A patent examiner or patent clerk is an employee, usually a civil servant, working at a patent office. Major employers of patent examiners are the European Patent Office (EPO), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japan Patent Office.
Patent examiners review patent applications to determine whether the claimed invention should be granted a patent. The work of a patent examiner usually includes searching patents and scientific literature databases for prior art, and examining patent applications substantively by examining whether the claimed invention meets the patentability requirements such as novelty, "inventive step" or "non-obviousness", "industrial application" (or "utility") and sufficiency of disclosure.
On April 13, 2007, a "Coalition of Patent Examiner Representatives" expressed concern that
in many patent offices, the pressures on examiners to produce and methods of allocating work have reduced the capacity of examiners to provide the quality of examination the peoples of the world deserve [and that] the combined pressures of higher productivity demands, increasingly complex patent applications and an ever-expanding body of relevant patent and non-patent literature have reached such a level that, unless serious measures are taken, meaningful protection of intellectual property throughout the world may, itself, become history.
Patent examiners at the European Patent Office (EPO) are exempted from work- and residence-permit procedures, but since most of EPC contracting states are members of the European Union, the exemption is usually not an issue.
The examiners examine patent applications in three official languages, English language, French language, and German language. Examiners search databases, conduct document analysis and patent communications, and judge validity of patents. Examiners may be represented by trade unions, FFPE-EPO and SUEPO.
To work as an examiner, a person must meet certain minimum requirements:
Some examiners have work experience in industry, but such experience is not required.
Patent examiners at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) prosecute applications for patents. Examiners make determinations based on federal codes, rules, and judicial precedents. These determinations are appealable through the U.S. Courts. An appeal of these determinations is three steps away from the U.S. Supreme Court. Responsibilities for a patent examiner at the USPTO include:
Examiners are hired at the GS-5, GS-7, GS-9 or GS-11 grade levels and are currently eligible for two accelerated promotions after six and twelve months of service when they meet the performance of a new examiner. As of July 2007, new examiners are granted a recruitment bonus of $20,000 to $39,600 spread out over four consecutive years of fully successful service. Subsequent promotions are yearly and noncompetitive up to the GS-12 level, provided satisfactory performance is maintained.
According the USPTO, an examiner is measured entirely by his own performance, without regard to the performance of others. Legal, technical and automation training is provided to examiners at the USPTO. Experienced examiners have an option of working primarily from home through a hoteling program implemented in 2006 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
To work as an examiner with the USPTO, a person must be a U.S. citizen and hold, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree in one of the physical sciences, life sciences, engineering disciplines, or in computer science.
|Name||Birth year||Death year||Description|
|Clara Barton||1821||1912||worked at the United States Patent Office (Currently the USPTO)|
|Albert Einstein||1879||1955||worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property|
|Thomas Jefferson||1743||1826||first patent examiner of the U.S. Patent Office|
|Thomas P. Jones||1774||1848||engineer and publisher, worked at the US Patent Office|
|Arthur Paul Pedrick||?||1976||UK Patent Office examiner and, subsequently, prolific inventor|
|Richard Bissell Prosser||1838||1918||worked at the UK Intellectual Property Office|