As the USPTO begins the process of updating the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) and the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP), it is inviting public comment on specific sections through new “online discussion tools.” I am encouraged by the USPTO’s interest in public input on these guidance materials, and hope that members of the patent community take advantage of this opportunity to provide meaningful comments and suggestions on the procedural and substantive guidance they provide.

According to the USPTO’s press release, the tools will facilitate discussion and feedback by:

  • Encouraging readers to post comments about the current text, on a section-by-section basis, to point out errors, suggest clarifications, and suggest examples of interpretations.
  • In some circumstances, posting preliminary content and encouraging the community to comment on the preliminary content before it becomes official.
  • Periodically summarizing and following up on the comments on each section to ensure that meritorious suggestions are acted upon while streamlining the comment process.
  • Providing a forum for the community to discuss and debate topics such as how to interpret recent court decisions.

As set forth on the Terms of Participation page:

The ultimate objective is to create an MPEP that will enable practitioners and examiners to find information quickly, get accurate and complete guidance, and ensure that all patent applications comply with the laws and regulations governing the patent system.

The first MPEP chapters open to this process include:

  • Chapter 500 – Receipt and Handling of Mail and Papers
  • Chapter 600 – Parts, Form, and Content of Application

The “tools” are in essence discussion forums where members of the public can submit comments, read and comment on other comments, and “vote” on comments with a “thumb up” (“I agree”) or “thumb down” (“I disagree”). 

Those interested in reviewing or contributing comments can access the MPEP tool here and the TMEP tool here. No registration is required to review the comments, but registration (name, email address, and password) is required to provide any input.

Although the USPTO seems to be kicking off this effort with non-controversial sections of the MPEP, there already are some interesting comments on the “requirements” for patent application abstracts. There also is a comment asking for guidance on McKesson-type Information Disclosure Statements that I promise I didn’t write, but I do hope that the USPTO understands and addresses the serious burden associated with these IDSs.