of examining


Number of Total applications effective disposed of per examiner effective examiner staff


Number of

disposed of appeals

Hours per

Percent turnover of examiners

Fiscal year

Number of examiners


Appeals filed

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1965 1
1966 1
1967 1.


75, 825
102, 165
91, 059
96, 811
109, 245
106, 273

87, 836
89, 234
93, 391
88, 508
90, 662 1, 843, 449
96, 821 1,859, 023
100,574 1,899, 051
104, 160 1,932, 071
103, 120 1, 802, 290
101,000+ 1.996, 230

1, 104
1, 132
1, 166
1, 123
1, 102

1, 798, 431
1,853, 914
1, 848, 867
1,932, 071
1, 802, 290
1, 796, 571

45, 068

5, 109 50, 184

1 For the years 1964–67, the supervisory primary examiner (SPE), time was not included in the number of examining hours as it has been since 1968. Moreover, the SPE's time is not available for those years. Accordingly, meaningful data for columns 5-12 for 1964-67 is not obtainable.



Washington, D.C., October 11, 1972. To: Patent examining directors, supervisors and examiners. From : Office of deputy assistant commissioner for patents. Subject: Individual examiner expectancies.

For purposes of uniformity and in order to avoid possible inequities it is deemed appropriate to clarify some aspects of the practice in the patent examining corps with respect to individual examiner production expectancies. The guidelines stated herein were established after consideration of the views of the Examining Group Directors, SPECO and POPA.

Production expectancies (hours per balanced disposal, hours per disposal, and hours per first action) for an individual examiner shall not be changed unless the change is based on the grant of signatory authority, other changes in degree of supervision (as indicated by grade changes through grade GS-13), the official recognition of an examiner as an expert, senior examiner, or generalist, or a change in the examiner's docket, examining technique, practice, or procedure. Exceptions may be made where there is clear justification, as for example error in docket complexity. Where an examiner requests a change based on an error in his expectancy assignment or where the Supervisory Primary Examiner finds such an occurrence, changes may be effected provided there is mutual agreement between the Supervisory Primary Examiner and the individual examiner involved. If no agreement can be reached, the final decision will be made by the Examining Group Director. All changes in expectancies of individual examiners, whether by exception or otherwise, shall be made after consultation between the Supervisory Primary Examiner and the involved examiner and be confirmed in writing.

Although expectancies will be changed upon the grant of a quality step increase in accordance with the standard set out in the Criteria for Incentive Awards (August 25, 1972), the receipt of an ordinary within grade or recognition for masters level will not be the basis for a change in any examiner's production expectancies.

It is apparent that variations in productive performance are logically a function of supervision and relaxation of supervision generally results in increases in examiner grade levels up to grade GS-13. It should also be recalled that the signatory program was originally established on the theory that the examiner's productive performance with these authorities would result in increased production. Further consideration must reasonably be given to the additional credit items wherein the Civil Service Commission Standard for the Patent Examining Series, GS-1224-0 states that these “positions are unique positions whose incumbents possess extraordinary personal qualifications, capacities ..." Accordingly, using grade GS-12 as a base, productivity expectancies shall be calculated using the following factors: GS-5 .55 GS-14 (PSA)

1.25 GS-7

GS-14 (PSA + Sr or G)-

1.30 GS-9

GS-14 (FSA)

1.35 GS-11

GS-14 (FSA + Sr or G)

1.40 GS-12 1.00 GS-15 (FSA + Sr or G)

1.40 GS-13 1.15 GS-15 (FSA + Expert)

1.50 GS-13 (PSA)

1.25 These guidelines shall become effective at the beginning of the first pay period after January 1, 1973.

WILLIAM FELDMAN, Deputy Assistant Commissioner.



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Washington, D.C., October 1, 1973. Hon. PHILIP A. HART, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.O.

DEAR SENATOR Hart: During the hearing on September 12, 1973, before the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights of the Senate Judiciary Committee, you asked the Department of Commerce witnesses how the pendeney time for patent applications is calculated and how the reduction in pendency time over the last few years has been achieved. Your questions related to statistics the l'atent Office provided in Appendix A of our letter to you dated August 31, 1973.

In reviewing Appendix A, we have discovered an error on page 9 in the number of patents issued for fiscal year 1968. We are enclosing a substitute copy of page 9 that we would like to have appear in the printed record. Even with this correction, however, the information in Appendix A alone does not provide an answer to your questions. Accordingly, we are submitting additional data in the table attached to the present letter which will explain the reduction in pendency.

Pendency of a patent application is defined as the time period occurring between the day an application is filed in the Patent Office and the day the same application is issued as a patent. The Patent Office calculates the average pendency time by averaging the pendencies of a representative sample of patents issued on a given date.

The Patent Office expects to be able to reduce the average pendency of a patent application to 18 months by the end of fiscal year 1976 in order to provide more timely patent protection for the inventor and earlier disclosure of patent technology to the public. As shown in column 2 of the attachment, average pendeney decreased from 37 months at the end of fiscal year 1964 to 24 months at the end of fiscal year 1973.

Column 3 of the attached table shows the output of the patent examining operations over the period 1964 to 1973 measured in terms of "disposals"'. Total disposals represent the sum of applications allowed and applications abandoned each year. By comparing column 3 of the table with the number of applications filed, shown in column 4, it can be seen that the Patent Office has disposed of more applications than it received in every year since 1967.

Despite the fact that the number of examiners in the Patent Office has remained essentially unchanged since 1968 (see Appendix A and column 6 of the attached table), an important factor contributing to the recent reduction in pendency has been increased funding for the examining staff. This was particularly true during fiscal year 1973. Because of difficulties in recruiting additional examiners, the Patent Office during 1973 used funds equivalent to 122.5 examiner man years for paid overtime for the existing staff of over 1,100 examiners. Accordingly, when the overtime is taken into account, a significant

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