“That’s Classified…”

We had the second part of classification today.

Part of an examiner’s job when first looking at an application is to figure out whether or not she should even be working on it. All applications come into the office and are pre-classified, mostly based on keywords, and are shuttled off to wherever seems appropriate. As a result, there are some near misses. Applications usually get into the right Technology Center. It isn’t rare, however, for them to fall into the wrong art unit.

So why should an examiner look at the classification on her applications carefully? Well, working on something outside of your specialty means that you’ll probably be less efficient, for one. Especially during training, working on applications in your class gives you valuable experience; working on applications outside your class only gives you experience in realizing too late that you screwed up.

Finally, the examiner must classify the invention when it is time to allow it. This is essential so that the rest of us can do classification searches (searching for only things that belong in a certain category), and as an initial hint to what the invention is before we even read the abstract or spec.

Our lecture today covered some of the international standards as well as giving a refresher on US practices.

We also had a lecture on TSP and FERS, which was very helpful.


5 thoughts on ““That’s Classified…””

  1. It is very very important that you make sure your docketed cases are actually supposed to be examined by your art unit. I once heard of a newbie comp sci guy who did a (very bad) first action on a semiconductor case because it was on his docket. Then the semiconductor art unit would not take it because it had already been acted upon.

    This is especially important because initial classification/docketing is about to get worse- a lot worse. The classification job, usually performed for “other time” by experienced examiners in the relevant art, is apparently starting to be outsourced to contractors. Since only the examiners in a particular art unit will know the ins and outs of their subclasses, you can bet that no contractor can do as good a job as the people who do the job already.

  2. Examiner A: That is *very* interesting, because I was under the impression that this work was *already* done mostly by contractors. In fact, I thought that it was mostly automated, with some sort of key-word analysis program providing an initial recommendation for classification that a human would then briefly verify and either submit or change.

    Shows what I know!

  3. The classification process is very inefficient (but if contractors take it over, it will be a lot worse).

    First the key-word program is run to get an initial classification/art unit, but this has a huge error rate. The (usually misclassified) case is forwarded to an examiner in the initially identified art unit who either accepts it or transfers it to someone else. Most cases are classified fairly quickly but some can bounce around between art units for a while because nobody wants to take it or the forwarding examiner simply doesn’t know where it goes.

    Completely separately, each application also needs to be published and so the apps are generally manually classified AGAIN and assigned other metadata like the figure to be on the front and the international classification.

    All of the above is accomplished with various poorly-implemented web apps and edan messaging.

    When you get into your art unit, you still might want to ask your SPE if you can do classification (assuming it hasn’t been contracted out). It can be a good source of other time for when you aren’t being so productive with your counts, and you’ll get to know the classification system really well.

  4. There’s another person posting under the pseudonym “Ex Examiner”, so I chose to use ExExaminer2. Classification is very important. Once you do an office action that was misclassified, it becomes yours, so you definitely need to make sure it has been properly classified. Regarding the outsourcing of classification to contractors, I was actually approached by a contractor while I was working as an examiner, and the contractor wanted to hire me to do classification after hours! I politely declined the offer, since I had ZERO interest in doing even more patent-related work (The patent stuff just wasn’t for me, as you can tell from my moniker). But I had a few cases that definitely belonged to other art units, so I always got on the ball quickly to get them reassigned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *