Feasibility of Automating the Search Process at the Patent and Trademark Office

FGMSD-80-40: Published: May 9, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 1980.

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An examination was made of the Patent and Trademark Office's patent search process to determine whether automation of the process would reduce costs and improve quality.

Timeliness and quality can be improved by making procedural changes. Automation of the search process at this time would not significantly improve timeliness or quality; it would merely make the process more costly. Whether or not the search process can ever be automated depends on future technology. However, the Patent Office should continue its ongoing experiments with techniques for automating the search process. If pendency time is to be reduced, the two basic options are to request additional staff to reduce the backlog of applications awaiting review, or limit the amount of time allowed an applicant to submit the issuance fee after approval. GAO is concerned about patent quality. The lack of integrity in the examiner's files is detrimental to the quality of patents issued and contributes to the perception that the patent process does not result in quality patents which can withstand challenge.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To improve patent quality, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks to develop a system that will let examiners and clerical support staff know what patent documents are removed from the examiner's files. A system should be developed that will protect the examiner's search files from nonexaminer abuse. This could be accomplished either by making the public search files comparable to the examiner's search files and then denying the public access to the examiner's files, or by improving the security and controlling access to the examiner's files so that public users could not misfile or permanently remove patent documents.

    Agency Affected:


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