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Are you thinking about, or already planning to submit an application for a patent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)? If so, you will soon become acquainted with a USPTO Patent Examiner. What exactly is a Patent Examiner?

The Patent Examiner is the first line of contact you have in the process of pursuing any type of patent with the USPTO. This examiner will be responsible for determining whether or not your patent can be granted, so it’s important to know about the examiner’s review process.

Patent Examiners work with individuals, patent attorneys, and patent agents, and determine whether your patent application complies with all the legal requirements for granting a patent.

In particular, a Patent Examiner will:

  • Ensure patent applications conform with basic formatting requirements, and comply with rules and legal requirements.
  • Determine the overall scope of an invention that is being claimed by the inventor.
  • Search for and compare relevant technologies, utilizing sources such as prior patent applications and patents, as well as scientific literature databases. The goal is to determine if the invention makes contributions over prior inventions.
  • Analyze if a claimed invention meets all of the following patentability requirements: Novelty. An invention must be something new and original, and not described before. To assess for novelty, the Patent Examiner conducts a thorough search through “prior art,” or the prior technical fields, and makes the best possible determination as to whether the invention has already been revealed elsewhere. Non-obviousness. The Patent Examiner conducts an assessment as to whether the invention being patented is obvious or not to others. Utility. Is the invention usable? The Patent Examiner looks for a specific, substantial, and credible utility for the invention. Sufficiency of the disclosure. An inventor must disclose to the public how the invention works and how to go about making, or practicing it. A patent examiner must determine if the inventor has disclosed enough information.
  • Issue official communications to explain to applicants and their representatives (i.e., patent attorneys or agents) any existing objections against the granting of a patent. This is usually done in the form of office actions.

So much depends on these Patent Examiners, and that is why the USPTO strives to include only the best in its ranks. The majority of Patent Examiners have a background in science or engineering, particularly chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering. More recently, the USPTO has begun to expand the experience field to new technologies such as biotechnology, and disciplines such as geology and mathematics.

With over 600,000 patent applications filed each year, the importance of these Patent Examiners cannot be exaggerated. Knowing what they do and how they work is imperative to getting your patent granted in as timely a manner as possible.

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