Training of patent examiners, at all levels, is key to producing reliable and predictable intellectual property rights. With this goal in mind, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is committed to providing the best training to new, entry-level, patent examiners as well as experienced examiners. Training provided to patent examiners during their first years at the USPTO is critical to their development and can significantly impact them throughout their career.
New patent examiners begin with a four-month residency in the Patent Training Academy, where they are trained in a university-style environment on patent laws and regulations, patent examination practice and procedure, automation tools, soft skills, as well as on the assigned technology. As they complete this classroom training, examiners also begin to inspect patent applications with the oversight of a trainer. Individual feedback is constantly provided to help support their development, and examiners take ongoing proficiency assessments to gauge their understanding.
Upon completion of their four-month residency in the Patent Training Academy, examiners transition to their permanent division where they receive continued individualized on-the-job training from their supervisor and other senior examiners who serve as mentors. During this portion of their first year, examiners spend more time reviewing applications with structured, classroom training scheduled at various times throughout the rest of that year.
After the structured training during their first year in the Office is completed, there are still multiple training opportunities provided to examiners throughout their career. The USPTO provides regular refresher training, and examiners receive a set number of hours each fiscal year to attend training at their discretion for continual improvement and education. The refresher training allows examiners to keep abreast of changes in patent laws, procedures, and advances in technology thereby ensuring reliability, consistency, and certainty of issued patents.
In short, as patent examiners progress through their careers, they continue to receive on-the-job and classroom training. Patent examiners undertake a path to participate in the Signatory Authority Program to achieve the position of primary examiner. Under this Program, examiners’ work will be evaluated during two separate periods to determine if the examiner should be permanently delegated the authority to represent the Director and sign all actions independently including allowances.
The path to become a patent examiner and a primary examiner incorporates the core components of the most successful work-and-earn models. It is an apprenticeship in everything but name.